Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blog Improvements

I will be making some cool improvements to the blog this coming week, and while I will probably not be posting much about current eruptions during this time, check back here to see some neat site enhancements that I have been working on. One thing you're going to notice today is that I have added VolcanoDiscovery.com's worldwide volcanic activity interactive map to the right sidebar.

This map is interactive, and shows most, if not all, worldwide volcanic activity with quick links to reports. I have been wanting this widget to work for a while, and was able to get it showing up today with a little finessing. This widget has replaced my Google donate button as it really wasn't being used, but the ads will stay as it is a minor source of money for the blog (by all means, please visit my sponsors!).

I also plan to update some of the resources section with new links to other cool volcano, earthquake, and geology related sites and blogs for your reading pleasure.

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season. More than likely I will be resuming reports after New Years (as I imagine several of my resources will as well), as right now the Smithsonian GVP is on break, and nothing really spectacular save the impressive fissure eruption at Tolbachik, Russia that is occurring (but winding down it sounds like).

See you all in 2013!

-M

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lack of Posts - Holidays - New Job

Hello readers,


I'm sure many of you have noticed I have not been posting much lately. Due to the holiday season, and a recent job move, I have been quite busy getting all of my ducks in a row, so to speak. I will resume blogging volcano news shortly.

I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and no volcanoes exploded in your backyard. Obviously, Yellowstone didn't blow up, and all the world's supervolcanoes remain quiet, so the world keeps moving on!

In case you missed some of the more recent volcano develpoments, Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano continues to have large eruptions and pyroclastic flow. Tolbachik in Russia's Kamchatka peninsula is continuing a spectacular fissure eruption, which is issuing long lava flows. Kilauea has resumed feeding lava into the ocean, and lava lake levels are on the rise again.

Other than the usual culprits, not much is going on in the way of new eruptions, however on the Chile-Argentina border, Volcan Copahue has been raised to Alert Level Red, the highest alert, after a few days of strong seismicity, and minor ash eruptions. This volcano is expected/suspected to increase its eruptive power soon, if seismicity is any indicator. The last eruption for Volcan Copahue was in July-Oct, 2000.

I will resume the normal blog format when I get some time, and if anything really cool happens, I'll make some time to write about it.

Happy Holidays, and I hope everyone has a great New Year!

-M

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Italy Volcano Stromboli Has Large Eruption

Italy's volcanic island of Stromboli put on quite a show today, as a large plume of gas and ash reached up to 3km above the summit. No damage was reported. Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes in Italy, second probably only to Mt. Etna which is near constantly active. This eruption type is uncharacteristic of Stromboli, which is known for "Strombolian Eruptions", which, obviously, is the source of the term. Strobolian eruptions are characterized as small to medium sized eruptions in which red hot ejecta is discharged from the summit of the volcano, typically making quite a spectacular, and relatively safe show.

A statement on Facebook from INVOLCAN (which also monitors some other European and North African volcanoes) said (translated from Spanish)

"LAST minute: Strong explosions in one of the most famous volcanoes of the planet, Stromboli. There is no damage, although the column reached 3 km above the volcano, very unusual thing in this well-known Italian volcano." 



Photo: Giovanni Simonelli

Stromboli is characterized by the Smithsonian USGS:

"Spectacular incandescent nighttime explosions at Stromboli volcano have long attracted visitors to the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean." Stromboli, the NE-most of the Aeolian Islands, has lent its name to the frequent mild explosive activity that has characterized its eruptions throughout much of historical time. The small, 924-m-high island of Stromboli is the emergent summit of a volcano that grew in two main eruptive cycles, the last of which formed the western portion of the island. The Neostromboli eruptive period from about 13,000 to 5000 years ago was followed by formation of the modern Stromboli edifice. The active summit vents are located at the head of the Sciara del Fuoco, a prominent horseshoe-shaped scarp formed about 5000 years ago as a result of the most recent of a series of slope failures that extend to below sea level. The modern volcano has been constructed within this scarp, which funnels pyroclastic ejecta and lava flows to the NW. Essentially continuous mild strombolian explosions, sometimes accompanied by lava flows, have been recorded at Stromboli for more than a millennium."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

6.8 Mag Earthquake Strikes Myanmar

A 6.8 magnitude quake struck Myanmar today near the volcanic Singu Plateau, a trachyandesitic lava field fed by fissures near the fault line in question.  So far 13 people have been confirmed dead. The epicenter of the quake was about 15-20 miles NNW of the volcanic center, and multiple aftershocks of 5.0-5.8 have now occurred at the volcanic center, less than 2 miles away at depths of about 10km.



Screenshot of Google Earth with USGS real-time quake overlay.

The quake occurs as newly re-elected US President Barack Obama is scheduled (in about a week) to arrive in the war-torn nation formerly known as Burma for talks with their newly elected president Aung San Suu Kyi in regards to helping the fledgling democracy improve their country and better interact with the international community.

It is unclear at this time whether this quake will spur any activity at the Singu Plateau, but as it has not erupted for several millenia, it is probably not likely, although it is remotely possible. The Singu Plateau is not a closely stidied volcanic system. It exists on the fault line that extends South through the region, and consists of fissure vents that tend to send lave West of the vents. It is not clear the last time it had an eruption, although the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program characterizes the Singu Plateau as Holocene in age:


"The Singu Plateau volcanic field, also known as Letha Taung, is a Holocene basaltic trachyandesite lava plateau in north-central Burma, north of the city of Mandalay. The lava flows originated from fissure vents and cover an area of about 62 sq km"

No age is given for the last eruption.

A post from volcanologist John Seach is quoted as saying:

"A magnitude 6.6 Earthquake hit 36 km north of Singu volcano, Burma on 11th November 2012. Two magnitude 5.0 aftershocks occurred 8 and 13 km from the volcano two hours later. The last eruption at Singu volcano is unknown but probably occurred in the past 10,000 years, which makes it an active volcano on a geological timescale."

As of now there have only been 4 major aftershocks, a 5.8, a 5.6, and two 5.0 quakes. Three of these have occurred within the volcanic region.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Magnitude 7.4 Quake Strikes Guatemala

A Magnitude 7.4 earthquake has just struck off of the coast of Guatemala in another Pacific subduction quake. There were no immediate reports of damage, and the inland appears to have been spared major shaking due to the mountain ranges that seem to have served as a buffer. The quake occurred off of Guatemala's west coast at a depth of 41.6km, which is also why the surface intensity must have felt a bit lower (shallower quakes are typically a lot more damaging).


Google Earth snapshot with USGS real time quake plugin.


There are no immediate detailed reports for this quake. A blog on CNN is the most up-to-date at this time. There was no threat of a tsunami according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, who's statement is below:

"TSUNAMI INFORMATION STATEMENT NUMBER 1
NWS PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER
EWA BEACH HI 643 AM HST WED NOV 07 2012
TO - CIVIL DEFENSE IN THE STATE OF HAWAII SUBJECT - TSUNAMI INFORMATION STATEMENT
THIS STATEMENT IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY.
NO ACTION REQUIRED.

AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS ORIGIN TIME - 0636 AM HST 07 NOV 2012 COORDINATES - 14.0 NORTH 92.2 WEST LOCATION - OFF THE COAST OF CHIAPAS MEXICO MAGNITUDE - 7.5 MOMENT EVALUATION

BASED ON ALL AVAILABLE DATA A DESTRUCTIVE PACIFIC-WIDE TSUNAMI IS NOT EXPECTED AND THERE IS NO TSUNAMI THREAT TO HAWAII. REPEAT.

A DESTRUCTIVE PACIFIC-WIDE TSUNAMI IS NOT EXPECTED AND THERE IS NO TSUNAMI THREAT TO HAWAII. THIS WILL BE THE ONLY STATEMENT ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS ADDITIONAL DATA ARE RECEIVED. "

There are many volcanoes int he area, as this epicenter lies along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire. Volcanoes in the area include (from NW to SE):

Tacaná
Tajumulco
Santa Maria (currently erupting)
Almolonga
Santo Tomás
Tolimán
Atitlán
Fuego
Acatenango

Quakes of this magnitude can affect seismicity in active volcanoes, especially ones that frequently erupt, or have a very pressurized magma chamber. It is unclear at this time whether or not this will be the case.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Very Large 7.7 Mag Quake Reported Off Of Canada

A magnitude 7.7 Earthquake has struck off of Canada's West Coast near Graham Island Queen Charlotte Island. The depth was a shallow 9km deep, along the Pacific subduction zone. It is unclear if there was any damage or if a tsunami has been generated. The quake occurred at 8PM which is only a few minutes after I am writing this. Below is a screenshot of the epicenter location.



Google Earth/USGS snapshot of location of 7.7 mag quake.

Aside from the linked article above, this quake is so fresh that nobody yet knows the implications. I will update this article as more info becomes available.
.

Image from USGS.gov detailing the shake strength of the quake.

UPDATE: According to WFAA a tsunami alert was issued from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Cape Decision, Alaska. Residents are urged to move to higher ground. This is likely a precaution but if you are in the area please do not hesitate to seek higher ground.

A mag 5.8 afterschock occurred a few miles SW of the epicenter.

The island is lightly populated by what appear to be logging towns. Looking at Google Earth reveals several towns in the area nearest the epicenter. Those towns are:

Sewell Inlet
Skedans Village
New Clew
Sandspit
Skidegate
Queen Charlotte
Tlell
Port Clements

It is likely that these towns sustained some damage, but reports will likely be slow to come from the region.

Here is an update from the Tsunami Center:

From: tsunami-information-ioc@lists.unesco.org
Date: October 27, 2012, 11:14:14 PM EDT
To: IOC_Public_Lists@ptwc.noaa.gov
Subject: [Tsunami Message - IOC] Tsunami Information Bulletin
Reply-To: tsunami-information-ioc@lists.unesco.org

TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 001

PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS ISSUED AT 0313Z 28 OCT 2012 THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA... WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA. ... TSUNAMI INFORMATION BULLETIN ... THIS BULLETIN IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. THIS BULLETIN IS ISSUED AS ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. ONLY NATIONAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE DECISIONS REGARDING THE OFFICIAL STATE OF ALERT IN THEIR AREA AND ANY ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN IN RESPONSE.

AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS ORIGIN TIME - 0304Z 28 OCT 2012 COORDINATES - 52.9 NORTH 131.9 WEST DEPTH - 10 KM LOCATION - QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS REGION MAGNITUDE - 7.1 EVALUATION A WIDESPREAD DESTRUCTIVE TSUNAMI THREAT DOES NOT EXIST BASED ON HISTORICAL EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA. THE WEST COAST AND ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE INFORMATION REGARDING ANY LOCAL TSUNAMI THREAT TO COASTS NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE EPICENTER.

THIS WILL BE THE ONLY BULLETIN ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS ADDITIONAL INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE. THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE PRODUCTS FOR ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...WASHINGTON...OREGON...CALIFORNIA.

The information provided on this email service does not originate with UNESCO. UNESCO is transmitting this information on an unofficial basis. The official warning messages are sent by governmental authorities through the Tsunami Warning Focal Points (TWFP) and the designated national authorities. UNESCO does not warrant, guarantee, or make any representations regarding the timeliness, currency, correctness, accuracy, reliability, or other aspect of the characteristics or use of the information available through this email service.


UPDATE:

CNN is now covering the story and has a live blog of all developments at http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/27/quake-with-a-magnitude-of-7-7-strikes-off-canada-coast/?hpt=hp_t1

UPDATE

so far 13 aftershocks ranging from 4.0-58 have occurred. Likely aftershocks will continue for up to a week or longer, with diminishing magnitudes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lava Lake At Kilauea Rises To Record Levels

One of the lava lakes at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano has risen to record levels, spilling onto the crater floor, and giving scientists a really epic show. Video posted on NBC.com shows some nice shots of the action. According to NBCnews.com and HVO, the lava lake at Halema'uma'u crater, the larger of the two main craters of Kilauea as well as the summit crater, the lava lake inset in the rim of the Halema'uma'u crater has overflowed to the crater floor. This is the first time since Halema'uma'u crater exploded in 2008 that the lava lake has overflowed the rim.

The lava lake is inset in the rim of the crater, and was formed in a large ash producing eruption in 2008. This event was preceded by harmonic tremor and uplift of the area, and was witnessed by Hawaiian volcano Observatory volcanologists.

The current theory is that the magma system at Kilauea is re-pressurizing, following a large deflation event that occurred when a fissure opened up West of Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater, which drained the magma lake at the summit, and caused the collapse of the crater floor at Puʻu ʻŌʻō which lowered the crater floor significantly, and quickly. This event was also caught on camera. Since then, the magma pressure, and inflation has been occurring at Kilauea.

While NBC's Brian Williams incorrectly (or rather, stated out of context) in the video that Kilauea has "Been active since 2008", the eruption has actually been going on at Kilauea since December of 1983, when eruptions resumed after a decade or so of dormancy. Neighboring Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes were erupting simultaneously from March 24-April 15, 1984, which destroyed neighborhoods in the Kalapana area, and neared the town of Hilo.

Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes, and the current eruption is one of the longest running historical eruptions of our time. Indeed, the activity on Kilauea is rivaled by only a few volcanoes, such as Mt. Etna in Sicily, and perhaps Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island, a French territory. It's neighbor, Mauna Loa is the largest volcano by volume on the planet earth, rising from sea floor to summit, it is larger than Mt Everest, and also a very active volcano. While it has not erupted since the early 1980's, slow inflation, and motion of the SE flank is an early indication that it will erupt in the future.

All of the Hawaiian islands have a volcanic past, due to a mantle plume hotspot that travels slowly under the crust, occasionally popping through. While Mauna Loa and Kilauea are the newest volcanoes in the Hawaiian chain that are above sea level, to the S of the Big Island, another, younger volcano, Loihi, is expected to break the surface of the ocean and either add on to the Big Island's landmass, or create a brand new Hawaiian island in the next 10,000 years. While not as active as Kilauea or Mauna Loa, the motion of the hotspot will one day retire the volcanic activity on the Big Island, and Loihi will assume the role of the most active Hawaiian volcano. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Italian Geologists Convicted Of Manslaughter

Now usually I don't get into the politics of science, but this article today on NBCNEWS.com and other sources really sent me for a loop. In 2009, a deadly quake occurred in Italy that resulted in destruction of many historical sites, residential homes, and other buildings. While the quake's magnitude was not extremely large, the structures in Italy were ill-prepared for a somewhat strong, and shallow quake.

Let's set the scene. Prior to this quake, there were a few smaller tremors, and this prompted the Italian government to ask during a press conference of their geologists, whether or not those quakes were a precursor to a larger quake. This is a very fine line for scientists to cross. First of all, it is nearly impossible (nay, it IS impossible) to 'predict' earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Does the scientist say "Yes, there is that possibility", and cause panic? Where would people go? Where would the epicenter be? What sort of damage? How strong a quake? These are questions which scientists would never be able to answer with certainty. The safe answer in this case is usually "There is no proof that smaller quakes will cause bigger ones". Of course, that is the scientific method. Going out of those bounds is called 'conjecture'.

The Italian government accused the geologists of 'failing to predict the earthquake', which has resulted in their conviction. "Failing to predict an earthquake", just let that sink in for a second. Failing to predict an earthquake is like failing to predict the winning lottery numbers. Yeah, there's about a 1:1,000,000,000,000 chance, but I guess the Italian government must see this as a significant figure of some sort.

Clearly, (and this is happening throughout the world in most countries) the Government does not have any sort of grasp on what science is or what it is capable of doing. And now, scientists who were honestly doing their best to keep people safe are being strung up like sacrifices to the earthquake gods. It is plainly pathetic, shocking, and insanely ignorant to convict geologists of failing to predict a large earthquake. Where was their funding for such a project? Were they supposed to magically fabricate instrumentation from the future that would send them an email warning? Come on now!

This problem can easily occur anywhere in the world (the problem of a scientifically ignorant government hellbent on placing blame on someone). It could easily happen here in the USA, where 99.8% of our elected officials are either religious, have no scientific background, and are mostly legal professionals (good at arguing esoterics and rhetoric, not so much with scientific fact). Indeed, in the USA, most politicians  especially on the right, believe in creationism, the second coming, and deny most things scientific like environmental studies, and other data in the name of their religion, or capitalism.

There is very little your average citizen can do about this unfortunately. People seem to love the things that science produces (TV's, cars, the Internet), but HATE it when scientific findings challenge long-held beliefs or superstitions, (like gods, prophecies, faith), and will absolutely turn on scientists at a whim. In my opinion this is absolutely abhorrent, and the only way this is going to stop is if we start telling our governments that we want SCIENTISTS on Science Committees (not all pastors, preachers, and ideologues). I can wish, I can hope, but the only way this is going to change is for people to become aware of the implications having a scientifically ignorant government produces.

In the meantime, my thoughts and hopes go out that these poor Italian scientists will be exonerated by an appeal, or that international pressure is hot enough to earn them a full pardon, because frankly, the Italian government at this time should be absolutely ashamed with this witch hunt.

And that's my piece.

*****UPDATE10/24/12*****

Two top Italian scientists have quit in protest of the ruling according to CNN. Physicist Luciano Maiani Is quoted as saying "The situation created by the sentencing yesterday on the facts from L'Aquila is incompatible with a clear and effective performance of the functions of the commission and its role as a consulting bodies for the state."

In addition to his departure, the Italian Director of their volcanic and earthquake monitoring program also quit, saying (which absolutely concurs with my point in my article) "To predict a large quake on the basis of a relatively commonplace sequence of small earthquakes and to advise the local population to flee" would constitute "both bad science and bad public policy."

It is unfortunate but highly understandable that scientists would not want to work for a government that feels like it can simply throw them under a bus at the first sign of trouble. This could be the beginning of a trend that could see many government employed scientists leaving their employ to other countries, or private industry.

It is appalling to me that governments could be so ignorant as to basically say "I thought you scientists knew everything, well, we had an earthquake and you didn't warn us". A high-school educated science student has more sense than this, and for government officials to take a position of extreme ignorance in order to point a finger at someone is frankly, insane.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Quake Swarm In SW Yellowstone Caldera

A minor earthquake swarm of upwards of 30 events has occurred in Yellowstone National park, just SW of the rim of the caldera, and just inside the Island Park caldera. The events were at depths ranging from 20km-9km. This could indicate a small injection of magma into Yellowstone's upper magma chamber, but could also be nothing more than crustal adjustments.

Yellowstone's magmatic system is considered to be in two distinct parts. The first, deeper part is the actual mantle plume, which stretches to the NW into Montana (or rather far under it), with the second, shallower (3-5km deep) magma chamber that is actually responsible for the hydrothermal system being much shallower. Volcanogolgists consider the shallower magma chamber to be made of a 'crystal mush', or slightly cooler magma that is only partially molten. This chamber gives off plenty of heat, and is the cause of the geysers in the national park.

An injection of fresh magma into this chamber from the mantle plume would give some cause for concern, and would heighten the chance of an eruption, however probably not an eruption of massive proportion that most people fear from Yellowstone. Indeed, while Yellowstone is responsible for some of the world's largest eruptions in prehistoric times (the last 'super-eruption' being somewhere around 600,000 years bp), it can and does produce much smaller eruptions such as phreatic explosions.

It is likely that this is normal behavior for Yellowstone, as yearly, it produces plenty of volcanic earthquake swarms. If this was a magmatic intrusion of any kind, it will likely not manifest on the surface, as the magma chamber is literally humongous, and such a small amount of magma, if any, that is injected would be like a drop of water into a lake.

The quake swarm appears to only have lasted one day, and so far has not produced many aftershocks, which is what leads me to believe that this is probably at least a small dike intrusion, or some mantle plume activity (possibly an underground collapse at great depth). In any case, I'm always looking for a good excuse to write about Yellowstone, as it is a fascinating, beautiful, and potentially terrifying volcano. If anything further develops, you can be assured I will cover it!

Below is a picture of the current swarm from Google Earth/USGS.

                           

Monday, October 15, 2012

Australia's Heard Island Awakens

According to reports by John Seach, Australia's Antarctic island, Heard, is showing signs of activity. John is quoted as saying "Activity continues at Heard Island volcano, Australian territory. Satellite images showed hotspots at the volcano on 10th October 2012. Renewed activity began at Heard Island in September 2012. Heard Island is Australia's only currently erupting volcano."

This is an extremely remote volcano, and does not pose a threat to any human populations. While hotspots were detected in late September, this volcano is so remote that typically it is not visually monitored. And eruption from Heard does not pose any threat to any human population. It is possible that ash could be erupted, but that would most likely be of little consequence to aviation.

The Smithsonian GVP characterizes Heard Volcano here:

"Heard Island on the Kerguelen Plateau in the southern Indian Ocean consists primarily of the emergent portion of two volcanic structures. The large glacier-covered composite basaltic-to-trachytic cone of Big Ben comprises most of the island, and the smaller Mt. Dixon volcano lies at the NW tip of the island across a narrow isthmus. Little is known about the structure of Big Ben volcano because of its extensive ice cover. The historically active Mawson Peak forms the island's 2745-m high point and lies within a 5-6 km wide caldera breached to the SW side of Big Ben. Small satellitic scoria cones are mostly located on the northern coast. Several subglacial eruptions have been reported in historical time at this isolated volcano, but observations are infrequent and additional activity may have occurred."

Heard Island Volcano last erupted in 2008.

While it is quite possible that the eruption could intensify, it is unlikely that anyone would be around to see it unless some well-funded volcanologists make it out there (wishful thinking on my part). If anything, as far as current imagery, comes to light, I will post it here!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Minor Quake Swarm At Lassen Volcanic National Park

A series of (up to now) 8 quakes has struck Lassen Peak, near Lake Helen at the South end of the mountain range. This is most likely tectonic, but the depths of all quakes were fairly consistent, consistent with a possible minor dike intrusion. USGS reports will likely indicate that this is normal background seismicity for the volcano, which has not had an eruption since 1914-1921.

The ongoing (I am at this point NOT going to call it a swarm, but it could become one if seismicity increases) activity at Lassen is at this time probably not volcanic as I stated earlier, however, the possibility does remain as this is one of the only Cascades range volcanoes aside from Mt Shasta, and Mt St Helens that have experienced any activity in the last century, or in historical (colonial) times. Cascade range volcanoes that have had eruptive activity in the last several centuries include Shasta, Hood, and Baker, but these volcanoes show very little seismicity that is of concern to anyone.

This is probably an event of crustal adjustment. However it is always wise to keep an eye on any Cascade range volcano and its quakes, as most of the range is situated near highly populated areas. An eruption from any Cascade range volcano can and does cause a lot of damage when they blow.

The last Cascade range volcano, after Lassen, to erupt was Mt St Helens in 1980.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blog Changes

Apparently, Google/Blogger in their infinite wisdom has decided to completely change the Blogger interface, so I am forced to learn a new system. I am sure I will grow to like it in time, but for now, I am figuring out how to deliver the same content my past posts have delivered, with an added punch.

There is not a whole lot of new volcano news right now, mostly the usual culprits, with some interesting seismicity at a couple Alaskan, Russian, and Halmaheran volcanoes, but otherwise the usual erupting volcanoes are still doing their thing. You can see the latest report at http://volcano.si.edu.

It is a bit likely that I will not post for a few days on the basis of figuring out how to use this new interface, and other added features. If anything major, or overly unusual occurs, I will certainly cover it.

For now, "Please excuse the mess, we are remodeling!".

-M

Friday, September 14, 2012

Santorini Inflating

The picturesque Greek island of Santorini is experiencing heightened seismicity, and magma chamber inflation according to an article on Live Science. The island has inflated by up to 14,000,000 cubic meters of magma, and deformation of the island has displaced outwardly from the caldera by up to 5 inches since the onset of activity last year. While it is highly unlikely that this means an eruption is imminent, the Live Science article fails to point out that hte last time Santorini was active was not the famed Minoan eruption, but last erupted in 1950, and manifested as lava dome growth and lava effusion in the center of the caldera. This formed the central island of Nea Kameni.

Inflation of the Santorini caldera is a danger, given that the last period of activity was so recent, however deflation and inflation (D/I) events occur frequently at many large volcanoes, and do not typically result in an eruption.

Santorini volcano, as is, is incapable of producing the same type of powerful eruption that ended the Minoan civilization. The caldera has already collapsed, and the most power it was capable of producing was expended millenia ago. A modern day eruption would likely be another dome building event, with possible pyroclastic flow, and lava effusion in the center of the caldera. This would pose a minor threat to the residents of Santorini, but probably not more than that.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fuego Volcano in Guatemala Forces Evacuations

The very frequently active stratovolcano in Guatemala, Mt Fuego (Mountain of Fire) has begun eruptions that have forced the evacuation of some 33,000 residents from nearby towns and villages. Last week a powerful explosion took place that produced minor pyroclastic flows and deposited ash on nearby towns, but today's eruption was much more powerful, producing rocketing clouds of gas and ash that forced the immediate evacuation of the surrounding area, and producing ash clouds reaching over two miles into the sky.

The volcano has not erupted with this intensity since at least 1999, a Guatemalan volcanologist stated, who is  familiar with the volcanoes history.

Fuego is one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes, and has been in near constant eruption since record keeping began when the Spanish colonized the area in 1524.

The main dangers of this volcano are from pyroclastic flows, which can reach incredible speeds on land, and even more so over water; lahars, a deadly mixture of water, ash, rock and debris that can inundate and crush entire villages off of maps; and ashfall over cities which can cause major respiratory problems for people, and animals who inhale the fine glassy shards that make up volcanic ash.

Currently, ashfall is falling about 25km from the summit, but that will likely increase if the eruption becomes more intense.

In this scenario, people would be advised to wear breathing masks. If you do not have a breathing mask, breathing through a wet cloth will do just as well, if not better. Eye protection such as swim goggles is also highly advisable, as the fine ash will also irritate the eyes to the point that you cannot see and are in a lot of pain. People should avoid being outdoors if possible, and seek higher ground if it is raining. Rain and ash are a deadly combination.

If you have supplies such as batteries, flashlights, tents, etc, you should be in good shape. No doubt the people in Guatemala are used to living next to this volcano, so I am sure they have gone through these drills before. It will be curious to watch and see if this volcano increased in intensity, or decreases in the coming weeks.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Light Seismicity at Eyjafjallajökull and Katla Volcanoes

2012 has been an extremely kind year volcanically to Iceland. In 2010-2011 there were a couple major eruptions, from Eyjafjallajökull and Grimsvötn (Grimsnes) volcanoes that caused some chaos for travelers, and misery for Icelanders near Eyjafjallajökull due to heavy ashfall. But while there are no volcanoes erupting (yet), Iceland remains ever restless. 

Today there were two very minor and somewhat deep earthquakes between the summit of Eyjafjallajökull, and Katla volcano, very near the vicinity of the initial fissure eruption of Fimmvörduhals. While it is not unusual for the occasional small quake to occur, especially after an eruptive period, there are several things to consider when looking at Katla and its long-winded neighbor. 

Some scientists suggest that Katla and Eyjafjallajökull share a somewhat symbiotic magma chamber (although it is speculation) in which an eruption of one volcano can trigger an eruption in the other. Katla volcano has remained mostly quiet after the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, but not silent by any means. In June of 2011, it is thought that Katla had a very minor sub-glacial eruption that resulted in a jökullhlaup (glacier outburst flood), but since it has been content to rumble away. Currently most seismic and hydrothermal activity is restricted to the Western flank of Katla.

Another notable area of seismicity is occurring on the Reykjanes peninsula on the SW portion of Iceland. The volcanic system of Brennisteinsfjöll, and Krísuvík have been experiencing frequent seismic swarms, and blogger Jon Frímann has reported some fish kill at Kleifarvatn lake between the two volcanic systems. The Askja caldera, and neighboring systems have also been experiencing persistent seismicity.

A year without volcanic activity on Iceland would likely be a welcome respite from the past few years, although several volcanoes, including Katla, are due for an eruption, more specifically, Hekla volcano, which typically erupts nearly every ten years. The last eruption of Helka occurred in 2000, which means it could potentially erupt at a moments notice (although the volcano has given no signs of unrest so far).

Iceland is part of a hotspot/spreading rift that makes it one of the most volcanically active places on the planet except for, perhaps, the big island of Hawaii, where the ongoing eruption of Kilauea volcano has been ongoing since January of 1983, and has shown no sign of slowing down. Iceland is however different in the fact that it rests on the split between the North American, and European plates, a spreading rift, which results in not only a much larger island, but a variety of different eruption types. The eruptions of the Hawaii hotspot are almost exclusively basaltic pahoehoe lavas, whereas Iceland produces a much wider variety of volcanoes, lavas and eruptions.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Scientists Warn Further About Mt Fuji, Japan

While it was never confirmed if Mt Fuji ever had a minor eruption which resulted in the creation of a new flank crater, it is now confirmed that the recent quake activity in the area (A 9.0, 6.4, and 5.0) around Mt. Fuji has indeed increased drastically the amount of pressure in the magma chamber of the iconic Japanese volcano. The current pressure in the chamber has reached a high level of 1.6 megapascals, which Japanese scientists are quoted as saying "is not a small figure". It has been noted that many eruptions occur with a mere 0.1 megapascals of pressure in the chamber.

Steam activity, small water eruptions, and large holes that are emitting volcanic gasses are starting to occur in the vicinity, and the crater is fuming (However I have only been able to cite this from the linked Wired.com article, and have seen no real evidence of this with cameras, video, or other sources, so don't take my word for that).

This is the most activity in the area since a swarm of low-frequency quakes occurred in 2000-2001, and began after the large 9.0, and 6.4 quakes. With the current activity, it is quite evident that the earthquake has re-pressurized the magma chamber. It is quite likely that this will remain the case until more seismicity, which is highly likely in the area, occurs and puts more pressure into the system.

One scientist has gone so far to say that he expects an eruption from Fuji now within "the next three years". Another major cause for concern about the volcano is that a new 34km long fault line was discovered after the major 9.0 2011 quake, which runs directly underneath the volcano, and if destabilized, could result in partial or total collapse of Mt. Fuji.

It is my opinion that the current activity will probably not lead to an imminent eruption (scientists have to be careful with what info they put out, you don't want to cause panic, but you also don't want to be unprepared, and erring on the side of caution is what saves lives), but you will probably see a lot of hydrothermal activity, including but not limited to, minor phreatic eruptions, increased fumerole action, and possibly some deflation/inflation (DI) events. The activity at the volcano is quite similar to the type of activity now being seen at Mt. Iliamna volcano in Alaska, which also experienced a minor magma intrusion, but has merely increased its gas emissions and level of small seismicity. Iliamna has not erupted yet, but has been on AVO's 'watch' list for nearly a year now.

An eruption from Mt. Fuji today has been estimated at a damage cost of up to ¥2.5 trillion ($3.25 billion) to the Japanese economy, and could also cost over 300,000 lives. It is critical that those living near this volcano understand the dangers, and have an evacuation plan as well as supplies they can rely on in the event this does occur. The volcano, at its full fury, is capable of massive levels of destruction to the immediate area, and includes in its arsenal the potential for pyroclastic flows, landslides, lahars, phreatic eruptions, fissures, pyroclastic cinder cones, and fast flowing pahoehoe basalt lavas.

The last eruption in 1707 blasted out a large crater on the Eastern slope of Fuji, and deposited ash as far away as Tokyo. Many buildings and towns surrounding the volcano are built on the lavas and ashes of this eruption. Due to the extensive history and record keeping of Japan, most residents are quite aware of the dangers of Fuji, and typically take any evacuation order very seriously, but pyroclastic flows are a hard thing to outrun when they can reach speeds of up to 280mph, so early warning is the best possible scenario.

I will also to see if there are any other credible sources to confirm what Wired.com is claiming in regards to steaming and gas emissions (however they did not cite a source for this claim). Its actually possible that they could be using my blog as the source for this, as I was among the first sites to report the initial supposed 'emissions' from Fuji, which I was never able to confirm save one obscure report in Japanese news.

Scientists will more than likely step up their monitoring and analysis of Fuji in the mean time, and keep a close watch on its goings-on.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Alaska's Little Sitkin Volcano Stirs

AVO is reporting that seismic activity has picked up at Little Sitkin volcano in the Aleutian Arc. Little Sitkin is one of the farthest volcanoes from mainland Alaska, and is about halfway from Alaska to Russia's Kamchatka peninsula. The volcano does not have a record of historical eruptions, however evidence on the island suggest it may have erupted early last century. A series of sharp and frequent quakes has rattled the island, and has prompted AVO to raise the aviation code from unassigned to "Yellow" (advisory).

AVO's statement is below:

"At approximately 19:15 AKDT (04:15 UTC) last night, a swarm of high-frequency earthquakes began at Little Sitkin Volcano. The continuation of this anomalous seismic activity through the night prompts AVO to raise the Aviation Color Code to YELLOW and the Volcano Alert Level to ADVISORY. No eruptive activity is currently indicated.

AVO is closely monitoring the situation and will issue further updates as conditions changes.Little Sitkin is monitored by a 4-station seismic network as well as satellite imagery. Little Sitkin Island is located 35 km (21 mi) northwest of Amchitka and 320 km (200 mi) west of Adak in the remote western Aleutian Islands. The last eruption of Little Sitkin is questionable and may have been in the early 1900s."

The Smithsonian GVP characterizes the volcano here:

"Diamond-shaped Little Sitkin Island is bounded by steep cliffs on the east, north, and NE sides. Little Sitkin volcano contains two nested calderas. The older, nearly circular Pleistocene caldera is 4.8 km wide, may have once contained a caldera lake, and was partially filled by a younger cone formed mostly of andesitic and dacitic lava flows. The elliptical younger caldera is 2.7 x 4 km wide; it lies within the eastern part of the older caldera and shares its eastern and southern rim. The younger caldera partially destroyed the lava cone within the first caldera and is of possible early Holocene age. Young-looking dacitic lava flows, erupted in 1828 (Kay, in Wood and Kienle 1990), issued from the central cone within the younger caldera and from a vent on the west flank outside the older caldera. Fumarolic areas are found near the western coast, along the NW margin of the older caldera, and from the summit crater down the southern flank for a 1 km distance."

With activity at this volcano now being closely watched, this brings the number of Alaskan volcanoes currently being monitored to three. Cleveland volcano has been having small to minor eruptions for about a year now, and Mt Iliamna was raised to Yellow alert following a series of very shallow quakes, and increased fumerolic activity, however no eruption has happened at Iliamna following what AVO suspects was a minor magma dike intrusion. This brings the total volcanoes in Alaska showing activity to three at this time. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Salton Sea Quake Activity Spikes With Large Swarm

A large earthquake swarm is occurring in the Salton Sea area just NW of Brawley, CA. The largest event so far has been a mag 5.4 tremblor which I personally felt at my home in San Diego. I am currently watching the action happen on the USGS site, and my real time Google Earth plugin. USGS reports the quakes at shallow depths of 13km (at the deepest) to <1km at the shallowest. The swarm has generated over 25 quakes at this time and is ongoing, with quakes actually getting more powerful at this time. Within one hour there were one 4.9, two 4.5 quakes, a 4.3, two quakes of 5.3 mag, plus many mag 1.0-3.9 quakes. Many smaller tremors are occurring.

*****UPDATE***** another 5.5 quake struck the same area.

The center of the activity is quite concentrated on the fault line that runs through Brawley and the Salton Sea (Salton Buttes) area. This area does have active geothermal prospecting, as well as a history of volcanic eruptions, although it has not occurred during historical time.

As these quakes are currently happening there is no data to suggest whether or not the quakes are purely tectonic, or possibly volcanic in nature. The area sees a large number of earthquakes each year, however this swarm is particularly intense for the region.

The region was shaken in 2010 by a large 7.4 magnitude earthquake centered near the Cerro Prieto volcano in Northern Mexico. The area has seen a rise in the number of very small quakes since then.

I will update this story as more info becomes available through USGS and other news media.

Below is a screen cap of the current state of the swarm, with the largest quake highlighted.



Here are some links form local news about the quakes, I will add these links as they become available.

****UPDATE****

In a statement form USGS, they stated:

“[The Brawley Seismic Zone] is a broad zone with lots of little faults,” explained Abbott.“This area has clearly activated. We will likely experience swarms of 3, 4 and 5-magnitude [earthquakes] but they are not likely to increase in intensity. Of course, there are no guarantees on this, but history says they likely won’t get bigger – that we will experience more of the same or smaller quakes,” he added.

Source: SoCal Rattled by Quake Swarms | NBC 7 San Diego

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Brawley-Earthquake-Felt-in-San-Diego-167483415.html
http://www.sandiego6.com/news/local/Series-of-Earthquakes-Felt-in-Imperial-Valley-167480795.html
http://news.lalate.com/2012/08/26/southern-california-earthquake-today-2012-strikes-brawley-east-of-san-diego/
http://www.cbs8.com/story/19379394/53-magnitude-earthquake-shakes-near-san-diego-county
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/26/us-quake-california-idUSBRE87P0C720120826
http://www.euronews.com/newswires/1636422-moderate-5-point-3-magnitude-earthquake-in-southern-california-usgs/
http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/4c38f0a1697a42f6bb9550843949e4c2/CA--SoCal-Quakes

http://earthquake-report.com/2012/08/26/powerful-earthquake-swarm-in-southern-california-mexico-border/ 

Here is the current list of quakes in the swarm (from USGS)

2.75km N of Brawley, California33.027°N115.532°W11.8
2.54km NW of Brawley, California33.005°N115.565°W12.4
3.86km N of Brawley, California33.038°N115.527°W12.4
3.64km SE of Westmorland, California33.005°N115.591°W14.3
3.66km W of Brawley, California32.973°N115.599°W8.5
2.92km NW of Brawley, California32.998°N115.549°W0.3
2.95km W of Brawley, California32.970°N115.588°W12.9
2.84km N of Brawley, California33.022°N115.536°W10.0
2.52km W of Brawley, California32.974°N115.561°W1.4
2.73km N of Brawley, California33.013°N115.536°W0.0
3.95km SSE of Westmorland, California32.986°N115.603°W11.8
4.37km NE of Brawley, California33.033°N115.479°W12.1
2.85km N of Brawley, California33.026°N115.524°W11.9
2.95km WSW of Brawley, California32.959°N115.585°W0.0
3.65km WNW of Brawley, California32.997°N115.587°W11.4
3.14km WSW of Brawley, California32.966°N115.577°W13.7
3.22km N of Brawley, California33.005°N115.534°W9.2
3.57km ENE of Brawley, California33.001°N115.457°W5.1
3.44km N of Brawley, California33.020°N115.523°W9.4
5.55km NNW of Brawley, California33.024°N115.549°W9.0
2.65km NNW of Brawley, California33.030°N115.545°W12.2
2.53km N of Brawley, California33.008°N115.529°W0.8
3.15km NNW of Brawley, California33.024°N115.543°W4.7
3.017km NNW of Seeley, California32.938°N115.775°W12.2
2.83km N of Brawley, California33.009°N115.528°W9.6
2.53km NW of Brawley, California33.004°N115.553°W12.0
2.53km NW of Brawley, California33.007°N115.553°W12.0
3.45km NNW of Brawley, California33.026°N115.543°W11.9
3.54km NW of Brawley, California33.012°N115.564°W12.7
2.55km N of Brawley, California33.029°N115.535°W10.0
3.05km WNW of Brawley, California32.996°N115.582°W12.5
2.63km NW of Brawley, California33.000°N115.561°W11.1
2.57km SW of Brawley, California32.928°N115.577°W7.9
2.98km SE of Brawley, California32.934°N115.457°W3.5
2.54km NW of Brawley, California33.008°N115.559°W9.6
3.65km N of Brawley, California33.025°N115.541°W13.6
2.83km NNW of Brawley, California33.010°N115.541°W9.8
3.44km SE of Westmorland, California33.007°N115.586°W12.8
2.85km NNW of Brawley, California33.021°N115.558°W24.8
2.54km WNW of Brawley, California32.989°N115.572°W12.4
3.24km WNW of Brawley, California32.993°N115.575°W0.2
3.34km N of Brawley, California33.018°N115.530°W9.1
4.35km SSE of Westmorland, California32.990°N115.598°W13.8
2.64km WNW of Brawley, California32.998°N115.572°W7.7
3.44km ENE of Brawley, California32.995°N115.485°W7.9
4.93km NW of Brawley, California32.998°N115.559°W3.1
5.34km NNW of Brawley, California33.019°N115.546°W12.3
2.66km N of Brawley, California33.035°N115.536°W10.2
3.45km NNW of Brawley, California33.023°N115.561°W13.7
3.45km NNW of Brawley, California33.021°N115.564°W12.5
3.53km NNW of Brawley, California33.003°N115.546°W11.0
4.64km NNW of Brawley, California33.019°N115.545°W13.1
4.05km NNW of Brawley, California33.026°N115.547°W13.8
2.55km NNW of Brawley, California33.024°N115.541°W13.4
2.55km NNW of Brawley, California33.027°N115.542°W13.3
3.05km N of Brawley, California33.027°N115.538°W14.5
3.15km NNW of Brawley, California33.024°N115.546°W13.5
2.64km NW of Brawley, California33.008°N115.560°W12.2
2.74km NW of Brawley, California33.014°N115.560°W12.7
2.64km NNW of Brawley, California33.011°N115.551°W12.0
2.64km NW of Brawley, California33.010°N115.556°W12.2
2.54km NNW of Brawley, California33.017°N115.556°W12.2
3.35km NNW of Brawley, California33.023°N115.549°W13.4
2.94km NNW of Brawley, California33.017°N115.555°W12.7
2.62km NW of Brawley, California32.996°N115.548°W6.0
3.85km NW of Brawley, California33.019°N115.563°W13.2
2.54km NNW of Brawley, California33.018°N115.555°W12.4
2.53km NW of Brawley, California32.998°N115.559°W11.4
2.53km NNW of Brawley, California33.010°N115.548°W12.0
2.54km NNW of Brawley, California33.015°N115.552°W12.5

*****UPDATE 8/27/12 *****

The Earthquake swarm has subsided. The majority of the quakes occurred yesterday, and slowed down to normal regional levels by late night/afternoon. Although some geologists were saying that the fault line had 'activated' and that there will probably be thousands of similar events in the coming weeks/months, I would suspect that the main events are over and we will see maybe 10-12 smaller quakes a day until even that activity subsides.

The quakes were activated by an intersection of fault lines at the base of the San Andreas fault. The area is rife with many relatively small fault lines. The last time the area was this active was in the 1970's, and before that in the 1930's. It's starting to make a pretty neat pattern of 40-year periods of quiescence, which is probably not significant in the grand scheme of things, but something worth noting nonetheless.

As it stands, the swarm had nearly 1,000 quakes, and over 400 of them were magnitude 2.5 or greater.

As I can say from firsthand experience, the shaking in San Diego was very light, almost not noticeable. The folks out there in Brawley had some minor damage to trailers, some structures, and some things were shaken off of shelves. By and large all damage was minimal, but many reports point to scared children who did not wish to go back in their houses for the night, and I am sure many residents were a bit spooked by the frequency of the quakes. one resident said they felt like they were popping off nearly every few minutes.

So far this morning, things appear to have calmed down quite considerably. The below picture shows all the quakes from yesterday's swarm.


***** UPDATE 8/28/2012 *****

After the quake swarm, scientists are weighing in on the causes. Most scientists say this is likely just a tectonic swarm, but Julie Dutton with USGS says "In volcanically active areas, earthquake swarms often indicate imminent eruptions, Dutton said. The only potential candidates for volcanic eruptions near Brawley are the Salton Buttes, five small lava domes that flank the Salton Sea and haven't erupted in close to 10,000 years." (From MSNBC.com).

While, yes, the area has not erupted in 10,000 years, it still remains geothermally active, and the area is used for geothermal energy. Chaiten volcano in Chile blew after over 10,000 years of silence, with no warning, so the possibility does always exist, however unlikely it might be. A real indicator of an imminent eruption however would be if the swarm is sustained, and the quakes grew shallower and shallower (indicating rising magma) which did not occur in this particular case.

The quakes ranged from some 13km below the surface to nearly at the surface, in a highly randomized fashion that does not seem to point to magma intrusion in the area, but like most rift-zone volcanoes, the process is highly unpredictable. More than likely the area will not see any volcanic activity for many decades to come.