Friday, March 29, 2013

Long Running Project Nearing Completion

So, part of the reason my blog posts have been a bit sparse lately (aside from a new job with more responsibilities) is that I have been, for the last few years compiling a Google Earth database that merges the Smithsonian GVP's worldwide Holocene volcano database with my own Google Earth-browsing observations of surface volcanism on the planet Earth. This painstaking (but entirely fun) process involves me scouring the globe on Google earth for obvious volcanic vents, mountain ranges, and other volcanism, and adding place marks. I add some info about the volcanoes that I discover when I can, but many vents are either not in any database, or are in areas of the world where volcanologists have difficulty reaching.

I decided to undertake this project a couple years before I started this blog. It all started when Google Earth was just released, and I decided my first 'trip' was to look at Mt. St. Helens in 3-D. Addiction soon took hold. I found it curious that the Smithsonian only listed purported Holocene (and at the earliest, Pleistocene) volcanoes, and given that volcanoes like Chaiten, Jebel al Tair, and Nabro had woken up from slumber after tens of thousands of years of dormancy (Nabro was questioned to have been extinct before its recent eruption), I felt it would be pretty cool to compile a visual representation of all volcanoes on the planet (not including most submarine ones, but that's the next step in this obsession).

As you can see in the below screenshot, the obsession has been painstaking. Although I'm sure there are a few volcanoes I marked that aren't actually volcanoes (merely similar in shape), this has generated a really great database to look at, and I am certain I have discovered some 'forgotten' or even undiscovered volcanic vents on our planet that nobody has paid much attention to.

Screen capture of my personal volcanism database, which I will soon make available on this blog for your enjoyment.

With the advent of satellite photography, and the 3D capabilities in Google Earth, leaps in fields like Archaeology, Geology, and Volcanology have indeed occurred because of this technology. And I will be posting my database for public use (since I am not in academia, I do not particularly care for any academic credit for this, as it is just a hobby) within the next few months. I am currently just touching up some things I felt needed to be corrected, and still scouring areas of the planet where I suspect volcanism has occurred in the past, but never identified.

To be sure, the majority of the surface (if not all of it) at one time was volcanic. But I am not including ambiguous mountain ranges of the Jurassic, Triassic, or older. My database will show most 'geologically recent' meaning from Holocene back to Miocene volcanism. I want to give it out to the world of science and research in hopes that perhaps, some vents that are identified will indeed be 'discovered' by science, and perhaps even identify any lurking threats we might not have considered. My real hope is that some things that should not have been forgotten, are brought to mind and maybe monitored so that nobody gets caught by a surprise eruption. Although I am certain the scientific community, for the most part, has this well in hand.

This database could be used by teachers as an educational tool to show the real boundaries of our plate tectonics, as well as generate a more complete picture of volcanism on this planet. Some locations of volcanoes are quite surprising, and a lot of research went into this, using my own free time, so I do hope that at least some will appreciate it, elaborate on it, and help me finish this project for the betterment of science, geology, and mankind. Anyhow, look forward to me posting my 'preliminary' database soon, and please feel free to pass it along and enjoy looking at it as much as I had fun making it.


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