Friday, December 30, 2011

Alaska's Cleveland Volcano Has Minor Explosion

News from AVO and CNN confirm with NASA satellite pictures that Cleveland volcano in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska had a minor explosion. Pictures from AVO show a large plume over the summit of the volcano emitting from the summit crater area, with the ash cloud moving SSE. No other information was provided due to the remoteness of the volcano. Image from AVO (Below) shows the infrared satellite data.


(Image from AVO showing gas/ash/steam plume on radar)

The current statement from AVO reads as follows:

"A detached drifting ash cloud to approximately 15,000 ft ASL has been detected at Cleveland Volcano in satellite images from 1402 UTC, Dec 29. As of 1445 UTC the ash cloud was approximately 80 KM/50 miles moving ESE from the volcano. 

Based on the presence of an ash cloud, AVO has raised the aviation color code at Cleveland Volcano to ORANGE and alert level WATCH.

Satellite data indicate that this is a single explosion event, however, more sudden explosions producing ash could occur with plumes exceeding 20,000 feet above sea level. Such explosions and their associated ash clouds may go undetected in satellite imagery for hours. However, in cooperation with the University of Washington, AVO has implemented a lightning alarm system that may detect significant ash-producing events within minutes of onset. If a large explosive event occurs, seismic signals may be recorded on AVO seismic networks at nearby volcanoes. There is no real-time seismic monitoring network at Cleveland.

Additional information on Cleveland Volcano and the current activity may be found at this link:

Please see for complete definitions of Aviation color codes and Volcano alert levels."

The volcano has been showing signs of activity for nearly a year now, with a lava dome being extruded at the summit during the last time the volcano was at ORANGE alert level. It was recently downgraded to "Yellow" however AVO stated that activity could resume anytime in the form of explosions, dome collapse, or avalanches (I guess they were right!). Cleveland volcano is one of Alaska's most active in the Aleutian Island chain, having had multiple eruptions this decade alone.

Due to its remoteness, it is unlikely to affect life in Alaska much, save from a few diverted flight patterns, and the chance of light ashfall should the cloud blow over any populated area. The winds are currently blowing away from land, out into the Pacific ocean.

Given the recent trend of activity, it is probable that dome collapse and a minor explosion have occurred, but satellite pictures will tell us that story later. It is likely that Cleveland will remain under ORANGE alert for a while, until AVO can confirm the eruption is over or subsiding. Cleveland's summit is usually at least steaming, and satellites regularly record elevated temperatures at the crater. This volcano can have very short, or very long duration eruptions, and with no seismic or other equipment on the island itself, it is near impossible to make any observations except satellite on the island, or the occasional boat or plane that goes near it.

*****UPDATE 12/31/11*****

AVO has lowered the alert code to YELLOW down from ORANGE stating:

"2011-12-30 14:43:07 - Weekly Update
Earlier today, AVO lowered the aviation color code to YELLOW and alert level to ADVISORY for Cleveland Volcano. No new explosive activity has been observed at the volcano since the ash cloud that was detected yesterday morning.

More sudden explosions producing ash or ejecting blocks may still occur with plumes exceeding 20,000 feet above sea level. Such explosions and their associated ash clouds may go undetected in satellite imagery for hours. However, in cooperation with the University of Washington, AVO has implemented a lightning alarm system that may detect significant ash-producing events within minutes of onset. If a large explosive event occurs, seismic signals may be recorded on AVO seismic networks at nearby volcanoes. There is no real-time seismic monitoring network at Cleveland.

Additional information on Cleveland Volcano and the current activity may be found at this link:

Please see for complete definitions of Aviation color codes and Volcano alert levels."

No reason for the quick lowering of the code was given.

El Hierro Eruption Ongoing, Ejects Steaming Lava Rocks On Ocean Surface

Despite claims by a few bloggers, the eruption at El Hierro continues. captured video from Dec. 29th that clearly shows a large stain and jacuzzi, with occasional ejection of steaming lava rocks. These rocks would not simply float to the surface if there were no eruptions taking place. This confirms that the eruption, while sputtering occasionally is ongoing.

Harmonic tremor is twice what it has been in recent days, and explosions are being detected underwater. This is not simply hydrothermal as has been suggested by other blogs.

It is important, again, to note that volcanoes do not go according to blogger's schedules. The eruption will be declared dead when there is more than a week of quiescence, not before. In any case, enjoy the link to the video, where you can easily see the floating, steaming rocks! The volcano still has a shot to break the oceans surface, however given the weak level of tremor, I will agree with some that say the eruption is "slowing down"... but again, it is NOT over.

*****UPDATE 12/31/11******

El Hierro continued today to eject floating steaming lava chunks onto the surface of the water, clearly signaling that despite low harmonic tremor, it is still erupting fresh lava. The eruption CONTINUES, despite reports from other blogs, and news outlets to the contrary.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

El Hierro Vent Back to Near Full Strength

The vent at El Hierro seems to have roared back to life, producing the biggest stain in days. Despite decrease in harmonic tremor, and occasional vent collapse, the eruption continues as of this morning. Morning images (below) from the official webcam show a stain far larger than in previous days, with vigorous bubbling and churning at the vent site. This definitively says that the eruption is not over, nor can we tell when it will stop. Just like predicting an eruption, predicting the cessation of an eruption is also a near impossible task.

Why is it so hard to know? Because we can't see underneath the volcano, nor can we tell what the underground magma currents are like. It is possible we're just seeing the start of the eruption, or that its nearly over... impossible to tell for sure. The volcano will likely keep starting and stopping for awhile... again, speculation.

In the pictures taken this morning at around 7:40am, you can clearly see the large and vigorous stain in the water. This is hydromagmatic, not degassing.

The volcano has caused some confusion in recent days, with some people claiming the eruption is at an end. The eruption is ongoing, this much is certain. After watching the cam for a few minutes this morning, it looks as if the vent is actually now much larger, as the jacuzzi area is now apparently quite large in diameter, perhaps larger than it has been previously. It is hard to tell this early in the morning, but the camera pictures are telling a very different story from the last couple of days.

Keep your eyes peeled on the cam today!

El Hierro Sputters, Stops, Then Starts Again has reported that the eruption of El Hierro ceased altogether yesterday, yet resumed this morning with renewed tremor and eruption signals. Reports may suggest that new vents have opened, or the same vent is active again. This morning's view of the eruption area on the El Hierro Webcam  indeed showed a strong 'jacuzzi', and corresponding ocean water stain, suggesting that despite reports from blogger Jon Frimann, and earlier reports from, this eruption remains persistent, and much to the chagrin of reporters and bloggers, frankly makes everyone look stupid... it's the volcanoes fault though for not making up its mind, not the bloggers, and Jon Frimann's article was posted yesterday when the volcano appeared to be finally at rest.

It is my personal opinion that this eruption is not going to truly end anytime soon. Some eruptions are slow, and last a long time, like the persistent activity at Kiluea volcano, and others, like the eruption of Fimmvörðuháls in Iceland that preceded the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, sputter out after a couple weeks. The eruption at El Hierro has continued for months now, and I see no reason for gut reaction reporting when the volcano takes a small break in its intensity. The eruption is not over at this time.

It is usually good protocol to declare an end to an eruption after 1-2 weeks of ceased activity, not 1 or 2 days. While sometimes it seems safe to assume an eruption has ended due to a day or two of quiescence, clearly El Hierro has proven this wrong.

So unless the eruption ceases for about two weeks or so, you won't see me calling this one over, not for a while. This is probably the third time El Hierro has played with volcanologists and bloggers... what's the old saying "fool me once...". In any case, keep your eyes on the El Hierro cam and make your own visual observations rather than believing whatever is written on a blog (link to the official cam page is provided in the first paragraph), and that goes for me too. There is no substitute for firsthand observations, and webcams provide that opportunity to everyone!

Eruption At Jebel Zubair Confirmed, New Island Forms (VIDEO)

NASA has finally put the confusion to rest as to whether it was Jebel al-Tair or Jebel Zubair that was erupting in the Red Sea. NASA has posted new pictures of the new island as seen from space. Several news outlets have published the before and after pictures (link provided above), which clearly shows a brand new, steaming volcanic island in the Jebel Zubair volcanic island chain. This puts to rest any question as to what island was erupting.

The Red Sea Rift has been a bit more active lately with an eruption of Jebel al-Tair preceding the eruption at Jebel Zubair. There are no historical records of eruptions at Jebel Zubair that I am aware of, but I will check my volcano almanac tonight and this statement may change. Historical explosive activity was reported from Saddle Island in the 19th century (-GVP).

Enjoy the pictures of the new island! I can't help but be a bit miffed that I have been sitting and watching the eruption of El Hierro with the hopes of seeing the moment where the volcano breaks the surface, and then one goes and does it behind all our backs! This new island in the Jebel Zubair chain was built quite quickly, and its structure looks pretty solid from the pictures. Many new volcanoes are quickly eroded and reclaimed by the sea within days to decades, so it will be interesting to see if this is a permanent addition, or if it's going to be a temporary island.

Below is a link to good video from Yemeni TV of the new island erupting!

Video from Yemeni TV of the eruption

Pictured below are the before and after shots of Jebel Zubair:

Jebel Zubair Before Eruption

Jebel Zubair After Eruption

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Earthquakes Continue At Katla, Reykjanes Peninsula

Earthquakes continued to be present within Katla's caldera under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in Iceland. Approximately 13 quakes have occurred within the last 72 hours, most under 1.5 magnitude. These quakes have been ongoing for a while now, ever since the last minor/small eruption at Katla earlier this year when a glacier outburst flood (Jökulhlaup) resulted in some minor damage to bridges and infrastructure. Katla has been relatively quiet since, with some scientists seeing the minor eruption as a precursor to something bigger, however they point out that is just speculation.

It is entirely possible however that these small quakes are merely crustal adjustments, with more ice being deposited on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier during the peak of Winter. Slight harmonic tremor has been detected, which could also indicate minor dike intrusion into the caldera, but again, that is speculative.

Also in Iceland there has been an ongoing swarm of earthquakes at the Reykjanes peninsula, occurring near the volcano Hengill, in the Hveragerdi thermal area. These quakes are likely due to geothermal projects in the area, much like what is occurring at Clear Lake in California, at the Geysers geothermal field. Injecting water and chemicals miles deep to interact with superheated rock results in steam and steam pressure coming up to the surface, which in turn power turbines creating electrical and heat energy. Iceland is home to some of the largest and most advanced geothermal energy production plants in the world, with the entire country now using almost completely renewable energy. This does however, come with the trade-off of near constant small quakes. I suppose it is less annoying to Icelanders than it is to Californians, given Iceland's sparse population and the frequency of eruptions and earthquakes in the area.

In any case, the quakes at Reykjanes are likely man-made, however the area is active thermally (obviously), and the last eruption was "only" a thousand years ago. The area lies on the spreading ridge which separates the American and European plate, and will erupt in the future (as with the rest of Iceland's volcanoes that share this rifting system). The rift itself spreads at a rate about the same as a growing fingernail, and has created some of Iceland's most spectacular geological features, such as the famed Thingvallir rift valley, the site of one of the first democratic councils in the world's history (due to its formation, leaders would sit atop a natural "throne" and speak down to their population, with resounding acoustics).

Back to Katla, it will probably have an eruption one of these days, however I want to point out that the mainstream media is hyping this possibility to ridiculous levels. It's not going to be a doomsday scenario, it's not going to be a major disaster as Icelanders are VERY aware of the possibility and likely have plenty of emergency contingencies to prepare for the worst, and the media hype is the direct fault of Eyjafjallajokull, who's ash cloud made some airlines very nervous. The effect, if any, of another ash cloud over Europe this time around will be smaller, as airlines fed up with having to deal with natural occurrences such as eruptions have invented a new system for airplanes to detect airborne ash called A.V.O.I.D. (I think this stands for Automated Volcanic Object Infrared Detector... something along those lines) which combines infrared, GPS, satellite, and air sample data to enable pilots to alter course without putting any aircraft at risk of volcanic ash being sucked into jet engines.

More on this if anything develops.

6.6 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Russia Near Mongolia Border

A shallow (4.29mi) 6.6 magnitude quake hit Russia in the state of Tuva yesterday. This area is rugged, and remote, with very little in the way of population. No damage has been reported. The nearest volcanic center is almost 150 miles away, the Oka Plateau (Holocene). This quake is tectonic, not volcanic. There will likely be some small aftershocks.

The shake map provided by USGS shows that the quake was felt far from its epicenter, if only by a few people.

If anything further develops, I will update this post.

*****UPDATE 12/28/11******

At least 5 more strong aftershocks ranging from magnitudes 4.6-4.9 have hit the area since the main quake so far. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays from Volcano Science and News Blog

Wishing all my readers a happy holiday season, and hoping no eruptions are making your holiday difficult! Not a whole lot is going on at the moment, and most news outlets that would cover volcano-related topics are understandably taking the time off to be with their families and/or loved ones. I wish everyone a great holiday season, and look forward to bringing you the best coverage that money can't buy!

Here's a great video of the Kiluea eruption in Hawaii, as a thank you for reading my blog, hope you enjoy!

(Click to View on Youtube)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Yet More Continuing Quakes At Mono Lake Swarm Region

About a week went by with no quake activity at Mono Lake, CA, until yesterday 12/20, when p to five tremblors hit the region East of the Mono Lake shoreline. These quakes registered from 1.2-2.6 in magnitude at a depth of 5.1km - 8km below the surface (which is still quite shallow geologically). The ongoing swarm has still not yet been analyzed by USGS, so speculation is still an unwise idea at this time, however I'm going to take a wild guess and say that this is probably hydromagmatic, or related to a small dike intrusion... again this is speculation.

There are many possibilities as to what is occurring in this region, ranging from subterranian hydrothermal activity, tectonic stress, magmatic dike intrusion (similar to what just occurred in the Sierraville, CA region), or other anomalies. The most recent eruptive activity occurred at Mono Lake less than 200 years ago (as per argon dating), which resulted in the extrusion of a rhylotic cryptodome. So given this (geologically) recent activity, it is probably safe to assume that these quakes are not purely tectonic in nature.

Indeed Mono Lake is considered by some to be a part of the Long Valley Caldera region, although most scientists say that they are chemically and magmatically distinct from each other. This could be the case, but they do share similar geologies, and are along the same fault area, so they could have a few things in common. I have posted more screenshots of the most recent additions to the quake swarm (Screenshots are of Google Earth with the USGS real-time Earthquake layer added). The quakes from the start of the swarm no longer appear on this screenshot as they are more than 1 week old. This screenshot only displays the quakes within the past week.

The below screenshot is some of the wave forms recorded (I am no geologist, but if one of my readers happens to be, please feel free to comment on the wave forms in all your scientific glory). This waveform is from the 2.6 magnitude quake (below picture from USGS at this link ).


While I am no expert on seismic waves, these no not appear to be harmonic tremors, but I could be mistaken. These simply look like common rock-breaking quakes to my eye, which could mean these are purely tectonic. Again, I'd really like an actual expert on wave forms to weigh in on this, but my Internet exposure is still in its infancy as far as this blog is concerned. However I am the only person (to my knowledge) reporting on these quakes at this time, so hopefully someone with the correct qualifications will run across this post.

I have reviewed some past wave forms of tectonic quakes that occurred near this ares earlier this year (located here) and they are quite similar to the wave forms in the above snapshot.

This swarm is still very intriguing, mostly because of how localized (within only a couple miles) these quakes are occurring. It certainly begs the question, will we be seeing minor activity at Mono Lake in the near future? I will be keeping my eye on this for a while, or until the situation stops.


There were two quakes today at the swarm region registering 2.0 and 2.7 at a depth of 3.7 miles. These quakes are a bit stronger than the typical ones so far. Keeping an eye on the continuing swarm. It is hard to tell given the local clustering of these quakes whether or not this is purely tectonic... the quakes could certainly indicate minor dike intrusion.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

El Hierro Resumes Activity With Strong Vent Action

Just when we think that the El Hierro is winding down, it renews its eruptive activity. So far this is what has occurred on the island during the eruption.

The eruption was preceded by over 8,000 small and deep earthquakes, with harmonic tremor being recorded throughout. The volcano then opens a vent on the sea floor, about a mile SSW of La Restinga, at depth. The underwater volcano erupts producing a large "stain" on the surface, and residents reported "jacuzzis" out in the ocean water that bubbled, and churned, sometimes producing steaming floating pumice type rocks. This activity continued for over a month, and it was thought that the volcano might breach the surface to form a new island. This has not occurred yet, although for a brief moment, the volcano appeared to have at least erupted some incandescent material as per an earlier post.

Activity has indeed decreased and on some days, there is no activity to be seen on the oceans surface. The past few days showed a light 'stain' on the ocean surface, but no jacuzzis. The jacuzzis stopped about a week ago, and it had been assumed that the main vent had closed. About two days ago, two new stains appeared, which has been interpreted to be flank eruptions of the underwater volcano, possibly due to the pressure at the underwater summit being so great, that lava oozed out of its sides. The pressure at the summit seems to have been lifted, with today showing the stain and a small 'jacuzzi' over the previous summit location. This could indicate that the pressure and amount of magma in the chamber is still quite sufficient to continue the eruption, for who knows how long.

Also, earthquake activity has slowly resumed, with more powerful jolts. A 2.8 quake hit the island today, near the El Golfo bay, further fueling speculation that yet another vent may be active at great depth in the landslide area. This of course is not, and at the moment, cannot be confirmed, as eruptions at that depth would likely leave no surface evidence.

So it seems that despite its short break, El Hierro is at this time, continuing to erupt. Of course, I will keep my eye on this evolving situation and update as necessary.

Enjoy the time lapse video from of the renewed activity.


During the end of the video, there is an interesting looking white object that appears to come out of the water, move slowly toward the vent, and then submerge. This is an illusion as it is merely a solar artifact that is reflecting off the lens... caught me by surprise though!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eruptive Activity Continues At El Hierro At Low Rate

The eruption, contrary to my previous report, is ongoing at El Hierro, although at a much reduced level. The 'stain' on the oceans surface is still visible on and off during the day, although my last check on the webcam showed zero activity on the ocean's surface. Pictures from INVOLCAN showed a much smaller stain on the water than at previous times, and the stain has also moved further WSW. This has led some to speculate whether or not the same vent is responsible for the discoloration, however INVOLCAN states that it is the same vent, and the stain being further is a result of stronger currents.

Tremor has continued at a much lower level than previously, but has not gone away. This leads me to believe that magma could still be (slowly) on the move. It is possible for the vent to re-pressurize and explode again, however the trend with this eruption indicates that it is slowly ending. It is always possible that another vent could open up, but at this stage it is impossible to tell whether or not this will occur.


The Eruption continues at a low level. Webcam views from this morning clearly indicate a dynamic and changing situation underwater, with two to three separate, but small, 'stains' visible on time lapse camera from The stains slowly 'migrate' from right to left, against the current, so I don't think that the eruptive activity is weak enough (as previously suggested) to be affected much by the currents. This could indicate that the main vent has collapsed, shoving magma pressure further down to the foot of the vent, resulting in several small side fissures that open and close at random. This would explain why the stains appear to 'move'.

Harmonic tremor is weak, and despite small fluctuations, the trend still looks as if the eruption is beginning to subside. It is still possible for other areas to erupt, as previously noted, the thousands upon thousands of quakes preceding this event paint a picture of a large magma chamber, perhaps two. The majority of volcanic quakes were not located under La Restinga, those quakes occurred with a second smaller swarm. After reviewing previous data, it is my opinion El Hierro could be in for much more... but time will certainly tell,  and I do not want to be the guy that hypes the eruption up to be something it's not.

If anything new develops, you'll hear about it here!

Friday, December 16, 2011

El Hierro Volcano Eruption Pauses (Or Ceases)

The eruption at El Hierro volcano in the Canary Islands appears to have ground to a halt. Webcam images and live feeds from the past few days show no 'jacuzzis' and the stain in the ocean water is not visible at this time. Harmonic tremor has greatly decreased or ceased altogether , but has gradually picked up again late in the day with occasional spikes. There have been few if any earthquakes in the area.

The eruption underwater could just be building up to another phase, or it could have stopped. It is possible that the underwater vent has collapsed, which could stop the eruption. The other possibility is that the pressure could again build up leading to more activity, but it is hard to tell. At this time, the maritime exclusion zone remains in place just to be cautious as eruptive activity could resume at any time.

The eruption in El Hierro lasted several months, and did not cause any damage. Fish kill and occasional floating, steaming volcanic rocks were visible, with a possibility that the volcano briefly had incandescent material ejected during the middle of the night earlier this week. If anything new develops, I will be sure to cover it, but as of now it looks like this could be the last post about El Hierro for a while... time will tell.

In other news, Ijen volcano in Indonesia is starting to show signs of activity. John Seach reports on his website "Increased seismicity has been recorded at Ijen volcano, Indonesia. Between 8-13 December 2011 harmonic tremor and 77 shallow volcanic earthquakes were recorded at the volcano. Seismicity began to increase in October 2011 and continued high levels of shallow volcanic earthquakes have continued at the volcano. Between 1-13 December visual observations showed brown-white emissions with a weak pressure rising 50-200 m above the crater. On 15th December 2011 the alert status at Ijen volcano was raised to level 2 (out of a maximum 4). A 1 km exclusion zone has been placed around the crater. This affects both visitors and sulphur miners."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How The Volcano Science And News Blog Works

A couple questions have been asked regarding how I collect, review, and publish data. I am happy to answer these questions. First, a bit about me.

I have been fascinated by volcanoes since I was very young. At age 6 I was making model volcanoes, and watching (nonstop I might add) volcano tapes (yes, I'm old, I used VHS tapes!) from National Geographic. My childhood heroes were Maurice and Katya Kraaft, French volcanologists who were killed in a sudden volcanic eruption in the 1990's (very sad). Since then, volcanoes and earthquakes have become somewhat of an obsessive hobby of mine. Currently, I work as a network administrator for a web development company in the US, which is my second passion (computers).

My educational background is as follows. I went to an art school for High School where I studied video production and journalism, which I also went to college for. I went back to college after a brief stint as a videographer/college news writer, and attained a degree in Computer Network Engineering, which is my current profession. However my passion lies in many things, not the least of which is journalism. I find myself quite frustrated today with the lack of journalistic integrity (and good grammar... why is it that every post I read on the Internet seems like nobody has proof read anything?), so I wanted to get back into the fray and show the newbies how it's done.

As you can imagine, staring at progress bars and computer statistics all day long can get a bit tedious, and as all people should do, I decided to fully embrace my nerdiness and begin publishing scientific-style postings about our active planet as a hobby. I have been watching, visiting, and reading about volcanoes for over 20 years, and consider myself to be an amateur expert on the subject. I try and be very careful not to inject opinion into my blogs, as opinions are not useful when it comes to science. There are far too many sensationalist blogs and bloggers out there, and not enough level-headed geeks who appreciate solid facts.

That all being said, I use many methods to come up with the blog posts. I follow several professional volcanologists online, not the least of which is John Seach , a world-renowned Australian volcanologist who runs a very scientific website.

I religiously monitor all of the USGS websites including (but not limited to):
The USGS Official Website
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)
The Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO)
The Long Valley Volcano Observatory (LVO)
The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO)

Foreign Observatories (I am in San Diego, CA, USA)
The Kamchatka Volcano Observatory (KVERT)
Iceland Meteorological Office (Iceland MET)

Blogs (various)
Jon Frimann

I also regularly check the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program for any eruptions that may have begun that were not reported on the aforementioned sites.

And any other news articles I can search for on Google/Bing/etc.

As far as the seismic monitoring tools I use,  my favorite (but not only) tool is the Google Earth KML file from USGS (provided here) which displays real time quake data that has been reviewed by seismologists. This tool is EXTREMELY useful for quick analysis and situation monitoring, however it only covers areas of the world that have USGS censors, and/or cooperation with other international geological agencies. Some areas like Iceland, the Canary Islands, Africa, etc do not have a cooperative operation with USGS, or my plugin.

I hope this allays any fears that this blog is written by rank amateurs, and I hope you continue to enjoy good reporting on the many goings-on of our very active planet!

In the future, I will try to be more clear on the sources of data as I report for your benefit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Continuing Earthquake Activity At Mono Lake

Mono Lake quake swarm continues. As of this writing there have been now more than 40 localized quakes SE of the lake, concentrated in a 2 mile cluster on the surface, with most quakes occurring at a depth of approximately 5-6km. This so far has still not been reviewed or analyzed by any USGS authority that I am aware of. It is entirely possible that they consider this to be routine activity. I would however be pleased to see an analysis whether or not there is any harmonic tremor, or if these quakes are in any way volcanic in nature.

The last eruptions of Mono Lake occurred a 'mere' couple hundred years ago, when a  rhyolitic cryptodome uplifted parts of the lake, and created the famed tufa towers along the lake rim. There are tens of volcanic cones and other volcanic features in the area, which is also close, but not related to, the Long Valley Caldera. Other quake swarms have occurred further to the ESE or the Mono Lake Swarm, and this raises the question as to whether or not these quakes are preceding a minor eruption in the area.

Time will tell. This could be purely tectonic, but judging by the locations and depths of these quakes, it is my opinion that this ought to be looked at by geologists and an analysis should be made public. I will continue to monitor the situation.

As requests (in comments below) come in as to what tool I am using to monitor the quakes, I have provided links to the very USGS plugin I use for Google Earth. I find it extremely useful.

In any case, here is a screenshot of the latest data that the KML file provides. Data is updated every 5 minutes, with earthquakes in the last hour appearing as red, the last 24 hours as orange, and the last week as yellow. Clicking on each dot will being up the details of the quake, with links to the official USGS analysis.

Enjoy the screenshots!

7.1 Earthquake Strikes Papua New Guinea

A very strong mag 7.1 earthquake hit the mainland of Papua New Guinea about 13.5m SE of the Koranga geothermal area where a lot of illegal gold mining occurs. The Koranga geothermal area has not had any magmatic eruption, rather it has had either a man made explosion int he past, or this was a hydrothermal eruption. In any case, the quake will likely destabilize the area, and this puts illegal gold miners at risk.

The quake occurred at a depth of around 75 miles, and was not expected to generate a tsunami based on its location.

The quake due to its depth is not expected to destabilize any other volcanic areas in the country, although this is always a possibility. Papua New Guinea lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, and is prone to volcanic eruptions, and large earthquakes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Video May Show First Signs Of El Hierro Breaking Water Surface

New video from may show what could be the first signs of the El Hierro submarine cone breaking the water's surface. While the shot is out of focus, the light burst does appear to be on or very near the 'jacuzzi' area. The video was taken at midnight, and I've reviewed it several times. It does in fact look like it could be a lava burst... we will have to see. Judge for yourself below. This could very well be the beginning of the new island!

The usual player is not loading the video properly in the HTML, so I'll try and fix it. In the meantime, you can see the video here:!

The apparent explosion occurs approximately 11 seconds into the video, where you can see a bright initial burst, followed by another a second or so later which is dimmer, but appears to 'fizzle' out slowly. After that the rest of the video is blank. I will be watching the nightcam tonight. A screenshot is below of the 2nd explosion.
12/14 Update
More reports have surfaced from regarding lights or incandescence at or near the jacuzzi area at El Hierro. While video has been posted on their website, it is lacking a point of reference, ie: the docks and town lights, so it really could be anything at this point. There is no way to tell if the new video is authentic, or even shot at the correct angle, so I will withhold judgment. In any case, if it does in fact turn out to be a second display of surface incandescence, this would mean that the birth of a new island is quite near.

Indonesia's Mount Marapi Raised To Alert Level 2

Volcanologist John Seach has reported that Indonesia's Mount Marapi (Not to be confused by Merapi), has had over 43 volcanic quakes during December 12th, prompting the government to raise the alert level to 2 (out of 4), and instituting an exclusion zone around the volcano. Marapi is the most active volcano on Sumatra, erupting nearly every year taking only 1-2 year breaks (usually). The volcano has been responsible for a few deaths in it's past due to pyroclastic flows, and lahars. Since the 1990's however, the government has been quite serious about protecting the residents through evacuations and exclusion zones.

Marapi typically erupts clouds of ash and gas, and lava flows thus far have been contained within the crater, seldom reaching outside its rim or the summit. It is one of Indonesia's most symmetrical and beautiful stratovolcanoes. If anything further develops with this volcano (and I'm sure it probably will) I will post updates, however eruptions from this volcano are fairly routine, and so are the evacuation procedures. 

Speculation Grows Regarding 2nd Vent At El Hierro

El Hierro continues to be a very active scene for it's eruption. Today (Dec 13th) sees strong jacuzzi action south of La Restinga, while earthquakes are still down to zero. Earthquakes had migrated North to the bay of El Golfo, and were clustered a mile or so North of the coast. These quakes have ceased, leading some to believe that a possible second vent has finally opened. This is not out of the question, however there is still no proof of this at this time.

The reasoning behind this line of thinking is the fact that when earthquakes ceased South of La Restinga, the vent had entered a stable eruptive pattern. Harmonic tremor continues to be consistent with explosive bursts occurring at regular intervals. However, again we can't be certain that these explosions are exclusive to the La Restinga vent, and could be tied to underwater activity North of El Golfo. But this is still all speculation on the parts of bloggers, and even some scientists.

Due to the depths at El Golfo, it is highly impractical to attempt to monitor the situation with an ROV, or other equipment. It's simply too costly, and difficult at this time. INVOLCAN has mainly monitored the situation near La Restinga, as it's the only vent currently with the potential to affect island residents should it break the surface and enter an ash-producing phase, or island building phase. Gases would be freely released into breathable space, and ash could easily be blown to La Restinga, and the rest of the island. This of course has not occurred yet, but they are monitoring the situation closely.

This morning saw strong activity at the La Restinga vent, with no signs of slowing down. Once lava starts to flow freely from the fissure, it forms a submarine cinder cone (most likely), which concentrates the area where the lava exits the magma chamber. Earlier in the month we saw at least two, possibly three, separate "jacuzzis", which mow appear to have coalesced into one large vent at the summit of the cone. This is normal. Even on land, this is exactly how the cone building phase occurs. We've seen several recent events on land that were similar, like the Nyamuragira eruption that began last month, and the fissure eruption at Fimmvörðuháls near Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. Both events started with strong fissures, but ended up as cinder cones when the lava started to pile up.

Whether or not a second vent has opened in El Golfo is anyone's guess. We likely will not know until INVOLCAN allows underwater teams to survey the area after the situation has calmed down, or the eruption ceases. INVOLCAN is gathering as much info as possible about this eruption, as El Hierro has traditionally been the LEAST studied volcano of the Canary Islands, with more attention being paid to La Palma and Tenerife historically. Even though El Hierro is the youngest of the Canary Islands, it seems nobody ever anticipated an eruption. The last eruption (which is unconfirmed by Smithsonian GVP, but seems to be local fact in El Hierro) was supposedly in 1793, so two centuries and some change is a long time to sit and watch a dormant volcano.

The Island of La Palma is of interest to the media, and doomsayers, who every once in a while like to scare people on the East Coast of the USA by saying a collapse of the island would send a several hundred foot high tsunami that could wipe out New York. This does have a basis in fact, however I don't think it's necessary to begin worrying about something you can't possibly predict, have no control over, and likely wouldn't happen in our lifetime. Just like all the hype about Yellowstone, Rotorua, or Toba, this is probably some information you could live without.

Also, I apologize for posting so frequently about El Hierro (even though I'm sure some people appreciate it). The Earth has been rather quiet in terms of new eruptions this month, and this one still seems to be the most exciting news. When I get a hold of any information on other eruptions, you can be assured that I will write about them!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quakes Stop At El Hierro, But Eruption Continues

Earthquake activity has all but ceased at El Hierro volcano in the Canary Islands, however the eruption is ongoing. There has been much speculation as to whether or not the cessation of earthquakes indicates that the eruption might be dying down. This is not the case. As many seismologists and volcanologists have pointed out, earthquakes typically precede volcanic eruptions, and sometimes stop when the vent or eruption reaches a more stable phase. New data indicates that the submarine vent at El Hierro has grown in size, and webcams still show strong 'jacuzzi' action.

This eruption, in my opinion, looks like it will be a long term one. The many thousands of earthquakes that preceded the eruption indicate a large magma chamber. Earthquakes are caused when rock breaks apart, slips, or fractures. Given the size, depth, and other locational data, it appears that the magma chamber is at least as large as the island itself, although without more advanced analysis, this is just speculation on my part.

The characteristics of this eruption are similar to the volcano Loihi in Hawaii. Loihi is periodically active off of Hawaii's South coast, and will eventually build a new island. The main difference between Loihi and El Hierro are the depths at which they are located. El Hierro's new vent is much shallower than Loihi and has a much better chance of breaching the surface of the ocean in our lifetime, and possibly during this current eruption, than Loihi. Loihi is assumed to breach the surface at some point within the next 10,000 years (too bad we won't be around to see it!). El Hierro's vent is much closer to the surface- within 100 meters, and given the pace of the eruption, it is still quite likely some lucky people will be able to see it born.

So long story short, the eruption continues even though earthquakes have pretty much stopped. Harmonic tremor does continue to register a steady stream of underwater explosions, and the vent is still quite active. At this pace, I would theorize that the volcano would break the water's surface in the next month or so, but of course, that's up to the volcano.

A lot of speculation is also taking place regarding El Hierro that has no basis in fact whatsoever. The blog suggested that a NASA satellite photo showed a 'plume' originating from the vent area. This is incorrect. Clouds do form over volcanoes, as they form over pretty much anything else. This cloud over the vent is a COINCIDENCE, nothing more, nothing less. The same dangerous sort of speculation has occurred on other blogs before, namely the blog of a guy who calls himself "Dutchsinse", a sensationalist doomsayer. He incorrectly reported an eruption at the Pisgah Crater using the same erroneous methods. When he saw a cloud on NASA satellite images over the volcano, he assumed the cloud actually came from the volcano, which is impossible since it is a monogenetic cinder cone with no historical activity.

The publicity Dutchsinse got on the web actually prompted the USGS to issue a statement denying his claim, to which he actually chose to start a war of words with the professional government agency. This sort of speculation is damaging to the credibility of bloggers, and to scientists who are actually doing all the work. Just remember, there are two types of bloggers in regards to volcanoes: Those that know what they're talking about, like Jon Frimann, myself, or other enthusiasts, and then there are those that just want to generate hype to get more ad revenue, at the expense of your intelligence.

Keep it real, keep it scientific, and get the facts straight!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Strange Reports From Burma As Mud Volcanoes (Supposedly) Erupt

Ramree Island, Burma

A bizarre report has surfaced on the web regarding erupting mud volcanoes in Burma. The report states that there was an earthquake in the area that apparently upset some mud volcanoes that lie on a fault that passes through the town of Kyaukphyu. I was able to identify the area they were referring to on Google Earth with coordinates  19°23'51.01"N,  93°35'30.62"E, and it does indeed to appear to be a mud volcano.

The report however has some interesting characteristics which I am doubtful of, for example the quote in the article that stated "Mud and small amounts of lava" were erupted. This area has no real history of magmatic volcanism, so I would be quite surprised if this was indeed true. Reports out of Burma, and other extremely poor nations are sometimes highly unreliable and full of anecdote. Last year there was a strange report that turned out to be false out of Africa, when an article surfaced about a Nigerian volcanic eruption in an area not known for previous volcanism.

Indeed this report was released in an attempt to get government aid to a town that felt forsaken by their government. So it's anyone's guess as to the properties of this 'eruption' in Burma, but given the satellite photos, I have no large reason to doubt that there are mud volcanoes that might be showing activity, but lava and magma "shooting 300 feet into the air" sounds a bit out of the realm of possibility given the geology of the area.

In any case, read the above article for yourself. I cannot immediately tell if this report is credible, or just sensationalist journalism, but it would be interesting if it turns out to be true. Another mud volcano in Trinidad and Tobago 'erupted' last week, spewing a minor amount of mud. This mud volcano first erupted in 1997, and was quiet ever since. Mud volcanoes are typically a mix of heated water, sometimes ash, gas, and typically have a strong sulphur smell, although they are not typically considered dangerous on a large scale. One mud volcano in Indonesia was created by man-made hydrofracturing (fracking) and has actually demolished the surrounding town, and has not stopped erupting since it started almost 10 years ago.

I will follow up on this story should any new info become available... but at this time, I am considering the source and the description of events to be quite dubious. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Uturuncu Decoded, Magma Injecting Into Deep Chamber, Upset By Earthquakes

In an earlier post about the Bolivian volcano Uturuncu, I had pointed out that this volcano was rapidy inflating at a rate of up to 1.5cm a year (breakneck inflation geologically speaking). At the time I was not able to find out a whole lot of info about Uturuncu volcano, but the story I wrote got massive attention by several websites, and eventually some of the more professional media picked up on the story. I'll provide links to those articles below.

After reading the articles, which actually include a comprehensive scientific analysis of Uturuncu and its magma chamber, it has become apparent that this is a volcano to keep an eye on. It is massive, and has active fumeroles at the summit, however it has not erupted for hundreds of thousands of years. The article states that seismicity has been mapped, and a low-velocity zone lies underneath the volcano. They are at this point assuming that the low velocity zone implies partially melted crustal material, which they refer to as "crystal mush". This is similar to Yellowstone Volcano's low-velocity zone, and Campi Flegrei, Naples.

The articles and scientific analysis state that after a large 8.8 earthquake in the area in 2010, hundreds of quakes were recorded afterward under Uturuncu. This means that the crust has become upset with the activity, and is allowing magma to feed into the chamber of Uturuncu, thus the inflation we are seeing today. This does not, however, mean an eruption is imminent or close to happening. Magma chambers often can inflate with little to no surface activity... just look at Yellowstone.

Indeed due to the size of the volcano, the pressures would need to be IMMENSE to cause a full scale eruption, and at this point that is unlikely to occur in a short period of time. If inflation is consistent and the uplift does not cease at some point, this likely would lead to a large eruption. Thankfully, this volcano is not very close to any population centers, but an explosion would likely generate a very significant amount of ash, which can travel very long distances once it is picked up by the jetstream.

Check out the links below and get all the cool facts about this fascinating sleeping giant!

Indonesia's Mount Gamalama Forces Evacuations


Mount Gamalama erupted with force today, forcing residents of Ternate Island out of their homes on the slope of the volcano, and into five shelters. A total of 1,200 people so far have been placed in these shelters. Video from the area shows heavy rain mixing with ash, causing lahars and other problems. Some areas will likely be destroyed by this eruption, as the mix of ash and rain creates a sort of liquid cement that demolishes everything in its path.

The volcano is erupting a large amount of ash, and lava is descending the slopes. No fatalities have been caused by the eruption as of yet, and I suspect Indonesia is well prepared to handle such volcanic disasters, as they have more active volcanoes on their islands than most other places in the world. Indonesia lies on the so called Pacific Ring of Fire, and has hundreds if not thousands of volcanoes on all of its islands, most of them with historical activity records.

Another Indonesian volcano is also showing signs of activity, as Australian volcanologist John Seach reported:

"Sundoro volcano in central Java was raised to level 2 alert on 6th December 2011 after an increase in seismicity. The temperature of fumaroles at the summit increased from 75 deg C on 26th November to 95 deg C on 2nd December. On 2nd December a plume from the summit rose several tens of metres above the rim of the crater. The number of volcanic earthquakes were measured as 3 in October, 13 in November and 20 between 1-4 December. A 2 km exclusion zone has been placed around the volcano. The last eruption of Sundoro volcano occurred in 1971."

El Hierro Volcano Displays Surface Activity

I actually stayed up quite late last night gazing at the El Hierro Webcam watching for signs of the eruption on the water surface, and I'm happy to say I was not disappointed. At approximately 8pm PST (no idea off the top of my head what time it was at El Hierro, but it was morning there on the cam), I personally observed strong 'jacuzzi' action on the water surface, and was also fortunate to be able to view several small explosions breach the surface. It appeared from the camera that a few chunks of lava were floating and steaming on the water surface, a good indicator that this eruption is far from over.

News on the eruption has been hard to come by lately, so I'm going to stay up a bit later to try and attempt to capture some good shots of activity on the water's surface via the webcam and post them on this blog. I attempted this last night, but it was difficult to use my screen capturing program (that can get around website attempts at blocking screens) to jive with the timing necessary to get a good, clear shot.

This morning it looks like a research ship is out there checking out the eruption site, probably taking some readings and samples. All commercial vessels have been ordered to stay clear of the eruption area. says "The new IEO oceanographic ship “Cornide de Saavedra” is navigating close to the stain and even on the stain. This is the 4th research vessel from Spanish organizations like IEO and CSIC working on the El Hierro eruption." Hopefully this means that new scientific data, or 3D models of the volcano's shape will be published soon.

The last current news on El Hierro was on Dec 5th, which I posted about earlier. Given that El Hierro is a small island with a small population, it's easy to see why most of the news media has come and gone, probably waiting for the volcano to break the surface in order to boost ratings. But volcanoes and volcanic eruptions aren't exactly 'en vogue' when it comes to the mainstream media, so I have to rely on blogs, and webcam images in order to cobble this story together.

What most of the island residents thought would be a boon to their tourism industry has turned out to be a curse. The evacuation of la Restinga hurt the local economy a bit, and most of their usual tourists (hikers from Europe) have cancelled any plans they had to go to the island. This is unfortunate, because this isn't a dangerous eruption (yet?), and people would be really fortunate to see the birth of a new island in person, you probably would not get that chance again.

The local residents are apparently quite angry with the negative publicity doled out by the BBC, and other news agencies that like to hype up volcanic eruptions. They claim that the "yellow press" is out there scaring people away from the island, and are also angry at their local government for not attempting to boost the tourism factor by promoting the eruption. When Eyjafjallajokull erupted in Iceland in 2010, it was a serious boon to their tourism industry, and boosted their struggling economy a bit. It is easy to see that the islanders have something to be a bit sore about.

Hopefully I will have some nice screen captures in the next post. Right now it appears as if the volcano is content to stay in it's 'jacuzzi' phase, and remain hidden under the water surface. If anything new develops, I will certainly report on it. In the meantime, enjoy the link to the webcam. If you want a very clear view (for all you US folks), I'd suggest hopping on the cam at around 8pm PST (11pm ET) to catch the volcano during the morning, or hopping on early morning (8am PST/11am ET) to get the best view.

****UPDATE**** has some great video of what I witnessed late last evening/early this morning at the El Hierro vent off la Restinga. Check out the video below!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

El Hierro Eruption Resumes Activity

On Dec. 5th, eruptive activity was strong at El Hierro in the Canary Islands, Spain. Video from the scene showed strong 'jacuzzi' action and a large green stain in the ocean. The helicopter flyover is probably the best video to look at on the mentioned link, which gets quite close to the surface for a really spectacular view. Video for today however is a bit tough to come by (if any readers feel they'd like to post some more current video links, I'd be much obliged).

While tremor has died down, and resumed, and died down again on the island, the eruptive activity has also stopped and started again many times over the last month. I believe this volcano will eventually burst through the surface of the ocean as it appears thus far to be a long term eruption. Indication are that magma is still on the move underneath the island and as indicated by surface observations, this eruption is anything but winding down.

If indeed the volcano does break the water surface, you can be assured that its entrance will be much like the eruption of Surtsey in Iceland in the 1960's. Once the volcano does break the surface, it will be in it's "Surtseyan Phase", meaning it is starting to build an offshore island, and will likely be accompanied by explosive activity, and probably some ash clouds. This phase lasts until (typically) the cone closes off the erupting lava from the sea water, at which point, the eruption can change to other eruptive types. It could be that smooth pahoehoe lavas would be erupted, or it could be a more explosive, rhyolitic eruption.

From the chemical analysis of the lavas thus far, all indications are that it will likely be a rhyolitic eruption. Since submersible ROV's have not been able to directly observe the underwater eruption, they have no direct video evidence of the characteristics of the lava on the sea floor (ie: whether it is blocky, chunky lava, or smoother pahoehoe pillow lava). The samples taken from the ocean surface that have floated up are high in gas content, and rhyolite, meaning that once the volcano pierces the ocean surface, it may very well be an explosive, and potentially dangerous eruption for the residents of El Hierro, but at this time, that's all speculation, and not based on any scientific fact.

Keep your eyes peeled on the El Hierro webcams, as you might be fortunate enough to see the birth of a new island via live streaming! If the eruption continues on at the pace it is, it's only a matter of time before you can see a brand spanking new island be born. The only downside to viewing the webcams from the West Coast in the USA is that it's usually night time over in the Canary Islands by 10am here... So I've had a few sleepless nights gazing at the eruption cams, and some very early mornings.... but it's well worth it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Alaska's Gareloi Volcano Showing Harmonic Tremor

Alaska's Gareloi volcano, in the Aleutian Islands, appears to be displaying strong harmonic tremor. AVO states "Seismic station GAEA is 3.3 km (2.0 miles) from the summit of Mount Gareloi", so this does appear to be directly monitoring the volcano. Note the increasing strength of the tremor, similar to the tremor recently observed at El Hierro in the Canary Islands during its current eruptive phase. (Image Below)

Gareloi is a very remote volcano on the SE of the Bering Sea, and thus visual reports from the area are few and far between. It is indeed possible that volcanoes regularly erupt in this area without anyone noticing due to inclement weather, and sparse population. The recent eruption/lava dome extrusion that occurred on Cleveland volcano this past few months was only observed through satellite photos, which are expensive to schedule, so it would not surprise me in the very least if AVO never confirms an eruption at Gareloi (although you can email them, and they do usually respond, which is nice).

Gareloi is one of the Aleutian Islands most active volcanoes, having had several historical eruptions. Below is information from Smithsonian GVP:

"The 8 x 10 km diameter Gareloi Island, the northernmost volcano of the Delarof Group at the western end of the Andreanof Islands, consists of a stratovolcano with two summits and a SE-trending fissure. This prominent fissure was formed during an eruption in 1929 and extends from the southern summit to the sea. Steep sea cliffs that are cut into rocks of an older, eroded center are found on the SW coast. Young lava flows cover the older volcano from the 1573-m-high summit of Gareloi to the coast along three broad axes trending NW, ENE, and south. The 1929 eruption originated from 13 craters along a 4-km-long fissure. Phreatic explosions were followed by the ejection of glassy pumice, lapilli, scoria, and older blocks, as well as by the emission of four short, steep lava flows, one of which reached the SE coast."

Indonesia's Mount Gamalama Erupts, Closing Airports

Another of Indonesia's volcanoes erupted today, causing airports to shut down near Halmahera. Mount Gamalama sent clouds of gray ash high into the air, while locals reported seeing lava descent from the summit down the volcano's flanks. The last major eruption of Gamalama was in 2003, and had similar affects on the local population.

From Smithsonian GVP:

Gamalama (Peak of Ternate) is a near-conical stratovolcano that comprises the entire island of Ternate off the western coast of Halmahera and is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. The island of Ternate was a major regional center in the Portuguese and Dutch spice trade for several centuries, which contributed to the thorough documentation of Gamalama's historical activity. Three cones, progressively younger to the north, form the summit of Gamalama, which reaches 1715 m. Several maars and vents define a rift zone, parallel to the Halmahera island arc, that cuts the volcano. Eruptions, recorded frequently since the 16th century, typically originated from the summit craters, although flank eruptions have occurred in 1763, 1770, 1775, and 1962-63.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Activity in Grímsvötn Volcano, Iceland

Several sources are reporting harmonic tremor at Grímsvötn volcano in Iceland. Grímsvötn volcano had its largest eruption in 140 years just months ago in May of 2011, which was approximately 10 times the size of the eruption at Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. The eruption at Grímsvötn however fell upon favorable winds for Europe, and did not cause the same amount of airway chaos as the 2010 eruption.

Reports thus far are that the tremor in Grímsvötn is much higher and stronger than the tremor that led up to its last eruption. This however does not mean that an eruption is imminent, or going to occur for sure. Harmonic tremor does typically indicate magma movement, but it could also be hydrothermal. In any case, the tremor could merely mean that the magma chamber is beginning to inflate again, and this could stop at any time if the pressure is right.

Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and also one of the largest. Its remote location in the middle of the Grimsfjall glacier, the largest in Iceland, makes it a relatively safe volcano, all things considered. It has however had massive eruptions that in the past have discharged incredible amounts of glacial melt water into the ocean. The last eruption, though powerful, did not last long enough to melt a significant portion of the glacier, though floods did occur.

More Quakes Added To Mono Lake Quake Swarm

At this time, the quakes in the initial Mono Lake swarm have reached over 15 shallow tremors East of the lake. No news from geologists as of yet on this, however the quakes do seem to be getting deeper, not shallower, which could be a good thing volcanically speaking... or not. There are a couple possibilities.

One possibility is that surface activity regarding the quakes is sending tectonic tension downward, eventually causing lower and lower depth quakes, with some upper region quakes accompanying that activity. The second possibility is that the surface tension has been broken, allowing for magma intrusion from a lower depth. As far as I know, that's the only reason for a shallow initial swarm, with lower depth tremors following. The only other explanation is that these quakes are possibly precursors to a larger one, or that these are simply tectonic in nature.

In any case, since nobody is really covering this yet, I'm keeping my eye on it. I highly doubt this has the possibility to lead to an eruption, but as the saying goes, speculation is useless. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Growing Fears About Katla Eruption (And Why You Should Pay No Attention)

Previously I've written about Katla, Iceland's large volcano capped by a glacier, next door to the now infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano. In that article I mentioned that Katla is a ticking time bomb, and an eruption from Katla would likely be devastating economically, and possibly physically, as molten lava crashes into glacial ice causing immense explosions. However I did state in that article that "attempting to predict when an eruption will happen is a waste of time, as is proven time and again."

The News Media in the UK does not seem to understand this. An article released by the BBC today has a lot of great facts about Katla, but injected a silly notion into the article that "An eruption is imminent" or "long overdue".... I'm sorry, I didn't know we were on the BBC's schedule when it came to volcanoes erupting... I was under the impression that volcanoes erupt when conditions are right, conditions that only the volcano knows.

So I want to be QUITE clear about this. Katla WILL LIKELY ERUPT in the future, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to say when. Like I said in a previous post, it could be a matter of hours, days, weeks, months, or even years, decades, or centuries. Heck, it might not even blow up at all, and simply seethe as other volcanoes of the world do. The point is, trying to play up the possibility of a massive eruption by calling it "Imminent" or "Overdue" is presumptuous and damaging to good science.

In any case, here is the real info on Katla. Yes, it may have had a minor eruption this year which caused a glacier outburst flood and damaged some roads and a bridge. Yes, Katla has indeed had over 500 earthquakes in the last month within the caldera. And yes, historically speaking, we should be aware of Katla after an eruption from Eyjafjoll... but these are all merely indicators that "the volcano is active, and not dead", and it does not mean that a volcano eruption is "Imminent" or "Overdue". The same thing could be said about Yellowstone Volcano, that it breathes in and out, has active geysers, and many many swarms of earthquakes... yet it has not erupted in our lifetime, or in historical time.

So before you go getting all panicky about an eruption from Katla, just remember who you're reading about the volcano from. The BBC, much like any news organization, is out to make money, not promote sound science. The more people they can get worrying about a supposed doomsday scenario, the more bad press they sell. Iceland is furious about the bad coverage about Katla, and is trying its best to get the truth out, so I will help them.

So to recap, yep, Katla isn't dead, it is an active volcano. That's the only fact you'll find that you can stake your reputation on. Other than that, yeah, its a dangerous volcano and probably will erupt. Saying when, again, is STUPID, unscientific, and foolish. Let's just say, I personally would not go hiking to the summit any time soon. Other than that, don't lose any sleep over Katla if you don't live in Iceland... and even if you do, you're probably fine.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Small Quake Swarm At Mono Lake Volcano (California)

Mono Craters, California

A series of small quakes ranging from magnitude 1.9 to 2.5 occurred and is ongoing today just east of the shore of Mono Lake. The quakes were relatively shallow, from 5km underground to less than a quarter mile. The quakes were clustered in a somewhat linear direction, making it very possible this is just tectonic stress, but as is the case for most volcanoes, there is always the possibility for magma movement. The events have not undergone review as of yet by scientists, so speculation about the quakes is useless. A picture is posted below:

The Mono Lake, and surrounding Inyo Craters/Mammoth Mountain/Long Valley area are all volcanic areas and small quakes here are quite common. Every once in a while there is a scare in the area when it comes to the specter of an eruption. In the early 90's, tree kill occurred at Mammoth Mountain, and caused at least one fatality due to the inhalation of CO2 gases released from the ground. This was thought by scientists to be related to dike intrusion under Mammoth Mountain.

Mono Lake has had at lest one eruption in historical time, the last being somewhere between 100, and 250 years BP (Before Present). During this eruption, a rhyolitic cryptodome grew underneath the lake, resulting in the formation of spectacular "Tufa Towers" that stand around the rim of the lake like gigantic garden gnomes. The water in the lake is high in arsenic, and it was recently discovered that certain microbes in the water actually feed on and process arsenic, much to the amazement of biologists. This of course bolsters NASA's stance that where life can exist, it will.

At present nobody has raised the alert level at Mono Lake or sounded any alarms, so there is most likely no risk of any sort of eruption at this time. However the swarm just started today and it's probably worth keeping an eye on, as this area is home to some pretty large volcanoes. As of this morning, this concentrated area of earthquake activity has recorded about 8 tremors, which have all occurred within a few hours of themselves, with another one just having occurred as I am writing this.

From Smithsonian GVP:

"The Mono Lake volcanic field east of Yosemite National Park and north of the Mono Craters consists of vents within Mono Lake and on its north shore. The most topographically prominent feature, Black Point, is an initially sublacustral basaltic cone that rises above the NW shore and was formed about 13,300 years ago when Mono Lake was higher. Holocene rhyodacitic lava domes and flows form Negit and parts of Paoha islands off the northern shore and center of the lake, respectively. The most recent eruptive activity in the Long Valley to Mono Lake region took place 100-230 years ago, when lake-bottom sediments forming much of Paoha Island were uplifted by intrusion of a rhyolitic cryptodome (Stine, in Bailey et al. 1989). Spectacular tufa towers line the shores of Mono Lake."