Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Indonesia's Mount Sinabung Forces Evacuations

Indonesia's long-dormant Mount Sinabung began erupting earlier this year after initially breaking its silence during a period in 2010, and has now increased its level of activity so drastically that over 19,000 people have had to be evacuated. Mount Sinabung lies around 20 miles NNW of the famous Toba super-volcano. The irregularly shaped stratovolcano has had minor fumerolic activity prior to 2010, so it was known that it would probably erupt in the future, however there had never been any confirmed historical reports of eruptive activity before then.

Mount Sinabung had a massive eruption yesterday, sending a plume of gas and ash up to 3km skyward, prompting Indonesian officials to issue air alerts, and subsequently evacuate nearby populations to evacuation centers.

Indonesia is home to one of the largest concentrations of active volcanoes in the world. In any given year, probably 5-15 volcanoes are active simultaneously in the elongated archipelago. Some of its volcanoes are truly the biggest killers of all time, with famous eruptions like the ~75,000 B.C. super eruption of Toba, thought to have contributed to a massive die off of the human population that left a mere 5,000 or so survivors, to Tambora, one of the largest historical eruptions ever recorded and responsible for the famed 'year without a summer', and the infamous eruption of Krakatoa (now Anak Krakatau, "Child of Krakatoa") which destroyed a large island and killed over 36,000 people by way of pyroclastic flows.

Only the more recent eruptions of Novarupta in Alaska, Rotorua in New Zealand, and Pinatubo in the Philippines have come close to the larger Indonesian eruptions.

Indonesia lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is home to very frequent earthquakes, eruptive activity, and other disasters. In 2008, a mega thrust earthquake killed over 200,000 people with its super-destructive tsunami and associated damages. It is more than likely one of the least 'stable' geologic places on the planet, aside from possibly Japan, which also recently experienced a deadly and disastrous mega-thrust quake that caused a devastating tsunami, and provoked a nuclear power plant meltdown at Fukushima-Daiichi.

Monday, December 30, 2013

El Hierro Volcano Alert Raised To Yellow

It seems as if PEVOLCA has decided to raise the alert level at El Hierro yet again to yellow after a spate of larger earthquakes measuring up to 5.1, and inflation totaling about 3-4 inches has occurred on the island volcano. earlier this week I had reported that Earthquake-report.com's El Hierro blog was noticing a sharp increase in deformation and seismicity.

This swift a rise in seismicity and deformation is attributed to new magma injection, but whether or not it will again find its way to the surface remains to be seen. It is however becoming more and more likely that this is the case if the trend continues. The inflation of the island at its current state is greater than when it had its offshore submarine eruption off the coast of the fishing village called La Restinga.

The eruption was closely watched by scientists, and geeks like me, who were 'hoping' for the eruption to transition from the submarine Serretyan phase to a more prominent island building phase called a Surtseyan eruption (after the volcano Surtsey in Iceland, which was one of the first islands to be observed in its moment of creation by modern volcanologists). The web camera set up by Earthquake-report.com, and some others were a source of spellbinding anticipation at least on my end.

The deformation so far bisects the island down the middle (as shown in the link), and it is anyone's guess where the island may choose to vent its payload. The area with the greatest uplift (as of today, 3CM in less than a week!) is the NE town of Sabinosa, which is built directly on the remnants of a cinder cone.
The island is dotted by many holocene to pliestocene cinder cones, as well as a collapse-related pseudo caldera, as well as its more recent and older submarine cones. Predicting where the island may erupt is next to impossible, but very hopefully it will erupt in an area that is not populated, or is remote enough for people to evacuate in time. The island does not have a heavy permanent population, but it is a popular tourist spot in the region.

Video showing rockfall on El Hierro.

Some hazards are occurring due to the unrest. Rockfalls are a very real problem for the various roads and homes that lie at the bottom of cliff faces, and some have already ruined or blocked some roads. So even though an eruption isn't occurring, and the quakes are small, it is still creating some problems.

As always, I will keep an eye on this volcano and post updates when they occur. This is one of my very favorite volcanoes to observe lately, so you'll probably see a few more of these posts.

El Salvador's Volcan Chaparrastique Erupts

A long-dormant but still historically active volcano has erupted in El Salvador. Volcan Chaparrastique (also known as San Miguel) had an explosive eruption Sunday marking the onset of activity at the volcano which has not erupted in the last 37 years. The eruption was short lived, and created a gas and ash plume that rose approximately 5km into the sky.

Authorities were quick to alert people not to enter the area, as more eruptions could occur at any time. 5000 people were ordered to evacuate near the volcano.

Reuters reports on the volcanic eruption in El Salvador

El Salvador and its associated volcanoes lie on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", the border of the subducting tectonic plate that makes up the plate underneath the Pacific ocean. The Ring of Fire is home to the most active volcanoes on the planet, the majority of which, like San Miguel, are stratovolcanoes. Typically conical volcanoes capable of great explosive eruptions.

Volcanoes on the Ring of Fire are typically more explosive due to a higher content of water within the magma. This is thought to occur due to subduction from the oceanic plates underneath the parts of the plates that are being uplifted. Water is carried under the plates as if it were on a conveyor belt, and melted when it hits the mantle. This generates magma that is highly gaseous and pressurized, so that when it breaks the surface to become lava, you get these really explosive and ashy eruptions.

It is unclear at this time whether San Miguel will continue to erupt, or if this was just a minor random blast, but I'm sure we'll be keeping our eye on it for a while. Many volcanoes have short lived episodes, and some begin with an event like this and move on to other types of eruptions. It is not possible to know what the volcano will do next, but if there are any updates, I will post them here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

El Hierro Seismicity Picks Up

Could the Canary Islands volcano El Hierro be gearing up for round two of its renewed activity? Recent reports from Earthquake-report.com are indicating that magma injection is occurring again at the island. Over the last couple of days over 58 earthquakes concentrated near the site of the offshore eruption have occurred, and uplift of nearly 2cm was detected. This indicates magma is travelling to a shallower level, and could be a precursor to eruption. This however IS speculation, as many magma injections do not lead to an immediate eruption (see Mt Fuji!).

El Hierro volcano was up until recently, a fairly quiet volcanic island, and had not had any eruptions since the late 1700's, but this all changed in 2011 when the island spawned a new submarine cone off its SE coast near the town of La Restinga. Indeed, it was this volcanic eruption that was my initial inspiration for creating this blog, as I was reading tons of information in very bad English. At the time it was my hope to be live-blogging the eruption with footage of a Surtseyan eruption (an eruption that begins as submarine, but ends up creating a new island above water). Alas, we were gifted with a prime example of a Serretyan eruption.

The small eruption of the submarine cone however does not appear to have been the last we will hear from this island in the near future. As new magma enters the system and inflates the island, it is likely that at least at some point a fracture or conduit will form that allows the magma to escape to the surface. Obviously it is everyone's hope that when or if this does occur, people will have all the warning they need to get out of mother nature's way.

The previous eruption lasted for several months, nearly a year, with on and off activity, and waves of speculation as to how the volcano might continue its eruption. In some cases it was theorized that several submarine eruptions had occurred, however this was never conclusively proved.

This is one of my personal favorites in terms of volcanoes, not just because it's partly responsible for this blog int he first place, but because of the fact it was one of the first volcanoes to be observed before, during, and after the eruption from nearly every media angle possible. Seismographs, tilt meters, webcams, bathymetric scans, ROV footage of the plume from underwater, the first live observation of a Serretyan eruption and associated 'lava balloons'... it was really something cool to see for us volcano nerds out there. 

Maybe 2014 will give this blogger another present! Stay tuned!


More recent news is available, please go to http://volcanoscience.blogspot.com/2013/12/el-hierro-volcano-alert-raised-to-yellow.html

Friday, December 13, 2013

Comment Policy Changed

While I'd like a lively discussion on the topic of volcanoes, I have been receiving a higher than normal amount of 'anonymous' comments that are either offensive, or spam. So anonymous comments are no longer enabled, you will need to have a Google+, or OpenID account to comment. While I am all for people expressing their opinions, I think its important to own what you say, and to keep it civil (and non-commercial). Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New 'Supervolcano' Discovered in Utah

The North American continent is home to several so-called 'supervolcanoes' (a term that is lamented by many geologists and volcanologists) such as Wyoming's Yellowstone Caldera, California's Long Valley Caldera, and New Mexico's Valles Caldera. Now, Utah joins the list of states that are host to some of the biggest eruptions in Earth's history.

After 30 years of intense research, collecting rock samples, creating gravimetric maps, and studying ash layers, geologists have zeroed in on the epicenter of what is thought to be one of the largest eruptions of all time in the US, bigger than even the largest eruptions of Yellowstone. But don't worry, scientists say that it is unlikely to ever erupt again, unlike Yellowstone, or Long Valley (the Valles Caldera also has the potential to reactivate, but is generally the quieter of the three). The magmatic system that produced these eruptions has long since become extinct.

The eruption was so large, that ash layers can be recorded as far away as Nebraska! Wildlife and plants from over 30 million years ago were preserved in these layers.

The epicenter is in an area known as Wah-wah Springs, in Western Utah, and extends to Eastern Nevada. This would make it one of the largest supervolcanoes on the planet (discovered so far at least), and one of the largest in North America.

Screenshot of Utah/Nevada Supervolcano eruption area and associated caldera from KSL.com web report.

Many mountain ranges and volcanic rocks in the area were associated with the White Rock Caldera, and it remains to be seen whether or not this volcano is related to it. Utah and Nevada lay on top of the Rio Grande Rift, an area of the United States that is spreading apart, rather than plates slamming together and subducting like the Pacific Plate and its associated Pacific Ring of Fire. Volcanoes along this rift do not erupt as often as their pacific neighbors, but when they do, the eruptions are typically larger and more devastating, and obviously foster the creation of some mantle plumes (although in the arena of science, this would need to be more thoroughly researched, as mantle plumes are still somewhat controversial, despite a lot of evidence).

This recent discovery adds to ever increasing data about the eruptive history of our planet, and will undoubtedly fill in some gaps and resolve some mysteries that have puzzled geologists for some time. Discoveries such as these are always some of the coolest geological news in my opinion!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Etna Steals The Show, Japan Gets New Island

There is not a lot of 'new' eruptive activity going on lately, however Sicily's Mt Etna continues to put on some breathtaking displays of lava fountain activity lately. While this is not unusual for Etna, being one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, the shows are quite spectacular.


And while Etna steals the show, Japan's volcano, Nishino-shima has had a surprise eruption off its coast that started as a submarine eruption, but birthed a new island into existence (much like we were HOPING would occur live on webcam at El Hierro! But alas...).

Other than these occurrences, it is a slow month/week/year for volcanoes. The currently erupting volcanoes are sadly, the usual suspects!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Philippine Islands Struck By Massive Cyclone, Help

Not my typical post, but I have some extended family on my fiance's side in the Philippines and the island nation needs everyone's help. Mere weeks after a devastating 7.0 earthquake, and many aftershocks, the Philippines were hit by a MASSIVE cyclone, perhaps one of the biggest storms in historical times, and this has basically leveled the buildings, destroyed thousands of families, and created a living hell for these people.

It is imperative that the global community get moving by donating goods, and money to charities to help the stricken archipelago, and its people. Already the death toll is at approximately 1,500 and rising. This is the worst natural disaster since the Japanese 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, and this will get worse for the next month or so.

These are some of the dangers likely to be faced after this disaster. All help, and donations are needed.

- Exposure to the elements; It is clear from photographs and eyewitness accounts that the devastation is total. In the path of the storm, no structures were able to survive intact. People will be outside at all times...
-Infection, disease; standing water, no dry land, and other complications will make things like diarrhea, fevers, mosquitoes, infections, etc very problematic. Antibiotics and fresh water will be scarce.
-Injuries; many thousands of people have been injured. Doctors and facilities will be needed.

Please find a charity and donate to it. My recommendation is to donate to more local charities rather than places like the Red Cross who use a great amount of your donation for overhead. Smaller charities have less overhead, but do be careful that they are not run as a scam... this is an unfortunate reality of the Internet. Thank you to everyone who can help.

Friday, October 25, 2013

7.3 Magnitude Quake Strikes Off Honshu Japan

A 7.3 quake just occurred off of Honshu, Japan, very near the epicenter of the deadly 2011 quake that caused a massive tsunami, and prompted a nuclear power plant disaster at Fukushima Daiichi. The quake was registered at approximately 17:10:16 UTC. A tsunami alert has been issued, however the predicted size is only about 1 meter (around 3 feet), nowhere near as powerful as the devastating tsunami of the 2011 disaster.

No damage or injuries have yet been reported, however this quake comes on the heels of a years long nuclear disaster at the crippled power plant, where hundreds of thousands (perhaps more) gallons of contaminated radioactive water has been spilling into the Pacific Ocean. So far, there are no reports of how this quake has or has not affected the power plant.

Shaking was likely very lightly felt on the main Japanese island, and due to the shallow depth of the quake, this is unlikely to affect any volcanoes in the region, although time will tell. There are growing concerns by geologists in recent years that an eruption from the famed Mt. Fuji (Fuji-yama) could be close, or imminent in the coming years, and any large quake in the vicinity could be a catalyst for such activity. This particular quake however does not seem to be close enough to Fuji to affect it in this manner.

The aftermath of this quake will likely consist of still more aftershocks. Aftershocks from the massive 2011 quake are still occurring in the area, and it is possible that this 7.3 quake is a result of that previous event, however geologists are likely to classify this as an independent event.

The subduction zone bordering Japan is one of the earth's most active and dangerous. It lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, and produces Japan's volcanoes, and is very much responsible for the existence of Japan itself. Quakes in this area are large, and common.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Smithsonian GVP Reports Not Updated In A Month

The recent US government shutdown has ended, but some effects are still trickling through the various agencies that were affected by it. The Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program (for which I partially rely on for objective volcano reporting) has not updated its weekly volcanic activity activity reports since Sept. 24th, nearly exactly one month ago.

The new Smithsonian GVP website has not been without its share of issues. From database errors, to infrequent reporting of late, it is anyone's guess as to what's going on over there. The USGS volcanic monitoring stations seem to be OK, including AVO, CVO, CALVO, and HVO, also the earthquake monitoring was seemingly unaffected. The federal shutdown lasted for two weeks.

This could be due to many things, all of which would be speculation on my part, and I do try and avoid that on this blog. My guess would be however that there are protocols that had to be followed, and certain reporting could not be done while the government was on hiatus, as they tend to collect data throughout the week.

There are of course other volcanic monitoring sites to visit on the web, like Volcanodiscovery.com, or Earthquake-report.com, both of which are quite comprehensive (you can see the global volcanic activity widget to the right of this blog in the sidebar, a really neat little tool from Volcanodiscovery.com). So if you, like me reletnelssly are searching for more news on volcanoes, those are some pretty great non-governmental and privately run sites. Both have great reporting and do an excellent job of gathering information.

In the meantime, I'll wait patiently for the Smithsonian GVP to get back into the swing of things, as there is likely quite a bit of post-shutdown chaos going on in Washington still. It is my hope that this never occurs again, as vital services can be, and were, affected in a very negative way by this. In any case, I'll do my best to go without their reports for a while. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

7.1 Magnitude Quake Strikes Near Papua New Guinea and Bougainville

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck near the autonomous region of Bougainville, East of Papua New Guinea, and is begin followed by multiple aftershocks. The quake's epicenter is about 30 miles (48km) from the volcano of Bagana, Bougainville's most active volcano.

The quakes proximity to multiple volcanoes on this island, such as Billy Mitchell (yes, that is the volcanoes name!), Tore, Balbi, Loloru, and the Takuan Group could initiate a change in behavior for any one of these volcanoes, although more likely, it will result in changes mostly at Bagana.

Bagana is frequently in eruption, and is a 'usual offender' on the Smithsonain GVP's weekly volcanic activity updates.

Image from Google Earth With USGS quake overlay and shakemap.
No fatalities or injuries have yet been reported, and no tsunami warning has been issued.

Earthquakes in Bougainville are very common, and their structures are likely built to withstand very strong tremors. Earthquakes that occur in imporverished nations, or in areas of the world without a history of frequent quakes, are often far more vulnerable than places like Bougainville, or California, who have very frequent quakes and are used to shoring up their structures and policies to mitigate their effects.

A 7.1 magnitude quake struck the Philippines within the last couple of days, and that quake did result in fatalities, numbering around 100 at the time of this update.

Larger than normal quakes seem to be a running theme this year, and volcanic eruptions less so. 

USGS, Smithsonian, Among Agencies Affected By The Shutdown

Volcano monitoring, many USGS services, and the Smithsonian were all devoid of activity updates for volcanoes during the ongoing (and hopefully nearly over) US government shudown. The Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program (GVP) website posted a message that read:

"The Smithsonian is closed due to a United States federal government shutdown. Global Volcanism Program staff are out of the office and unable to update or maintain this site until further notice. The Smithsonian/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Reports are also suspended at this time. Updates will resume when USGS staff are permitted to return to work."

Similarly, the USGS had this up:

"Due to the Federal government shutdown, usgs.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable. Only web sites necessary to protect lives and property will be maintained. Ecosystems Disease Maps National Wildlife Health Center Imagery and Geospatial Information USGS Hazards Data Distribution System (HDDS) satellite and aerial imagery portal Natural Hazards USGS coastal erosion hazards information USGS earthquake information USGS information on geomagnetic activity USGS landslide information USGS volcano information Water Please see doi.gov for more shutdown information."

The US Government shutdown has lasted nearly two weeks over a budget impasse (including the funding of the Affordable Care Act, the debt ceiling, and further budgetary cuts), which paralyzed the work of the US Government, and has threatened the world with a first ever US default on its loans. Many countries have expressed dismay and outrage that the United States would even dream of getting this close to not being able to pay its bills.

While this is NOT a political blog, I feel it necessary to publicly denounce the actions of my government, and the inability of its elected representatives to come to an agreeable consensus on matters like paying the bills. It is all fine and good to have your principles, until those principles end up causing more harm than good. 

The USGS is a vital service for the USA, in regards to earthquake monitoring and response, volcano monitoring, threat assessment, and many other services. The shutdown, if a disaster would have occurred, could have cost American lives (although vital services were maintained), and it is simply unacceptable that the richest, most powerful country on this planet seems to disagree with itself so much, that they needed to prove it at the expense of people's lives that had nothing to do with budget negotiations. It is always the regular people who pay for the disagreements of the powerful.

While I won't get into my own personal political leanings, I urge you, if you are an American citizen to be mindful of whom you choose to give your vote of support, and be mindful of who your candidate is. It is true that any democratically elected government is the government that its voters deserve. Let's all hold ourselves in higher regard, and vote for quality - not quantity (ie: the content of a candidate's character and qualifications, not how many "yes" votes your party is capable of garnering).

As I am hearing now, the Senate has reached an agreement, and we are waiting to see if the House will agree to pass the measure. This is not over yet, and I am waiting with bated breath to see how this turns out, so I can get back to updating you on the actual volcanic eruptions that are going on, and not the political kind.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

7.1 Magnitude Quake Strikes The Philippines

Dozens were dead, and many roads and buildings damaged when a 7.1 magnitude quake struck Bohol Island in the Philippines Tuesday morning. As many as 49 people so far have been confirmed dead, and up to 33 people were reported missing. Approximately 164 people were reported injured. The quake occurred about 20km deep underneath the island of Bohol, in the center of the Philippine archipelago, violently shaking Bohol island and neighboring (to the NW) Cebu island, while the rest of the islands felt moderate shaking. Many aftershocks of varying magnitudes are occurring and will likely continue for several weeks.

There are many nearby holocene volcanoes, some of which have shown historical activity. On the island of Negros I West of the epicenter, several volcanoes likely shook and could be destabilized by the quaking, including the Pleistocene to early Holocene Cuernos de Negros, Kanalon volcano, Mandalagan volcano, and Silay. Out of all of these volcanoes, only Kanalon volcano has had confirmed eruptions in historical time.

East of the epicenter, on the island of Leyte I, there are several volcanoes as well, including Cabalían, Mahagnao, and Biliran, all of which currently display fumerolic or geothermal activity, and all of which have had eruptive activity within the past two centuries.


Image from Google Earth with USGS quake shake map overlay, detailing the strength of the shake force around the Philippine archipelago and associated volcanoes.

Earthquakes this large can cause disruptions in magmatic systems. Although rarely will a volcano erupt directly after a large quake event, changes in pressures in the magma chambers, fractures in the mountains (which can cause landslides and other destabilization), and tectonic stress, can contribute over time to an increase in eruptive potential. While it is not an extreme danger at this point, monitoring on volcanoes near the epicenter would be a good proactive step to take in order to cover all of the bases.

The Philippines is home to many famous and dangerous volcanoes. In 1991, Mount Pinatubo, previously a rather unknown and unremarkable lava dome complex which was heavily forested, erupted violently, sending columns of ash skyward, and pyroclastic flows down its flanks, accompanied by deadly lahars. The eruption vented so much material into the atmosphere so quickly, that the ash circumnavigated the globe, and actually lowered global temperatures for about a year, effectively pausing the effects of global warming. This was the second largest eruption in the 20th century after Alaska's Novarupta event.

Mount Mayon is also quite an active volcano in the Philippines, having had many frequent eruptive episodes throughout history. Currently, no volcanoes except Mayon are displaying eruptive activity, but Taal volcano in Luzon has been showing unrest in recent years. This is most certainly a dangerous volcano on the island. Having last erupted in the 1960s-1970's, and causing many fatalities as pyroclastic flows moved quickly over the caldera lake's surface to the shores, the volcano has since been showing fluctuations and signs of D/I (Deflation/Inflation) events. The temperature of the central caldera cone's lake has risen and fallen, acidity levels have fluctuated, and GPS shows many deformation events. It is likely that within the next decade or two, Taal will erupt again.

As it stands currently, no alert levels have been raised for any currently active volcanoes in the Philippines after the quake, and there is no imminent risk of eruption.

The Philippines archipelago lies along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, which encircles the entire Pacific ocean plate. The majority of the worlds large earthquakes and active volcanoes occur along this ring, which spans form the West Coast of the Americas, to Russia's Kamchatka and Kurile Islands, to Japan, to the Philippines, to Indonesia, and New Zealand.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shallow Ongoing Quake Swarm near Pisgah Crater, CA

Over the last several days there has been an ongoing quake swarm near California's Pisgah Crater in the Lavic Lake Volcanic Field. Magnitudes have ranged from less than 1.0 up to 4.3, and most are occurring at very shallow depths. While this may alarm some due to the proximity to the monogenetic Pisgah Crater, these quakes are purely tectonic and not volcanic in nature. The depths are far too shallow to be related to magma, unless there was already an eruption underway (which there is not).

The quakes however are close enough to the system to have an effect (if say, there was a magma chamber still laying around underneath the crust, which is a bit doubtful at this time).

Image of the Pisgah Crater area with the location of the quakes. Screenshot from Google Earth with USGS plugin. 
While normally I wouldn't even bother writing about this volcano (as it has not erupted in historical time, nor will it likely erupt int he near future), there has been some un-needed and unjustified hype about it due to some alarmist bloggers, namely some anonymous 'blogger' named "Dutchsinse", who regularly raises false alarms about this volcanic system. I can assure you, there is nothing now, or in the recent past, that suggests that this system is currently active at all. If in fact there was any reason for concern in the near future, you can rest assured that the USGS would absolutely be able to tell far in advance if magma was rising, and since we are talking about California, media coverage would be incredibly heavy.

In any case, earthquake swarms near the San Andreas fault are quite common, and California is criss-crossed by many other smaller faults with regular small to moderate activity. This is absolutely nothing new.

The area is however a beautiful place to visit if you have the time and the drive to go out that way, and it is certainly a cool sight to see 'fresh' looking lava flows much like you'd find in Hawaii's Kilauea volcanic system. If you'r in the area (or are ready for a read trip to basically nowhere) you can easily check out Pisgah Crater, and nearby Amboy crater, both of which are morphologically fresh and well-preserved monogenetic cinder cones. Monogenetic cones only erupt once, and typically never again.

If a new eruption were to occur at Lavic Lake, it would likely not be in the same location that it had erupted in before, and would create a new vent or vents.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

7.0 Magnitude Quake Strikes Peru, Tsunami Warning Issued

A 7.0 magnitude quake has occurred along the subduction zone in northern Peru, along the Pacific Ring of fire. Nearby Holocene volcanoes are Sara Sara, Coropuna, Andahua-Orcopampa, Huambo, and Sabancaya. The nearest volcano is Sara Sara, which last had an eruption during the Holocene, but historical eruptions are uncertain at best. Ash layers in peat moss do suggest somewhat geologically recent activity. The nearest historical volcano is Andahua-Orcopampa, which according to the GVP had its last eruption in the early 15th century. Sabancaya has also shown recent unrest, but is pretty far from the epicenter.

The tremblor prompted officials to issue a tsunami warning for the South Pacific, which is probably out of an abundance of caution, rather than because a tsunami was generated.

Damage has been reported in nearby towns, however no deaths or injuries are yet apparent. 

Screenshot of Google Earth with USGS overlay, and shakemap.

Earthquakes of large magnitude are common in the region, and along the majority of the subduction zones of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Peru typically has several large quakes a year, as well as Chile, which had a magnitude 8.8 quake several years ago that created a small tsunami. By the time the tsunami reached the big island of Hawaii, it was only a couple of feet (if that) high, and created very little damage apart from knocking a few boats around. The tsunami from the 2011 Japan quake, in contrast, was generated by a magnitude 9.0 subduction quake, which was able to cause damage as far as Southern California in the US.

A 7.0 earthquake is unlikely to generate a significant tsunami.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

7.7 Magnitude Quake Hits Pakistan

A very large and relatively shallow quake has hit Pakistan today, causing a lot of damage, and fatalities. The quake struck near the country's southern shore, near the town of Parwān, about 173 miles NW of Karachi. The quake was strong enough to be felt throughout the region from India, to Afghanistan, to South Eastern Iran.

Image of quake epicenter from Google Earth with USGS plugin.

The quake occurred along a meandering strike-slip type fault, which has the potential, much like California's San Andreas fault, to generate large quakes up to and possibly exceeding 8.0 in magnitude.

So far at least 5 fatalities have been reported, as well as damage to buildings in the area.

Image of the quake 'shakemap' (legend is at the top of the screen) detailing the strength of the quake in relation to its epicenter.

At this time, at least 5 large-ish aftershocks have struck NNE of the epicenter, ranging from magnitude 4.7 to 5.9. More aftershocks are likely to hit the area for a period of several days to several weeks.

It is also likely that the list of injured or dead may increase as more information becomes available. The area where the quake struck is remote with several large villages nearby, but no major cities, and this is the area where the shaking was most intense. If any significant updates develop, I will update this post.


The quake was apparently powerful enough to cause some land to uplift, and a 30-40ft high island was actually created off of the coast due to the uplift! The island is around 100 feet long, and about one mile off of the coast.

We also know now that the quake has unfortunately killed around 250 people. (correction, the toll is now at around 330 people, and there are approximately 445 injured at this time)... The area is populated densely, but the buildings are not modern in any sense of the word, some being made of stones and mortar.

Friday, August 30, 2013

7.0, 6.8 Quakes Strike Alaska's Aleutian Islands

A 7.0 Quake struck SE of Adak island in Alaska's Aleutian islands today, according to USGS. The quake was followed by several aftershocks, one of mag 6.6 in the immediate vicinity, and followed to the East by a 6.8 magnitude tremor. More aftershocks are likely to occur for a few days.

Google Earth/USGS image of quake location.

The initial 7.0 quake was at a depth of approximately 21.4mi. No tsunami was generated according to USGS/NOAA. This occurred along the Aleutian subduction zone, where larger quakes are quite common.

There are no major population centers near the earthquake epicenter, with the nearest populated location being Adak, a port city that serves fisherman/crabbers in the Bering Sea. No damage has been reported. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Manam Volcano In Papua New Guinea Sends Ash 15,000 Ft Into The Air

Papua-New Guinea's island volcano Manam has had a very large eruption, sending ash some 15,000 feet into the air, according to John Seach, an Australian volcanologist and frequent source of news from the Southern Hemisphere's volcanoes. John Seach's Twitter feed said about 3 hours ago:

Since I am personally not into Twitter, I have not linked the exact feed, just provided a screenshot, but you can get John's info there. He's a good resource for eruptions the rest of the world doesn't really cover.

3D satellite view of Manam Volcano from Google Earth.

Manam volcano is one of Papua-New Guinea's most active volcanoes, typically erupting several timesa year. This is a larger explosion than normal, and has probably produced some amount of pyroclastic flow. The volcanic was previously inhabited, with sparse villages around the circumference near shorelines, which can still be seen on Google Earth, but no current population remains. The island was abandoned completely in 2004, when 9,000 resudents were relocated. It is unclear at this time what direction the pyroclastic flow (if any) or ashfall is going, but an eruption this large I am assuming might prompt an evacuation.

No other news outlets are covering this eruption as of yet. The only population statistics on the island can be found here. The government had recently updated its disaster preparedness plans due to the large amount of volcanoes both active and dormant in the vicinity. Manam volcano and Papua-New Guinea are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a 'ring' of volcanoes that spans the boundaries of the Pacific Plate.

The Smithsonian GVP characterizes the volcano as follows:

"The 10-km-wide island of Manam, lying 13 km off the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea, is one of the country's most active volcanoes. Four large radial valleys extend from the unvegetated summit of the conical 1807-m-high basaltic-andesitic stratovolcano to its lower flanks. These "avalanche valleys," regularly spaced 90 degrees apart, channel lava flows and pyroclastic avalanches that have sometimes reached the coast. Five small satellitic centers are located near the island's shoreline on the northern, southern and western sides. Two summit craters are present; both are active, although most historical eruptions have originated from the southern crater, concentrating eruptive products during much of the past century into the SE avalanche valley. Frequent historical eruptions, typically of mild-to-moderate scale, have been recorded at Manam since 1616. Occasional larger eruptions have produced pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached flat-lying coastal areas and entered the sea, sometimes impacting populated areas."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Japan's Sakurajima Volcano Has Largest Eruption In Decades

Sakurijima volcano, a large stratovolcano located within the Aira Caldera, has had its nearly 500th eruption of 2013, and this one has shattered some records. A massive gas and ash plume rose above the volcano today, reaching 16,000 ft or more (5,000+ meters) into the sky. Ash rained down on nearby towns and people are using rags and masks to breathe if they venture outside. Video footage showed a large explosion of dark ash, followed by a large plume of grey ash rising far above the volcano.

According to Japan's Meteorological Society, this is the highest ash plume since records began being kept in 1955. Sakurijima is one of Japan's most active volcanoes. Although fatalities are quite rare, it has killed in the past with pyroclastic flow. Currently there is a several km wide exclusion radius from the summit area, so injuries are rare as well.

600,000 residents are currently experiencing ashfall and should remain indoors if possible. Inhaling volcanic ash can be deadly or cause serious damage to lung functions, as well as it being an extreme irritant to your eyes. Volcanic ash is made up of very tiny particles of volcanic glass, and literally cut through your soft tissue, making your life miserable.

Sakuriajima has been in a heightened state of eruption for the last decade or so, erupting frequently and powerfully. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Indonesia's Mt Rokatenda (Paluweh) Erupts, Killing 6

Indonesia's Mount Rokatenda erupted today, killing 6 and evacuating over 3000 from the island of Pulaweh. The volcano had been showing signs of unrest since October 2012. Three adults and two children are confirmed dead, while the sixth person remains unidentified. The bodies have not been recovered as the eruption is ongoing, and efforts are focused on evacuations.  The bodies of two adults have since been recovered, however the bodies of the children remain on the island.

It was later confirmed that the victims were killed by pyroclastic flow, one of the most deadly and swift effects of explosive eruptions. Those who have been evacuated will be relocated to nearby Flores Island.

Google Earth image of Rokatenda (Paluweh) island

Image of the Eruption from NBCnews.com
From the images, the eruption appears to be explosive and pyroclastic in nature. Pyroclastic flows are able to accelerate when travelling over the ocean's or other water bodies' surface. The island is about 11 miles from the nearest shore. It would be inadvisable to stay near this shore until activity calms down. If any updates are posted, I will update this post.

Idonesia is part of the so-called "Ring of Fire' a 'loop' of volcanoes spanning the boundaries of the Pacific tectonic plate. Eruptions on the Ring of Fire are from some of the world's most active volcanoes

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

100,000 Reader Milestone!

I am very happy to say that since the launch of this blog, I have hit over 100,000+ page views! Thank you all very much for reading my blog, and I hope it has been as fun for you to read as I have writing it! I launched this blog in part because I felt there was a lack of good American-English reading volcanology blogs, and I wanted to create a site where people could read about current eruptions, earthquakes, and access some very cool online geology resources. I hope I have achieved that goal!

Thank you all for reading!


Friday, August 2, 2013

Yellowstone Geyser Erupts For First Time In 8 Years

Yellowstone National Park, and its enormous super volcano is home to more than half of the world's geothermal geysers. There are probably not a lot of people in the world who aren't familiar with the name "Old Faithful", one of the most famous geysers in the world, known for its punctual eruption timing, and spectacular steam and water spouts. Yellowstone on Wednesday got quite the surprise when one of it's less-reliable geysers had a sudden - and massive - burst of steam that rose nearly 400 feet into the air for about 40 minutes.

It has been 8 years since "Steamboat geyser" has erupted. It is one of the most random geysers in the park, and dwarfs the eruptions of "old Faithful" (to be clear, the term eruption refers only to hydrothermal activity, not magmatic in nature). Video on NBCnews.com shows the hastily recorded cell phone footage from surprised guests (unfortunately it's not terribly great, and you cannot see the beginning of the blast).

Yellowstone is home to 300 or more active or potentially active geysers, with even more hot springs, and other hydrothermal features. The last magmatic eruption of Yellowstone occurred somewhere around 1350 BCE, creating the Indian Pond crater. Some scientists believe Yellowstone is 'overdue' for a major eruption, but of course this is speculation, and very specific conditions would need to occur for a modern day super-eruption to take place. If an eruption does occur in the near future, it would likely be a small effusive, or minor explosive event, much like the Indian pond event.

The magma chamber that is the source for the geothermal heat in the are is vast, but cooling. It is made up of what scientists refer to as a 'crystal mush', or partially cooled lava. It would take a very large injection of fresh magma and gasses to initiate an eruption in Yellowstone, and no injections have been detected in recent time.

So for now, Yellowstone rises and falls, breathes in and out like a sleeping giant. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mauna Loa - Is the Next Eruption Near?

Mauna Loa in Hawaii is the world largest volcano by volume. Rising from the sea floor to its summit, it is one of the largest mountains in the world as well, from foot to summit, being about 56,000 ft... many times taller than even Mt. Everest! It also happens to be Hawaii's most active volcano, although you wouldn't know it given its recent slumber. It actually erupts more often than Kilauea, last having erupted about the same time that Kilauea started its current eruption, in 1984, a year after Kilauea started its current eruption. This eruption cause massive lava flows that paved over towns/villages, and caused a lot of property damage (hence the big islands ridiculous insurance prices).

Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843 (and many many times before) making it one of the worlds most active and massive volcanoes.

Mauna Loa has been mostly quiet since its last eruption. The volcano currently has some active fumeroles, hot springs, and still-degassing areas from the last eruption, but that may be about to change, as HVO has detected heightened seismicity and inflation of a shallow magma reservoir. Could Mauna Loa be gearing up for another eruption? It is probable, as Mauna Loa is 'overdue' for an eruption.

HVO's current reporting of Mauna Loa indicates that deformation has been mostly dominated by slow south-easterly motion of its south flank (toward the active Kilauea volcanic complex), but more recently, increased inflation of about 1cm/year at the summit caldera, which does indicate new magma injection, and a possible precursor to an eruption in the near future. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on Mauna Loa.

While it is highly unlikely that an eruption of Mauna Loa would cause any human casualties, the potential for massive amounts of property damage, and damage to ecosystems on the island is high. During the 1984 eruption, vast swaths of land were covered by lava, and in some areas, houses were built on these lava flows, which have a high likelihood of getting hit by a lava flow again. Any areas that did not have a lava flow would be at risk due to lava pooling or gravity drawing in a flow.

The next eruption of Mauna Loa would likely be quite a sight to behold. Most volcanic eruptions in Hawaii do not generate pyroclastic flows, or anything more than fast or slow moving pahoehoe lava flows, fissure eruptions, however there have been cases of crater forming eruptions that do prove a bit dangerous. I for one will be keeping a close eye on Mauna Loa, as the eruption will be spectacular, no matter what the mountain does. And the fact that Hawaii has some of the best webcam coverage of its volcanoes means that many would get to see the eruption take place in real-time! Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Alaska's Veniaminof Volcano Raised to Alert Level Orange

AVO has raised the alert level of Veniaminof volcano in Alaska to alert level orange. This follows after about a week or so of "yellow" status as seismic swarms were detected underneath the large stratovolcano. Steaming was previously noted at its central cone, and corresponded with heightened seismicity.

The Orange alert occurred within the hour of this blog post, after satellite data showed a thermal anomaly on the volcano's surface.

AVO's statement is below:

"Elevated surface temperatures observed in satellite images of Veniaminof Volcano this morning at 13:25 UTC (05:25 AKDT) indicate an eruption at the intracaldera cone is likely underway. AVO is thus raising the Aviation Color Code and Volcano Alert Level to ORANGE/WATCH. Seismic tremor continues and is indicative of low-level effusive activity and small explosions. No ash plumes have been observed this morning although clouds have obscured web camera views of the summit.

AVO has been monitoring Veniaminof closely since elevated levels of seismicity became persistent on June 8. Steam plumes issuing from the intracaldera cone have been observed in web camera views since then, but so far no ash emissions have been confirmed. Recent eruptions of Veniaminof Volcano have all occurred from vents located on the intracaldera cone and were characterized by brief bursts of ash emission and small explosions. Ash plumes associated with this type of activity are typically diffuse and generally do not reach more than 20,000 feet above sea level. Ash fallout is typically limited to the flanks of the volcano. Minor emissions of steam and ash may persist for for weeks to months.

The last episode of more energetic activity occurred in 1993-94 when an ash plume rose to about 18,000 feet above sea level and small lava flows poured onto glacier ice around the intracaldera cone. An eruption in 1983-84 produced an ash plume that reached about 25,000 feet above sea level."

It is possible that the interaction of molten rock and ice can cause the emission of very fine ash, much like the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland, 2010. However this volcano is not in the same volcano-tectonic situation and likely will produce a smaller, shorter lived eruption than its Nordic cousin.

Volcanoes on Alaska's Aleutian peninsula are not typically deadly, as the area is sparsely populated, although they do sit directly under a heavily used airway. Airplanes are frequently diverted out of harm's way when an Alaskan volcano erupts, sometimes causing major inconvenience for air travel and freight.

You can check out the updates here:


The eruption of Veniaminof brings the number of currently erupting U.S. volcanoes to about 5 (three are in Orange Alert status, two are in Yellow).

The eruption History according to the Smithsonian does list at least on VEI 6 level eruption, but typically they have been level 1-2.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Is Nicaraguas Cerro Negro Awakening?


Reports are coming in from the Smithsonian GVP about increased seismicity at Cerro Negro, a very young pyroclastic cone in Nicaragua's state of Leon. Cerro Negro is the youngest of several cinder cones in the region, and one of the newest volcanoes of South America. Since its birth in 1850, it has been one of Nicaragua's most active volcanoes generating frequent ash fall and lava flows.

The statement from the Smithsonian GVP on social media is:

"Yesterday the Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), reported elevated seismicity and the onset of tremor. RSAM had increased approximately 7 times the average value (of 14 to 60 units). Our last GVP Monthly report noted that from 2005 to 2011, RSAM rarely reached above 30 units (http://www.volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=344070&bgvn=1&rnum=region14&snum=nicarag&wvol=cerroneg&tab=1#bgvn_3701).

INETER issued recommendations to municipal and civil defense authorities to restrict access to the volcano due to changed seismicity. Between 15:35 and 17:31 yesterday, a total of 49 small magnitude EQs were detected, however, they were too small to locate."

The post was accompanied by a picture (below) of the current seismograph that has scientists alerting the area to the possibility of an eruption.

The Smithsonian GVP characterizes Cerro Negro as last having erupted in 1999, and had seismic episodes up until around 2003. Since then it has remained relatively quiet.

Image from Google Earth showing the latest satellite photos of Cerro Negro, Nicaragua. 
If Cerro Negro does erupt, it will likely not be a danger to the general population, aside from fine ash fall in the near cities. People in the area would be well-advised to stay indoors if this were to occur, or wear breathing masks and googles outside. Volcanic ash consists of very fine glass-like particles that can cause severe respiratory distress (due to your lungs being cut up) and can cause severe eye irritation and damage for the same reasons. The ash fall would likely not travel for too far in this case, as it is much denser than say, the ash erupted at Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, which generated fine ash due to its lava colliding with ice.

If Cerro Negro erupts, I'll try and update this post with some pictures and/or webcam links!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Copahue Volcano In Chile Raised to Red Alert

Chile's Copahue Volcano, which also shares its summit with neighboring Argentina, has been raised to alert level "RED" by Southern Andes Volcanological Observatory (OVDAS) after strong eruptive activity today. The volcano became restless a couple of weeks ago when tremor and minor steam, gas, and ash emissions were observed. A Facebook statement from the Smithsonian GVP stated:

"...Red Alert status was maintained and increased seismicity was reported in yesterday's report by the Southern Andes Volcanological Observatory (OVDAS). Approx 130 EQ were recorded per hour (mostly hybrid but some spasmodic tremor); these were shallow events. Last year the seismic network was expanded to include a new station (the 3rd in the network) located across Argentina's border, expanding early warning capabilities. (http://www.perfil.com/ediciones/ciencia/-201212-740-0057.html) Dated 28 May 2013, this photo was available from Argentina's publication "La Voz" (http://www.lavoz.com.ar/noticias/sucesos/exodo-pobladores-ante-posible-erupcion-volcan-copahue#). — at Caviahue-Copahue."

Copahue volcano is characterized by the GVP here:

"Volcán Copahue is an elongated composite cone constructed along the Chile-Argentina border within the 6.5 x 8.5 km wide Trapa-Trapa caldera that formed between 0.6 and 0.4 million years ago near the NW margin of the 20 x 15 km Pliocene Caviahue (Del Agrio) caldera. The eastern summit crater, part of a 2-km-long, ENE-WSW line of nine craters, contains a briny, acidic 300-m-wide crater lake (also referred to as El Agrio or Del Agrio) and displays intense fumarolic activity. Acidic hot springs occur below the eastern outlet of the crater lake, contributing to the acidity of the Río Agrio, and another geothermal zone is located within Caviahue caldera about 7 km NE of the summit. Infrequent mild-to-moderate explosive eruptions have been recorded at Copahue since the 18th century. Twentieth-century eruptions from the crater lake have ejected pyroclastic rocks and chilled liquid sulfur fragments."

Image posted by Smithsonian GVP showing ash eruption from Copahue on May 28th.
The last eruption of Copahue volcano was in the year 2000, so it has not erupted for about 13 years or so.

Chile lies along the so-called "Ring of Fire" and is prone to frequent eruptive activity from its many active volcanoes. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

AVO Reports Possible Eruption From Pavlof Volcano [UPDATED 6/10]

Pavlof volcano on the Aleutian Peninsula of Alaska has entered an eruptive phase after increased seismicity and thermal anomalies detected in satellite data. A Facebook post from USGS issued the following statement today (although a bit late).

"On May 13, 2013, USGS-AVO reported that seismic activity at Pavlof increased that morning, along with the presence of an intense thermal anomaly at its summit. The Alert Level is "Watch;" Aviation Color Code Orange.

Similar patterns of seismicity and elevated surface temperatures have previously signaled the onset of eruptive activity at Pavlof. Although not yet visually confirmed, a low-level eruption of lava has likely begun from a summit vent. No ash clouds have been detected."

An overflight by a pilot has confirmed the presence of a summit spatter cone, and advancing lava flow. (seen below in a picture from AVO, Photograph by Brandon Wilson). The last eruption from Pavlof was in 2007.

Google Earth snapshot of Pavlof and Pavlof Sister volcanoes.
The Smithsonian GVP characterizes the volcano of being capable of Strombolian eruptions, and explosive eruptions. This eruption currently appears to be mostly effusive, or possibly Strombolian, although it's a bit unlikely that we'll get to see any great nighttime shots.

Pavlof joins Cleveland Volcano in the 'currently erupting' club of Alaskan stratovolcanoes, as earlier this month, Cleveland let out a nice explosion that was strong enough for air traffic to be diverted around the volcano (aside from this minor annoyance, that's pretty typical of Cleveland).

There are no major human populations immediately near Pavlof, although the town of Aleutian East Burrough with a population of around 2700+ lies about 12 miles SSW of the volcano. Damage to this area is unlikely, although if the volcano does have an ash eruption, ash fall could affect the area.

*****UPDATE 5/29*****
AVO has lowered Pavlof to alert level Yellow (Advisory) after a few days of inactivity and lower seismic readings. AVO's statement reads:

"Over the past three days, the eruptive activity at Pavlof have greatly declined. Seismic tremor and small discrete explosions are no longer detected in seismic and pressure sensor data. Satellite observations show no evidence of elevated surface temperatures, volcanic gas or ash emissions. There have been no visual observations from pilots or web cameras of any eruptive activity. Consequently, the Aviation Color Code was reduced to Yellow and the Volcano Alert Level to Advisory today (28 May) at 12:50 AKDT (20:50 UTC)."

It is still possible for the volcano to continue its eruption. Past eruptions have had periods of intense explosion, followed by lulls in activity.

*****UPDATE 6/10*****

Activity has resumed at Pavlof. The following statement from AVO details the continuing eruption:

"Ash emissions have resumed at Pavlof starting at approximately 11:00 AKDT (19:00 UTC) this morning as seen in satellite data and observed by pilots. Weak seismicity beginning at 10:57 AKDT accompanied the emissions and is ongoing."


"Ash emissions from Pavlof continue. Seismic tremor and explosion signals accompany the activity. Persistent elevated surface temperatures consistent with lava effusion were observed over the past day in satellite images. Satellite images from the last day also show an ash plume extending 12 miles (20 km) southeast of the volcano. This direction is consistent with low-level (less than 20,000 ft asl) winds."

So it appears that the volcano may erupt in 'spurts' and will likely continue erupting for some time. If anything changes I'll post about it!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Puzzling Seismicity at Helka, Iceland

Hekla volcano in Iceland is not known for giving much advance warning, but this time it may be. Scientists in the area have been monitoring the notorious volcano for signs that it may erupt, as it is "overdue" for a show. Hekla is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and also one of its most disruptive. Typically this volcano does not give much warning in the way of tremor or earthquakes, indeed the earthquakes seem to precede an eruption only by hours... yet Hekla has been rumbling now for weeks.

Image copyright Icelandic Meteorological Office at http://en.vedur.is

The above photo details tonights seismicity, and while a 1.0 quake in its vicinity may seem benign, this website does not keep a visual record of quakes over 48 hours. As of now there have been dozens along the fissure zone, main volcano, and the NW area seen here in the picture. Volcanoes don't always behave the same way, sometimes their eruption signals can change. Any seismicity and deformation in the Hekla volcanic system can be reason for worry. Previous eruptions came with not a lot of warnings, as is the case with several volcanoes in the region. 

While Eyjafjallajökull created a bit of havoc for the world in 2010, as well as Grimsvötn (Grimsnes), an eruption of Hekla now has the potential to be every bit as bothersome to the Icleandic people. From pyroclastic ash eruptions to fissure fed lava effusion, this volcano is capable of a varying medley of eruptions, and the last time it erupted was in 2000. The volcano has within the last several decades erupted nearly every 10 years, however the volcano has not always done so, so prediction is not possible. 

A list from the Icelandic Meteorological Office at http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/articles/nr/1874 details the following Icelandic eruption dates (last two known eruptions in Iceland left in for reference):

2011 Grímsvötn
2010 Eyjafjallajökull
2000 Hekla
1991 Hekla
1981 Hekla
1980 Hekla
1970 Hekla
1947 Hekla
The Smithsonian GVP profile is below:

Volcano types:
    Fissure vents
Summit Elev: 1491 m
Latitude: 63.98°N
Longitude: 19.70°W
One of Iceland's most prominent and active volcanoes, Hekla lies near the southern end of the eastern rift zone. Hekla occupies a rift-transform junction, and has produced basaltic andesites, in contrast to the tholeiitic basalts typical of Icelandic rift zone volcanoes. A 5.5-km-long fissure, Heklugjá, cuts across the 1491-m-high volcano and is often active along its full length during major eruptions. Repeated eruptions along this rift, which is oblique to most rifting structures in the eastern volcanic zone, are responsible for Hekla's elongated ENE-WSW profile. Frequent large silicic explosive eruptions during historical time have deposited tephra throughout Iceland, providing valuable time markers used to date eruptions from other Icelandic volcanoes. Hekla tephras are generally rich in fluorine and are consequently very hazardous to grazing animals. Extensive lava flows from Hekla's historical eruptions, which date back to 1104 AD, cover much of the volcano's flanks.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

7.8 Mag Quake Strikes South Eastern Iran

A 7.8 magnitude quake struck Iran near the city of Khāsh, near the Iran/Pakistan border, at a depth of approximately 82km. The quake was felt thousands of miles away and could easily be felt in New Dehli, India. The quake occurred about 66 miles East of the Iranian volcano of Taftan, which displays summit fumerolic activity, and has a (questionable) history of modern era eruptions. Another volcano in the (somewhat) near vicinity is Bazman, which also displays fumerolic activity, but like Taftan has no confirmed history of historical eruption.

Large earthquakes this close to large stratovolcanoes can be a concern, as plate slippage may generate magma injections, or destabilize magma chambers with pressure or rock fractures. It is far, far too early to tell whether this might be the case for these volcanoes, but I suspect that activity at them will not change given the history of large quakes in the area, and the fact that the volcanoes (as far as we know) haven't had any confirmed eruptive activity in recent times. But as is the case with volcanoes, you never truly know what they are up to.

Injuries were reported in an area that is home to around 400,000 residents, but the exact numbers have yet to be accurately reported. many buildings were damaged or destroyed in multiple areas.

Iran recently experienced another damaging earthquake at mag 6.2 near one of its nuclear power plants. Official statements from Iran following the quake indicated that the size and location of the quake would not deter the building of new plants, and a joint statement form Iran, and the Russian company that built the plant estimated that the nuclear facility could easily withstand a quake of up to magnitude 8.0. It is unclear if the current quake was near any such facility, but that has not been in any of the reports that I have read so far.

Aftershocks will most likely plague the area for a couple of days, if not for weeks, and more moderate shaking is probable. As Iran does not have a very public interface for volcanic monitoring, any change in activity is likely only to be reported on either social media, or other less-than-reliable channels unless NASA or an equivalent space program directs its satellites to check them out. More than likely, the volcanoes will keep on doing what they've been doing... a whole lot of nothing.

Google Earth/USGS snapshot of quake location and vicinity of 'active' volcanoes. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mt. Etna Enters Eruption Phase

While Etna is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, it typically has short "paroxysms", or short lived explosions with lava effusion. Yesterday it entered into a Strombolian eruption phase which is sustained as of right now. A Strombolian eruption consists of explosive activity with lava fountaining. A Facebook statement from INVOLCAN says "The Director of the Division of INGV-Catania, Domenico Patané, confirmed that "this time is not a paroxysm, it is a real eruption. Already at the beginning of April it had given indications that something was changing and a few days ago we had a very long pre-eruptive activity, 08 April 2013, with explosions of ash that lasted until the evening of April 10, when it changed to the Strombolian explosions started already in the afternoon. During yesterday afternoon activity gradually increased to become almost continuous overnight, with strong explosions and emissions of two small rivers of lava from the edge of the crater, and the area southeast of the "saddle" between the two cones of the Southeast Crater. The last eruptive phase of this type, occurred between May 2008 and July 2009 at the Eastern base of the crater to the Northeast."

The volcano does not typically erupt with this sort of force. Typically it has effusive eruptions and can generate long lava flows, but occasionally it can put on a more dangerous eruption type. The best Enta webcam angle I could find can be found here. The refresh rate is slow, but the shot is very good.

Etna is one of the best monitored volcanoes on the planet, so typically seismologists and volcanologists know what to expect from the volcano, and can warn people not to climb the mountain, or to stay indoors when there is heavy ash emission. Eruptions are typically restricted to summit and flank cones, and there are very rarely any injuries or fatalities.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tjörnes Fracture Zone Has Large Ongoing Quake Swarm [Updated]

The Tjörnes fracture zone in Northern Iceland is showing large amounts of quakes in a swarm that has been ongoing for several days now. Many of the quakes are above 3.0 in magnitude, and are at shallow depth. The area, much like the rest of Iceland, is a spreading/transform fault assembly on the Mid-Atlantic ridge. These quakes could be both tectonic and volcanic in nature, although at the moment no eruptive activity is reported, however it is possible that submarine activity is occurring.

Image from Iceland Meteorological Office

The swarms are occurring near the small island of Grimsney, and the surrounding areas. The largest events, a magnitude 5.3 and 4.7 quake, show up on USGS sensors. Hundreds if not thousands of quakes have occurred within the last few days.

This is a frequent event for this seismic zone. Any eruptive activity, if any, would likely be submarine and not pose a threat to islanders, or the rest of Europe, but Iceland does have a history of creating new land when it wants to as we learned from the 1963-1967 eruption of Surtsey (part of the Vestmannaeyjar volcanic system), which grew a new island out of the ocean during a submarine eruption.

This is unlikely at this point, but if anything further takes place aside from the shaking, it would no doubt be a pretty cool event for volcanologists and those that like to watch the Icelandic volcanoes.

****UPDATE 4/4****

Some reports of volcanic activity are trickling in regarding 'lava on the ocean floor', and heightened emissions. I am trying to pinpoint a reliable source, so far this has only been mentioned on Jon Frimann's Iceland Geology Blog in his comments section. If true this would definitely explain the large amount of concentrated earthquake activity, as this is a rift zone, prone to seafloor spreading events. I am tracking down his sources to see if they pan out, but so far this is word-of-mouth only at this point.

Monday, April 1, 2013

BREAKING: Yellowstone Moved to Highest Alert (Red) After Tremor, Wildlife Fleeing

Just in:

Yellowstone National Park and USGS are sounding the alarm bells, as near constant harmonic tremor has been detected at very shallow depths of less than 1km. Birds, elk, bears, and other wildlife are fleeing into surrounding areas, resulting in scientists at the USGS raising the alert level to RED. "What we are witnessing is unprecedented in recent history in the park" said USGS volcanologist Peter Fitzgerald. "It is really something, really scary. We haven't seen this level of seismic activity in the park since the late 70's, but this is way stronger". Asked if this meant an eruption could be imminent, he stated "At this time, I think it would be a great idea to prepare for the worst.".

Other indicators that an eruption could be underway can be seen on the surface, as near constant emission from Yellowstone's iconic "Old Faithful" geyser stopped the clockwork schedule that has existed for centuries, turning it into more of a 'fountain' than a geyser. Local rangers were baffled as well, when the famed "Prismatic Pools" were devoid of any liquid. "Something big is definitely happening", Sgt. Darryl Langford stated "I am heading home to my wife and kids, they don't pay me enough to be blown up!".

GPS instrumentation detected strong uplift from the West side of the caldera, and water levels have shifted to the East of Yellowstone Lake. Indications are that any explosive/effusive activity will most likely occur at the East rim of the Island Park caldera.

In a brief press statement before rushing off in a hurry, USGS volcanologist Peter Fitzgerald stated "The only safe place in the US right now would be San Diego, CA... as if their perfect weather wasn't enough, it seems by our predictions this will be the only safe city in the US post-eruption. We are estimating over 1.5 million cu km of ashfall debris to be ejected if our models are correct. It was nice knowing all of you".

The last eruption from Yellowstone was thousands of years ago, but scientists have long known this day would happen eventually. Thankfully, I already live in San Diego... but sadly, this means most of my readers are about to be forcefully unsubscribed...

Oh, who am I kidding? Happy April Fools Day!!

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.