Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Nicaragua's Momotombo Volcano Erupts After Sleeping For 110 Years

Nicaragua's conical Momotombo volcano has had its first eruption in over 110 years. From early pictures and video it looks like a Strombolian style eruption with ash clouds reaching very high. Pyroclastic flows can also be seen descending the NE face of the volcano. The last major eruption in 1905 produced a lava flow that traveled to the NE.

This is likely going to be a small eruption with some ashfall and probably will not go on for too long. The volcano itself is not near any heavily populated areas. Most of the surrounding land is forest and some sparse farmland. At the South foot of the volcano, there are a few geothermal plants on the shore of Lake Managua (which is also home to several other volcanoes).

There are some reports of gases affecting some nearby villages.

If anything further develops or if the eruption increases in intensity, I'll update this post.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Strongest Hurricane Ever Recorded About To Hit Colima Volcano

South Western Mexico is about to be hit - hard - by the most powerful hurricane ever recorded by NOAA. If that wasn't enough, it seems that Hurricane Patricia, with sustained winds upward of 200mph, is barreling squarely towards Colima volcano, which has been having intermittent explosive eruptions for months now. What will happen when the hurricane hits this stratovolcano? There are a few possibilities.

The volcano, for one, will be just fine. Hurricanes have hit active volcanoes before, in Hawaii, and other islands. This is different. This is the mainland of a large nation, and the volcano isn't a Hawaiian style volcano, it is a stratovolcano that deposits large amounts of tephra and fine ash, which could mean lahars.

Google Earth with Weather Overlay, USGS, and Volcano DB.

This is bad news for Mexico. The strength of the hurricane alone is likely to cause a humanitarian disaster, which will be exacerbated by fresh ash laden lahars. The eruptive activity, if it occurs during the volcano, can suspend ash within the hurricane, leading to more problems.

In short, this is a very bad situation for Mexico, and residents would be wise to get as far away from this monster as possible. This will not be pretty, and since we have never seen a hurricane of this intensity in history, we have no idea how bad it will get.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mauna Loa Aviation Code Raised To Yello

Mauna Loa has been slowly re-loading its vast magma chamber since it's last eruption ended in 1984. In the mid-2000's, inflation increased, stopped, started again, and now continues at a slow pace. I've been covering the goings-on at Mauna Loa and have suspected for a while it was getting ready for its next round, but as of yesterday, HVO has taken notice as well and chose to raise the aviation code (not the alert code) to Yellow (advisory).

Mauna Loa has been experiencing tremor and seismicity associated with small rock-fracture events for some time now, but I suppose it's gone on long enough where HVO is now starting to get nervous. Mauna Loa is after all, the largest active shield volcano on earth by both volume and height, and given the types of eruptions it has, people on the Big Island of Hawaii have a reason to be nervous.

Nearly all of the recent eruptions of Mauna Loa have produced enough fast-moving pahoehoe lava to reach the shore. Many towns have been paved over in the past, and due to Mauna Loa's size, the lava can move at much faster speeds than the lavas produced by its neighbor to the SE, Kilauea.

Mauna Loa's re-inflation and increased seismicity is still below the levels that preceded the last two eruptions, so an eruption is by no means imminent at this time. That can change without warning, however, this is a heavily monitored volcano, so it's likely there will be at least several hours of warning prior to any eruptive activity.

One theory currently is that due to Kilauea's ongoing eruption (which has continued nonstop since 1983), the magma reservoirs at Mauna Loa take a bit longer to refill, as both volcanoes have the same magma source - a giant magma hotspot that is responsible for the creation of all Hawaii's island chain. So it is possible that the release of lava from Kilauea is keeping Mauna Loa from rapidly inflating like it did in the past.

If that were true, it might explain why inflation is not as rapid, and seismicity is not as intense. Only time will tell. Previously, Mauna Loa had typically erupted before Kilauea, so the fact that Mauna Loa is inflating while Kilauea is erupting could indicate higher plume pressure on the island. Again, far too soon to tell, but it does make a lot of sense.

I've been monitoring Mauna Loa since 2008, and this is the first time that HVO has raised the alert level in a long time. It's worth keeping your eye on the Big Island, and if you live there, be vigilant and stay up to date, as this volcano, once it starts erupting, is capable of issuing lava flows that travel upwards of 60mph. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Meru Volcano In Tanzania Had Eruption Scare From Forest Fire

*****UPDATE 9/22*****
The smoke coming from Meru volcano was indeed a forest fire and NOT a volcanic eruption. While it is unclear whether reports of tremors are accurate, it is confirmed that no eruption has taken place.

Sep 20, 2015 -Tanzania

Meru volcano, which has not erupted in a hundred years or so, may have had an eruption. Reports are coming in from several sources, although all of them are posting the same image. The image appears to show the NE flank of the volcano in eruption, however it is too soon to tell and 'could' be a wildfire. The image does appear however to show large amounts of grey ash, and being a California native, I can tell you most brush fires burn very much darker than that, so it does look like it could be volcanic.

Image by Selle Higgins (@safariwithselle Twitter) via

According to Volcano Discovery, "A new eruption has been reported yesterday from the volcano, which has last been active 105 years ago. An ash plume was seen rising approx. 1 km and drifting NW from what looks like a lateral vent on the northern slope of the volcano near Arusha town. The are no reports of damage or fatalities. According to local sources, people in the area around the volcano have been experiencing an increased number of small felt earthquakes in recent months."

The surrounding areas are mostly farmlands with some small villages, so not a very high population center, however any large pyroclastic flows could have devastating consequences for those on its slopes. If the picture (which is a bit hazy) is interpreted correctly, the eruptive center appears to be on the lowe flank of 'Little Meru', a satellitic summit cone/dome to the NE of the main summit (similar to Mt. Shasta's 'Shastina' cone. The blast could be lateral, or there may be a small amount of pyroclastic flow that is travelling down the flank, far too soon to know.

The Smithsonian GVP characterizes Meru:

"Meru volcano, Africa's fourth highest mountain, is dwarfed by neighboring Kilimanjaro volcano, but is an impressive peak in its own right. Seen from the west, Meru has a conical profile, but it contains a 5-km-wide breached caldera on the east side that formed about 7800 years ago when the summit of the volcano collapsed. Associated massive debris avalanches and lahars traveled as far as the western flank of Kilimanjaro volcano. Parasitic cones and lava domes are located on all sides; a maar field is present on the lower north flank. The historically active Ash Cone forms a prominent symmetrical cone inside the breached caldera. A second vent between it and the caldera headwall has fed lava flows that cover much of the caldera floor."

At this time however, this could be a false alarm, as there are doubts this is actually a volcanic eruption, and rather could simply be a wildfire. This video seems to suggest it is just a wildfire: 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Iceland May Be gearing Up For Another Round of Eruptions

Iceland may be gearing up for another round of volcanic and tectonic events, and some of them could be spectacular. The world only recently started paying close attention to Iceland's volcanoes after the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, Grimsvötn the following year, and the recent eruption of a Bárðarbunga fissure system at Halhuraun. Bárðarbunga's eruption was the largest in recent history, with a massive lava field being issued, and millions of tons of SO2 gas.

The events at Bárðarbunga were part of the heart of what Iceland is, the eruptive center of a massive magma plume, which coincidentally lies on the spreading sealfoor rift of the North American and European plates. These plates are spreading, and recent seismicity shows just how active that spreading is.

Several volcanoes are either overdue for an eruption, or showing signs of awakening. Accoring to Jon Frimann of the Iceland Geology Blog, the island of Surtsey in the Vestmanneyjar volcanic system has shown signs of increased thermal activity. This is one system to watch, as in 1973, Eldfell volcano was born on the Icelandic island of Heimaey, with no warning. The eruption devastated residential homes, and advanced to the island's only port. During this eruption, Icelanders actually fought back the lava flow using massive pumps, piping cold ocean water in vast amounts onto the lava. They saved the harbor.

But this is a volcano, and it will erupt again in the future. The Island of Surtsey was created in a spectacular and never before documented eruption type. The term 'Surtseyan' eruption was born on the day Surtsey arrived. Boiling out of the ocean floor to breach the surface in 1963, the eruption lasted until 1967, building a new Icelandic volcano island. The island remains off-limits to all but the scientific community, who are studying biodiversity on newly created islands. 

This means that the people of Heimaey are living on a still very active volcano, and it has been quite silent for some time... until now. Unlike the recently erupted volcanoes that have been in the news, Vestmanneyjar is off people's radar these days, and unlike those volcanoes, does have population centers in its immediate vicinity. Heimaey after all is a very busy trading port.

Other volcanoes are stirring as well, some in the vicinity of the recently erupted Bárðarbunga system, which seem to have been disturbed by that eruption. Some have been eerily quiet for a long time, but are starting to have small quakes.

Hekla volcano is a dangerous volcano. Not because it is close to any population centers (although close enough for gas and ash to fall in the capitol), but because it is one of those volcanoes, like many in Iceland, which tends to erupt without warning. It has been experiencing sporadic quakes, which worry volcanologists. 

Torfajokull to Hekla's East, and NNW of Katla volcano, is also experiencing some quake activity, although this may be purely tectonic. This is a caldera system, which has not erupted in many centuries, however still has very active fumeroles, hot springs, and geysers.

Katla itself is assumed to be primed for an eruption, and may have had a very minor subglacial episode following the eruption of Ejyafjallajökull. It typically displays spurts of seismic activity, however would still be difficult to predict or monitor given its size, and the glacier mounted on top. This eruption would likely dwarf those of Ejyafjallajökull and Grimsvötn. But it just hasn't popped off as of yet. This would likely be the most dangerous eruption, as it would affect air travel (again) in Europe on a larger scale, create massive glacier outburst floods (jökullhlaups), and could last for a long time.

Tungnafellsjokull, to the East of the Bárðarbunga caldera, has been experiencing very unusual and heavy quake swarms during and after Bárðarbunga's fissure eruption and caldera collapse. I have stated in the past this may be a 'toothpaste tube' like scenario, where one magma chamber has stressed the other, and created a  more dynamic situation under Tungnafellsjokull. I still believe this to be the case. It is unknown whether this means an eruption will happen, or if things are settling down, but this volcano does not have a historical eruption record (in Iceland these date back to Viking times), so it could be unlikely... but nothing is impossible.

And to the North of Bárðarbunga, Askja volcano, which is another record-holding volcano in Iceland, had a catastrophic eruption in 1875, one of Iceland's largest, has been having persistent seismicity after the fissure eruption of Bárðarbunga. One of its much older and unmonitored neighbors, Herðubreið has followed that trend as well.

All of these volcanoes are in the vicinity of the spreading rift, and it does appear that the magma plume under Iceland is getting a little restless. Time will tell, but Iceland is an ever-changing landscape of ice and fire, and it does not appear to want to lose that description any time soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hakoneyama Volcano In Japan Put On Alert [UPDATED 6-30-2015]

According to an article on The Asahi Shimbun, Hakoneyama (Hakone) Volcano in Japan has been put on alert, and visitors restricted from visiting the summit. Hakoneyama is the close neighbor to Mt. Fuji, which has according to experts been in a state of high pressure for some time now.

Hakoneyama has not erupted for some 2900 years, although the numerous hot springs, geysers, and fumeroles within the caldera point to an active magma system. Recent seismicity has given reason for the high alert status. According to the article, many shallow quakes have been recorded in the last month, with 16 quakes recorded on April 26th, and 72 from May 2-4.

Image from JMA detailing locations of quakes.

According to the article, inflation is being recorded at the volcano. While this does not point to an imminent eruption, this volcano was on the same large subduction zone that was affected by the infamous 9.0 quake of 2011, which caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a massive tsunami, and associated disasters. Quakes of that magnitude in active volcanic zones can produce some surprises.

Japan is likely more wary of volcanic unrest after Mount Ontake erupted with little warning, killing hikers and tourists, and stranding many in mountainside lodges. It was the worst volcanic disaster for Japan in recent times. The caution can and will save lives should the volcano erupt.

The Smithsonian GVP Characterizes the volcano as such:

"Hakoneyama volcano is truncated by two overlapping calderas, the largest of which is 10 x 11 km wide. The calderas were formed as a result of two major explosive eruptions about 180,000 and 49,000-60,000 years ago. Scenic Lake Ashi lies between the SW caldera wall and a half dozen post-caldera lava domes that were constructed along a SW-NE trend cutting through the center of the calderas. Dome growth occurred progressively to the south, and the largest and youngest of these, Kamiyama, forms the high point of Hakoneyama. The calderas are breached to the east by the Hayakawa canyon. A phreatic explosion about 3000 years ago was followed by collapse of the NW side of Kamiyama, damming the Hayakawa valley and creating Lake Ashi. The latest magmatic eruptive activity about 2900 years ago produced a pyroclastic flow and a lava dome in the explosion crater, although phreatic eruptions took place as recently as the 12-13th centuries CE. Seismic swarms have occurred during the 20th century. Lake Ashi, along with major thermal areas in the caldera, forms a popular resort area SW of Tokyo"

Since this is a breaking news story, and from Japan, it will be difficult to monitor the situation by normal means, but I'll keep an eye out, and should anything develop, I will update this post.

*****UPDATE 5/8/2015*****

Japan's Meteorologial Agency (JMA) raised the alert level of Hakoneyama to alert level RED. This is more than likely out of an abundance of caution, but after the eruption of Ontake, this is a prudent step. Volcanic tremor remains elevated, and steam vents are becoming more vigorous. If Hakoneyama were to erupt, it would be the first eruption in historical time.

****UPDATE 6/8/2015*****

JMA has lowered the alert level for Hakoneyama after visual observations noted a decrease in steaming from the various fumeroles and steam vents, in conjunction with a decrease in seismicity, as well as deflationary tilt. The alert level remains elevated, but no eruption now appears imminent.

*****UPDATE 6/30/2015*****
According to Reuters/Yahoo, Japan's Hakone (hakoneyama) volcano has now had a small ash-emitting eruption, after around a month or so of unrest. Japan had previously restricted access to the steam-vents area near the resort and issued an exclusion zone. The eruption was described as very small. 40 people were evacuated from the summit area. Live cams currently show vigorous steaming, suggesting that this was possibly a small phreatic (steam driven) eruption. New eruptions can happen at any time, and any new steam/hot rock interactions can cause more eruptions. Any fresh injection of magma (which is thought to have occurred) can increase this risk.

The volcano is now at Alert Level 3. A drone flight on June 20 revealed damage to facilities caused by large amounts of sulfur and gases being expelled by the volcano. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Philippines' Mt. Bulusan Erupts

Two strong phreatic (steam-based) eruptions have occurred at Mt. Bulusan in Luzon, Philippines. It's last known eruption was in 2011. According to Filipino news sources, the first eruption lasted about 10 minutes, followed about 20 minutes later by a shorter eruption. There is currently no danger of magma injection or lava flow from the volcano.

Phreatic eruptions can occur without warning at many active volcanoes, especially 'wet' ones like volcanoes that have crater lakes at their summits, glaciers, or other sources of water. What occurrs is that water seeps into the volcano, making contat with extremely hot rock. This flashes the water into steam, causing a huge pressure buildup and subsequent rock explosion.

The reason there is no further danger of a larger eruption, is that typically phreatic eruptions are not related to new magma being injected. They are only related to surface water seeping into the hot, mostly solid rocks.

PHIVOLCS is updating the situation on Twitter, so you can follow the developments there. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Northern Chilean Volcano Guallatiri Stirs

According to and a few social media outlets, Volcan Guallatiri is experiencing a volcanic quake swarm, prompting SERNAGEOMIN to raise the alert level. According to the Smithsonian GVP, Guallatiri  has not had an eruption since December 2, 1960, and questionable activity was possibly observed in 1985.

So far this activity has not led to an eruption, but as is the case with many Ring of Fire volcanoes, that can change at any moment, and in Chile's case, with or without warning. Chile has seen a string of previously dormant, or long dormant volcanoes activate without warning. The 2008 eruption of Chaiten gave little to no warning. Calbuco volcano was also quiet up until it exploded.

The reason for this is the nature of the lava. Many of Chile's volcanoes are rhyolotic or andesitic, which make for a dense magma with tons of dissolved gases stuck inside waiting to burst, so these stratovolcanoes are particularly nasty when they choose to erupt.

If the volcano does erupt, I will update this post.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Mt Shindake volcano on Kuchinoerabu Erupts

Hot on the heels of the eruption of Mt Ontake, Japan has had another eruption from one of its many active volcanoes. Mt Shindake volcano on Kuchinoerabu island erupted just hours ago, sending ash high into the sky and forcing evacuations. Unlike the previous eruption, nobody is thought to have been injured, and the island itself is not highly populated.

Shindake is a highly active volcano, having just erupted last year.

Japan has frequent eruptions from many of its hundreds of volcanoes. Japan and its outlying islands lay across the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes that spans the Pacific tectonic plate, including Alaska and the West Coast of the US, down to the West Coast of South America. Japan's volcanoes, much like the ones that line the West Coast, and Alaska/Aleutian Islands, are composed of stratovolcanoes, which form due to subducting tectonic plates. Land dives under land, recycling sediments, and water into explosive magma, creating some of the most explosive volcanoes on earth.

Japan currently has several volcanoes either erupting or on high alert, or which have recently erupted. Sakura-jima (Aira), Nishinoshima (which started as an offshore eruption which later grew into a separate island, only to engulf its 'parent' and create a much larger land body), Ontake, and more have all erupted within the past year. Sakura-jima, Japan's most active in recent times, has frequent large explosions.

It is not known yet how long this current eruption will last, but it sounds like from the reports that it was a single explosion, and activity is not currently happening. This can change at any moment, so it is likely that the volcano will be heavily monitored in the next month or so.

I will update this post if anything further happens.

Panic Caused Over Supposed Imminent Earthquake In CA By Blogger Dutchsinse

One of the very reasons I began my blog was to bring you no-nonsense news on geological and volcanic events, sourced with good references and links, and an attention to detail. The catalyst for this was a conversation over email I had with a blogger I do admire, Jon Frimann who writes the Iceland Geology Blog which frequently is the prime source for volcano and earthquake news in Iceland. I wanted to help him out with editing and English, however this offer was declined.

I had become fascinated with volcanoes at an early age, and frequented his blog, especially during the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. At first, this interaction puzzled me... "Why wouldn't a blogger like to hire an editor for free? Wouldn't it lend more credibility to an English reading audience"? But perhaps my request to help out came off as a bit rude. I mean, the guy invests his own money and time deploying geophones/sensors all over Iceland to really monitor volcanoes. He speaks a few languages, and if I were him I'd be proud of that and take offense to my offer too. But I was just starting out.

So I say to myself, maybe I'll just start my own blog, and simply aggregate links to reliable sources, while injecting a bit of background based on my quick research. But keep speculation to a bare minimum, and always edit your reports when new info is available.

And then I ran into "Dutchsinse" (Google him if you will, I refuse to link to and/or promote his garbage). Dutchsinse is... who? Well, for one, he is a blogger who hides behind a monkier/screenname, posts outlandish articles claiming a volcano in LA, California blew up (it didn't), that a mssive volcanic eruption had occurred in Nevada (it didn't), that the whole West Coast of the US moved because of an eruption at the Axial Seamount volcano (it didn't), and now, people are unfortunately cross linking and spreading this garbage throughout the 'net. His blogs are so obviously hype and science fiction I cannot honestly believe anyone would take him seriously... but the Internet is a blessing and a curse... information is highly available, yet entirely suspect at times. And there are predators. 

People on social media such as Facebook or Twitter are especially vulnerable to this type of click-bait yellow journalism. We are living in an age (at least in the US) where people actually believe in the "end times", and people like Dutchsinse prey on this. What really made me want to have a volcanic eruption of my own was when I saw my beloved news stream "I F*cking Love Science" post a link to one of their articles, I was appalled to see that they had posted a video of the eruption of Wolf Volcano in the Galapagos that directly linked to Dutchsinse's Youtube account. 

I happen to have a great deal of love for IFLS. They typically do great reporting, but this time they made a serious boo-boo by actually giving credence to someone who is so absurdly wrong that it spurred a guy like me to start writing his very own volcano blog out of the goodness of his heart, and a desire not to see everyone duped and sent into panic by a charlatan and bad reporter. Dutchsinse's modus operandi is to link real-time earthquake data, and not just speculate, attempt to predict eruptions, and spread false info.

This is ALL to generate ad revenue through Google, and nothing more.

Now, I learned firsthand how gullible people are, when one April Fools Day, I posted an article that read "BREAKING: Yellowstone Moved to Highest Alert (Red) After Tremor, Wildlife Fleeing". It was meant as a HUGE joke (even at the end of the blog, I completely self-destruct and say April Fools), however it is one of the biggest revenue generator blog posts I've ever posted. Part of me is ashamed, and the other part is laughing all the way to the bank. Dutchsinse has no shame. He's in it for the money, and he really IS lauging all the way to the bank.

At the top bar of my blog, I list MANY credible sources, and other blogs that are tried and true. So don't fall for click bait. And please, for the love of all things science-y, do not reference Dutchsinse.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Galapagos Wolf Volcano Erupts For First Time In 33 Years

The volcanoes of Galapagos have been quiet for a while but that quiet has been ended by a spectacular eruption of Galapagos' Wolf Island Volcano. From images it appears a flank fissure has opened up outside the caldera, issuing fluid pahoeoe lava flows (much in the same style of Hawaiian volcanoes). According to, no wildlife, especially the famed pink iguanas, are threatened by the flowing lava.

Google Earth screenshot showing Wolf Volcano in the Galapagos.

Image taken from boat of Wolf volcano on May 25, 2015

Lava fountains issuing from the fissure are visible in most images. The Smithsonian GVP reports on Wolf volcano:

"According to IG the seismic station located on Fernandina Island recorded several events at Wolf (on Isabela Island) starting at 2350 on 24 May. The most significant signal occurred at 0058 on 25 May, corresponding to an explosion and the start of an eruption. At 0215 the Washington VAAC detected an ash plume that rose to an altitude of 10.7 km (35,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 65 km SW. At 0345 one ash plume drifted 250 km ENE at an altitude of 15.2 km (50,000 ft) a.s.l., and another drifted 250 km S at an altitude of 13.7 km (45,000 ft) a.s.l. Starting at 0428 the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) reported intense thermal anomalies on Wolf's SE flank based on MODIS satellite data. Galapagos National Park staff reported an arcuate fissure along the upper SSE rim and several lava flows descending the flanks. Later that day the VAAC noted a smaller ash emission that drifted 150 km SW, and a bright thermal anomaly that had persisted. Satellites detecting sulfur dioxide showed that the cloud was sulfur-dioxide rich and ash poor; ~100-200 kt of sulfur dioxide had been emitted during the first 13 hours of the eruption."

They further characterize it here:

"Wolf, the highest volcano of the Galápagos Islands, straddles the equator at the north end of the archipelago's largest island, Isabela. The 1710-m-high edifice has steeper slopes than most other Isabela volcanoes, reaching angles up to 35 degrees. A 6 x 7 km caldera, at 700 m one of the deepest of the Galápagos Islands, is located at the summit. A prominent bench on the west side of the caldera rises 450 above the caldera floor, much of which is covered by a lava flow erupted in 1982. Radial fissures concentrated along diffuse rift zones extend down the north, NW, and SE flanks, and submarine vents lie beyond the north and NW fissures. Similar unvegetated flows originating from a circumferential chain of spatter and scoria cones on the eastern caldera rim drape the forested flanks to the sea. The proportion of aa lava flows at Volcán Wolf exceeds that of other Galápagos volcanoes. An eruption in in 1797 was the first documented historical eruption in the Galápagos Islands."

It is likely the eruption will continue for some time. If anything major changes, I will update this post. Until then, enjoy the various photos that are sure to emerge! The eruption is a beautiful example of a Galapagos volcanic episode!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nice Quake Swarm At Salton Buttes Volcano

Well it looks like a little bit of action is happening just East of my hometown of San Diego, as a vigorous quake swarm is occurring at the Salton Buttes volcanic field at California's Salton Sea. The largest quake is a magnitude 4.1 quake, with two others registering 3.3. The shallow depth of about 3.5km suggests this is probably tectonic, but it is too early to know, and USGS does not issue frequent updates on CALVO's website.

Google Earth snapshot with USGS Real-Time Quake overlay.

The quakes in general range from about 6km depth to 3km depth. While it is unlikely that this is a magma intrusion, due to the location of the faults, its not impossible. The area is highly geothermal, and much of the areas electricity is generated from geothermal energy plants. Boiling mud volcanoes also exist and have been active for some time.

Image of Salton Sea Mud Volcanoes (date and photographer unknown)

According to the Smithsonian GVP, "A recent partial survey conducted by David K. Lynch and Paul M. Adams of Red Island, previously known as Red Hill, in Southern California, USA, has resulted in the discovery of five steaming hot vents on the SW flank of the northern Salton Buttes volcanic field...
...Until recent work by Lynch and others (2011) and Schmidt and others (2013), the Salton Buttes were thought to have been formed by extruded magma during the late Pleistocene, ~16,000 BP. Age dates for some lavas are now dated to closer to 2,000 BP, much younger than originally understood, bringing closer scrutiny of the Buttes by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) California Volcano Observatory and other agencies concerned with geological threats in California (Lynch and Adams, unpublished draft).."

This is important to note, the Salton Buttes are much younger than previously thought, and indeed, are quite young for a California volcanic system. So quake swarms such as this warrant a bit of vigilance.

No eruption is imminent, and the area is well monitored. But this is certainly an exciting little swarm, and it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Second Massive Quake Strikes Nepal

Only a little over a week since the mega-quake in Nepal, a second 7.4 quake has now struck the beleaguered region. After a confirmed death toll of over 8,000 people, misery has been piled on top of misery as another massive quake struck the region just moments ago. This is likely to doom those who were awaiting miraculous rescue, and exacerbate the situation in the already traumatized and crumbled nation.

This quake is another large quake for the subduction zone where the Indian plate collides with the Asian plate. The fault will likely distribute this energy to other parts of the subduction zone, resulting in yet more large quakes and aftershocks.

Google Earth screenshot with USGS Real-time quake overlay.

This fault zone does not lie on the so-called "Ring of Fire" which is responsible for the majority of Earth's seismicity. Rather, this fault is the result of the slow but steady collision of the Indian continent with the Asian continent. Unlike the Ring of Fire, this is the highest fault line on the planet, and therefore capable of some very large quakes.

The last quake caused nearly 30 aftershocks, some over mag 6.0. It is likely the region will experience heavy seismic turbulence and uncertainty in the coming weeks, with the potential for equal or larger quakes.

Anyone who lives near this area should be advised to evacuate, or at the least be ready for more disasters, if they have not been affected already.

If you would like to donate to relief efforts, there are multiple agencies and campaigns. This country will likely need a lot of help in terms of food, clothing, shelter and medical supplies.

Again, it is likely that severe quake activity in this region will continue for some time.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Long Series Of Quakes At Mono Lake

Mono Lakes Eastern shore has been shaking lately. A lot. This has been going on for around a week now, as I have kept my eyes on it. Nobody is writing anything particularly useful about the goings-on there, so I thought it would be good to mention it.

Screenshot of Mono Lake quake swarm from Google Earth with USGS Real-time quake overlay.
The Eastern shore of Mono Lake is experiencing a couple of small shallow quake swarms, although some quakes have reached magnitude three or higher. This is likely hydrothermal or tectonic in nature, and not volcanic. The area does have cold springs, and an active magma chamber below, so it is likely that this is what is referred to as a spasmodic swarm. Plainly, the shifting of fluids within the upper crust due to hydrothermal changes.

What this means isn't certain for Mono Lake, which had it's last spate of activity some 100-200 years ago, when a rhyolitic cryptodome uplifted lake sediments to form the large central island. So the volcano absolutely does have a fairly recent history of activity. Tufa towers from hot and cold springs line the lake, attesting to its continued heat below.

Quake swarms like this are very common in the area however, as it is also a very tectonically active zone with many criss-crossing faults. It is as likely a scenario as a spasmodic swarm, and this could simply be crustal adjustments due to fault stress.

In any case the swarm is interesting and of note, so I'm keeping my eye on it. It's probable that nothing will happen at Mono Lake as a result of this and life will go on. But you never know with volcanoes, and this is a fairly large one. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Kilauea Lava Lake Overflows

The lava lake at Kilauea's Hale'ma'uma'u crater/caldera has overflowed, for the first time since it's 2008 debut. This follows a rockfall event on the lake rim, which resulted in some minor explosive activity.

Seismicity at Kilauea has been high of late, which may indicate a fresh injection of magma into the chamber. Kilauea's neighbor, Mauna Loa, is also undergoing a period of inflation and higher than normal seimicity.

It is likely that the mantle plume which feeds the Hawaiian volcanic chain is undergoing a period of higher pressure or activity. The plume is responsible for all of the islands that exist in the chain, as are most 'hotspot' type volcanic systems.

The activity so far has not been threatening or dangerous to any population. The lava lake is situated within a much larger caldera, which sits inside an even larger caldera. There is no possibility from the lava in the lake to escape the caldera rim at the current time.

The activity has drawn far more visitors than normal for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Inevitably, someone has attempted to fly a drone over the lava lake. This resulted in a scuffle with park rangers, and the eventual use of a taser.

It should be mentioned, that in any US National Park, flying personal drones is illegal. This is due to damage that can be caused to park features, as occurred recently in Yellowstone, where a hobbyist flew, and crashed his drone into the Grand Prismatic Pool, one of Yellowstone's star features. This drone cannot be retrieved due to the temperatures of the pool. The chemical properties of the drone can alter the chemistry of the lake, damage the bacterial mats that give color to the pool, thus altering the appearance.

National Parks worldwide are under similar threats, even if sometimes they are a bit silly. Sometimes, they're downright despicable.

It is important when visiting any US National Park to know the rules, maintain safety, and avoid damaging any feature of a park. The PopSci article above doesn't actually seem to touch on the fact that there has been a rash of defacing national parks, and careless drone usage.

I came across that article on Facebook, which was accompanied by the quote "What was the drone going to do? Hurt the lava?"

Well, no. However... there exists plenty of video that shows what happens when foreign objects (not rocks or lava) are tossed into lava lakes, like Kilauea's. I have no clue how large this drone was, but I know a fair amount about electronics, as I am a computer engineer by trade. Silicon, heavy/rare earth metals, polycarbonates (plastics), carbon and more are present in any electronic system. The linked video shows a bag of mere garbage being tossed into a lava lake. The result is an explosive reaction, occasionally violent.

Now, imagine there were people around the area where the drone was being flown. Currently, the HVO has closed off the observation area of the lake, the reasoning for which was demonstrated by the rockfall into the lake and subsequent minor explosion. Lava is a mix of dissolved gases, molten rock, and more. Adding chemicals, such as those included in drones, to lava lakes upsets that chemistry, in many cases explosively. This could cause injury or death if done carelessly... which is what I expect was the reasoning behind tasering the hobbyist.

Regardless of the opinion of myself or others, our National Parks are under constant threat of careless tourists. If you choose to visit a US volcanic national park, please take care not to provoke the law, and respect the environment which has been preserved for you, and others to enjoy. It is unacceptable to take ignorant actions, or resort to flat out vandalism when you visit these places. Tasering a hobbyist may seem extreme, but keep in mind, one careless hobbyist can wreck a national treasure or UNESCO World Heritage Site with little to no effort, ruining the experience for millions, if not billions, of people.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chile's Calbuco Volcano Erupts, Forcing Evacuations

A long-dormant stratovolcano in Southern Chile, Calbuco Volcano erupted yesterday and last night with a small eruption at first, followed by a massive explosion. Several thousand people were forced to evacuate nearby towns as pyroclastic flows, ash fall and created hazardous conditions for those living near the volcano.

The volcano last erupted some 40 years ago, with several eruptions smaller than the current one. According To the Smithsonian GVP, the largest historical eruptions of the volcano occurred from 1893 to 1894, and subsequent eruptions merely added to the growing complex lava dome at the summit . It is likely that during this explosive eruption, much of the lava dome was probably destroyed , but it is too early to know if that is certain. Judging by the amount of pyroclasts, and ash, it seems that this is the likeliest scenario.

The military has-been called in to evacuate the area around the volcano, and to help preserve order.

The eruption has caused jams at nearby airports as people flood in to evacuate, which is exacerbated by the ash fall which can prevent aircraft from taking off. When volcanic ash enters most jet engines, it gets super-heated and can stick to the engine housings, causing the engine to stall. In some cases it has caused plans to crash, while in others the aircraft was reliable to recover.

It is unknown how much advanced warning this volcano gave. Chaiten's famous eruption in 2008 had given very little warning when it erupted, destroying it's rhyolite dome, and the nearby town of the same name. Chile's volcanoes are occasionally monitored, but since there are so many potentially active volcanoes, monitoring them all is a bit problematic so far. Many of them are extremely tall, and inhospitable to humans, so that task is daunting. 

I will update this blog post as the story develops.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mauna Loa Quake Activity Increases

During the past couple weeks, Mauna Loa, Hawaii's largest and historically most active volcano, has been exhibiting more quake activity at its summit, and SW rift zone. HVO is monitoring the situation. Inflation restarted in the volcano in 2010, and a slow but gradual inflation is taking place. This is a bit unusual, as Kilauea is still pumping plenty of lava out and consistently creating new land. Typically, Mauna Loa only inflates when Kilauea is not active. It would be highly unusual, however not unprecedented, for both volcanoes to be erupting at the same time.

Many shallow quakes exceeding magnitude 2.0-3.5 have occurred near the summit. Fumerole temperatures remain slightly elevated.

The latest report from HVO states:

"MAUNA LOA VOLCANO (VNUM #332020) 19°28'30" N 155°36'29" W, Summit Elevation 13681 ft (4170 m) Current Volcano Alert Level: NORMAL Current Aviation Color Code: GREEN

Monitoring data through the month of March 2015:

Seismicity: Seismicity at Mauna Loa remains elevated in several parts of the volcano. Earthquake rates on the Upper Southwest Rift Zone (Sulfur Cone) and Mokuʻāweoweo Crater remain elevated, with over 100 earthquakes occurring in March. Though there were no swarms on the west flank of Mauna Loa, earthquake rates remained above background with approximately 25 earthquakes occurring in March. All earthquakes in the past month have been small relative to earthquake sequences observed before eruptions in 1975 and 1984.

Deformation: The pattern of motion of continuously recording GPS stations in March indicate that inflation continues. Average velocities since the start of the current inflationary period in mid-2014 are not quite as fast, but very similar to those observed in 2005 which, along with a short period in 2002, had been the time of highest observed velocities since GPS monitoring started in the mid-1990's.

Background: Re-inflation of Mauna Loa's shallow magma storage reservoirs started immediately following the most recent eruption in 1984, then turned to deflation for almost a decade. In mid-2002, inflation started again, just after a brief swarm of deep long-period (LP) earthquakes. A more intense swarm of several thousand deep Long Period (LP) earthquakes occurred in late 2004, immediately preceding a dramatic increase in inflation rate. Inflation slowed again in 2006, ceased altogether in late 2009, and resumed slowly in late 2010."

It is unclear how April's upcoming report will look, however there have been much larger quakes at the summit compared to March. They are still below the magnitudes preceding the earthquakes in the above report.

It is likely Mauna Loa is entering into a heightened phase of activity, but it is impossible to know when it will erupt, however HVO will certainly have more advanced notice since it's last time, as monitoring techniques and technology are by far more advanced than they were in the 1970's and 80's.

For now, I am keeping my eye on this volcano.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Iceland's Bardarbunga Volcano Eruption Pauses

The long-running eruption of Iceland's Bárðarbunga volcano has paused, or ceased. Webcam footage no longer is showing any lava coming out of the eruptive fissure, and scientists visited the site to assess the landscape, only to find a degassing crater.

The stoppage of the eruption at Holhuraun fissure is likely not the end of the activity. As this is a rifting episode, it is likely that magma chamber re-inflation will eventually occur. Seismicity is ongoing, although a lot lower than it has been in recent months.

There is still plenty of quake activity along the eruptive fissure, and below the Vatnajöull glacier, and in the Bárðarbunga caldera.

The area will probably remain unsafe for some time due to degassing, residual heat and cooling lava, and brittle, sharp surfaces.

It is anyone's guess as to when or if activity will resume. If it does, you'll definitely read about it here!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Oklahoma Kept Silent About Fracking To Protect Industry

While it has long been known that 'fracking' byproducts and waste water well injections can and do cause earthquakes, it seems that in Oklahoma, that fact was suppressed to protect the oil industry. According to an article on Rawstory, University of Oklahoma President David Boren pressured subordinates to either downplay or remain silent on the issue after being pressured by oil executives.

Waste water well injections pump millions of gallons of chemical-laden liquid into 'waste water wells' which are simply very deep drill holes in the ground. These holes can go through many types of rocks, and old 'locked' fault lines, and once the chemical soup is down there, it can lubricate fault lines, weaken limestone and bedrock, and of course, pollute water tables and aquifers.

Fracking has increasingly become a more common practice in the oil and gas industry. Hydro-fracturing injects gas an water into shale tables in order to release trapped natural gases, which are harvested above ground. There are many reserves of this gas-shale across the US, which has led to a brief energy boom in the industry, which has seen very little regulation or restraint placed on these practices.

Unfortunately, it seems that good science has been suppressed in this case in the name of energy profits, and this has put lives and property at risk.

Where previously, there were little to no earthquakes in Oklahoma, their daily total of quakes now exceed that of my home state of California, both in number and magnitude. While California regularly experiences small quakes ranging from <1.0 to greater than 3.5 daily, Oklahoma's average quake magnitudes are exceeding magnitude 3.5 and in one case, a damaging 5.7 earthquake occurred along a now reactivated fault line.

This is part of a disturbing trend in the US, where 'scientists' can be paid to suppress research findings in the name of corporate profit, and part of a concerted effort by energy companies to publicly erode public trust in science itself. And the strategy is working.

In the US, public trust of science is on a sharp decline, in no small part because of powerful energy lobbyists, and oil barons the Koch brothers. David and Charles Koch own and operate Koch Industries, who re involved in everything from energy to agriculture. It has long been known that they heavily lobby and campaign for neo-conservtive politicians, and fund anti-science campaigns designed to 'discredit' unfolding disasters such as global warming, and environmental damage caused by energy extraction an exploration, in order to deregulate the oil industry and maximize profits.

It is an unfortunate state of affairs for good science, and a black mark on the human race. It is entirely outrageous that average people buy into the whole 'clean coal' myth, along with climate change denial because of tactics like this. Stuff like this gives me a conniption.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chile's Villarica Volcano Erupts

Villarica Volcano in Chile has erupted for the first time in around 15 years, forcing evacuations. The volcano had been showing small signs of activity since early February, but this explosion was enough to force people to flee due to its intense but brief eruption.

The volcano was briefly raised to 'Red alert', but has since been lowered to 'Yellow' as activity has waned.

No injuries or property damage was reported, although ash fall was likely a nuisance to nearby residents.

According to the USGS/Smithsonian GVP:

"OVDAS-SERNAGEOMIN reported that activity significantly increased at Villarrica during 1-16 February, characterized by increased seismicity, crater incandescence, and explosions. On 6 February seismicity increased significantly, explosions occurred in the crater, and ash emissions rose above the crater rim. The Alert Level was raised to Yellow (the second lowest level on a four-color scale). DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometry) data showed an average monthly sulfur dioxide emission value of 222 tons per day; a high value during this period of 450 tons per day was recorded on 11 February. The highest number of explosions, five per minute, during the period occurred on 16 February. Explosions ejected incandescent material out of the crater as far as 1 km onto the S flank. During an overflight on 16 February, supported by ONEMI, volcanologists observed the lava lake and recorded temperatures near 800 degrees Celsius, tephra in and around the active crater, and a diffuse layer of ash on the flanks."

The GVP describes the volcano here:

"Glacier-clad Villarrica, one of Chile's most active volcanoes, rises above the lake and town of the same name. It is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes that trend perpendicular to the Andean chain. A 6-km wide caldera formed during the late Pleistocene. A 2-km-wide caldera that formed about 3500 years ago is located at the base of the presently active, dominantly basaltic to basaltic-andesitic cone at the NW margin of the Pleistocene caldera. More than 30 scoria cones and fissure vents dot Villarrica's flanks. Plinian eruptions and pyroclastic flows that have extended up to 20 km from the volcano have been produced during the Holocene. Lava flows up to 18 km long have issued from summit and flank vents. Historical eruptions, documented since 1558, have consisted largely of mild-to-moderate explosive activity with occasional lava effusion. Glaciers cover 40 sq km of the volcano, and lahars have damaged towns on its flanks."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Erupts

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, one of many submarine calderas NE of New Zealand in an island arc, has begun causing some problems for flights in the area. What started as a minor steam and ash eruption has now turned into a semi-major eruption in the area. Steam and ash clouds are reaching extraordinary heights, and the ongoing eruption is rapidly building a new island.

Photo from

Residents have reported that the eruption plume was changing hourly from white steam, to black ash clouds, in what was probably the ebb and flow of the tides covering the vent and interacting with hot lava. The eruption has sustained itself for months now, with no signs of slowing, and has breached the surface in a Surtseyan eruption.

Other reports have come in about 'the sea turning blood red'. This is more than likely a red-algae bloom. Algae blooms are common when volcanic nutrients flood the ocean water. This recently occurred in Alaska, and Iceland.

Surtseyan eruptions start as under water eruptions, gradually breaching the surface, and creating an island. The term comes from the island of Surtsey in Iceland, which was created in an eruption during ht 1960's. This was the first such eruption of its kind clearly observed from start to finish. The Icelandic fire-god Surtr is the inspiration for the eruption type.

It is unknown if this island will remain as a permanent land body. Many volcanoes of this type create islands that are rapidly eroded by the sea in the years following the cessation of the eruption, however based on the pictures I've seen, the island looks every bit as solid as Surtsey, or Anak Krakatau. Anak Krakatau is probably a better comparison, as it was also a post-caldera cone, much like Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai is.