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."