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.