2009 Saudi earthquakes linked to magmatic intrusion

On this rainy Monday morning ... Let's hop in the Wayback Machine and head to the year 2009. Back in May of that year, we spent a lot of time worrying about a lot of shaking going on in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The earthquakes were centered under a known volcanic field called Harrat Lunayyir and based on the behavior of the seismicity, reports from on the cracks in the ground, sulfur odors and "whooshing noises" and the location of the activity - in an area with an eruption as recently as ~1000 AD, many of us thought another eruption of the field was coming. Well, nothing came - the seismicity died away and no eruption came.

As it turns out, a new study by John Pallister (USGS) and others in Nature Geosciences supports the idea that the activity at Harrat Lunayyir was an eruption that couldn't quite make it to the surface. Based on seismic data and deformation data from satellites, they determined that magma rose as close as 2 km from the surface - but rather than erupting, it stalled in the crust forming a sill of likely basaltic lava. The activity did produce a 8-km long fissure through the region, which might have been the vent if the magma made it to the surface, but it didn't and we are left with this "near miss" (or as Ralph from the Volcanism Blog puts it, "successful intrusion"). Events like this are likely occurring much more often than we have previously realized, but only with constant surveillance allowed by networks of seismometers and satellites are we beginning to notice - similar to the "bulge" on South Sister in Oregon noticed in 2002.

What this study does emphasize is the real volcanic threat that exists in Saudi Arabia. The Harrat Lunayyir volcanic field is only one of a number of recent (geologically) volcanic features in Saudi Arabia. Most of this volcanism is likely related to the rifting in the Red Sea - and thus mostly takes the form of basaltic lava flows and scoria cones - so the overall hazard to life is relatively low. However, this recent seismicity at Harrat Lunayyir shows that we should expect an eruption at some point in the foreseeable future on the Arabian Peninsula.

Top Left: A NASA Image of the Harrat Lunayyir volcanic field in Saudi Arabia. Click on the image to see a larger version.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

26 ultra-rich people own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest

The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."

Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Keep reading Show less

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer

Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

Keep reading Show less
  • Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
  • Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
  • But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
Keep reading Show less