Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Eruptions Word(s) of the Day: Harmonic Tremor and Tornillos
Eruptions Word of the Day: Harmonic Tremor and Tornillos.
There are few methods that get as much attention in the world of volcanic monitoring than measuring the release of seismic energy. Not only does seismicity inform us on the depth and location of magma movement, but it can also give vital clues to how close a volcano is to eruption. Earthquakes might begin to occur in swarms – hundreds to thousands of separate earthquake events that record magma on the move at depth. These earthquakes might change in depth over months, weeks, days or less as the magma rises underneath a potentially active volcano. However, seismic signals can also be very difficult to interpret because many times the seismic information does not have single source – that is there are potentially multiple events that can produce seismic events recorded under volcanoes.
Now, you could fill a volume with the ins-and-outs of using seismicity to monitor volcanic activity – but for these purposes, I’m going to focus on two types of volcanic seismicity: harmonic tremor and tornillos.
When magma or fluids move through the crust, they can produce a seismic signal – harmonic tremor. Unlike normal seismicity related to fault movement that creates punctuated seismicity – a singular event that diminishes with time (and can then have aftershocks), the movement of magma or fluids can produce a constant, long-period tremor (see below). This tremor is also not like most tectonic seismicity in the sense that it is usually only measurable by seismic instruments – so you can’t feel the tremor other than in very rare occurrence near (within 5 km) the volcano. Harmonic tremors were first recognized as a precursor of volcanic activity after the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia.
Seismic trace of a harmonic tremor.
Harmonic tremors are the type of seismicity that most people associate with an impending or ongoing volcanic eruption – that is, magma movement generates the seismicity. The tremor might precede an eruption by days or hours or they might not lead to an eruption at all. This is one of the challenges of trying to interpret harmonic tremor under a volcano – magma movement does not necessarily mean that said magma is going to erupt. The other complication is that harmonic tremor can be generated by water/fluid flow rather than magma – this was demonstrated at Old Faithful at Yellowstone and even in ice movement. The presence of harmonic tremor does not necessitate an eruption – rather, it shows that magma or water/fluid is moving in the crust, generating this constant seismic rumble. So, all the concern at a volcano/caldera whenever any harmonic tremor is detected is definitely jumping the gun to say the least.
Another key type of pre-eruption seismicity is called a tornillo. These were first recognized at Redoubt and Nevado del Ruiz and utilized in eruptions at Galeras in Colombia. These seismic events are shaped like a screw (see below) – thus the named “tornillo”, Spanish for “screw” – with a sharp initial tremor and a long (possibly minutes long) tapering of the signal away from the initial event. They likely represent the shattering of rock due to increased fluid pressure as magma moves through the crust. The magma has a finite volume, so the crust needs to accommodate this injection. It can do so by melting the crust (usually insignificant in small volumes of magma) or by fracturing the crust to make the space. One interesting finding at Galeras regarding tornillos is that there is positive correlation between the total number of pre-eruptive tornillos during an episode and the volume of material ejected by the eruption – this might suggest that there is a relationship between the volume of magma intruded into the volcanic edifice and the amount of tornillos. These tornillos, like harmonic tremor, are a potential sign that a volcano may be heading towards an eruption – and it can be clearly seen in webicorders such as before the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 2004. However, much like harmonic tremor, the presence of tornillos does not necessarily mean an eruption is around the corner.
Bottom panel: a tornillo event, suggesting magma movement underneath a volcano.
Both of these seismic signals – tornillos and harmonic tremor – can be very useful when monitoring a volcano for potential activity. However, like any volcano monitoring technique, they should never be used alone to predict activity at a volcano. A volcano might be having some amount of harmonic tremor or inflation or increased gas emissions or some other signal of potential activity, but without independent correlation through multiple methods should you ever want to say that an eruption is “likely” to happen. Sure, an eruption could occur after the occurrence of one or any of these events but the relationship is never as easy as a harmonic tremor occurring and an eruption following lockstep. That is part of the challenge of volcanic monitoring – there is no easy recipe for predicting when a volcanic might erupt. However, the general public perceives volcanic monitoring in a way similar to weather forecasting, so when the volcano doesn’t erupt, important credibility for volcanologists and/or the government is lost in the eyes of the public. Beyond any volcano monitoring method, it is credibility and preparedness that plays the biggest role in protecting people from volcanic hazards.
Top left: The crater of Galeras in Colombia in an undated INGEOMINAS picture.
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.