Friday Flotsam: Merapi now a "national emergency" and new monitoring tools for Newberry Caldera
I write the Eruptions blog on Big Think. I've been mesmerized with volcanoes (and geology) all my life. It helps that part of my family comes from the shadow of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia, where I could see first hand the deadly effects of volcanic eruptions. Since then, I've taken a bit of a winding path to become a volcanologist. I started as a history major at Williams College, almost went into radio, but ended up migrating to geology, including an undergraduate thesis on Vinalhaven Island, Maine. I followed this up by changing coast to get my Ph.D. from Oregon State University. Then I ran a MC-ICP-MS lab at University of Washington for a spell (and wrote for an indie rock website). I spent three years as a postdoctoral scholar at University of California - Davis studying the inner workings of magmatic systems. I am now an assistant professor at Denison University and have projects in New Zealand, Chile and Oregon.
I am fascinated by volcanoes, their eruptions and how those eruptions interact with the people who live around the volcanoes. I started this blog after getting frustrated with the news reports of volcanic eruptions. Most of them get the information wrong and/or are just sensationalistic. I will try to summarize eruptions as they occur, translate some of the volcanic processes that are happening and comment on the reports themselves.
And no matter what people tell you, I definitely do not have a cat named Tephra. (OK, I do).
You can find out more about my research by visiting my website. If you have any comments, questions or information, feel free to contact me at eruptionsblog at gmail dot com.
Busy day for me here at the Department, so I just wanted to highlight some news, both from Merapi and beyond
Merapi: The NASA Earth Observatory posted some great IR thermal images of a pyroclastic flow from the volcano. The image taken on November 1 shows the domes at the summit area along with the trail of hot material left by a dome-collapse pyroclastic flow. This flow only travelled ~5-6 km from the volcano, unlike the flow yesterday that made it at least 12 km from the crater when the pyroclastic flow followed a river channel down the volcano's slopes. At least 60 people were killed. Currently, the death toll from this new eruptive period at Merapi is at least 122 people - and the footage of the evacuees is hard to watch, with many people covered in ash and injured with their homes destroyed by ash fall or pyroclastic flows.The president of Indonesia is now in Yogjakarta to monitor the relief effort, which has now been taken over by the national disaster mitigation agency and a national emergency was declared. And if you can imagine it, the current number of evacuees from the area is thought to have reached over 160,000. UPDATE: The NASA EO has now posted another image (that R Simmon kindly linked to in the comments as well) of the plume from Merapi punching through the cloud deck.
Newberry Volcano, Oregon: If we needed any reminder about the importance of preparedness and volcano monitoring, Merapi is it. So, it shouldn't be surprising that USGS geologists closely watch volcanoes that many people forget can still be a threat, such as Oregon's Newberry Caldera. Dr. Julie Donnelly-Nolan told reporters that "we have no reason to believe it’s finished" - that is, the volcano is still viable, even after 1,300 years since its last eruption. Eight new seismometers are being installed around the caldera next summer to help with monitoring volcanoes in the Central Oregon Cascades. That being said, there is no imminent threat of an eruption, but as with any potentially active volcano, it is better to be overprepared than under.
Top left: An aerial view of Newberry Caldera in Oregon, with the Big Obsidian Flow in the background.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.