Merapi Update for 10/30/2010: Ash reaches Yogjakarta

I'm off to GSA 2010 in Denver in a little bit, but I'll bring you a brief update of the eruption overnight at Merapi. As you might have read in the updates/comments from yesterday, Merapi experienced a large explosion during the night on Friday. This new eruptions appears to be bigger than the explosion on Tuesday that killed 38 people (so far) and it caused the people living near the volcano who have not evacuated to panic and flee - in fact, the Indonesian government called in 2,000 military troops to clear the area around Merapi. James Reynolds is on the ground near Merapi documenting the eruption and he told me:

It's been an intense 36 hours to say the least. The eruption last night was just mind blowing - like watching a space shuttle taking off in the back garden with the roar noise, lightning and shear scale of the column ... I'm in an ash coated Yogjakarta now and will probably spend my last day at Merapi tomorrow before heading home on Monday.

I think that would frighten anyone who isn't a seasoned eruption chaser like James (you can follow all this updates on his twitter feed). The plume from the latest looks like it was quite impressive (see top left image courtesy of James - click to see a larger version) and be sure to check out the video of last night's eruption.

Ash from this latest eruption, as James mentioned, has made it all the way to Yogjakarta (40 km away), reducing visible in the city to only about 50 meters. Ash was also reported as far as 65 km away in Klanten (Central Java). Supplies of masks to protect from breathing in the air are in short supply as well. However, there is no intention right now to evacuate anyone in Yogjakarta, whose population is over 400,000.

Thick ashfall in the areas near Merapi, Indonesia.

Now, this behavior at Merapi is actually not out-of-character for the volcano. As lava domes form, they can be destroyed by gravitational collapse or by an explosion underneath the dome caused by new magma intruded. Both events can produce large ash plumes and pyroclastic flows. This activity can be punctuated by lava flows at the summit as vent is clearedby each dome-destroying event. You can see images of past domes on Merapi in this image gallery {h/t to Boris Behncke}.

Continue to post updates here. I'll add if I run into more info before I'm sitting on my flight to Denver.

UPDATE: Here are some maps of the sulfur dioxide plumes from the Merapi eruption over Indonesia - today (10/30) and yesterday (10/29). If you compare the two, you can clearly see the large plume coming from the volcano on 10/30. {h/t to Eruptions reader Monika}

Top left: The eruption plume from Merapi in Indonesia on the night of October 29, 2010. Image courtesy of James Reynolds. Click here to see the original.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less