Moderate ash plume at Mexico's Popocatépetl
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.
A lot of volcanoes produce 3-km ash plumes on the regular basis. Right now, there are probably two or three volcanoes in Kamchatka or Indonesia alone that are generating plumes of that size or larger - but those volcanoes are not looming over a population center like Mexico City. That is why every little noise Popocatépetl makes it watched carefully - and makes the news, especially in Latin America, as the Mexico City area has over 20 million people in its metropolitan region. Popo (for short) is about ~55 km from Mexico City and 45 km from Puebla (see map below). It has a history of frequent vulcanian eruptions in the VEI 1-3 range, and one in ~3,700 B.C. that was a VEI 5 eruption that produced pyroclastic flows, lahars and the growth of a new dome. Pyroclastic flows, ash and lahars are the primary hazards from Popocatépetl and it is one of many volcanoes that span the middle of Mexico, including Colima and Paricutin.
Location of Popocatepetl relative to population centers in central Mexico.
Popocatépetl is always somewhat restless, but today the volcano produced a 3-km ash plume (see top left or below) that was larger than has been observed at the volcano over the last few years. You can watch a brief news report (in spanish) showing some video of the fairly impressive eruption that rapidly waned throughout the day (video). The eruption has prompted Mexican officials to warn people to stay at least 7 km from the summit of the volcano and although National Center for the Prevention of Disasters (CENAPRED) say that the activity is normal, the area around the volcano remains on a "yellow" alert status. Some towns near the volcano reported ash fall and incandescent blocks were seen (spanish) being ejected from the summit crater.
The ash plume from Popocatépetl as seen on June 3, 2011.
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"
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- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
The climate change we're witnessing is more dramatic than we might think.
A lazy buzz phrase – 'Is this the new normal?' – has been doing the rounds as extreme climate events have been piling up over the past year. To which the riposte should be: it's worse than that – we're on the road to even more frequent, more extreme events than we saw this year.
Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.
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