Monday Musings: Merapi/Bulusan updates and finding Tarawera's lost treasures
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.
Wow, today sort of came out of the blue and walloped me with business, so I'm only now getting a chance to post a few updates. Good way to start off the week before Thanksgiving Break.
I know you've all been seeing news about the earthquake swarm off the coast of Djibouti and more about the supposed eruptions on the border region of Nigeria and Cameroon - I'll have more to say about this once I've had a chance to digest that strange news.
Merapi, Indonesia: Activity at the volcano has quieted significantly, and the government has now reduced the "danger zone" around Merapi to 10 km (from 20 km). Sulfur dioxide emissions have also dropped over the last few days. All of this unfortunately means that many people think it is safe to return to their homes. This is definitely not the case because as we've seen with volcanoes like Redoubt in Alaska, the volcano can go through numerous cycles of vigorous activity and quiet over the span of weeks to months. Returning, at this point, to homes in the danger zone where pyroclastic flows, ash fall (see below) and lahars might reach is not advisable, but sometimes if the alternative is living in evacuation centers for long periods, the perception is that the risk of another eruption is less than the reward of returning home. NPR had a nice article (with a great picture gallery and audio) on how this disaster is unlike "point disasters" like an earthquake where usually a single seismic event causes most of the destruction - rather here, continued eruptions can cause problems for long periods. The deathtoll for the eruption has now reached at least 250 people.
Indonesians trying to clear ash from the 2010 eruption of Merapi.
Tarawera, New Zealand: At a place near and dear to me, research is ongoing to find the fabled pink and white terraces that once graced the landscape near Mt. Tarawera in the North Island of New Zealand. These terraces were formed from silica precipitating from mineral-rich waters fed by the hydrothermal systems of the Okataina Caldera Complex, but these terraces were destroyed during the 1886 basaltic eruption of Tarawera. A small remote-controlled submersible will be exploring Lake Rotomahana for traces of the terraces that were blasted by explosions along a chain of crater leading up to Tarawera and then buried by basaltic tephra from the eruption. These terraces were an important tourist destination near Tarawera before the 1886 eruption, but now its the remnants of that eruption in the form of the Waimangu Geothermal Valley that brings in the tourists.
Bulusan, Philippines: Finally, a quick update on Bulusan, where activity has also quieted since rumbling started a few weeks ago. PHIVOLCS officials had to remind people that activity at Bulusan is not likely to trigger more eruptions at other volcanoes as the fear-mongering was running at full steam. This, of course, doesn't mean that Bulusan and Mayon might not erupt at the same time, but their respective activity is not linked. Explosions continue to occur on the volcano, but there are still no signs that the activity is more than phreatic (steam-driven) explosions and lahars continue to be a threat to the area near the volcano.
Top left: Mt. Tarawera in New Zealand, as seen in January 2010. Image by Erik Klemetti.
SpaceX plans to launch about 12,000 internet-providing satellites into orbit over the next six years.
- SpaceX plans to launch 1,600 satellites over the next few years, and to complete its full network over the next six.
- Blanketing the globe with wireless internet-providing satellites could have big implications for financial institutions and people in rural areas.
- Some are concerned about the proliferation of space debris in Earth's orbit.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
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.
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