Sinabung Update for 9/1/2010
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.
Now that I have dispensed with the pleasantries, we can get back to volcanoes!
The volcano that many of you have been following is still Sinabung in Indonesia. After a couple days of minor explosive activity over the weekend, the volcano appears to have simmered down some - at least according to reports from the Indonesian Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency. However, Suruno, the head of the Agency, will be keeping the evacuation order in place as they try to assess what the volcano's activity might be next. He described the recent activity as "[an] eruption of just volcanic ash and not lava flow, not much glowing material, it is not very dangerous for the life", which to me suggests that it was, indeed, a "throat-clearing" event that mostly erupted older volcanic material in the volcanic conduit or vent area. You can see some AP video of the eruption - along with a pretty scathing report on the lack of preparedness of the Indonesian Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency for this eruption. CBS News also posted some more images of the volcano erupting that make the glow at the flank vent crater pretty obvious (see below) - magma is near the surface.
Sinabung erupting on August 31, 2010.
Many of the over 21,000 evacuees, nevertheless, are returning to their homes near the volcano (but outside the 6-km exclusion zone) even though there is no assurance that Sinabung is done. Hopefully this will not become a pattern - small explosions that prompt evacuations followed by quiet - because if a larger eruption occurs, it could become more difficult to get an effective evacuation (nothing like a volcano that cries "wolf"). The Indonesia government will continue to operate shelters while the evacuation order stands - which could be for another one to two weeks, depending on what Sinabung decides to do.
You can see a great NASA Earth Observatory image of Sinabung before the eruption, including its location relative to the Toba caldera if you click on the image to see the larger version. In that large version, the Toba caldera is peeking out on the lower right hand corner of the shot (and an impressive fault trace on the left-hand side). It is remarkable to see how populated the area around Sinabung and Toba is right now.
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