Thursday Throwdown: Neanderthals, the source of flood basalts and more
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.
Some news! Get it while it is hot!
Neanderthals and volcanoes: A recent study by Naomi Cleghorn and others that appeared in Current Anthropology lays the blame for the extinction of the Neanderthals on the Campanian Ignimbrite (amongst others). By examining ash layers in Russian caves that were frequented by Neanderthals, it appears that ~40,000 years ago a number of volcanic ashes accumulated, right before Neanderthals go extinct. The volcanic ash layer related to the Campanian Ignimbrite appears to lack much plant life (pollen, etc.), suggesting that much plant life in Europe was killed due to the eruption, thus likely leading to a decline in the large mammals that the Neanderthals hunted. The fact that the Neanderthal populations were concentrated in Europe - versus the dispersed human populations in Asia and Africa along with Europe—may have lead to their demise.
Deep source of the Siberian Traps: The flood basalts of Siberia–better known as the "Siberian Traps"—which erupted ~250 million years and may have prompted a major extinction on Earth may also have had a deeper source than previously believed. A study in Earth and Planetary Science Letters suggests that the source of the magmas for the flood basalts was close to the core-mantle boundary - rather than the upper mantle where most magmas that erupt are believed to be sourced. Dr. Smirnov and Dr. Tarduno also think that the source of the Siberian Traps may be the same as the North Atlantic Magmatic Province - another flood basalt that may be related to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. This suggests that there might be very long-lived mantle features—we're talking 250 million years or more - that could be the source of these flood basalts. (Just don't believe headlines like "Magma from the Earth's Core nearly destroyed all Life!")
New Global Volcanism Program Weekly Volcanic Activity Report: I think the title there says it all - but look for highlights such as earthquakes at Machin in Colombia, plumes from Dukono in Indonesia and explosions from Suwanose-Jima in Japan.
Volcano news from other blogs: There has been a lot of great volcano-related posts on other blogs as well - check out posts on Eyjafjallajökull and magma-ice interactions on the Volcanism Blog, how to distinguish different eruptions in andesitic volcanic deposits on Magma Cum Laude.