Volcano Update: Grímsvötn done, Taal rumbling, new explosions at the Dieng Plateau and much 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.
A long weekend right about now does wonders for getting a little focus back, especially after such a busy week with the eruption of Grímsvötn. I even got a weekend relatively free of volcanism! Ah, but the work week has begun so let's start with some news from around the world.
Iceland: When the Grímsvötn eruption began a little over a week ago, there was much concern about the longterm travel implications of the ash from another Icelandic eruption. However, as of today, the eruption of Grímsvötn has been declared "over" by the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) after only 9 days (relatively short for eruptions from Grímsvötn). The Grímsvötnpast few days have seen very little activity at the Grímsvötn vent, with only steam from the crater area. So, just like that, Grímsvötn moves out the headlines, with less impact than we might have expected. However, there has been some suggestion that we might be entering a period of higher activity at Grímsvötn that might produce a number of these styles of brief, explosive eruptions over the next decade (or more), but we will have to wait and see if this prediction comes to pass.
Philippines: Halfway around the world, concern is growing for a potential eruption at the Taal caldera. PHIVOLCS reported at least 115 measurable earthquakes at the volcano on Sunday (May 29), suggesting abundant magma movement under Taal. However, on Monday the earthquake count dropped to 31. So far, none of this seismicity or changes in the temperature/acidity of the lake waters on Volcano Island have lead to any sort of eruption, but all these signs mean the chance is there for some sort of volcanic activity. PHIVOLCS has yet to change the Alert Status from Level 2 as there is no evidence of an eruption happening soon - at the scale of days - but Philippine volcanologist Jamie Sincioco said that the earthquake swarms in 1994 reached thousands of earthquakes per day, bu did not lead to an eruption. Adding to the tension at Taal are the fish kills that have occurred over the last week - upwards of 750 tonnes (see below), requiring a backhoe to remove the dead fish, all of which have been attributed to non-volcanic origins.
Dead fish on Lake Taal in the Philippines.
Indonesia: I missed posting last week's GVP update, so I thought I'd throw it in here before this week's report comes out. Lots of the usual suspects in the report, but one new volcanic system to make the report was Indonesia's Dieng Volcanic Complex. The Dieng Plateau (see below) is a group of stratovolcanoes, older calderas and smaller volcanic cones, mostly producing lava flows and the occasional phreatic explosions. However, it is a site of potential geothermal exploitation in Indonesia thanks to high heat flow. However, it is still an active volcanic complex that last had an eruption in 2009 and this week's report mentions an increase of carbon dioxide emissions and small white plumes (less than 25 meters). Yesterday, those CO2 emissions were accompanied by a small phreatic explosion at the Timbang Crater, leading Indonesian volcanologists to raise the Alert Status to Level 3, suggesting an eruption is imminent.
An undated image of part of the Dieng Volcanic Complex, Indonesia.
Hawai`i: After this March's Kamoamoa fissure eruption on Kilauea, there were a lot of questions about how quickly would the volcano return to the previous activity - namely, lava lakes at Pu`u O`o and Halema`uma`u. It now appears that Pu'u O'o crater has seen the reestablishment of a lava lake in the formerly drained crater - and the USGS released a time lapse video of the lava lake's growth over the past two months. The new lake has been described as an "above-ground swimming pool", betraying its perched nature. Overall, activity is rather low at Kilauea, with low seismicity, deflation at the summit and slowly increasing gas emissions, likely all products of the magmatic system reestabilishing itself after the Kamoamoa Fissure. Remember, HVO has set up multiple webcams pointing at Pu`u O`o,s o you can watch the development of the lava lake as the summer progresses (and I'll have more on Hawai`i later in the week.)
Russia: After the Grimsvotn events, flight diversions are on everyone's mind, so it isn't too surprising to find more coverage of the not-uncommon explosive activity in Kamchatka. Yesterday, Shiveluch produced ash plumes reaching as high as 9 km / ~30,000 feet, causing some diversions of international flights across the region, mostly those headed from North America and Europe to Japan and South Korea.
Top left: A thermal image of the lava lake at the Pu`u O`o Crater on Kilauea, seen April 18, 2011. Image courtesy of HVO/USGS.
New research links urban planning and political polarization.
- Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
- Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
- People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
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