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  • richardmitnick 1:53 pm on February 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "These ice-covered Chilean volcanoes could erupt soon", , , Volcanoes   

    From EarthSky: “These ice-covered Chilean volcanoes could erupt soon” 


    From EarthSky

    February 28, 2019
    Arley Titzler

    Heightened volcanic activity in the Nevados de Chillán prompted Chilean authorities to issue an orange alert in anticipation of an eruption.

    Sernageomin. Robert Spurlock

    Stretching over 4,350 miles (7,000 km) across seven countries, the Andes are the world’s longest mountain range. They make up the southeastern portion of the Ring of Fire and are well-known for their abundant volcanoes.

    The Chilean Andes are home to 90 active volcanoes, all monitored by the Chilean National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin). The agency categorizes volcanic activity using four distinct alert levels: green (normal level of activity), yellow (increased level of activity), orange (probable development of an eruption in the short term), and red (eruption is ongoing or imminent). Increased volcanic activity is associated with frequent earthquakes; plumes of gas, rocks, or ash; and lava flows.

    Two areas monitored by Sernageomin are currently showing signs of increased activity: the Nevados de Chillán and Planchón-Peteroa volcanic complexes. The agency issued orange and yellow alert levels for them, respectively.

    A satellite image of the Nevados de Chillán volcano complex, showing the glacier-covered volcano peaks. Image via Sernageomin.

    Nevados de Chillán Volcanoes: Orange Alert

    The Nevados de Chillán volcano complex is composed of several glacier-covered volcanic peaks. When these volcanoes erupt, the glacial ice sitting atop them melts and mixes with lava, which can result in dangerous lahars, or mudflows. Several small earthquakes and the formation of new gas vents led Sernageomin to issue a yellow alert on December 31, 2015.

    On April 5, 2018, Sernageomin upgraded the Nevados de Chillán’s yellow alert to an orange alert, following thousands of tremors and a thick, white column of smoke rising from the area. This signaled the likelihood of an eruption in the near future.

    Nevados de Chillan volcano’s eruption on 14 July 2018. P.S. Miranda

    Sernageomin’s most recent volcanic activity report for Nevados de Chillán, issued on February 11, 2019, cited persistent seismic activity, which is directly related to increased frequency of explosions, along with the growth and/or destruction of the lava dome that lies in the crater. The expected eruption is most likely to have moderate to low explosive power, but sporadic observations over the last year have shown higher-than-average energy levels.

    On February 15, 2019, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Buenos Aires documented a volcanic-ash plume reaching 12,139 feet (3,700 meters) high at Nevados de Chillán, an example of the above mentioned “higher than average energy levels.”

    Jaime S. sincioco @jaimessincioco

    Bottom line: Recent increased volcanic activity in the Nevados de Chillán prompted Chilean authorities to issue an orange alert in anticipation of an eruption.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

  • richardmitnick 4:00 pm on February 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Volcanoes   

    From Stanford University: “Volcanoes, archaeology and the secrets of Roman concrete” 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University

    February 26, 2019
    Josie Garthwaite

    Geophysical processes have shaped Pozzuoli, Italy, like few other places in the world. Stanford students applied modern tools to understand those links and what it means to live with natural hazards as both threat and inspiration.

    Students gather atop Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy and listen as geophysicist Tiziana Vanorio discusses how volcanic activity has shaped the surrounding region. (Image credit: Kurt Hickman)

    High above Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, 13 students sit atop Stromboli Volcano as it erupts. Ash falls on their shoulders and ping-ping-pings their helmets. The ground beneath their feet trembles.

    The Island of Stromboli, Shot 2004 Sep 28 by Steven W. Dengler.

    “It’s one thing to read and talk about seismic and volcanic hazard; it’s another thing to experience it,” said geophysicist Tiziana Vanorio, an assistant professor in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). “I wanted to share this with them.”

    The journey to Stromboli had begun the day before in Vanorio’s hometown, Pozzuoli, a colorful port city founded by the Greeks and later occupied by the Romans, at the center of a volcanic caldera, or depression, known as Campi Flegrei. Vanorio, the 13 students and two teaching associates boarded a hydrofoil in Naples and sailed south across the deep blue water of the Tyrrhenian for nearly four quiet hours before catching sight of smoke, steam and gases puffing from Stromboli’s cone.

    During their two-week trip, students visited two volcanoes in Italy and local towns shaped by their proximity. (Image credit: Yvonne Tang)

    Reaching the top would prove more arduous – a five-hour climb up steep slopes of ash and rock. Sedimentologist Nora Nieminski, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford Earth and a guest instructor on the trip, sprinted ahead to shoot drone footage that she would later help the students manipulate to create 3D models of the volcano. But the rest of the group walked without hurry. Halfway to the top, they stopped to rest near a dark scar on the volcano’s northern flank known as the Sciara del Fuoco, where the volcano has collapsed on itself.

    Dionne Thomas, ’20, a student on the trip who is majoring in chemical engineering, remembers smelling dirt and ash, seeing the Tyrrhenian Sea reflecting the sky’s late-afternoon wash of orange and blue, and counting down the minutes between small bursts of lava from a caldera upslope. While she noticed the weight of exhaustion from the long climb, she said, “I felt really strong.”

    Thomas and the 12 other students on the trip visited Stromboli as part of a three-week seminar in southern Italy focused on volcanoes, archaeology and the science of Roman concrete – an exceptionally durable material that may hold insights for future materials that are more sustainable or even suitable for building habitats on Mars.

    Offered through Stanford’s Bing Overseas Studies Program, the seminar is an opportunity to draw visceral connections between science and history, and to gain a better understanding of Earth along the way.

    Nature’s laboratory

    The Neapolitan Province in southern Italy is an ideal place to dive into the science of natural hazards and how they have played into daily life and innovation over thousands of years. Densely populated and peppered with dozens of volcanoes, the region ranks as one of the most hazardous on Earth. The ruins of a Roman harbor and an emperor’s villa can be found offshore, sunken like Atlantis as a result of unrest in Earth’s crust. “Not many places on Earth experience this kind of seismicity and volcanism, while being an ancient town and functioning as a modern society,” Vanorio said. “That’s the beauty of the place.”

    Underlying the seminar’s excursions and daily lessons in geophysics, the properties of Roman concrete and 3D modeling from drone images was a larger exercise in finding connections between different fields of study. It’s no accident that students chosen to participate in the seminar represented a wide range of majors, including computer science, physics, classics, chemical engineering and political science.

    The ancient Italian city of Pozzuoli was shaped by volcanic activity. (Image credit: Kurt Hickman)

    “There are still scientific questions that we don’t know how to answer,” said Vanorio, who discovered natural processes deep in the subsurface of Campi Flegrei that mirror those in Roman concrete, and has used historical texts to shed light on strengths and the characteristics of both volcanic and engineered materials. “The more we leverage knowledge across different disciplines, the more we can address and solve those problems.”

    For Amara McCune, BS ’18, who joined a previous seminar in the region led by Vanorio in 2016, the intermingling of geophysics with dives into the region’s culture proved a powerful mix. “The unique combination of learning about Pompeii, volcanic uplift and Rome while being on-site, hearing from local guides and having archaeological and geological experts point out features of a location made for an incredibly rich learning experience,” she said.

    Materials inspired by nature
    Romans used concrete made with volcanic ash to build long-lasting structures like the amphitheater in Pozzuoli, Italy. (Image credit: Nora Nieminski)

    Nearly all concrete today is based on a recipe developed in the early 1800s, which requires a process that’s heavily carbon-intensive. But ancient Romans invented a different recipe for concrete structures that have survived for millennia. Research now suggests this ancient material and the volcanoes that made its key components may hold clues for more sustainable building materials.

    Now pursuing a PhD in physics, McCune said the seminar in southern Italy helped to broaden her thinking about how she might apply her degree. “It made me more open to different fields and eager to learn the history and intricacies of the natural world around us,” she said.

    During the most recent trip, darkness fell as the group, giddy in anticipation of the volcano’s powerful eruptions, settled in around Stromboli’s rim. “It explodes violently and without warning – these big, loud bang explosions followed by incandescent ash flying into the air,” explained Dulcie Head, a teaching assistant on the trip and a PhD student in geophysics.

    By this time, the students could see the ash swirling around them as more than volcanic dirt. They knew that similar ash had been a key ingredient in construction of the amphitheater, harbor and ancient marketplace in Pozzuoli, and even the Pantheon in Rome, with its massive, unreinforced dome – the largest in the ancient world.

    “Pozzuoli is possibly the place where Romans, by looking at nature, were inspired to make an iconic material,” Vanorio said. They developed a recipe for concrete that lasts for thousands of years using volcanic ash, lime, tiny volcanic rocks and water, while modern concrete often crumbles within 50 years.

    Atop Stromboli, which scientists carefully monitor for safety, the students also had enough Earth science churning through their heads to see the volcano itself as a natural laboratory. “This volcano is literally producing new rocks as we’re sitting here. It’s throwing them at us,” Head explained. “It’s exciting to see such an active process, where a natural event also produces new materials.”

    The group bounced and slid down a path on the volcano’s slopes wearing gas masks to protect their lungs from ash and sand kicked up by their feet. Back at their hotel at the foot of the island, they peeled off their masks and washed away Stromboli’s detritus. Later, the group learned how to calculate the trajectory and velocity of the volcano’s arcing ash projectiles with particle-tracking software.

    “This was one way for us to use time-lapse images,” Vanorio said. “I wanted students from Earth science, from the classics, and engineers to learn how to use this tool because we are finding ourselves using these kinds of images more and more – often captured by drone – whether it’s to analyze inaccessible outcrops of rocks or map vast ancient sites or a building.”

    What could have seemed like abstract calculations took on greater resonance in light of the group’s up-close encounter with the eruption. “I’ll never forget the bright sparks of the eruption against the dark night,” said Sylvia Choo, ’20, who is majoring in classics and biology. “It was incredible to experience the great force of nature.”

    Ancient city

    Some 150 miles across the cool Tyrrhenian, within the Campi Flegrei or “Burning Fields” caldera, lies downtown Pozzuoli. In this city best known to many Italians as the birthplace of Sophia Loren, the ruins of a Roman marketplace are a hub for cross-disciplinary connections.

    Pozzuoli sits on a restless, Manhattan-sized swath of coast where the rotten-egg smell of sulfur laces the air. Solfatara crater, home of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, gurgles on the edge of town. And just offshore, sculptures, thermal baths, a villa, bright tiled mosaics and other archaeological ruins rest more than 30 feet below sea level, victims of the caldera’s subsidence.

    Parts of Pozzuoli’s ancient architecture contain records of long-term subsidence and brief periods of uplift. Rapid uplift during the 1980s left the town’s harbor too shallow for docking. (Image credit: Kurt Hickman)

    Students swam through a sunken Roman resort town in the underwater archaeological park of Baiae off the coast of Pozzuoli. (Image credit: Kurt Hickman)

    Near Pozzuoli’s modern-day waterfront, three columns stand amid the ruins of the old marketplace, or Macellum. The students knew from their studies on campus in the spring that the marble trio held a 2000-year record of long-term subsidence and brief periods of uplift. So as the columns came into view when the group first walked down from their villa residence, several students exclaimed, “Oh, there they are!”

    Gathering close to the columns for a lecture from Vanorio while Nieminski’s drone buzzed overhead, they could see bands of tiny holes bored by so-called “stone-eater” mussels – marine mollusks that drilled up and down the columns as the rise and fall of the caldera changed how much of the structures extended above the waterline. “They literally made a mark on history,” Choo said.

    Using skills developed in on-campus seminars led by Nieminski, the students were able to analyze history at the Macellum and other sites with a lighter touch. They built 3D models of the marketplace from Nieminski’s drone imagery and manipulated them with software to take measurements and answer scientific questions of their own devising.

    Thomas, for example, examined the different materials in the columns to understand how weathering and water pressure from below played out over time. The project, she said, allowed her to weave together knowledge from chemical engineering, physics and math, as well as the geophysics lessons from the seminar. “After this seminar, I am even more convinced that many fields can overlap,” she said.

    Restless Earth

    Ups and downs are part of the fabric of life in Pozzuoli. In the early 1980s, the ground rose more than 6 feet in just two years, an alarming rate of uplift that reshaped the town, leaving the harbor too shallow for docking and forcing the relocation of schools and shops.

    The rising seabed also triggered enough earthquakes to prompt evacuation of nearly 40,000 people – including Vanorio, then a teenager – for two years beginning in 1982. “Everyone was worried,” she said. “People were expecting an eruption, and we were really concerned about the seismic hazard. The houses were not retrofitted seismically.”

    But as seminar students learned through lectures and readings this summer, the episode tipped off Stanford scientists to an unusual toughness in the rock here. Other volcanic calderas, like Yellowstone or the Long Valley, located east of Yosemite National Park, tend to release the energy accumulated from uplift fairly soon through earthquakes. “Those calderas experience uplift and then almost immediately, seismic activity starts,” Vanorio explained. “The rocks deform and then they fracture.”

    In Pozzuoli, earthquakes didn’t begin until the Campi Flegrei caldera had deformed by nearly 3 feet. “The question from a rock physics point of view has been, what kind of rocks in the subsurface are able to accommodate such large strain without immediately cracking?” The rock capping this caldera, it turns out, contains fibrous minerals mirroring those in Roman concrete that allow it to stretch and bend before failing under stress.

    At the marketplace, Vanorio also pointed out that the durability of Roman concrete can be seen in sections of the ancient walls where the bricks made of tuff – a kind of volcanic rock – eroded away long ago, but the mortar made with volcanic ash and lime still remains. “At the end of the day, these ancient sites are made of Earth materials that degrade and change over time,” Vanorio said. “We can use rock physics to understand those materials and learn to preserve them better.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    Stanford University

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 2:50 pm on December 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Kīlauea Eruption’s Media Frenzy, Nine tips about how to debunk geohazard misinformation in real time from a scientist, Volcanoes   

    From Eos: “Lessons Learned from Kīlauea Eruption’s Media Frenzy” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    18 December 2018
    Jenessa Duncombe

    The Kīlauea eruption earlier this year unleashed a media bonanza. Here are nine tips about how to debunk geohazard misinformation in real time from a scientist frequently tapped for expert comments.

    A fountain of lava from Kīlauea’s fissure 8 in May 2018. Credit: iStock.com/Frizi

    One hundred interviews in 1 month: That’s how many volcanologist Ken Rubin and his colleagues at the University of Hawai‘i gave during the Kīlauea Volcano eruption in May earlier this year.

    Rubin was working as a professor in Earth science in Honolulu, Hawaii, when, in April, magma supply increased to the volcano, causing an upper lava lake to overflow. Earthquakes followed, changing the plumbing of the volcano, and the magma drained out of the primary vent. The eruption had begun.

    Over the next 4 months, 20 eruptive fissures would open in the area, some of which led to hundreds of homes being destroyed. The event was a focus of national and international news, and as the crisis escalated, misinformation started to fly.

    Rubin and his colleagues stepped up to be available for media interviews while geologists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory were busy monitoring the situation. Last week, Rubin gave a presentation at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018 detailing what he learned from stepping into the media spotlight.

    Here are nine takeaways from Rubin’s talk:

    1.People want immediate access to information in the 24-hour news cycle. “The public has an expectation of that right now,” Rubin said. But agencies like the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) aren’t always equipped to communication so frequently. “The USGS puts out awesome products,” he said, “but they come out once a day, and that’s just too slow in an event like this.”

    2.Without continuous information coming from official channels, citizens scientists and local news channels fill the void. That’s how people found out about the start of the eruption, said Rubin, from a drone video of a fissure taken from a resident’s backyard and posted to social media. News organizations can pick up these sources and distribute them, for better or for worse.

    3.Unofficial sources can lead to exaggerated or misconceived news. The most doomsday rumor flying around during the Kīlauea eruption, said Rubin, was the idea that half of Kīlauea was going to break off into the ocean and cause a tsunami that would wipe out the west coast of the United States. “There is no evidence in the geological record that this has ever happened,” Rubin noted. Other myths included refrigerator-sized lava bombs and acid pouring into the ocean from the volcano.

    What is a researcher to do, knowing the media landscape today? Rubin offered this advice:

    4.Provide historical context. “None of these hazards were new to this event. They’ve happened multiple times over the 35-year history of the eruption.” In the early days of the eruption, he created a map of past lava deposits from 1955 and 1960 in the area to give historical perspective.

    5.When possible, push content as much as possible out on social media. Rubin put the historical map out on his social media, and his posts were often picked up by news organizations, which he could reference during live interviews.

    6.Put parameters around the real danger of the situation. “Despite most of what you heard from the national and international media that the hazards were very widespread, they were extremely local,” explained Rubin. “It really only impacted people in the immediate area.” Harm that did befall people, such as one man whose leg was broken from a lava bomb, happened to those who did not follow evacuation orders.

    7.Understand that debunking misinformation will be a huge part of your job. “A lot of the role of a knowledgeable scientist is to debunk these bizarre theories, while being interviewed live in real time by CNN,” Rubin said. Keep tabs on the present rumors and prepare a response.

    8.Make a script and stick with it. Rubin and his colleagues created daily scripts for speaking with the media.

    9.Have endurance. “It is a pain in the butt,” Rubin said. Journalists will call “at all hours,” he said, and often one interview will bring an onslaught of new calls. Respond quickly to requests but also learn to set boundaries.

    Rubin ended his talk with a call to researchers to step up to the plate when events demand their expertise.

    “Having knowledgeable scientists involved in the information flow is the only way, in my opinion, to help keep the misinformation to a minimum,” he said.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 12:23 pm on October 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Volcanoes   

    From Science Alert: “The USGS Has Just Listed These 18 North American Volcanoes as “Very High” Risk” 


    From Science Alert

    26 OCT 2018

    The US Geological Survey (USGS) has recently updated their assessment of potentially threatening volcanoes across the nation, making changes in light of more than a decade of fresh research.

    First, the good news: all of that data has revealed a handful of volcanoes with minimal threat of causing wanton destruction can now be crossed off the list altogether.

    The bad news? There are still 18 bad boys to keep a close eye on. And it’s probably not a huge surprise that 16 out of those are on the North American west coast.


    The last time the USGS ranked volcanic threats was back in 2005. A lot has been discovered about geology since then, so the National Volcanic Threat Assessment figured it was time to go back to the list and double check their sums.

    Given the US is one of the most volcanically active nations on the planet, eruptions are a way of life. Just ask Hawaii, which saw some spectacular displays from Kīlauea volcano earlier this year.

    Kilauea volcano (Photo: U.S. Geological Survey via EPA-EFE)

    An aerial view of the erupting Pu’u ‘O’o crater on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano taken at dusk on June 29, 1983.
    Credit: G.E. Ulrich, USGS

    A calmer scene at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. Approximately August 8, 2018(United States Geological Survey)

    Then there are those occasional cataclysmic time bombs on the North American continent itself, like Mount St. Helens in Washington, which took the lives of 57 people nearly 40 years ago.

    Knowing which mountains are going to blow sky high in a local apocalypse and which are likely to be smoking duds informs authorities on how to plan for the worst.

    So the USGS categorises volcanoes according to numerous factors that describe their threat, as either very low, low, moderate, high, and very high.

    These levels don’t so much as describe their chances of erupting any time soon, as much as their impact should they did awaken in a pyrotechnic blaze of molten rock and ash plumes.

    There’s the obvious lava flows and flying boulders to contend with, but billowing clouds of dust particles can interfere with air traffic, potentially costing hundreds of millions in cancelled flights and rerouting.

    That’s not to mention toxic gases and fine particulates polluting the atmosphere, increasing health risks. Long after the fireworks die away, volcanoes can still cause immense damage in a variety of ways, depending on their remoteness.

    Take Imuruk Lake for example. Its volcano sits out in the Alaskan wilds, where any ash-laden plume is unlikely to interfere with aircraft. Last seeing action around 300 CE, it’s way down the bottom of the list of potential threats at number 161.

    It joins 20 other volcanoes in the lowest threat category, which now contains 11 fewer occupants than in the 2005 assessment.

    All up, 20 volcanoes have had their risk demoted or removed altogether following their revaluation. Mt Washington in Oregon is now considered dead as a dodo, and just as likely to come back. So has the state’s Four Craters lava field.

    But the 18 red-alert monsters that sit in the list of highest threats are the same ones that were identified in 2005.

    Number one should come as no surprise. Kīlauea’s latest activity saw more than 700 homes and businesses destroyed, making it the most threatening volcano the US has to contend with right now.

    Washington’s Mt Saint Helens and Mt Rainier follow close behind, with Redoubt Volcano in Alaska at number four and California’s Mt Shasta at number five.

    Looking at the top 25, people might be somewhat relieved to see that the much-feared Yellowstone caldera doesn’t make the riskiest top 18, sitting at 21.

    If you’re seeing a pattern, most of the most severe threats are on the US West Coast, with three of the 18 in California, five in Alaska, four in Washington and another four in Oregon.

    None of this means it’s time to pack up and head to Florida. We wouldn’t recommend it anyway, what with their human-sized lizards prowling neighbourhoods, toxic algal blooms, and annual tropical storms building up steam.

    But it does give scientists a better idea of what to prioritise in their research, and governments a good sense of where to put their money.

    As populations swell, air traffic increases, and new kinds of technology and infrastructure stretch across the nation, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more additions to the high threat categories in future editions of the assessment.

    Thankfully somebody is keeping a close eye on these sleeping giants.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 3:40 pm on October 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Sabancaya—a so-called “laboratory volcano” in the Peruvian Andes, , Vital volcano insights come at a cost during UBC scientists’ summer expedition, Volcanoes   

    From University of British Columbia: “Vital volcano insights come at a cost during UBC scientists’ summer expedition” 

    U British Columbia bloc

    From University of British Columbia

    Oct 1, 2018
    Erik Rolfsen

    It started out like the camping trip from hell, but it turned into the research expedition of a lifetime for three University of British Columbia volcanologists.

    Colin Rowell and Johan Gilchrist, PhD students in UBC’s department of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences, travelled in late May with professor Mark Jellinek to meet French and Peruvian research teams at Sabancaya—a so-called “laboratory volcano” in the Peruvian Andes. Such volcanoes have short and frequent eruptions that are safely viewed from a few kilometres away. The Peruvians had invaluable local knowledge of the volcano, so conditions seemed ideal for the international team to observe and collect data.

    Conditions, of course, can change.

    Rowell and Jellinek beat Gilchrist to the mountains by a day. Their first night was a harbinger of what was to come. After a slow, four-wheel drive along rocky routes that were barely marked, they hastily set up camp on an exposed plateau at 5,000 metres before night fell on the desert mountains. The temperature dropped to -25 C overnight, and they felt it.

    Tea would warm them up, but they hadn’t been able to find proper camp stove fuel in Arequipa or Chivay, the towns along their route. So they carried diesel from local gas stations in jerry cans. Cooking with diesel, they discovered, is messy.

    “We got up there the next day and spotted them and thought, ‘OK, good, they’ve settled,’” recalled Gilchrist. “Then we got closer and they were just covered in this black soot. I said, ‘What have you guys been doing up here, coal mining?’ I couldn’t believe how filthy they were after just one night.”

    They may have woken up filthy, but they also woke up to their first volcanic eruption.

    “It was absolutely awe-inspiring,” said Rowell. “That was a big morale boost. We found our stride, adjusted to the altitude, and the volcano started doing its spectacular thing.”

    Members of the research team observe Sabancaya from camp, where they had set up their new Doppler radar instrument. Courtesy: Colin Rowell and Johan Gilchrist.

    Sabancaya sends a plume of smoke, gas and ash into the air. Debris from its eruptions can reach a height of five kilometres. Courtesy: Colin Rowell and Johan Gilchrist.

    The Doppler radar instrument developed by members of the French team can measure the volume and velocity of particles in a volcanic plume. Courtesy: Colin Rowell and Johan Gilchrist.

    El Misti over Arequipa. Courtesy: Colin Rowell and Johan Gilchrist.

    Gilchrist’s late arrival had spared him a night of shivering in his tent with a soot-covered face, but for him the worst was still to come. Sometime after landing in Peru, he had picked up a stomach bug. By his third day in camp, the stomach bug, altitude sickness and partial blindness from an old eye injury that was being irritated by airborne ash had knocked him flat. He had to rest in his tent while others hiked nearby peaks for a good look at the volcano.

    To the team’s delight, the volcano erupted like clockwork every four and a half hours. They could watch plumes of volcanic rocks, gas and ash rise five kilometres against a cloudless blue sky. Rowell’s thermal camera measured the plumes’ heat and turbulence properties, while Gilchrist captured the volume and velocity of particles using a new Doppler radar instrument brought by his French colleagues. They will use that data to build computer models of how volcanic plumes behave–how high they rise, when they fall, how much ash they contain and how hot they become.

    The team was thrilled with the quantity and quality of the data, but Rowell and Jellinek were concerned about Gilchrist’s health. All he could do was crawl out of his tent, force down some food, drink hot tea and take notes by his camera. Then he’d crawl back in the tent to suffer for a few hours before the next volcanic eruption.

    Rowell and Jellinek were scheduled to leave earlier than Gilchrist, and thought they might bring their ailing partner back home as well. But when Gilchrist accompanied them back to Chivay, with its cleaner air and lower elevation, he felt recharged. His bug was subsiding, and he stayed another week to collect data from the camp below Sabancaya.

    “We went into this trip not quite knowing how it would go, and there were definitely some demoralizing moments, but we came away with a really inspiring experience and a dataset that is going to give us some unique insight,” said Rowell. “That was a really good feeling for all of us.”

    The value of the data sank in for Gilchrist near the end of his trip, when he climbed El Misti, a volcano looming over the growing city of Arequipa, home to 800,000 people. From Misti’s summit, Gilchrist could see inside its crater–a fresh, active volcano full of red rocks, crystallized lava and swirling gases. Down the slope, he saw small homes scattered throughout the foothills, illegal but tolerated settlements of rural migrants who have moved to the city for work. Those people were, and are, in the danger zone.

    “They’re right there,” Gilchrist said. “And this thing will erupt again. It has erupted in the past. When it does, I hope the people of Arequipa are ready.”

    It was a sobering reminder of why Gilchrist, Rowell, Jellinek and their colleagues do the work they do — to make the unpredictable a little more predictable, and perhaps save lives.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U British Columbia Campus

    The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the 40 best universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s West Coast spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. Its entrepreneurial perspective encourages students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.

  • richardmitnick 7:03 am on August 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Volcanoes   

    From Discover Magazine- “Wilderness vs. Monitoring: The Controversy of a New Seismic Network at Glacier Peak” 


    From Discover Magazine

    August 19, 2018
    Erik Klemetti

    Glacier Peak in Washington. Wikimedia Commons.

    One of the most potentially dangerous volcanoes in the Cascades is Glacier Peak in Washington. It produced the one of the largest eruptions in the past 20,000 years in this volcanic range that spans from British Columbia to California. Multiple eruptions around 13,500 years ago spread ash all the way into Montana. Over the last 2,000 years, there have been multiple explosive eruptions that have impacted what became Washington state and beyond. Put on top of that the many glaciers on the slopes of Glacier Peak that could help form volcanic mudflows (lahars) during a new eruption, and you can see that Glacier Peak is a real threat.

    Yet, even with this hazard posed by the volcano, there is very little in the way of monitoring equipment on the volcano. Currently, there is a lone seismometer on the volcano to measure earthquakes, one of the most important pieces of information needed to monitor volcanoes.

    The lone seismometer at Glacier Peak. USGS. https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/glacier_peak/monitoring_earthquakes.html

    A single seismometer is better than no seismometer, but it can only give us so much information. Without a network of at least 3 seismometers (a“seismic network”), we can really only measure if earthquakes are occurring at the volcano and not exactly where and how far beneath the volcano the temblors are happening. This is what is installed at a truly restless volcano like Mount St. Helens.

    These two pieces of information — location and depth — are vital for understanding what might be happening at the Glacier Peak if any earthquake swarm were to happen. Otherwise, we might have difficulty differentiating between earthquakes happening due to fault motion near the volcano or shallow changes in the hydrothermal system in the volcano rather than magma moving into the volcano from deep below.

    So, it might seem to be a no-brainer that new USGS seismic stations should be set up on Glacier Peak. However, that’s where things get messy. Glacier Peak is within designated US Forest Service Wilderness area, so modification and use of the land are very tightly regulated and restricted. This is rightly so — we need to protect our wilderness from encroaching development or resource exploitation by people who don’t value a wild America.

    The problem becomes that a seismic station, a fairly small installation that might have a 3 by 3 meter footprint, still disrupts wilderness in order to build the station as it requires the seismometer to be buried and secured to a stable platform (like rock or poured concrete). Additionally, although many stations are solar, they do require back-up batteries that need to be changed … and if there are no roads and trails in the wilderness, getting material to the station is next to impossible.

    In order to perform repairs and resupply batteries, helicopters will be needed, so ideally, a helicopter pad near the seismic stations is needed for safe operation. This is a bigger deal as a helicopter pad might take up a few hundred square meters. It is this sort of disruption that has the Wilderness Watch speaking out against the installation of new seismic stations at Glacier Peak.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 11:33 am on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Two Active Volcanoes in Japan May Share a Magma Source, Volcanoes   

    From Eos: “Two Active Volcanoes in Japan May Share a Magma Source” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    31 July 2018
    Kimberly M. S. Cartier

    Evidence collected following the 2011 eruption of Japan’s Shinmoedake volcano suggests that the powerful event affected the behavior of an active caldera nearby.

    Japan’s Shinmoedake volcano on the island of Kyushu, erupting on 27 January 2011. Credit: Kyodo via AP Images

    A single magma reservoir deep beneath Japan’s Kyushu Island may feed two of its most active volcanoes. GPS measurements of Aira caldera show that its once steady inflation stalled while the nearby Shinmoedake volcano erupted in early 2011 and then resumed when the eruption stopped. This suggests that the two volcanic areas draw from a common magma source deep under Kyushu and that the two areas may interact before, during, and after eruptions.

    “We observed a radical change in the behavior of Aira before and after the eruption of its neighbor,” Elodie Brothelande, lead scientist on the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami in Florida, said in a press release. “The only way to explain this interaction is the existence of a connection between the two plumbing systems of the volcanoes at depth,” she said.

    Observations of interconnected volcanic systems like this one are rare, so finding and studying them may help forecasters improve their eruption prediction and hazard models, Brothelande told Eos. Her team published its results in late June in the journal Scientific Reports.

    An Underground Connection

    Shinmoedake, which is part of the Kirishima volcanic group in southwestern Japan, began erupting in January 2011 and released more than 20 million tons of magma, ash, and pyroclastic rock. Watch a snippet of this eruption in the video below.


    To probe the possible connection between Shinmoedake and Aira, the researchers measured the vertical and horizontal displacements of the land in and around Aira caldera. They gathered daily GPS data from 32 stations in Kyushu spanning 2009–2013, 2 years before and after the Shinmoedake eruption. With these data, they calculated how Aira swelled and deflated in the time surrounding the eruption.

    The researchers compared the caldera’s behavior to models of how it would have reacted had it been responding only to geologic stress caused by Shinmoedake erupting. They found that Aira’s behavior was inconsistent with having geologic stress as the primary cause: Its pattern of inflation and deflation was wrong, and the amount it deflated didn’t match predictions.

    However, the models showed that an underground magma reservoir in the mantle feeding both volcanoes could explain the caldera’s behavior during the nearby eruption. Brothelande said that Aira and Shinmoedake are “good candidates” for this type of connection because they share the same active fault block and are relatively close to each other.

    Lava forms ropey pāhoehoe textures. How molten must the subsurface rock that fueled this lava be to get classified as “magma”? Credit: iStock.com/Justin Reznick
    By Allen F. Glazner, John M. Bartley, and Drew S. Coleman 22 September 2016.

    Satellite image of southern Kyushu on 3 February 2011 during an eruption of Shinmoedake. The two areas compared in this study, the Kirishima volcanic group and Aira caldera, are circled. The volcanoes at the foci of the research, Shinmoedake and Sakurajima, are marked by triangles. Credit: NASA

    Basaltic lava erupting from an active parasitic cone (about 5 meters tall) on the side of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, Hawaii, 1997. The flowing material is unquestionably erupted magma, but whether its partially molten source region should be called magma is debatable. Credit: Allen Glazner

    Here’s how that scenario would have worked: In the period before Shinmoedake’s eruption, the magma reservoir inflated both volcanoes. The eruption then rapidly drew magma up from the reservoir and caused a sudden drop in pressure underground. The reservoir, in turn, drew magma from Aira in response to the pressure drop, causing the observed caldera deflation. Once Shinmoedake finished erupting, the magma reservoir resumed filling both volcanoes.

    A Promising Step

    “When a volcano enters a period of unrest or eruption, a common concern from communities and media is the chance of a neighboring volcano being ‘triggered,’” said Janine Krippner, a volcanologist and postdoctoral researcher at Concord University in Athens, W.Va., who was not involved with the project.

    “Research into the relationships between neighboring volcanic systems is important, but it is rare that evidence is found for systems affecting one another,” she said. “This study is a step in the direction of understanding any links between neighboring volcanic systems.”

    Although the research is very promising, more evidence is needed to solidify the ties between the two volcanoes, Krippner added. For example, repeat observations of the volcanoes during the time before and after an eruption, as well as geochemical analysis of the pair’s eruption products, could help. “I would expect to see similarities in geochemistry trends—the magma ‘genetics’—in eruption products like lavas, volcanic ash, and pyroclastic deposits if they have a common source,” she said.

    Past geochemical [Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research] studies have shown that eruption products from the two volcanic systems have similar isotope ratios for strontium and neodymium, the paper notes. However, Brothelande told Eos, a “real comparative study is still required” to geochemically link Shinmoedake and Aira to a common source.

    Shinmoedake and Aira’s associated volcanic peak, Sakurajima, erupted in 2017, and each has seen ongoing intermittent activity throughout 2018. The research team is planning to study the activity at Shinmoedake and Aira from the past 2 years to better understand their underground connection.

    Brothelande pointed out that there are other volcanic systems in which similar hidden connections may cause a volcano to interact with its neighbor, for example, in Hawaii, Alaska, and Italy. This occurs even in smaller systems of lava domes and maars like those in France and Colorado. Models that calculate eruption probabilities, she said, likely need to include these interactions.

    “External factors that have an impact on volcanic eruptions—triggering or delaying—have been neglected for a long time,” Brothelande said. But the findings at Shinmoedake and Aira open a new door, she added. “Nearby eruptions have to be included as well.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 8:28 am on July 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Drones Swoop in to Measure Gas Belched from Volcanoes, , , Volcanoes   

    From Eos: “Drones Swoop in to Measure Gas Belched from Volcanoes” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    25 July 2018
    Fiona D’Arcy
    John Stix
    J. Maarten de Moor
    Julian Rüdiger
    Jorge Andres Diaz
    Alfred Alan
    Ernesto Corrales

    Volcanic gases are important eruption forecasting tools often used in volcano monitoring. However, collecting gas samples requires scientists to enter high-risk volcanic areas.
    This is where drones come in.

    Drones are the perfect tools for volcanologists to access these danger zones. Although they’re rapidly becoming popular among the scientific community for photography and aerial mapping, few studies have attempted to quantitatively measure gas emissions with drones [e.g., McGonigle et al., 2008; Mori et al., 2016].

    A drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is a remote-controlled device that allows a pilot to remain a safe distance from an active crater while the drone is maneuvered to the site of interest. Drones can be piloted manually or with an autonomous navigation system. Compact gas sensors can be mounted onto the drone that take measurements while the drone is in the air.

    Last year, a team of researchers gathered in Central America for a 2-week excursion to test a variety of instrument and drone combinations. Their numbers included gas geochemists, volcanologists, physicists, engineers, and chemists from four institutions across Canada, Germany, and Costa Rica. Most, of course, doubled as drone pilots.

    Why Measure These Gases?

    Scientists measure volcanic gases for three main reasons.

    First, changes in the ratios of certain gases can indicate an imminent eruption. The concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) can be measured by flying the drone right into the plume of gas as it emerges from the volcano.

    Second, researchers need to know which reactive species are coming out of the volcano so that the interactions between volcanoes, climate, and ozone can be better understood. These compounds contain such halogens as chlorine and bromine, and a drone hovering directly in the gas at varying distances from the source can help scientists determine how the compounds change as the plume ages.

    Third, the total amount of gas being emitted can be used to calculate the exchange of volatiles between the deep Earth and the atmosphere. The emission amount can also be used to monitor volcanic activity. This is done by flying transects under the entire width of the gas plume to measure the output, or flux, of SO2.

    Usually, a researcher drives or walks under the width of the plume to collect the needed transects, but limited road access and obstructions at ground level often prevent or curtail surveying such transects. The drone bypasses these problems, is faster, and can even directly measure wind speed at plume height, which is a key variable for the flux calculation.

    By combining gas concentration ratios and SO2 flux measurements, scientists can also calculate the CO2 flux.

    Gas Giants

    Turrialba and Masaya are Central America’s largest degassing volcanoes, with each having emitted well more than 4 million tons of SO2, among other gases, over the past 20 years alone (calculations are based on data from de Moor et al. [2016] and Martin et al. [2010]). Both of these gas giants lie dangerously close to major cities, making them key locations to test new measurement techniques.

    The location of Masaya and Turrialba volcanoes. Credit: Fiona D’Arcy

    Turrialba volcano. Rodtico21

    Masaya volcano.Leon petrosyan

    Turrialba was sculpted by a series of violent eruptions during the past 10,000 years, but all activity came to a halt in 1866. Then, in 1996, the volcano sprang to life again.

    More than 20 years later, explosive bursts of ash frequently rise several hundred meters above the summit, causing havoc at the international airport in San José, Costa Rica’s capital. The opening of new vents and the escape of magmatic gas from intruding magma are the main drivers of the ongoing volcanic activity, and a small lava lake has been spotted forming at the bottom of the crater.

    Masaya is a different kind of volcano altogether. It is composed of a large caldera complex that formed 2,500 years ago, with volcanic cones rising from the floor of the caldera. One of the craters atop the largest cone hosts a vigorously bubbling lava lake that has attracted a multitude of tourists in recent years.

    Unlike Turrialba, Masaya has been persistently active throughout the past several hundred years, with a long-standing history of degassing from the surface of the lava lakes that have come and gone for centuries.

    The extraordinary degassing at these two volcanoes makes them ideal locations to test new drone-mounted instrumentation, thereby improving hazard assessments.

    Building Compact Instrumentation

    For measuring concentrations of CO2, SO2, and H2S, we designed two compact variations of multiple-gas analyzers (Multi-GAS) for drone flights. Multi-GAS instruments are typically the size of a toaster and require heavy batteries and a case and are meant for long-term measurements atop a volcano. We created miniaturized versions weighing under 1.5 kilograms, around the size of a football.

    We named the two instruments MiniGAS and MicroGAS. MicroGAS was designed by the volcanology group at McGill University, and MiniGAS was designed by GasLab of the Universidad de Costa Rica. Both have varying sensor ranges, but both consist of a pump, electrochemical sensors, and onboard data loggers to store or, in the case of MiniGAS, transmit the data by telemetry.

    We also deployed a lightweight gas diffusion sampling device to measure halogen species and their compositional variations. This device uses a pump and glass tubes with reactive coatings, called denuders, designed to collect the desired halogen compounds. An SO2 sensor and additional wiring that connects to the drone telemetry system allow the pilot to remotely start the sampling once high SO2 levels are reached, signaling that the drone is in the plume.

    In addition, we built a drone-mounted miniaturized differential optical absorption spectrometer (DROAS) to make SO2 flux measurements. Typical instruments are also toaster-sized and weigh roughly 2–4 kilograms, plus they require a large battery and a computer connection; the DROAS weighs roughly 950 grams and contains a telescope, an ultraviolet spectrometer, and a microcomputer running the data collection program.

    Choosing the Right Drone

    We used two octocopters and two quadcopters for this expedition, which was conducted in late April 2017. The drones were flown in combination with different types of compact sensors and spectrometers. What drones we chose depended on the goals of the particular flight in question.

    The fleet of drones used in a campaign to test new drone-mounted instrumentation designed to measure gas emissions from volcanoes. Credit: Alfred Alan

    For example, if the goal was to perform a DROAS traverse, which requires covering a large distance (a kilometer or more) beyond the line of sight, then a sturdy octocopter with autonomous flying capability was ideal.

    If the goal was to fly straight up until the gas plume was reached and then hover there as long as the battery allowed, a manual flight by a lightweight quadcopter was best suited to the mission.

    The team discovered the suitability and limitations of each drone and created an effective protocol for assessing when and where it was useful or too dangerous to fly each type. A preflight checklist was used to ensure that wind, fog, and other hazards were taken into consideration and that any bystanders in the area were in a safe viewing location.

    Flying High

    We flew a dozen missions at Turrialba and Masaya from the crater rim, from the base, and downwind from the plume at each volcano. Each of the instruments was deployed, sometimes in tandem, on at least one drone.

    During these flights, we successfully entered the volcanic plume to measure SO2 and CO2 concentrations. We also conducted several flight transects to estimate SO2 flux values. Examples of these missions can be seen in Figure 1 and in the video below.

    Fig. 1. Sample flight mission showing the carbon dioxide/sulfur dioxide (CO2/SO2) ratio measured in the plume of Masaya volcano. At t1, the drone takes off from the edge of the crater. At t2, the drone passes through the plume and turns around for the return journey through the plume again. At t3, the drone lands back at the start location.

    Soaring into the Future

    Researchers demonstrated an array of drone and sensor capabilities in volcanic gas plumes during 2 weeks of field testing in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. At the same time, we learned countless lessons about the adaptability and preparedness needed to undertake such a task. In addition to acquiring permits, customs letters, plane-approved batteries, and spare parts prior to travel, coordinating with local authorities proved vital to dealing with the surprises that abounded at every stage of the fieldwork.

    With proper safety measures and permissions in place, this kind of work could revolutionize volcanic gas measurements made at volcanoes without ever putting the researchers in danger. New ash deposits and crater lakes could be sampled during eruptive periods. Instrumentation could be deployed in craters by drones. The possibilities are endless.


    We thank the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica (OVSICORI) and the Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER) for their aid during the field campaign. We also thank José Pinell and the Instituto Nicaragüense de Aeronáutica Civil (INAC) for their assistance in Nicaragua and the Vicerrectoría de Investigación and Centro de Investigación en Ciencias Atómicas, Nucleares y Moleculares (CICANUM) from the Universidad de Costa Rica for their support on the CARTA-UAV research project.


    de Moor, J. M., et al. (2016), Turmoil at Turrialba Volcano (Costa Rica): Degassing and eruptive processes inferred from high-frequency gas monitoring, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 121, 5,761–5,775, https://doi.org/10.1002/2016JB013150.

    Martin, R. S., et al. (2010), A total volatile inventory for Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua, J. Geophys. Res., 115, B09215, https://doi.org/10.1029/2010JB007480.

    McGonigle, A. J. S., et al. (2008), Unmanned aerial vehicle measurements of volcanic carbon dioxide fluxes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L06303, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GL032508.

    Mori, T., et al. (2016), Volcanic plume measurements taken using a UAV for the 2014 Mt. Ontake eruption, Earth Planets Space, 68(49), 18 pp., https://doi.org/10.1186/s40623-016-0418-0.

    Author Information

    Fiona D’Arcy (email: fiona.darcy@mail.mcgill.ca) and John Stix, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada; J. Maarten de Moor, Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, Heredia; Julian Rüdiger, Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany; and Jorge Andres Diaz, Alfred Alan, and Ernesto Corrales, GasLab, CICANUM, Physics School, Universidad de Costa Rica, San José

    See the full article here .


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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 1:45 pm on December 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Each volcano like each individual person has its own unique “personality.”, , Mount Agung in Bali - when will it blow?, Volcanoes,   

    From COSMOS: “Each volcano has unique warning signs that eruption is imminent” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    07 December 2017
    Tracy K. P. Gregg

    Mount Agung in Bali. Just a burp, or indication of coming disaster? AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati..

    Mount Agung in Bali has been thrusting ash thousands of feet into the sky for almost two weeks. Lava is burbling at the volcano’s peak. Indonesian authorities have ordered evacuations around Agung, while tourists are stranded at the closed airport. The volcano’s flanks are bulging from magma trying to push its way out, and earthquake frequency has been increasing. Heat from the magma has melted snow and ice at Agung’s summit, causing volcanic mudflows called lahars. It’s looking like an eruption is imminent… but how do volcanologists know for sure what’s to come?

    Each volcano, like each individual person, has its own unique “personality.” You may know, for example, that you can tease your brother mercilessly – up until the point where his eyebrows crease together because that means he’s going to blow his top. But do you know what it means if my eyebrows crease together? (It’s a surefire sign I’m thinking really hard.)

    Similarly, one volcano might reveal an imminent eruption by a sudden increase in the frequency and strength of earthquakes located directly below it. A different volcano might not show an increase in earthquake strength but instead display an increase in elevation as magma swells beneath its surface – just as air filling a balloon causes it to increase in size.

    This fall showed a spike in number and magnitude of earthquakes around Agung. MAGMA Indonesia.

    The best way scientists can determine whether a volcano is about to erupt is to study its past behavior: How did this volcano act before it erupted last time? Our ability to predict eruptions is directly related to the amount of historic data we have for a given volcano.

    For most of Earth’s active volcanoes, though, we don’t have detailed information. The last time Agung volcano erupted, for example, was in 1963. And that was before it was closely monitored with seismometers. Satellite observations of volcanoes were not commonplace then, as they are now. We therefore don’t know what specific type, frequency or size of volcanic precursors – that is, events that precede an eruption – to look for with Agung volcano.

    Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, for example, erupted catastrophically in 1991; before that, its most recent eruption was around 500 years earlier. Precursors at Mount Pinatubo included ash explosions at the summit, increases in the number of vents spewing hot gas, changes in the volcano’s shape and increases in both the frequency and size of earthquakes. Two months of increasing activity preceded the 1991 paroxysmal eruption.

    In contrast, Mount St. Helens volcano in the U.S. is probably the most closely watched volcano on the planet. Decades of detailed observations allow geologists to make fairly precise predictions about Mount St. Helens: a specific pattern of earthquakes, for example, means that new lava will erupt within two weeks.

    We don’t yet know if Agung volcano is currently giving us two weeks, two months or two years (or more) of warning because we don’t know precisely what it did before its 1963 eruption.

    GPS measurements provide models of the direction and rate (length of arrow) of deformation at the summit of Mauna Loa, a potential eruption precursor. USGS

    As technology advances, volcanologists and experts in collecting and interpreting satellite data (including remote-sensing scientists and geodesists) are improving our ability to predict eruptions. Now we can collect important information about volcano shape, temperature and changes in those parameters using satellites that provide the view from space. Satellites give volcanologists a good overall view of the volcano, but can’t supply human-scale details. Satellite orbits typically allow them to pass over a given volcano only once every week or two. We still require seismometers on the ground to detect and report earthquakes caused by magma moving beneath the volcano, but seismometers are too expensive to deploy and maintain everywhere.

    Accurate predictions of volcanic eruptions – particularly the size of the eruption and whether the volcano will explode or generate lava flows – are essential for local authorities to make life-and-death decisions about people in the vicinity of an active volcano. If an evacuation is ordered and a volcano explodes, lives are saved. This happened in the 1991 Pinatubo eruption. If an evacuation is ordered and the volcano doesn’t explode, economic losses and human suffering can be catastrophic. This scenario played out in Mammoth Mountain, California, in 1984, where the local community lost millions of tourist dollars – and there was no eruption.

    To predict eruptions on the scale of hours, days or weeks, we need detailed information about each potentially threatening volcano. Without that, we are forced to make comparisons: will Agung volcano behave more like Mount St Helens or Mount Pinatubo, for example? In other words, do creased eyebrows on someone you’ve just met (or, for example, increased seismicity at Agung volcano) mean that person is about to blow its top (like Mount Pinatubo did in 1991) or is just thinking really hard? More data, from more volcanoes, make for better comparisons, but nothing beats really getting to know the behavior of an individual volcano.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:28 pm on December 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Huge Bubble of Hot Rock May Be Rising Under New England, , Volcanoes   

    From natgeo.com: “Huge Bubble of Hot Rock May Be Rising Under New England” 

    National Geographic

    National Geographics

    December 5, 2017
    Erin Blakemore

    Colorful forests fill the landscape in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Photograph by Berthold Steinhilber, laif, Redux

    At first glance, New England doesn’t seem like a hotbed of geologic activity. The region doesn’t have any rumbling volcanoes. Earthquakes are almost unheard of. And its mountains are mere hills compared to ranges like the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada in the western U.S.

    But don’t underestimate what’s going on beneath the surface: It turns out this idyllic pocket of the northeastern U.S. may sit atop a rising mass of warm rock—a smaller, slower version of the magma pockets under well-known volcanic zones.

    The findings, recently published in the journal Geology, suggest that New England may not be so immune to abrupt geological change.

    A team of researchers at Rutgers University and Yale University made this surprising discovery using an advanced array of seismic sensors, which show what lies in the otherwise hidden rock below our feet.

    “Ten years ago, this would not have been possible,” says study coauthor Vadim Levin, a professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s department of Earth and planetary sciences.

    “Now, all of a sudden, we have a much better eye to see inside the Earth.”

    Rising Rock

    Inside our planet, heat from the volatile core makes its way up through the mantle—the hot, high-pressure zone that lies below the planet’s crust. That heat causes the crust’s tectonic plates to slip and slide around. Where those plates collide or divide is where we most often see mountains, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

    The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in 1996, USGS.

    Since we can’t see that deep into the planet, geologists use seismic vibrations caused by earthquakes to visualize the features within rock. Sensing how fast seismic ripples move, for instance, provides details about the structure and temperature of Earth’s mantle.

    In this case, Levin’s team studied data from EarthScope, a National Science Foundation program that deploys hundreds of geophysical instruments across the United States. The project’s Transportable Array, a temporary network of seismic sensors, made its way around the country starting in 2007. The array picked up readings from small earthquakes and observed the motions of seismic waves in various regions.

    The team piggybacked off previous research showing a relatively hot spot beneath New England’s upper mantle. Using data from EarthScope, they then observed a localized plume of warm rock beneath central Vermont, western New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts—and found geologic evidence that it’s on the move.

    Less dense areas are where the rock is hotter, and seismic waves move more slowly. That’s what the team saw under New England. They also observed wave patterns that suggest deformations in the rock itself.

    Normal plate motion leaves the geologic equivalent of skid marks in its wake, which seismic sensors can detect. In this region, however, the skid marks were gone—erased by the upward movement of warmer rock.

    Shifting Perspectives

    New England residents don’t need to panic. The upwelling is likely tens of millions of years old, which would make it a relatively recent development in geological terms, and it’s moving very slowly. For now, it certainly hasn’t gotten close enough to the surface to shape New England’s geography or create a volcano.

    “Maybe it didn’t have time yet, or maybe it is too small and will never make it,” says Levin. “Come back in 50 million years, and we’ll see what happens.”

    Instead, the discovery is a sign that it may be time to rethink the region’s geology.

    The big takeaway from this paper is that Earth’s structure is even more intricate and dynamic than anyone realized, says Meghan S. Miller, a structural seismologist and associate professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences who was not involved in the project.

    “I think that kind of sounds simple and obvious in retrospect, but the Transportable Array data has allowed us to visualize how complex Earth’s structure really is,” she says.

    The find also helps put the planet in perspective, says Levin. New England has traditionally been considered a place of little geologic change, but EarthScope data suggests that the subsurface reality is anything but stagnant.

    “People think of mountains and lakes and geology as forever—there’s a general sense that Earth is a permanent thing,” says Levin. “Well, it’s not.”

    See the full article here .

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    The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

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