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Random rumblings: hydrothermal vents re-colonized from afar, Yellowstone swarm, Krakatoa, Mauna Kea testbed, and MSH spiders to Chaitén 2 March 2010

Posted by admin in Chaitén, Chile, current research, Hawaii, Indonesia, Krakatau, United States.
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Hydrothermal vents sometimes colonized from afar (Science News) – ‘Field studies at a hydrothermal vent system where all life was snuffed out by a massive undersea volcanic eruption reveal that these habitats can be repopulated in a matter of months by larvae from distant vents. … Water samples taken near the vents in May 2006 contained the larvae of Ctenopelta porifera, a rock-clinging gastropod called a limpet. By July, these fast-growing creatures had colonized the rocks around the eruption-sterilized vents; by October, they were mature and reproducing. … the nearest hydrothermal system known to host that species is located more than 300 kilometers away.’

Recent Yellowstone earthquake swarm was the second-largest ever (Denver Post) – ‘The Yellowstone earthquake swarm that began on Jan. 17 and ended on Feb. 11 was the second-largest earthquake swarm ever at Yellowstone National Park, according to scientists at the University of Utah. … Not only was the swarm the second-largest ever recorded at Yellowstone but it was longer in time and included more earthquakes than last year’s swarm beneath Yellowstone Lake, which occurred in December 2008 and January 2009, according to the scientists.’

Krakatoa’s child smokes with magic fire in belly (The Age) – ‘As the boat approached Anak Krakatau, the atmosphere was eerie. The smoke of the seasonal forest fires drifting from Sumatra made visibility poor and, before we even sighted the volcano, we heard it: a deep, otherworldly rumble. Then, out of the haze, materialised the cone of Anak Krakatau. Within minutes, thick grey ash billowed out of its caldera into the sky.’

Into the mouth of a volcano (Astrobiology Magazine) – ‘Dr. Inge Ten Kate, a University of Maryland Baltimore County research assistant, led an expedition into a cinder cone atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to test the prototype for an instrument that will be a miniature laboratory to discover the composition of rocks and atmospheres on moons, asteroids, and planets across the solar system. … Why a volcano? “The terrain and composition are similar to what we expect to find on the Moon, asteroids, and Mars,” says Ten Kate. “Also, there will be outgassing from the volcano, so we can test our ability to measure trace gases in atmospheres. Finally, the differences among various areas on the volcano’s cinder cone will be subtle, so it’s a good test of our sensitivity and our ability to distinguish different regions.”‘

Mount St. Helens ‘spiders’ will get tryout on Chilean volcano (The Oregonian) – Geological ‘spiders’ packed with instruments to monitor the heaves, sighs and belches of Mount St. Helens, are expected to migrate south this month. Two of the contraptions are headed to Chaiten, a volcano in Chile that began erupting in 2008 after about 9,000 years of dormancy. … The machines helped give the USGS sufficient information to declare in January 2008 that Mount St. Helens recent eruptive phase was over. That kind of certainty is needed at Chaiten, said John Ewert, a volcanologist in the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. “It’s always hard enough to know when they’ll start erupting,” said Ewert, part of the team that visited the Chilean volcano in January. “It’s even harder to tell when they’ll stop.”‘

The Volcanism Blog

Volcano Awareness Month under way in Hawaii 8 January 2010

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January 2010 is Volcano Awareness Month in Hawaii. The USGS’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), in co-operation with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii County Civil Defense, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo, has put together a rich and varied programme of events ‘to promote increased awareness of and respect for the volcanoes on which Hawaii’s residents live’.

The HVO website has links to further information about Volcano Awareness Month, including a complete overview (PDF) of the month’s events and activities, an at-a-glance Calendar (PDF), a list of events in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (PDF), details of evening talks (PDF), a Volcano Awareness Month Magazine (PDF) published by local newspapers, and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi’s Proclamation (PDF) that set the whole thing going. Looks like it’s PDF awareness month in Hawaii as well.

As part of Volcano Awareness Month, the excellent Volcano Watch column available at Hawaii 24/7 and written by HVO scientists is looking beyond the science, at ‘how volcanoes have influenced and shaped human experience, as seen through the lens of literature, movies, and art’. This week the subject is the strong ties between volcanoes and religion.

The Volcanism Blog

NASA Earth Observatory: plume from Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u Crater 23 August 2009

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Plume from Kilauea's Halema'uma'u Crater : Natural Hazards

The NASA Earth Observatory has a great crystal-clear image of the plume that is emerging from the vent in Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u Crater, captured by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite on 19 August 2009. For more on this, see Dr Erik Klemetti’s informative post at Eruptions.

The Volcanism Blog

Beauty! Passion! Pahoehoe! Volcanic excitement at Environmental Graffiti 27 April 2009

Posted by admin in Hawaii, volcano images, volcano tourism, volcanoes.
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That unusual and always interesting corner of the web Environmental Graffiti (‘an eclectic mix of the most bizarre, funny and interesting environmental news on the planet’) has a long-standing and thoroughly admirable interest in volcanoes.

Their latest article of volcanic interest, ‘Anything for the perfect volcano shot!’ by Karl Fabricius, talks to Dr Tom Pfeiffer of VolcanoDiscovery about the excitements and dangers of volcano-visiting, and includes some stunning photographs from the heart of the action in Hawaii.

Environmental Graffiti: Anything for the perfect volcano shot! (27 April 2009)

The Volcanism Blog

Halema’uma’u winding down? USGS scientists ponder the signals from Kilauea 12 January 2009

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Is Kilauea’s summit eruption coming to an end? The scientists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) are pondering this question as 2009 begins, says a 7 January 2009 HVO press release. ‘According to Jim Kauahikaua, HVO Scientist-in-Charge, several lines of evidence confirm a decrease in activity at the vent in Halema’uma’u Crater':

  • Since early December the Halema’uma’u gas plume has changed from opaque to wispy and translucent.
  • On 31 December 2008 infrared imaging revealed that a previously open conduit in Halema’uma’u vent had become blocked by rubble, and that vent temperatures are greatly diminished.
  • Sulphur dioxide emissions, while still elevated compared to 2003-7 levels, have fallen to their lowest values since late 2007.
  • The composition of tephra ejected from the vent has changed: in early December more than half of the tephra was derived from molten lava, two weeks later the volume of tephra had decreased and it mostly consisted of fragments of pre-eruption rocks from the vent walls.

‘If an eruption is defined as a volcanic event that deposits solid material on the ground surface’, says Jim Kauahikaua, ‘then the Halema’uma’u eruption stopped in mid-December’. Nevertheless, he warns that the summit vent remains in ‘a state of unrest’. Seismic tremor also remains elevated. This falling-off in activity may be a pause rather than the end of the eruption: only time will tell.

News
Sulfur dioxide emissions drop at Kilauea summitHonolulu Advertiser, 7 January 2009
Sulfur dioxide emissions drop at Kilauea summitHonolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 January 2009
Halema’uma’u still fuming but may be simmering downHonolulu Advertiser, 11 January 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Kilauea – summary information for Kilauea (1302-01-)
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory – main page for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
HVO Kilauea Status Page – the latest activity reports for Kilauea
HVO Press Releases – press releases from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

The Volcanism Blog

Whoops, magma 17 December 2008

Posted by admin in current research, geoscience, volcanology.
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Drillers working for a geothermal energy company in Hawaii got very geothermal when they drilled right into a magma chamber, reports the BBC today. Apparently a crew working for Puna Geothermal Venture was putting an exploratory well into eastern Big Island, through Kilauea’s lava fields, when they unexpectedly hit hot rock at a shallow 2.5km. The stuff ascended the bore but cooled and solidified a few metres up, before a world-engulfing Hollywood-style catastrophe could occur. This happened in 2005, but the event is only just now being reported at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

This discovery allows geologists to look at magma in its ‘natural habitat’, says Professor Bruce Marsh of Johns Hopkins University:

‘Before, all we had to deal with were lava flows; but they are the end of a magma’s life. They’re lying there on the surface, they’ve de-gassed. It’s not the natural habitat. It’s the difference between looking at dinosaur bones in a museum and seeing a real, living dinosaur roaming out in the field.’

The material in the magma chamber is slowly cooling, providing an opportunity for scientists to study the processes of differentiation that occur as magma solidifies into continent-forming rock: ‘it could be this is how continents could have been started to be built on the planet’, says Prof Marsh in an interestingly-formed sentence.

‘Don’t these people look where they are drilling?’ asks Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous.

The Volcanism Blog

Hawaii Special Committee on Vog Effects report published 14 October 2008

Posted by admin in Hawaii, Kilauea, natural hazards, United States.
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The Hawaii House of Representatives Special Committee on Vog Effects, appointed in May, has just published its report, which lists 48 recommendations for coping with Kilauea’s volcanic smog and its unpleasant and unhealthy effects. The report is mercifully brief for a governmental document at 20 pages, and can be accessed in neatly typewritten form from the Hawaii Capitol website (click here for a direct link to PDF).

Among the more notable recommendations:

  • A single point of contact for members of the public who need information and advice about vog.
  • The development of ‘a more coordinated and efficient system for collecting health data': at the moment health data are collected by a range of organizations and individuals, making it difficult to assess the whole picture when it comes to vog-related health issues.
  • The examination of ‘the psychological impact of vog on school children’ and the development of ‘counseling strategies’. Previous generations had to cope with the problems and crises they encountered without the benefit of counseling strategies: heaven knows how they managed.
  • Fitting hospitals with air filtration devices and sealed environments to protect patients from the effects of vog.
  • Initiatives to monitor and protect the safety of public water supplies, and to ensure the public is well-informed about vog and water safety issues.
  • The provision of air conditioning and air filtration devices to schools (which is great, assuming the gear can be plugged in).
  • The offering of tax relief to farmers who have suffered from the effects of vog.
  • Improvement of monitoring and early warning systems across Hawaii.

The eruption at Halema’uma’u vent shows no sign of declining, and continues to pump out huge quantities of sulphur dioxide. Hawaii’s vog problem is not going to go away.

For more on vog: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory: sulfur dioxide, vog and volcanic ash FAQ.

For all our Kilauea coverage: Kilauea « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Report on vog offers some tips on copingHonolulu Advertiser, 13 October 2008
Vog report seeks solutions – KPUA Hawaii News, 13 October 2008

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Kilauea – summary information for Kilauea (1302-01-)
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory – main page for the HVO
HVO Kilauea Status Page – the latest activity reports for Kilauea

The Volcanism Blog

Explosive event at Kilauea 14 October 2008

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Kilauea - explosive eruption of 12 October 2008

Over recent weeks it has been business as usual at Kilauea, summarized by the Hawaii Volcano Observatory (with variations) as ‘Sulfur dioxide emission rates from both the Halema’uma’u and Pu’u ‘O’o vents remain high; tephra production continues from the Halema’uma’u vent. Lava flows through tubes to the ocean west of Kalapana’.

Early on the morning (local time) of Sunday 12 October, however, there was a significant explosive event at Halema’uma’u crater. The HVO’s update for that date describes the occurrence as follows:

Seismic activity continued to be focused on Halema’uma’u Crater; tremor levels are at moderate values. Seven hybrid seismic events were recorded; The two largest, at 3:54 pm yesterday and 7:28 am this morning, resulted in dusty brown ashy plumes being ejected vertically with a few red flashes visible even in daylight; NPS eruption crew observers at the Jaggar overlook reported no sound associated with yesterday’s event. A total of 20 earthquakes were located beneath Kilauea or nearby, including 12 beneath the south caldera and 2 on south flank faults, with the number of RB2S2BL earthquakes up slightly to values of 60/day).

On the following day the HVO sent a team out to look at the results of the ashy explosions:

The 07:28 am 10/12 explosive eruption warranted a special weekend tephra collection mission yesterday. The eruption did produce significant tephra deposits, some of the pieces were fist- to grapefruit-sized frothy lava. Most of the samples were glassy lava bits with minor rock fragments and dust. Despite the fact that the 10/12 07:28 hybrid seismic event was larger than the 9/2 hybrid seismic event, the 10/12 deposit was significantly smaller.

[Non-Americans reading the above will have to allow for the strange American habit of writing abbreviated dates backwards. By ’10/12′ they mean 12 October, and the ‘9/2′ event happened in September, not February.]

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory caught the 12 October event on video, and you can see the resulting two excellent films via the images page on the HVO website (where many more wonderful images and videos are available).

For more on this, see the coverage at the Eruptions blog: ‘Ash eruption video from Halemaumau’.

For all our Kilauea coverage: Kilauea « The Volcanism Blog.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Kilauea – summary information for Kilauea (1302-01-)
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory – main page for the HVO
HVO Kilauea Status Page – the latest activity reports for Kilauea

The Volcanism Blog

Hawaii officials ponder the vog problem 24 September 2008

Posted by admin in Hawaii, Kilauea, natural hazards, United States.
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Kilauea volcano continues to pump out high levels of sulphur dioxide in its emissions, which contributes to high levels of volcanic air pollution. When the wind is in the wrong direction, large parts of Hawaii Island are choked in the nasty, acidic haze, which can cause significant health problems.

Back in May the Speaker of the Hawaii House of Representatives appointed a Special Committee to investigate vog effects. The Committee held its final meeting last week, which was addressed by health, education, civil defence and emergency services representatives. The consensus seems to be that there is very little one can do to get away from vog, but that one can shelter from it. Health officials suggest that residents should create ‘safe rooms’ in their homes where they can shelter from the effects of vog, and the Department of Education has announced that ‘safe rooms’ with purified air supplies will be set up in all Big Island schools. Some sectors of agriculture have been hit hard by the persistent vog produced by the volcano’s activity since the spring, and among other plans floated has been the suggestion that farmers could be evacuated to areas unaffected by vog. In general, the Committee itself seems to be looking to Washington for assistance in dealing with the vog problem: ‘We really need to reach out to FEMA and Congress for some help on this issue’, says Committee Chair Robert Herkes.

For more on vog: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory: sulfur dioxide, vog and volcanic ash FAQ.

For all our Kilauea coverage: Kilauea « The Volcanism Blog.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Kilauea – summary information for Kilauea (1302-01-)
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory – main page for the HVO
HVO Kilauea Status Page – the latest activity reports for Kilauea

The Volcanism Blog

Kilauea lava lake re-emerges 12 September 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, Hawaii, Kilauea, United States, volcano culture.
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Catching up with a story from last week, the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory announced on 5 September that a ‘sloshing’ lava lake had been observed within Halemaumau vent at Kilauea. Erik Klemetti has all the relevant information and links over at Eruptions; as he says, lava lakes are fairly rare and transitory phenomena, so this is an exciting and interesting development.

In some ways this is a return to form for Kilauea, which was celebrated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for the spectacular lava lake which occupied Halemaumau crater until it vanished during the eruption of 1924. In an article of 1915 the geologist Sidney Powers of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory noted that within the crater:

… a molten lava lake is almost continuously active … The size of the inner crater and of the lake within varies with the phases of activity, but in 1915 the crater has been about 1,200 feet in diameter, and the lake within, at a depth of 365 feet or more, from 400 to 500 feet long, and 100 to 180 feet wide … The lava lake has a temperature of 1000° C. (1832° F.), and consequently a thin skin of frozen lava is maintained over the yellow-red liquid. The skin is broken by fountains which break to a height of from 10 to 40 feet; and by the currents which constantly provide a streaming of the lava and of the crusts; and by splashing caves at the margins of the lake.

(Sidney Powers, ‘Hawaii’s great volcanoes and the study of them’, Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, vol. 47, no. 8 (1915), pp. 577-8.)

This dramatic and beautiful lava lake was a favourite subject of many artists (see below) and was celebrated in Tennyson’s 1892 poem ‘Kapiolani':

Long as the lava-light
Glares from the lava-lake
Dazing the starlight,
Long as the silvery vapour in daylight
Over the mountain
Floats, will the glory of Kapiolani be mingled with either on Hawa-i-ee.

September 2008 sees the lava-light once more glaring from the lava-lake after an absence of more than eighty years. It will be interesting to see for how long it dazes the starlight this time.

Ernest William Christmas, 'Kilauea Crater' (c.1916)
Ernest William Christmas (1863-1918), ‘Kilauea Crater’ (c.1916) [public domain image: source].

For all our Kilauea coverage: Kilauea « The Volcanism Blog.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Kilauea – summary information for Kilauea (1302-01-)
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory – main page for the HVO
HVO Kilauea Status Page – the latest activity reports for Kilauea

The Volcanism Blog

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