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Build your own Eyjafjallajökull 30 April 2010

Posted by admin in Eyjafjöll, Iceland, miscellaneous, volcano culture, volcanoes.
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Cut-out 3D volcano model from the British Geological Survey

Fancy your own table-top volcano? Well, with card, scissors, glue, and a little patience, you can build your own three-dimensional model of Eyjafjallajökull, courtesy of the British Geological Survey. Just print off their PDF of the component parts from the BGS website (in colour, preferably) and cut them out* and put them together according to the instructions and hey presto, your very own Eyjafjallajökull.

The model is both a cut-out and a cut-away, as it is designed to reveal the volcano’s inner workings in schematic form, and it comes complete with ash-laden plume. The BGS website says the model is ‘intended as a simple guide to understanding how volcanoes such as Eyjafjallajökull are influenced by tectonic plate activity along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge’.

* When it comes to the cutting out, ‘you may need to get an adult to help you’.

Other model volcanoes: John Seach’s baking soda volcano; a USGS-approved paper volcano; a really explosive model volcano; several different model volcanoes in a range of materials; some artificial volcanoes for the home, several of them highly dangerous.

The Volcanism Blog

A very Australian volcano at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne 29 March 2010

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Guilfoyle's volcano, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne (illustration copyright RBGM)

History offers surprising connections between gardens and volcanoes, as we’ve reported before here at The Volcanism Blog. From Australia comes news of the restoration of a particularly notable example of the volcano as horticultural feature: Guilfoyle’s Volcano, in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. The ‘volcano’ is in fact a reservoir holding 1.3 million litres of water, built and landscaped under the direction of Sir William Guilfoyle, curator of the gardens 1873-1909. The ‘crater’ of the volcano features floating gardens, while the slopes are landscaped with boulders and areas of red stones and succulents simulating lava flows in a modern scheme designed by landscape architect Andrew Laidlaw. The feature had remained unseen and neglected since being fenced off in the 1950s.

[Illustration of Guilfoyle’s Volcano, copyright Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, reproduced here under the ‘fair use’ provisions of the Australian Copyright Act 1968.]

The Volcanism Blog

Volcanoes to blame for Cretaceous ocean anoxic event 11 February 2010

Posted by admin in climate, current research.
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Research published in a letter in Nature Geoscience: around 94.5 million years ago volcanism released large volumes of sulphur into the atmosphere which triggered huge phytoplankton blooms, which in turn deprived the oceans of oxygen and triggered extensive marine extinctions. The abstract tells it like this:

During the Cretaceous period (~145–65 million years ago), there were several periods of global ocean anoxia, each lasting less than one million years. These events, known as ocean anoxic events, were marked by significant increases in organic carbon burial, and are generally attributed to increased primary productivity in surface waters. The details underpinning the initiation, maintenance and termination of these events, however, remain equivocal. Here we present sulphur isotope data spanning the Ocean Anoxic Event 2 (about 94.5 million years ago) from sedimentary rocks in Colorado that were formed in the Western Interior Seaway; this seaway ran north–south, splitting North America during the Cretaceous. Sulphate levels increased rapidly from relatively low background levels at the onset of the event, most likely from the release of sulphur by massive volcanism, and fell during the anoxic event. We infer that the input of sulphate facilitated increased carbon remineralization, which enhanced nutrient recycling and increased global primary productivity, eventually resulting in widespread ocean anoxia. Our scenario indicates that Ocean Anoxic Event 2 may have persisted until sulphate levels were stabilized by the formation and burial of the sulphur mineral pyrite, which returned primary productivity to background levels. We suggest that fluctuations in sulphate levels may have regulated the marine carbon cycle during past periods of low oceanic sulphate concentration.

And that is why geoengineering the climate with artificial volcanoes is a really bad idea: ‘Like the mid-Cretaceous ocean, most modern lakes are poor in sulphate, so it’s possible that geoengineering the climate could trigger blooms and ultimately anoxia in some lakes’ says researcher Matthew Hurtgen of Northwestern University. ‘We hack the climate at our peril’, warns New Scientist. ‘Volcanoes spewed so much sulphate into the atmosphere 94 million years ago that the oceans were starved of oxygen and 27 per cent of marine genera went extinct. Geoengineering our climate could inflict a similar fate on some lakes’. Such is the climate change dilemma: in trying to avoid (for example) climate-induced tectonic-volcanic geo-apocalyptic mega-mayhem we may cause geoengineering-induced volcanic-toxic extinction-anoxic mega-mayhem instead. Agh.

  • Derek D. Adams, Matthew T. Hurtgen & Bradley B. Sageman, ‘Volcanic triggering of a biogeochemical cascade during Oceanic Anoxic Event 2’, Nature Geoscience, 31 January 2010 [doi:10.1038/ngeo743]. Abstract.

(There’s more on volcanism triggering the Cretaceous anoxic events in Nature, 17 July 2008, and Ole Nielsen has a great blog post: Late Cretaceous Anoxic Event.)

The Volcanism Blog

Saturday Volcano Art: Wörlitz – a volcano in the garden 22 September 2009

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Carl Kuntz, Der Stein zu Worlitz (c.1796)
Carl Kuntz, ‘Der Stein zu Wörlitz’ (c.1796).

Leopold III Frederick Franz (1740-1817) was the ruler of the small German principality of Anhalt-Dessau in what is now the German Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt. He was a great admirer of England, making several visits there between 1763 and 1785 and bringing back ‘advanced’ English ideas in economics, agriculture, culture and politics. The ‘natural style’ of gardening fashionable in England at this time inspired the prince to create an English-style landscape garden at his home estate of Wörlitz. For the Prince of Dessau, concerned by the threat posed to his small state by Prussian expansionism, committed to the free thought and liberty of the Enlightenment, and opposed to despotism and tyranny, the English garden was as much a political as an aesthetic statement.

The garden realm of Wörlitz was laid out between 1764 and around 1800 in the natural style of planting that characterized the English garden. There is an eclectic range of buildings and other features within the garden: numerous bridges and statues, a house in the Gothick architectural style, a pedimented Temple of Flora, the classical Wörlitz Synagogue – and an artificial volcano.


A geologist looks at geoengineering 15 September 2009

Posted by admin in climate.
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Geoengineering our way out of climate catastrophe is flavour of the month in certain quarters: mechanical trees, giant sunshades, artificial volcanoes, etc.

Chris Rowan of Highly Allocthonous is not convinced about all this, and has an article about geoengineering at Seed Magazine explaining why. Related posts at Highly Allocthonous here and here.

Business as abnormalSeed Magazine, 14 September 2009

The Volcanism Blog

Practical guides to artificial volcanism 11 September 2009

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A reader writes to say that the fascinating and more than slightly weird scientific curiosity corner known as Lateral Science has a remarkable collection of recipes for artificial volcanoes. The strong recommendation is not to try any of them at home.

The Volcanism Blog

Averting climate doom with artificial volcanoes 30 August 2009

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Artificial volcano at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas. Flickr image from temptingmamma's photostream, Creative Commons licensed.

Man-made volcanoes may cool Earth reports The Times today: yes, it’s artificial volcanoes again. The idea is to reproduce the sulphur-propagating aspects of volcanic eruptions in order to cool the planet:

The Royal Society is backing research into simulated volcanic eruptions, spraying millions of tons of dust into the air, in an attempt to stave off climate change.

The society will this week call for a global programme of studies into geo-engineering — the manipulation of the Earth’s climate to counteract global warming — as the world struggles to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It will suggest in a report that pouring sulphur-based particles into the upper atmosphere could be one of the few options available to humanity to keep the world cool.

See also: mechanical trees, slimy buildings, white paint on roofs, cloud-generating ships, artificial plankton blooms, giant space sunshield, wrapping Greenland in a blanket.

[Image of the artificial volcano at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas, by temptingmama at Flickr, reproduced here under a Creative Commons license.]

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