jump to navigation

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

Posted by admin in volcanoes.
Tags: , , ,
comments closed

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

Australian volcano threat: spotlight moves to Anakie, near Geelong 2 October 2009

Posted by admin in natural hazards, volcano monitoring.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

Professor Bernie Joyce is continuing his campaign to wake Australia up to the potential threat of volcanic activity. From Ballarat he has moved about 50 km south-east – here he is telling the Geelong Independent about the potential for a volcanic outburst around Anakie, Victoria:

Professor Bernie Joyce, who is a Geological Society of Australia member, said a number of ‘young’ volcanoes were situated around the rural community of Anakie on the outskirts of Geelong.

‘These volcanoes are scoria cones, they are young volcanoes, the most common and smallest volcanoes’, he said. ‘The volcanoes at Anakie are about one and a half million years old’.

Prof Joyce said volcano activity at Anakie was possible over the next century … ‘The possibility at Anakie is there might be a new volcano – it could be a scoria with lava flows – or a deeper crater like Mount Gambier and Tower Hill which produces ash. We don’t need to hold our breath but there could be a volcano eruption in the next century’.

As ever, Prof Joyce urges the Australian authorities and emergency services to prepare themselves better to deal with volcanic hazards: ”We can’t say with 100 per cent certainty that a significant volcano will strike tomorrow, next week, or even 100 years down the track – but these geo-hazards are real and they must be given much more focus by emergency management authorities’.

UPDATE: Thanks to Dr Erik Klemetti’s Eruptions blog, I find that Prof Joyce has been even more active than I realized in threatening towns and cities up and down eastern Australia with volcanoes in their back yards, and he’s used that word ‘overdue’ again: ‘A significant volcanic eruption is overdue in Australia and could occur in southeast Queensland near Bundaberg or between Townsville and Cooktown’. Ballarat, Anakie, Bundaberg … is nowhere safe?

News
Scientist warns of eruptionGeelong Independent, 1 October 2009
Volcanic eruption ‘could occur near Bundaberg’Courier-Mail, 3 October 2009

The Volcanism Blog

New Australian volcano may pop up in Ballarat area, warns geologist 28 September 2009

Posted by admin in natural hazards, volcano monitoring.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

Australian geologist Prof Bernie Joyce was warning us last week that Australia is ‘overdue’ (his word) for a volcanic eruption. Now he’s decided to alarm the citizens of the Ballarat area of Victoria (in south-east Australia) by telling them they should be ready for a new volcano to emerge, ‘very fast and explosive’, in the local landscape:

Associate Professor Bernie Joyce, who made headlines across Australia last week when he claimed a large volcanic eruption in Victoria was ‘well overdue’, said while volcanoes such as Mt Warrenheip and Mt Buninyong were extinct, a new volcano could arise among the region’s volcano clusters.

‘It could still be thousands of years away, but you should expect it to happen’, he said.

‘Because the ones in the Ballarat area are not as young as (those) in far western Victoria and Mt Gambier, you could expect a new volcano to come up in a cluster’.

Mt Warrenheip and Mt Buninyong are scoria cones: the youngest lavas at the former have been dated to 2.53 (+/-0.15) million years. ‘The well-preserved forms of flows and cones may be indicative of ages of less than 100,000 yr, but the few available K-Ar dates on plains lavas near Ballarat and flows apparently from Mount Rowan and Smeaton Hill are within the range 2.9-2.1 Ma’, says Intraplate Volcanism in Eastern Australia and New Zealand, edited by R. W. Johnson (Cambridge University Press 1989), p. 139.

The prospect of future volcanic activity in Australia is certainly real, but it is also remote – and very difficult to ‘prepare’ for. Prof Joyce argues that ‘given the potential for volcanic activity, emergency authorities must better prepare themselves and the community to respond to it’, but, assuming that he is not suggesting precautionary evacuations or the distribution of breathing masks ‘just in case’, it is not at all clear what the Australian emergency authorities can actually do about the possibility that, at some unknowable and perhaps very distant future date, some farmland may be swallowed up by a new scoria cone, or Ballarat receive a dusting of volcanic ash.

News
New volcano could raise its head hereThe Courier, 28 September 2009

The Volcanism Blog

Australia ‘overdue’ for volcanic eruption? 21 September 2009

Posted by admin in natural hazards.
Tags: , , ,
comments closed

Middle and Valley Lake Craters of Mount Gambier - illustration from 1862

Is Australia ‘overdue’ for a potentially hazardous and destructive volcanic eruption?

Australia is not a continent normally associated with active volcanism: the Global Volcanism Program currently lists a grand total of ‘1 Holocene volcano’, although that ‘volcano’ is the extensive Newer Volcanic Province in south-east Australia. The province stretches across 15000 sq km of the states of Victoria and South Australia, and consists of around 400 small shield volcanoes and explosive vents active from the Tertiary to the Holocene, with the most recent eruptions at Mount Gambier (PDF) dated to around 4,000-5,000 years ago.

As the example of the Newer Volcanic Province indicates, there is plenty of evidence of volcanic activity in Australia: Geoscience Australia notes that ‘Evidence for volcanism throughout geological time can be found in every [Australian] State and Territory, with extensive volcanism down the east coast during the past 60 million years’. The east coast volcanism is put down to the Australian continent moving from south to north over a hot spot, so that the youngest volcanism is found in the south. There was some volcanic activity in Queensland as recently as around 10,000 years ago. Lava flows from Toomba vent on Nulla volcano have been dated to 13,000 years ago. This eruption, along with others in recent Australian geological history in both north and south, was almost certainly witnessed by the human inhabitants of the area (PDF) and recorded in their mythology. The south-eastern Australian volcanoes are generally regarded as ‘dormant’, the northern volcanoes as ‘extinct’; but all these extinct/dormant/active labels are rather arbitrary.

The point of all this is that Australia does have a history of fairly recent volcanism. Does that mean there is a significant volcanic eruption risk that Australians should be worrying about? Prof Bernie Joyce of the University of Melbourne thinks so:

Emergency services should prepare for volcano eruptions, particularly in Victoria where one is overdue, a Melbourne geologist has warned. Associate Professor Bernie Joyce yesterday said there were about 400 volcanoes across Victoria, including some in the state’s western uplands that could erupt at any time, potentially devastating the land around them and claiming lives.

Prof Joyce warns that in north Queensland new volcanoes have erupted ‘perhaps every 2000 years in the past 40,000 years—and given there has not been a major eruption there for the past 5000 years, a significant eruption seems well overdue’. Australian emergency authorities need to be better prepared, he argues, taking a lead from the kind of emergency preparation, public education and information systems seen in New Zealand.

Some of Prof Joyce’s work on volcanic risks in south-eastern Australia and links to related resources can be found here, while a wider discussion of Australian volcano hazard issues is available from the remarkably comprehensive and informative website for the town of Romsey, Victoria.

[Illustration: ‘Mount Gambier, Middle and Valley Lake Craters’, from Julian Edmund Tenison Woods, Geological Observations in South Australia: Principally in the District South-East of Adelaide (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1862), facing page 230. Available via the Internet Archive.]

News
Volcano eruption ‘overdue’The Age, 21 September 2009
Australian eruption ‘overdue’ – Science Alert, 21 September 2009
Volcano warning: Australian eruption ‘overdue’ – ABC, 21 September 2009
Volcano: we’re 5000 years overdueThe Australian, 21 September 2009

The Volcanism Blog