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Permian caldera discovered in Italian Alps 22 September 2009

Posted by admin in calderas, current research, Italy.
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The remains of a caldera that erupted during the Permian (290-248 million years b.p.) have been identified in the Sesia Valley in the Italian Alps. Local uplift has exposed the magmatic plumbing to the depth of 25km, five times deeper than scientists have been able to study previously:

A fossil supervolcano has been discovered in the Italian Alps’ Sesia Valley by a team led by James E. Quick, a geology professor at Southern Methodist University. The discovery will advance scientific understanding of active supervolcanoes, like Yellowstone, which is the second-largest supervolcano in the world and which last erupted 630,000 years ago.

A rare uplift of the Earth’s crust in the Sesia Valley reveals for the first time the actual ‘plumbing’ of a supervolcano from the surface to the source of the magma deep within the Earth, according to a new research article reporting the discovery. The uplift reveals to an unprecedented depth of 25 kilometers the tracks and trails of the magma as it moved through the Earth’s crust.

The discovery was described by Prof Quick and his colleagues in Geology, July 2009 (click here for the abstract), and SMU have a press release, ‘Research Spotlight: the “Rosetta Stone” of supervolcanoes’.

(What would science reporters do without the term ‘supervolcano’? And where there’s the term ‘supervolcano’, the name ‘Yellowstone’ is rarely far behind.)

Supervolcano ‘Rosetta Stone’ discovered in Italian Alps – redOrbit, 21 September 2009

The Volcanism Blog

A volcanic miscellany: Ibu, Toba, Kasatochi, Cotopaxi 21 August 2009

Posted by admin in Alaska, Ecuador, Ibu, Indonesia, Kasatochi, Toba, United States, volcano tourism.
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Catching up with some volcanic bits and bobs that have been hanging around on my desktop/in my inbox/on little pieces of paper in my pocket for the last couple of weeks:

Heightened alert at Ibu. The alert level for the Indonesian volcano Ibu on the island of Halmahera was raised to level 3 (orange/siaga) on 5 August. The last increase in alert level, from 1 (green) to 2 (yellow/waspada), was less than a month earlier, on 15 July. Eruptions of incandescent material accompanied by elevated seismicity occurred with increasing frequency at the end of July. Meanwhile, the lava dome continues to grow. Some very nice pictures of the dome from August 2007 can be found in this Flickr collection (thanks to Volcanism Blog reader Bruce S. for letting me know about this).

Weather wonders and supervolcanoes. Randy Cerveny, geographical sciences professor at Arizona State University, has a new book out called Weather’s Greatest Mysteries Solved! (the exclamation mark is, apparently, part of the title) which looks at the role of the weather in Earth’s prehistory and history, from the extinction of the dinosaurs to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s via the end of the Mayan civilization and the parting of the Red Sea. One chapter is devoted to the Toba eruption of about 74000 years ago, which may (or may not) have brought about the near-extinction of humanity. This topic naturally leads to speculation about possible future ‘supervolcano’ eruptions and the potential threat posed by Yellowstone: ‘It’s overdue’, says Prof. Cerveny, but ‘I don’t think it’s a run into the night screaming kind of thing yet, but if it were to happen civilization as we know it would probably break down’. He also has a nice message of humility for humanity, pointing out that however much ‘We like to think we are masters of our fate … the thing about climate is that there are simply a lot of things we can’t control or even begin to control or totally understand’.

‘Our island blew up’. The August 2008 eruption of Kasatochi volcano in the Aleutians brought an abrupt end to scientific fieldwork being carried out there by two U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists: ‘our island blew up’, is the deadpan observation in their research report. Today Kasatochi, formerly green here and there, is black and barren, and about 32 percent larger than it was before the eruption. A scientific team is revisiting the island to assess the aftermath of the event, and will be accompanied by a reporter from the Alaska Daily News who will file regular reports on their researches.

Music and dance at Cotopaxi. It’s 34 years since the Cotopaxi National Park was created around Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador, and local communities have been celebrating the anniversary with music and dance, reports El Comercio. The Ecuadorian Minister for the Environment has been at the celebrations, and the locals have taken the opportunity to lobby her for more support and funding for the park and the people who live in and around it. The Parque Nacional Cotopaxi is one of Latin America’s top tourist attractions, receiving more than 100,000 visitors per year.

The Volcanism Blog

Stirring up a supervolcano 30 May 2008

Posted by admin in current research, geoscience, volcanoes, volcanology.
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The boundaries of corn-syrup-based volcanological research have been pushed back yet again. Scientists from McGill University and the University of British Columbia have used corn syrup in model volcanoes made of plexiglass to simulate the process through which an ordinary volcano can find itself transformed into the devastating and media-friendly phenomenon known as a supervolcano. An article at ScienceDaily explains:

Using volcanic models made of plexiglass filled with corn syrup, the researchers simulated how magma in a volcano’s magma chamber might behave if the roof of the chamber caved in during an eruption.

‘The magma was being stirred by the roof falling into the magma chamber,” Stix [i.e. Dr John Stix of UBC] explained. ‘This causes lots of complicated flow effects that are unique to a supervolcano eruption.’

Here’s a press release from McGill all about the project. And further coverage can be found at The Canadian Press, in an article described by Dr Erik W. Klemetti as ‘the sort of meaningless, unintelligible science journalism that drives me nuts’.

Grateful thanks to fellow-historian and boundary-crossing scholar Dr Sebastian Normandin, whose blog article on supervolcanoes brought the whole corn syrup thing to my attention.

The Volcanism Blog