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Support volcano monitoring in Guatemala 23 June 2010

Posted by admin in Guatemala, natural hazards, Santa María, volcano monitoring.
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Jessica Ball of the Magma Cum Laude blog has been in touch with news of a very worthy cause: supporting volcano monitoring in Guatemala. The government agency charged with monitoring Guatemala’s volcanoes, the Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Volcanología, Meteorología e Hidrología (INSIVUMEH), is staffed by some incredibly dedicated and hard-working men and women who do all they can to keep their people safe from volcanic hazards, but they do not have the equipment they need to do the job as well as it needs to be done. They need everything from computers to rock hammers, tape measures to digital cameras, laser rangefinders to geological hand lenses. That’s where you can help.

The International Volcano Monitoring Fund (IVMF) was set up by Dr Jeff Witter to help improve volcano monitoring in developing countries. Jessica Ball has done much of her volcanological research on Santiaguito volcano in Guatemala, and she has got together with the IVMF and INSIVUMEH to compile a list of what is needed and launch a fundraising effort for the Santaguito Volcano Observatory. Please go to Jessica’s page about the fundraiser at Magma Cum Laude, and to the IVMF’s Guatemala page, to find out what your donations can buy and how you can help.

This is a very worthy cause in which a few dollars can make a big difference: please help if you can.

The Volcanism Blog

Those Eyjafjallajökull webcams 4 May 2010

Posted by admin in eruptions, Eyjafjöll, Iceland, volcano monitoring, volcanoes.
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I’ve had some e-mails asking where webcams covering the Eyjafjallajökull eruption are to be found. Eyjafjallajökull is not camera-shy volcano – plenty of cameras, lots of coverage, lots of images. Here’s a summary of the current webcam links:

Vodafone Þórólfsfell webcam.

Eyjafjallajökull frá Þórólfsfelli.

Eyjafjallajökull frá Hvolsvelli.

Eyjafjallajökull frá Valahnúk.

Web camera Eyjafjallajökull – Múlakot.

The Icelandic Met Office has a list of Icelandic webcams with locations, and Jón Frímann has compiled another Iceland volcano webcam list which can be found here. More webcam information, along with a great deal else, can be found at the excellent Eyjafjallajökull links list at the Islande 2010 blog.

For all our Eyjafjallajökull coverage: Eyjafjöll « The Volcanism Blog.

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Keeping up with Chaitén via the DGAC and OVDAS webcams 2 May 2010

Posted by admin in Chaitén, Chile, volcano monitoring, volcanoes.
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For the last two years we have been watching the Chaitén volcanic eruption through the cameras operated by the Chilean civil aviation authority, the Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil de Chile (DGAC), at Chaitén airfield. The DGAC deserves congratulations for keeping those cameras working night and day, through the sometimes very difficult conditions thrown up by the weather and the volcano.

The DGAC does not deserve any congratulations, however, for redesigning their website without a thought for their visitors and rendering all former URLs invalid. There’s no attempt to forward you to the new page, or even to help you find it: ‘no es posible encontrar la página solicitada’, they say, as if it’s your fault for asking. The outcome is that all previous links to the Chaitén cameras on this blog and everywhere else are now broken. And it’s not as if the newly re-designed site is any better than its predecessor: it’s still script-heavy, ugly, and slow. Anyway, the new links are as follows:

  • Cámaras de Chile: List of DGAC airfield cameras (with a map to show you where they are)
  • Aeródromo Chaitén: page for the two Chaitén airfield cameras (showing the current images alongside an archive image for reference)
  • Chaitén Cámara Norte: Chaitén airfield north-facing camera, the one that shows the volcano (current image, and archived images for the previous three hours)
  • Chaitén Cámara S-Este: Chaitén airfield south-east-facing camera, the one that shows the river (current image, and archived images for the previous three hours)

As for one Chilean state agency site that could do with a radical redesign, that of the Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), it continues unaltered, a visual and organizational catastrophe and a potent demonstration of everything you shouldn’t do when designing a website. But at least the locations of the OVDAS Chaitén cameras are unchanged:

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

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Italy ponders volcanic threat from Ischia 28 April 2010

Posted by admin in Ischia, Italy, natural hazards, volcano monitoring, volcanoes.
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At the northern end of the Gulf of Naples in southern Italy lies the island of Ischia, a complex volcanic edifice with a long history of violent activity that last erupted in 1302 AD. It has a population of around 60,000 and is a popular tourist destination. Now the head of Italy’s civil protection service, Guido Bertolaso, is sounding alarm bells about the potential volcanic threat from Ischia in the Italian media (only a few weeks after his Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia counterpart Dr Enzo Boschi did the same thing over Mount Marsili).

During a press conference in which he discussed the range of volcanic risks faced by Italy, Bertolaso described Vesuvius ‘the biggest civil protection problem in our country’, but pointed the finger at Ischia as potentially the more immediate threat: ‘If I were to say what is potentially the volcano with a bullet in the chamber, I would say that it is not Vesuvius but the island of Ischia’. He said that since the eruption of 1302 the height of Mount Epomeo, the highest point of the island (which is a volcanic horst) has increased by 800 metres [EDIT, this should almost certainly be 300 metres, see comments below. FURTHER EDIT, the uplift is to ~780 metres a.s.l., but that’s over the past 33,000 years – see note at the end of this post.] and that the magma chamber is ‘reloading’. However, whereas everybody knows that Vesuvius is an active volcano there is not the same perception of Ischia: this is clearly something that Bertolaso wants to change.

Bertolaso also discussed the need for better monitoring of active undersea volcanoes, and floated the idea of a Europe-wide volcanic ash monitoring network, in the wake of the disruption caused by Eyjafjallajökull.

(INGV’s monitoring page for Ischia is here. There is no sign of any impending eruption at Ischia, as Bertolaso made clear in his remarks.)

NOTE: Ischia uplift. Poli et al (1989) note that ‘the rapid uplift of the central horst of Mount Epomeo … from about -200 m to 700 m occurred after 33,000 y. B.P., mostly in the last 20,000 years’ (p. 332). Poli et al also anticipated that the main potential volcanic hazard at Ischia was landslides and mudflows consequent on this rapid uplift, rather than the direct effects of volcanic activity, with future eruptions likely to be effusive rather than explosive, although there remains the possibility of ‘phreatic or phreatomagmatic crisis’ (p. 334). S. Poli et al, ‘Time dimension in the geochemical approach and hazard estimates of a volcanic area: the Isle of Ischia case (Italy)’, Journal of Volcanology & Geothermal Research, 36 (1989), pp. 327-335 [doi:10.1016/0377-0273(89)90077-2].

Bertolaso: allarme eruzione a IschiaCorriere della Sera, 27 April 2010
Bertolaso lancia l’allarme su Ischia ‘Un vulcano con il colpo in canna’La Repubblica, 27 April 2010
Vulcani: Bertolaso, parte il monitoraggio di quelli sommersi – AGI, 27 April 2010
Bertolaso propone sistema monitoraggio Ue per ceneri vulcaniche – Reuters, 27 April 2010
Ischia volcano eruption concerns – Press Association, 28 April 2010
Italy says Ischia volcano, near Naples, could blowThe Statesman, 28 April 2010

Global Volcanism Program: Ischia – information about Ischia (0101-03=) from the GVP
Osservatorio Vesuviano: Ischia – Ischia monitoring information from the INGV’s Vesuvius Observatory

The Volcanism Blog

Marsili seamount: tsunami threat for Southern Italy? 30 March 2010

Posted by admin in Italy, Marsili, natural hazards, submarine volcanism, volcano monitoring, volcanoes.
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Mount Marsili is a 3000-metre high seamount beneath the Tyrrhenian Sea, 150 km south-west of Naples. Marsili is active and recent research has indicated signs of restlessness (see this 2006 paper in PDF), although the risks of any dangerous eruptive activity are very slight). In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the director of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV), Dr Enzo Boschi, has reminded everyone that Marsili is active and that there is a potential threat of an eruption/collapse generating a tsunami that would threaten Southern Italy:

It could happen tomorrow. The latest research says that the volcanic edifice is not strong and its walls are fragile. Furthermore we have measured the magma chamber that has formed in recent years and it is of large dimensions. All this tells us that the volcano is active and could erupt unexpectedly.

According to the article, observations indicate that hydrothermal emissions from vents around Marsili have become more intense recently, and evidence of landslides discovered by the oceanographic research vessel Urania last February ‘indicate an instability impossible to ignore’. Dr Boschi warns that a flank collapse at Marsili ‘would displace millions of cubic metres of material, which would be capable of generating a wave of great power’. Marsili is currently unmonitored, observes Dr Boschi: ‘A network of seismometers should be installed around the edifice, connected on land to a volcano monitoring centre. But this is beyond the budget’.

And it seems reasonable to suggest that the budget is what this article is actually all about. Despite the new attention this story will bring to Marsili as it gets cut-and-pasted around the web, there is nothing substantially new here, as Aldo Piombino notes in a very comprehensive post published on his blog today. No new activity lies behind this report, and nor has the potential threat, such as it is, changed in any way. The novelty, he observes, is in public attention being drawn to the need to monitor Marsili, which has been invisible in every sense as far as the Italian public is concerned.

Undersea volcanoes tend to be out of sight and out of mind. Writing in 2008, Aldo Piombino called Marsili ‘one of the least-known of the huge volcanic systems of Europe’, and argued that more attention must be paid to this active and potentially very destructive underwater giant:

It is statistically very unlikely that in our lifetimes we will see an explosion of Marsili, and even less likely that we will see a tsunami caused by a landslide on its flanks, but it is to be hoped that it will be placed under close seismic and geochemical surveillance, as with other active Italian volcanoes. I believe that it is necessary for civil protection and for science that one of the largest volcanoes in Europe is better understood.

Boris Behncke of the INGV discussed Marsili’s activity in the course of his Q&A on Dr Klemetti’s Eruptions blog last year, but also remarked that monitoring Marsili was not a priority for the INGV [UPDATE: in fact that is not what Boris meant. He meant that Marsili has not been a priority for the Italian authorities, Civil Defence, and the Italian public, rather than the INGV – see his comment at Eruptions]. Dr Boschi’s comments today would seem to indicate that that has changed. Aldo Piombino observes today that the technology is available within the INGV to monitor Marsili directly from the seabed using new broadband seismometers transmitting to land-based monitoring stations, and supports Dr Boschi’s call for full monitoring of the volcano. But that cannot happen without money, which is more likely to be forthcoming if the potential (and real but, it must be emphasized again, very remote) dangers of a tsunami-generating collapse at Marsili are stressed – hence the Corriere della Sera article.

So, it seems that a push has begun within Italian volcanology to get Marsili wired up for continuous and comprehensive monitoring. Let us hope it succeeds.

UPDATE 30 March 2010: Dr Erik Klemetti has more on Marsili at Eruptions, and Boris Behncke, himself of the INGV (Dr Boschi is Boris’s boss), has an illuminating comment here.

Torna a far paura il vulcano sommerso nel TirrenoCorriere della Sera, 29 March 2010
Undersea volcano threatens southern Italy: report – AFP, 29 March 2010
Il Monte Marsili, un gigantesco vulcano nascosto dalle profondità del Mar Tirreno – scienzeedintorni, 4 April 2008
Finalmente alla ribalta il più grande fra i vulcani sommersi nel Tirreno, il Monte Marsili – scienzeedintorni, 29 March 2010

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Infrasound monitoring for Marianas volcanoes 26 February 2010

Posted by admin in Pacific, United States, volcano monitoring.
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Left: Pagan volcano erupting, 18 May 1981. Right: Anatahan erupting, 16 June 2003. (Both images courtesy USGS.)
Left: Pagan erupting, 18 May 1981. Right: Anatahan erupting, 16 June 2003. (Both images courtesy USGS.)

A new programme in the Northern Marianas Islands will use infrasound technology alongside conventional seismometers and other equipment to monitor the archipelago’s active volcanoes. The partners behind the project to enhance volcano monitoring in the Marianas are the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Government, the U. S. Geological Survey and Southern Methodist University (SMU). SMU scientists have been responsible for the application of infrasound to the detection of nuclear explosions in order to monitor test ban compliance.

The project chief, Professor James Quick, explains that infrasound used alongside conventional monitoring techniques will add a new dimension to the interpretation of volcanic signals: ‘My hope is that we’ll see some distinctive signals in the infrasound that will allow us to discriminate the different kinds of eruptive styles — from effusive events that produce lava flows, or small explosive events we call vulcanian eruptions, to the large “Plinian” events of particular concern to aviation. They are certain to have some characteristic sonic signature’.

The planned development of the Marianas as a forward deployment base for the United States military has given particular urgency to the improvement of volcano monitoring in the archipelago.

Volcanic eruptions produce much more sound than human ears can detect – in particular, they are prolific and efficient radiators of low-frequency sound, in the infrasonic bandwith below the threshold of human hearing. These low-frequency sounds are detectable at great distances and are little affected by passage through the atmosphere. Volcano monitoring using infrasound offers several benefits:

  • It is unaffected by inclement weather, darkness and poor visibility.
  • It offers the potential for a detailed understanding of internal volcanic dynamics in both eruptive and non-eruptive states.
  • It avoids the complication of variations in local conditions and monitoring arrangements, making comparisons between different volcanoes easier.
  • It can be used to clarify and interpret obscure and enigmatic seismicity.

More information about volcanic infrasound monitoring can be found at the INFRAVOLC site run by New Mexico Tech.

USGS-SMU volcano monitoring will target hazard threat to Marianas, U.S. military and commercial jets – SMU News Release, 24 February 2010*

Global Volcanism Program: Anatahan – information about Anatahan (0804-20=)
Global Volcanism Program: Pagan – information about Pagan (0804-17=)
Northern Mariana Islands volcanic activity – from the Marianas government
North Pacific Volcanic Islands – information from the USGS

* Lots of detail in the news release, but it contains two Wikipedia links, ugh. A reputable university should know better.

The Volcanism Blog

Chaitén and the follies of the press 23 February 2010

Posted by admin in Chaitén, Chile, volcano monitoring.
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Chilean newspaper El Repuerto has harsh words today for the sensationalist reporting by some sections of the press of the recent ‘red alert’ story. Under the rather neat headline ‘Chaitén: entre la alerta roja y la prensa amarilla’ (‘Chaitén: between red alert and yellow journalism’), the article points out that the red alert was nothing new and SERNAGEOMIN were simply reminding everyone that the volcano remained dangerous.

The writer argues that the press, however, were not interested in the facts, just in headlines about looming catastrophe. Nor are journalists generally interested in the South of Chile (or Argentina, for that matter), they only discover the place exists when they can write about a disaster there:

Once again grandiloquent journalism tempts us with its follies. This time it’s about the South, which exists, when convenient. ‘Red alert in Chaitén’, read the lurid headlines as old archive material showing southern localities under ash was dusted off.

Coverage in the Argentinan Clarín newspaper is held up as a particular example of the sensationalized reporting the writer is condemning.

(Under the ‘any volcano will do’ rules applying to the images used in news reports dealing with volcanic activity, El Repuerto‘s article is illustrated with a picture of Cleveland volcano in Alaska.)

The Volcanism Blog

Volcanoes of southern Colombia: overflights, 15 February 2010 22 February 2010

Posted by admin in activity reports, Azufral, Cerro Negro (Colombia), Colombia, Cumbal, Galeras, volcano monitoring.
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Galeras volcano, 15 February 2010 (INGEOMINAS)
The summit of Galeras (image from 15 February 2010 INGEOMINAS overflight).

The INGEOMINAS volcanological observatory at Pasto has images from overflights carried out on 15 February 2010 over the volcanoes of southern Colombia: Galeras, Cumbal, Azufral and the Chiles-Cerro Negro complex (click on the name to access the images for each volcano).

Of these four, only Galeras is currently showing any signs of restlessness and is on alert level III, yellow (‘changes in the behaviour of the volcanic activity’). Cumbal and Azufral are both at alert level IV, green (‘volcano active and behaviour stable’), while Cerro Negro isn’t considered to need an alert level. Cumbal’s most recent eruptive activity was an explosive eruption in 1926, Azufral’s last known eruption was 1000 years ago, while Cerro Negro may have erupted in 1936, although this is unconfirmed.

Cerro Negro volcano, 15 February 2010 (INGEOMINAS)
Cerro Negro (image from 15 February 2010 INGEOMINAS overflight).

Cumbal volcano, 15 February 2010 (INGEOMINAS)
Summit of Cumbal volcano (image from 15 February 2010 INGEOMINAS overflight).

Azufral volcano, 15 February 2010 (INGEOMINAS)
Azufral volcano, showing Laguna Verde crater lake (image from 15 February 2010 INGEOMINAS overflight).

Global Volcanism Program: Azufral – information for Azufral (1501-09=)
Global Volcanism Program: Cerro Negro de Mayasquer – information for Cerro Negro de Mayasquer (1501-11=)
Global Volcanism Program: Cumbal – information for Cumbal (1501-10=)
Global Volcanism Program: Galeras – information for Galeras (1501-08=)

The Volcanism Blog

Canaries – Cape Verde link to improve volcano monitoring 22 February 2010

Posted by admin in Atlantic, Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, volcano monitoring.
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The Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands are volcanic archipelagoes off the Atlantic coast of Africa: the Canaries constitute a territory of Spain, while the Cape Verde islands are a former Portuguese colony which is now an independent republic. Both are volcanically active, and volcano monitoring is a priority for both island groups.

The Instituto Tecnológico y de Energías Renovables (ITER) of Tenerife is involved in an extensive programme aimed at strengthening volcano monitoring in Cape Verde, reports Canarias 24 Horas. In collaboration with the Laboratorio de Engenharia de Cabo Verde (LEC), the Department of Science and Technology of the Universidade de Cabo Verde (UNICV) and the Cape Verde Serviço Nacional de Protecção Civil (SNPC), ITER has been providing training and technical resources to enhance volcano monitoring and hazard mitigation in Cape Verde. Particular programmes under way include the strengthening of local capacities for geochemical volcano monitoring, the measurement of volcanic gas emissions on São Vicente and Fogo islands, and the measurement of thermal energy release associated with gas emissions at Pico do Fogo, which has been the focus of recent volcanic activity in the Cape Verde Islands.

El ITER realiza una misión vulcanológica en Cabo Verde – Canarias24horas.com, 20 February 2010

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Watching the volcanoes in Congo 20 February 2010

Posted by admin in Africa, Congo (Dem. Rep.), Nyamuragira, Nyiragongo, volcano monitoring.
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Volcanic neighbours Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been restless lately: Nyiragongo produced thermal anomalies (probably from lava lake activity) and a diffuse plume at the end of January, while Nyamuragira began the new year with a sizeable and dramatic eruption.

The city of Goma (estimated population 1 million) lies in the shadow of Nyiragongo. It’s the task of the Goma Volcanological Observatory to monitor these active volcanoes and keep the surrounding population and the wider world informed as to what they are up to – a task made no easier by the various problems of war, population dislocation and economic difficulty that beset this part of Africa, and by the problems in getting the money and equipment they need to do their vital work effectively.

Today IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has published an article about the work of the Goma Volcanological Observatory: ‘DRC: watching the volcanoes’ (the report can also be found at Brunei.fm). The more that is known about the work of the Goma observatory, and the more support it receives, the better.

DRC: watching the volcanoes – IRIN, 20 February 2010
DR Congo: watching the volcanoes – Brunei.fm, 20 February 2010

Global Volcanism Program: Nyiragongo – summary information for Nyiragongo (0203-03=)
Global Volcanism Program: Nyamuragira – summary information for Nyamuragira (0203-02=)

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