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Chaitén and the follies of the press 23 February 2010

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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

Mountain-munching magma monster menaces Yellowstone – local press 9 December 2009

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In the hands of the headline writers for the Jackson Hole News & Guide, an interesting scientific paper investigating the geodynamics of the Yellowstone hotspot has become ‘Park’s giant magma plume eating up mountains’.

The original article: Robert B. Smith, Michael Jordan, Bernhard Steinberger, Christine M. Puskas, Jamie Farrell, Gregory P. Waite, Stephan Husen, Wu-Lung Chang, & Richard O’Connell, ‘Geodynamics of the Yellowstone hotspot and mantle plume: seismic and GPS imaging, kinematics, and mantle flow’, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, vol. 188, issues 1-3 (20 November 2009), pp. 26-56. [doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2009.08.020]

[Thanks go to Boris Behncke.]

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Arenal: increased activity causes concern 4 April 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Arenal, Costa Rica, volcano monitoring.
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Arenal at night, photographed 7 April 2006 by Scott Robinson (Creative Commons license)

Costa Rica’s Comisión Nacional de Emergencias (CNE) is stepping up monitoring of Arenal volcano following an increase in seismic activity over the last month. The national seismological monitoring network (Red Sismológica Nacional) reports that 45 earthquakes were recorded during March, compared with ‘4 or 5’ in February. Seismologist Guillermo Alvarado is quoted in the Mexican newspaper El Financiero as saying that similar behaviour to that recorded in March preceded significant eruptive activity in 1975, 1993, 2000 and 2001. The CNE will be co-ordinating measures to ensure that tourists visiting Arenal and its surroundings over the Easter holidays are kept to safe areas and informed about potential dangers.

Note the irresponsible headline on the English-language Inside Costa Rica story: ‘Experts predicting major activity from Arenal volcano’. They are doing nothing of the sort: volcanologists and seismologists never predict, they only forecast, and in this case they are not even doing that, they are just drawing attention to a pattern of behaviour that has in the past been associated with eruptive activity and working with the authorities to ensure that warnings are issued and prudent precautions are taken. The Inside Costa Rica story itself contradicts its own headline by reporting that Eliécer Duarte of the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica ‘said that the volcano has maintained sustained activity for the last 40 years and that, although there will be new flows and related activities, it does not necessarily mean a precursor to “major” cycles and the basis for the predictions’ — the ‘predictions’ none of the experts are making, because there is no basis for them.

Image: Arenal, photographed 7 April 2006 by Scott Robinson (Creative Commons license). [source]

Experts predicting major activity from Arenal volcanoInside Costa Rica, 2 April 2009
Vigilan en Costa Rica al volcán ArenalEl Financiero, 3 April 2009
CNE aumenta vigilancia en ArenalLa Nación, 3 April 2009

Global Volcanism Program: Arenal – summary information for Arenal (1405-033)
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica – main page for Ovsicori

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