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Chaitén: real time images 11 June 2008

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The Chilean civil aviation authority, the Dirección General de Aeronática Civil (DGAC) has a page on its website offering real time feeds from cameras at various airports and airfields around Chile, including Chaitén. Other locations in southern Chile include Puerto Montt, Futaleufú and Osorno.

All the locations can be accessed from the ‘Cámaras para todas las zonas’ page. Scroll down to the section headed ‘Aeródromos Zona Sur’ to find the link for Chaitén. The cameras at Chaitén airfield offer views to the north-west (N-Oeste), south-east (S-Este) and north (Norte) – the latter looks directly towards the volcano.

The image below was taken by the north-facing Chaitén camera at 17:40:44 local time today, 11 June 2008. The volcano’s eruption plume is hidden by cloud and mist, but there appear to be ground-hugging ash clouds descending the valleys in the centre of the image.

Chaitén airfield webcam, 17,40,44 local time 11 June 2008

[Original information source: Diario El Oeste, Esquel, Argentina, June 11, 2008 (via a correspondent – many thanks). N.B., I’ve fixed the broken link to the camera page above. Sorry for the earlier problems.]

For all our Chaitén coverage: Chaitén << The Volcanism Blog

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Geochemical controls on lava flows 11 June 2008

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There’s a great post at Magma Cum Laude about this suggestion that the advance of lava flows could be controlled using limestone or dolomite as a barrier. The hot lava would react with the carbonate barrier, with the reaction drawing heat from the lava and cooling it down, thus: ‘The decarbonation of limestone by the hot lava will therefore rapidly cool the volcanic outpourings, making it far more viscous and quicker to solidify’.

Even the most effective barrier methods (and, confronted with advancing lava, few barriers are really effective) don’t address the problem that great volumes of the hot stuff will keep on emerging from the vent, and have to go somewhere. To quote MCL, ‘A lava flow, even a really fluid one, has a lot of mass, and the source of the flow is constantly adding more. A flow doesn’t stop unless its source stops producing lava’.

Diverting lava flows isn’t just a physical problem, it can also be a socio-political one. An often quoted instance comes from the 1669 eruption of Etna: an attempt by people from Catania to divert the advancing lava flows from their city was apparently thwarted by the inhabitants of nearby villages, who did not want the lava coming their way.

Volcano taming: could geochemistry save lives during volcanic eruptions? – EurekAlert, 5 June 2008
Stop! In the name of the carbonate! – Magma Cum Laude, 5 June 2008 (with full references)

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The Daily Volcano Quote: volcanoes and insects 11 June 2008

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Two agencies of the most opposite character have apparently been, at all times, acting on the crust of the earth to change its form, or add to the surface of the dry land – the volcano and the insect! – the one the most sudden and violent imaginable, producing in a short time the most astonishing effects; the other gradual, silent, and imperceptible, yet leaving the most stupendous monuments of its activity. The volcano has thrown up a mountain in a single night; there is an instance, too, on record, where a mountain has quite as suddenly disappeared, destroying itself in its own violent combustion, and breaking up with repeated and terrific explosions. On the other hand, besides what has been long known of the works of the coral insect, the microscope has revealed to us that huge cliffs have been constructed of the minute fossil shells of animalculae.

‘Physical geography’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 66 (October 1849), pp. 456-470, here pp. 465-466.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: fiery Naples 10 June 2008

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As to the natural causes of volcanos, and their dreadful effects, our virtuosi of Naples observe that their country abounds with sulphur, bitumen, nitre, alum, vitriol and salts of every kind, besides more exalted minerals, as is evident from its frequent hot springs, and innumerable places where those minerals appear on the earth’s surface. And that these substances are easily accensible [i.e. inflammable], is well known to the least vers’d in chemistry, and further demonstrable by the heat of our mineral baths, and the flames that frequently issue from the earth near their springs. It is not to be questioned, then, that the Neapolitan soil is full of the seeds, or first principles of fire, which having increased, and amassed themselves in some particular place, have, by the means of some internal motion, taken fire, and split the upper stratum that confined it, to give vent to its rage, with all the violent phenomena of volcanos. … But however subject the soil of Naples be to heat and inflammation … this should not cause an aversion to the climate, since it is to that fiery nature of the earth, that the Neapolitans are indebted for the fertility of their lands, the purity and wholesomeness of their air and water, the virtue and efficacy of their springs and baths, and for all those advantages which render Naples the most agreeable and healthy country in Europe.

‘Natural History of mount Vesuvius by the royal academy of Naples’, The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 17 (September 1747), pp. 416-21, here p. 421.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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Arenal: recent activity 10 June 2008

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Arenal volcano in Costa Rica is a youthful and vigorous stratovolcano, almost continually active since its current phase of activity began with a violent and deadly eruption in 1968. To quote the Global Volcanism Program’s Arenal summary, ‘Continuous explosive activity accompanied by slow lava effusion and the occasional emission of pyroclastic flows has occurred since then from vents at the summit and on the upper western flank’.

The most recent instance of this type of activity was reported by the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica (the inevitable acronym is OVISCORI) on 6 June 2008. A pyroclastic flow was generated on the south-western flank of Arenal when an accumulation of blocky, andesitic lava at the summit, the remnant of a March 2007 lava flow, collapsed. The flow descended some 800m, with pulverized material rising from it to produce a tall plume of gases and dust that provoked alarm in tourists and park officials The park was quickly evacuated and closed, no-one was hurt, and there was no further activity.

Bulletins on this activity (PDF) in both Spanish and English can be accessed from OVISCORI’s ‘Informes de Prensa’ page.

Arenal provides a fascinating case study in the ways human societies interact with and live alongside active volcanoes: its spectacular but largely safe activity attracts thousands of visitors, and it is at the heart of a national park that is one of Costa Rica’s main tourist attractions, while the lake at the foot of the volcano, Lago Arenal, has become the site of a large hydroelectric scheme that provides around 40% of the country’s electricity. Arenal.net, a travel-oriented site, offers a great deal of information about the volcano including maps, photographs and links.

UPDATE: There’s a report on what’s happened at Arenal, with some nice clear discussion of the science behind this kind of activity, over at Erik’s Eruptions blog.

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

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The Daily Volcano Quote: erupting risks 9 June 2008

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Insurance is always there until you need it. With a volcano grumbling for two years, people in Montserrat need insurance badly. But they can no longer get it … The problem in Montserrat, simply put, is that volcanoes can sputter for years. If property insurance expires in mid-sputter, insurers have the chance to shed their risks before claims erupt. As the Soufrière volcano covers almost every building in southern Montserrat with a thick dusting of acidic ash, the island’s three main insurers, two Caribbean firms and a British company, Royal Sun Alliance, argue that they cannot renew contracts in the south when they know in advance that they will lose money. That has left hundreds of property owners uninsured.

‘Erupting risks’, The Economist, vol. 344, no. 8027 (26 July 1997), p. 66.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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Tungurahua update, 7 June 2008 7 June 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, Ecuador, eruptions, Tungurahua, volcanoes.
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After a lively few weeks, Tungurahua seems to be quietening down a little. Ecuador’s Instituto Geofísico (IG) reports in in the latest special bulletin (PDF) for the volcano, dated 6 June 2008, that there has been a significant decline in activity since the dramatic seismic and eruptive events of 28-29 May.

The last notable activity – explosions, ashfall, and significant tremors – occurred on 2 June. Since then there have been ‘only very sporadic signs of tremor, associated with small emission columns of vapour and ash of low energy and low, or even zero, ash content’. There have been no explosive events since 2 June, when two small explosions took place, and the last instances of ashfall were also recorded on that date. ‘In general’, concludes the bulletin, ‘other monitored paramaters of the volcano have declined and it is not expected that it will return to an increased level of activity in a sudden manner’.

For all our Tungurahua coverage: Tungurahua << The Volcanism Blog

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Tungurahua – summary information for Tungurahua (1502-80=)
Instituto Geofísico (Escuela Politecnica Nacional) – Geophysical Institute of Ecuador

News
El coloso se tranquilizaLa Hora, 7 June 2008 (Spanish)

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Eruption at Soputan, Indonesia 6 June 2008

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Reports from Indonesia today say that Soputan on Sulawesi Island, which is among Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, is currently erupting. ABC News (Australia) quotes an Indonesian volcanologist as saying that the volcano is ‘sending heat clouds as far as four kilometres and throwing ash two kilometres into the air’. In Indonesia, ‘heat clouds’ generally means pyroclastic flows. There is as yet no order to evacuate but the authorities are maintaining a high alert and have imposed a 6km exclusion zone.

The Eruptions blog has more coverage.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Soputan – summary information for Soputan (0606-03=)
Direktorat Vulkanologi Indonesia – Directorate of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, Indonesia
Pusat Vulkanologi & Mitigasi Bencana Geologi – News and information portal for the Directorate of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, Indonesia

News
Volcano erupts in Indonesia – ABC News, 7 June 2008
Mount Soputan spewing sand and thick smoke – ANTARA News, 7 June 2008
Volcano erupts in IndonesiaSydney Morning Herald, 7 June 2008

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The Daily Volcano Quote: earthquakes and volcanoes – the view from 1930 6 June 2008

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For many years earthquakes and volcanoes were closely associated in the public mind. We now know that, while they are related, and all volcanic outbreaks are accompanied by earthquakes, all the greater earthquakes occur in regions remote from volcanoes or if in volcanic regions at a time when the volcanoes are not active. In the great Japanese earthquake of 1923 Fujiyama, an extinct volcano, was strongly shaken but was not roused to activity. On the other hand, the greatest eruption of Vesuvius in recent times was an explosive outburst near the same time as the California earthquake of April, 1906. This may have been a coincidence, but there may have been some relation, though if so it was more probably in the trigger force which timed the events than the events themselves. It would seem that the volcano is a localized and rather superficial phenomenon as compared to the earthquake.

N. H. Heck, ‘Earthquakes, a challenge to science’, The Scientific Monthly, vol. 31, no. 2 (August 1930), pp. 113-125, here p. 116.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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Artificial volcanoes: a solution to global warming? 6 June 2008

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An article in the latest Popular Mechanics ponders geoengineering solutions to ‘the potentially devastating consequences of climate change’: specifically, reproducing through artificial means the cooling effects of major volcanic eruptions, such as that of Pinatubo in 1991:

One popular geoengineering scenario is to create an artificial volcano. Thomas Wigley, an expert on climate change based at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., has created computer simulations that replicate the 1991 ‘Mount Pinatubo effect’ — a temporary cooling period created by the launch of 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.

Wigley proposes mimicking the natural process by injecting sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide into the same region, 60,000 to 70,000 ft. above the earth’s surface. The compound would react to form a cloud of sulfuric acid droplets that would in turn reflect sunlight and cool the globe. Exactly how the material would be delivered isn’t clear—cannons, balloons and high-flying military planes are some ‘highly speculative’ options, he says.

These ideas aren’t ‘popular’ with everyone, however. Alan Robock, a meteorologist at Rutgers University, suggests that such grandiose notions just serve to distract attention from humbler, readily-available but politically difficult remedies: ‘It takes political will to lower carbon dioxide emissions. There are plenty of solutions already available’. Furthermore, Robock points out, artificial volcanoes will be ‘very expensive and locally polluting’.

It’s only a matter of time before someone suggests combating global warming by moving planet Earth ‘a bit further away from the sun’.

Expert Solutions to Global Warming – Geoengineering as Way to Prevent Global WarmingPopular Mechanics, 5 June 2008

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