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Random rumblings: hydrothermal vents re-colonized from afar, Yellowstone swarm, Krakatoa, Mauna Kea testbed, and MSH spiders to Chaitén 2 March 2010

Posted by admin in Chaitén, Chile, current research, Hawaii, Indonesia, Krakatau, United States.
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Hydrothermal vents sometimes colonized from afar (Science News) – ‘Field studies at a hydrothermal vent system where all life was snuffed out by a massive undersea volcanic eruption reveal that these habitats can be repopulated in a matter of months by larvae from distant vents. … Water samples taken near the vents in May 2006 contained the larvae of Ctenopelta porifera, a rock-clinging gastropod called a limpet. By July, these fast-growing creatures had colonized the rocks around the eruption-sterilized vents; by October, they were mature and reproducing. … the nearest hydrothermal system known to host that species is located more than 300 kilometers away.’

Recent Yellowstone earthquake swarm was the second-largest ever (Denver Post) – ‘The Yellowstone earthquake swarm that began on Jan. 17 and ended on Feb. 11 was the second-largest earthquake swarm ever at Yellowstone National Park, according to scientists at the University of Utah. … Not only was the swarm the second-largest ever recorded at Yellowstone but it was longer in time and included more earthquakes than last year’s swarm beneath Yellowstone Lake, which occurred in December 2008 and January 2009, according to the scientists.’

Krakatoa’s child smokes with magic fire in belly (The Age) – ‘As the boat approached Anak Krakatau, the atmosphere was eerie. The smoke of the seasonal forest fires drifting from Sumatra made visibility poor and, before we even sighted the volcano, we heard it: a deep, otherworldly rumble. Then, out of the haze, materialised the cone of Anak Krakatau. Within minutes, thick grey ash billowed out of its caldera into the sky.’

Into the mouth of a volcano (Astrobiology Magazine) – ‘Dr. Inge Ten Kate, a University of Maryland Baltimore County research assistant, led an expedition into a cinder cone atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to test the prototype for an instrument that will be a miniature laboratory to discover the composition of rocks and atmospheres on moons, asteroids, and planets across the solar system. … Why a volcano? “The terrain and composition are similar to what we expect to find on the Moon, asteroids, and Mars,” says Ten Kate. “Also, there will be outgassing from the volcano, so we can test our ability to measure trace gases in atmospheres. Finally, the differences among various areas on the volcano’s cinder cone will be subtle, so it’s a good test of our sensitivity and our ability to distinguish different regions.”‘

Mount St. Helens ‘spiders’ will get tryout on Chilean volcano (The Oregonian) – Geological ‘spiders’ packed with instruments to monitor the heaves, sighs and belches of Mount St. Helens, are expected to migrate south this month. Two of the contraptions are headed to Chaiten, a volcano in Chile that began erupting in 2008 after about 9,000 years of dormancy. … The machines helped give the USGS sufficient information to declare in January 2008 that Mount St. Helens recent eruptive phase was over. That kind of certainty is needed at Chaiten, said John Ewert, a volcanologist in the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. “It’s always hard enough to know when they’ll start erupting,” said Ewert, part of the team that visited the Chilean volcano in January. “It’s even harder to tell when they’ll stop.”‘

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Yellowstone quakes not beginning of end of world – Discovery News 5 February 2010

Posted by admin in activity reports, calderas, United States, volcano monitoring, Yellowstone.
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It’s good to see that Discovery Channel, where Scary Supervolcano Scenarios are a speciality, is doing its bit to reality-check people who see approaching apocalypse in the current Yellowstone earthquake swarm: Yellowstone is rumbling. We are NOT doomed.

The comments are fun: ‘what do I know I’m just a welder’.

The latest news on the Yellowstone swarm itself is that after becoming shallower over the last couple of days the earthquakes seem to be deepening again. A M1.0 quake at 11.6 km depth (13:22 UTC 3 February) has been followed by quakes at depths ranging from 8.6 to 9.1 km depth.

The most recent update on the swarm from the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory can be found here. And let me recommend again (as does Michael Reilly in the Discovery News piece) Dr Erik Klemetti’s article at Eruptions, ‘Looking inside the structure of the Yellowstone Caldera’. It’s a great antidote to Yellowstone paranoia, for those willing to be cured.

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Looking inside Yellowstone, at the Eruptions blog 4 February 2010

Posted by admin in calderas, United States, volcano monitoring, Yellowstone.
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Today Dr Klemetti looks inside the structure of the Yellowstone Caldera in a terrifically informative post at Eruptions and explains (among many other things) why the fact that the earthquakes in the current swarm are apparently getting shallower is no big deal.

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Yellowstone doing what Yellowstone does 3 February 2010

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Yellowstone has earthquakes. It’s what it does. It’s having a prolonged and interesting swarm at the moment: I’m not saying much about it here because it is being expertly covered at Eruptions. For the latest, see: The Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm of 2010 marches on.

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Yellowstone earthquake swarm: some perspective at Eruptions 27 January 2010

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An earthquake swarm is under way at Yellowstone. What’s that all about? Does the supervolcano stir? Will there be a mega-eruption? Is it the beginning of the end of the world?

The disappointing news for the cheerleaders of the apocalypse (some of whom have been e-mailing me about this recently) is that this swarm is business as usual at Yellowstone, and there is no sign that anything magmatic and potentially eruptive is going on. For the full picture, read Dr Erik Klemetti’s crystal-clear and informative post at Eruptions: A little bit of Yellowstone earthquake perspective.

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New Year earthquake swarm at Yellowstone 19 January 2010

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In January 2009 Yellowstone welcomed in the New Year with an earthquake swarm. Well, it seems to be doing the same thing for 2010. No time for a detailed post here today, but Erik at Eruptions is on the story, and so are his readers: check out Yellowstone letting us know it’s still there and More on the January 2010 Yellowstone swarm.

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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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Yellowstone’s Jake Lowenstern on YouTube 20 April 2009

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Jake Lowenstern is the scientist-in-charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. There’s a three-part presentation by him available on YouTube, talking about Yellowstone and the work his team does there. For more, including links to all three videos, see Callan Bentley’s NOVA Geoblog: Lowenstern interview on YouTube.

Tip of the hat to Callan Bentley for telling us about this, and to his former student Stef who told him about it.

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More quakes at Yellowstone 10 January 2009

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Earthquakes have resumed under Yellowstone after the lull of the past few days. The swarm may be recurring (‘a return of activity may occur as previous Yellowstone swarms of this size have lasted for tens of days to many weeks’ – YVO) or this may be an isolated burst of activity. The quakes appear to be continuing their northward migration. There is no sign of volcanic tremor.

Below are the seismograms from The Promontory and Joseph’s Coat stations for 12:15 UTC onwards (05:00 onwards local time) on 9 January 2009, from the UUSS Webicorder site.

Seismogram 09 Jan 2009 - The Promontory, Yellowstone Park, WY
Above: Seismogram from The Promontory station.

Seismogram 09 Jan 2009 - Joseph's Coat, Yellowstone Park, WY
Above: Seismogram from Joseph’s Coat station.

The large red signal on the left is a magnitude 3.3 quake registered at 18:17 UTC 9 January 2009 at 44.678°N, 110.254°W, with a depth of 3.1 km (+/- 1.2 km uncertainty).

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Yellowstone – information about the Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field (1205-01-)
Yellowstone Volcano Observatory – monitors activity at Yellowstone
University of Utah Seismograph Stations – UUSS home page, including Yellowstone updates
Yellowstone Region seismogram displays – near real-time seismogram traces for Yellowstone
USGS earthquake list for Yellowstone – constantly updated earthquake data for Yellowstone

The Volcanism Blog

Yellowstone updates from the YVO 9 January 2009

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The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) has released two new statements on the earthquake swarm that rumbled its way through Yellowstone in late December and early January.

The 6 January 2009 YVO update reports:

About 500 earthquakes occurred between Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Three hundred of the earthquakes (including all >M2.0) have been reviewed by seismologists. There have been 86 earthquakes with M > 2.0 and 16 earthquakes > M3.0. About 200 smaller earthquakes have yet to be reviewed. Depths are difficult to determine accurately. The best located earthquakes have depths on the order of 3 to 10 km (1.8 to 6.0 miles). From Dec. 26 through Jan 2, the earthquake hypocenters appear to have migrated northwards, starting southeast of near Stevenson Island, with many of the latest events occurring near Fishing Bridge.

The recent swarm is well above typical activity at Yellowstone. Nevertheless it is not unprecedented during the last 40 years of monitoring. Swarms are the typical mode of occurrence of earthquakes within the Yellowstone caldera, with magnitudes ranging to > 4.0. The 1985 swarm on the northwest rim of the caldera lasted for three months, with earthquakes up to M4.9 and over 3000 total events recorded.

Magnitudes of earthquakes in this swarm range from zero to 3.9.

A further summary statement on the swarm, with graphics, was released by the YVO on 8 January 2009:

About 900 earthquakes occurred between Dec. 26, 2008 and Jan. 8, 2009 in the Yellowstone Lake area. Five hundred of the earthquakes (including all greater than magnitude 2.0) have been reviewed by seismologists. There were 111 earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 2.0 (> M2.0)and 18 earthquakes > M3.0. About 400 smaller earthquakes have yet to be reviewed. The largest earthquake during the swarm was a magnitude 3.9 on Sunday, December 28, 2008. […]

The recent swarm is well above typical activity at Yellowstone. Nevertheless it is not unprecedented during the last 40 years of monitoring. Earthquake swarms within the Yellowstone caldera are typical, with magnitudes occasionally ranging above 4.0. The 1985 swarm on the northwest rim of the caldera lasted for three months, with earthquakes up to M4.9 and over 3000 total events recorded.

With analysis of earthquakes and of ground motions accompanying the swarm still in progress, this is very much a preliminary report. No conclusions as yet, then, about the cause of the swarm, only the important negative conclusion that ‘there is no reason to believe that magma has risen to a shallow level within the crust or that a volcanic eruption is likely’.

Full statement: Yellowstone Lake Earthquake Swarm Summary as of 8 January 2009.

There’s also a new USGS CoreCast featuring an interview with Dr Jake Lowenstern, Scientist-in-Charge at the YVO, who talks about what’s been happening at Yellowstone and the work of the YVO in monitoring activity and keeping people informed. Dr Lowenstern has this to say about the earthquake swarm:

This is a very energetic swarm, and probably the most energetic swarm since 1985. So, it’s not unprecedented, on the other hand, it’s an energetic swarm, people were feeling it, and it’s an area where there are thermal features, and anytime there’s earthquakes near thermal features we worry about explosions of the groundwater system.

Dr Lowenstern also has some interesting comments about the explosion of information and speculation about this kind of event made possible by the internet, and where this leaves professional scientists concerned that information is used in a responsible way:

One of the amazing things we see during these kinds of events is how many people are out there looking at the data and trying to interpret it on their own. Sometimes they do a great job of it, sometimes they confuse other kinds of signals like wind and snowmobiles and other features that might look like earthquakes but indeed might not be earthquakes. So it’s a challenge for us not only to keep up with the science, but to keep up with the sort of furore out there, of people who are trying to do their own interpretations on the side, and to keep everybody happy and everybody thinking about the real endgame, of making sure that people are safe.

The USGS CoreCast interview with Dr Lowenstern is  available through this page: Is Something Brewing in Yellowstone?

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Yellowstone – information about the Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field (1205-01-)
Yellowstone Volcano Observatory – monitors activity at Yellowstone
University of Utah Seismograph Stations – UUSS home page, including Yellowstone updates
Yellowstone Region seismogram displays – near real-time seismogram traces for Yellowstone
USGS earthquake list for Yellowstone – constantly updated earthquake data for Yellowstone

The Volcanism Blog