Elaine Meinel Supkis
Just as everyone is watching Dean devastate the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Basin, news of volcanoes show how easily we can slip from an over-heated planet to a cooler planet. This summer has been quite cool in the Northeast and Canada. Tonight will be 45 degrees here even as people are dying from the long heatwave in the Southeast. And there are more earthquakes in Japan. A busy time for old Mother Nature.
Satellite images of Pavlof Volcano taken Thursday showed strong thermal readings, consistent with what the Alaska Volcano Observatory is calling a "vigorous eruption of lava" at the volcano about 590 miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula.
The volcano is below the path of hundreds of daily international flight paths, and an explosive eruption could interrupt those operations, said Steve McNutt, a volcano seismologist with the observatory. Volcanic ash can enter an engine and make it seize up, he said.
McNutt said seismic activity is high at the 8,262-foot volcano, with about one tremor recorded every minute. Lahars - mudslides caused when lava melts snow on the peak - have triggered some seismic activity, as well, he said.
The summer jet stream flows right over this volcano. We get really fabulous sunsets and even sunrises as well as cold summers and snowy winters if volcanoes pump out enogh fine dust high enough to enter the higher levels of the stratosphere. Right now, this particular volcano is right under the jet stream which is cutting off the plume so it can't go straight up. Here are some pictures from the United State Geological Survey:
Image Creator: Waythomas, Chris
Image courtesy of AVO/USGS.
Please cite the photographer and the Alaska Volcano Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey
This particular volcano is right next to a huge caldera from when a major volcano blew up and flew into the air and changed the climate so drastically, a number of life forms went extinct. Not the biggest and baddest of extinctions like the Great Permian but definitely, it made the climate unstable. The possibity of a caldera event haunts us. The Yellowstone plume, for example, has been extremely destructive for not just the Western US but for all living things. The Siberian Traps and the Deccan Traps nearly annihilated most life forms. The expectation is for this latest eruption to be fairly small but then, no one can really tell. More than once, a small eruption turned hyper-violent in the past such as the one in Oxaca twenty years ago.
Steady earthquake activity and flow events continue at Pavlof Volcano. Several discrete explosion earthquakes continue to be recorded. An AVO field party conducted an overflight of the volcano today and report that a vigorous eruption of lava at the volcano continues. While a primary hazard from this eruption is airborne ash, explosions producing ash do not seem to be significant at this time and any ash produced is likely staying below 15,000 ft above sea level. AVO is maintaining aviation color code ORANGE and volcanic activity alert level WATCH at this time.
If activity continues to increase in intensity, larger ash clouds that could affect aircraft may be produced. The most immediate ground hazard in the vicinity of the volcano includes light ash fall on nearby communities. Previous historical eruptions from Pavlof caused only a few millimeters (about 1/10th of an inch) of ash to fall on King Cove, Nelson Lagoon, Cold Bay, and Sand Point. Mudflows in drainages from the flanks of the volcano, and lava flows and avalanching of hot debris on the upper reaches of the volcano are also of concern in the uninhabited areas around the volcano. Satellite and seismic data and eyewitness observations suggest most of the surface lava activity is occurring on the southeast sector of the steep-sided volcano; this suggests that the Pacific Ocean side of the volcano is at most risk from avalanching hot debris.
The biggest bombs built by humans can't hold a candle to Mother Nature when she decides to drop meteorites, crash comets or blow away Yellowstone park. Like Yellowstone, the old caldera next to this volcano is very active with all sorts of hot vents and concentrated mineral pools and steam vents. People forget the Alaskan volanic chain is one of the most active volcanic regions on earth.
A volcano erupted in the remote desert of northern Ethiopia, and two people were missing, the state-run news agency said.
The volcano spewed lava for about two hours Sunday in the Afar region, a spectacular yet barren expanse of volcanoes and ancient salt mines where bandits and rebels operate.
The Cradle of Humanity is also where the earth is subsiding and volcanoes are active. We have footprints of two humanoids in volcanic ash from half a million years ago. Humans seem to gravitate to where volcanoes are at work. It must be the fertility of such regions, at least, if the volcano doesn't blow up. All year long, there have been eruptions and sudden geological events in the Afar region.
Since Pavlof is in a sparsely populated region (there are just a few towns within 50 kilometers), volcanologists were mainly concerned that the ash could destroy jet engines. That's quite a contrast to Popocatepetl, the king of the Mexico City skyline (on the odd clear day, that is). El Popo is continuously active these days, in terms of its gas emissions, earthquakes, and steam-ash eruptions.
Volcanoes in the Mexican volcano belt coexist with a zone of extremely heavy population.
Formally known as Popocatépetl, this giant, steep-sided volcanic cone is 55 kilometers east of Mexico City. After a 50 year quiet period, El Popo awoke in 1995 and has been percolating ever since. El Popo has erupted 17 times in the past 500 years or so, generally with something resembling the current combination of gas and ash, according to the Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Follow this link for a 3D map and brief explanation of the recent activity and the plate tectonic setting of the Mexican volcanic belt.
I grew up around Mexican volcanoes. Observatories are built in mountains and many mountains are also near volcanic events so we did lots of mountain climbing around and about many volcanoes as my dad selected places for observatories. For example, the ones in Hawaii are built on volcanoes. The Mexican government worked with AURA to seek out places for observatories so we got to run around these mountains a good deal. One thing I discovered was the bird watching possibilities on these mountains took the breath away 50 years ago. I have no idea how it is today. If we set out a hummingbird feeding station, the most astonishingly colorful variety of tiny birds would show up in no time at all.
From Wisconsin Geology edu:
Arizona State University geologist Stanley Williams puts it this way: "Mount Popo is phenomenally active." The volcano, he says, is putting out as much as 8,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day, and since only three or four volcanoes around the world put out even 1,000 tons of the gas, "Popo's putting out 10 times more than a volcano that we consider a big deal."
Williams has tested a new remote sensor for carbon dioxide at Popo, and found in a preliminary measurement that the mountain is also putting out 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide per day, another astonishing measurement of the flow of magma perilously near the largest city in the world.
A reversal of tectonic plate motion between Acapulco and Mexico City in the last half of 2006 probably didn't ease seismic strain in the region or the specter of a major earthquake anticipated there in the coming decades, says a University of Colorado at Boulder professor.
Instead of creeping toward Mexico City at about one inch per year - the expected speed from plate tectonic theory - the region near Acapulco moved in the opposite direction for six months and sped up by four times, said CU-Boulder aerospace engineering Professor Kristine Larson.
Again and again, Mother Nature can outdow our worst efforts. Pouring CO2 and Sulfur Dioxide effortlessly, a thousand powerplants burning coal can't hold a candlestick to one massive volcanic eruption. The other day, I read a story about how the Cocos Plate has 'reversed direction'. This volcano is right at the far edge of this movement. The mysterious nature of this seeming flow backwards could be a sign that the crust below this huge volcano is bulging upwards while the other side of the landscape is tilting towards the Pacific side of Mexico? This could be a prelude to a mega-volcanic event. Humans have had to endure a number of these in the last 5 million years. These events are like evolutionary key holes: the survivors evolved rapidly to deal with deteriorating or desperate conditions. Note that Mexico City is, like Tokyo, for example or even Rome, is right up next to a major volcano. Heck, Seattle comes to mind, too! We are drawn to volcanoes.
In Manhattan, they have artificial vocanic events, like the steam pipe eruptions, since the last volcanoes here happened about 200 million years ago.
A series of relatively strong earthquakes with preliminary magnitudes of more than 4 rocked eastern Chiba Prefecture on Saturday, injuring one person, the Meteorological Agency reported.
A quake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8 hit the area at 4:14 a.m., followed by jolts with a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 at 1:36 p.m., 5.1 at 4:55 p.m. and 4.0 at 5:07 p.m., according to the agency.
Japan is, to put it mildly, not a very geologically stable place. Like Indonesia, Japan has all the elements: volcanic events, tsunamis and earthquakes as well as typhoons galore. No wonder China invented dragons and Japan invented Gozilla destroying Tokyo.
Then there is Hurricane Dean: it is scraping by Jamaica, thankfully, the eye isn't going dead-center. The Cayman Islands are being evacuated as all the rich people who use it as a tax haven and kennel for hedge funds and other exogamic organizations shirking taxes. I read at the BBC that some tourists in Mexico are complaing that their tour operators won't evacuate them. And that the hotels all over the place including the islands being hit right now, refuse to broadcast timely warnings. 100 years ago, Isben wrote a play called 'Public Enemy' which was about a doctor warning a resort that they had to evacute the hotels due to disease problems. They refused and in turn, defamed him. The tendency for everyone is to deny reality and continue to collect the money which is understandable but obviously morally wrong as well as murderous.
Let us hope everyone rides this terrible storm out in safety.