Category: Volcanoes


The death toll from a volcanic eruption in western Indonesia has climbed to six, an official said Sunday, with fears more could have been trapped by the hot ash.

Three people also remain in a critical condition after Mount Sinabung, a highly-active volcano on Sumatra island, unleashed a series of eruptions on Saturday afternoon, disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

“Nine people were struck by the hot clouds. Six died, and three others remain critical with burns,” he said, adding the injured had been taken to hospital.

The victims were all farming within the “red zone” – an area four kilometres from Sinabung declared off limits by government authorities for safety reasons – when they were consumed by pyroclastic clouds.

These fast-moving waves of hot gas and rock can reach 700 degrees celsius as they roar down the sides of the volcano, Sutopo said.

Search and rescue teams were carefully scouring homes and farms in Gamber village, where residents were ordered to evacuate in late 2014 due to the unacceptable risk from lava flows, dense ash and falling volcanic rock.

“It is not known exactly how many people were in Gamber village when the hot clouds descended,” he said, adding emergency crews were wary of the risk of further eruptions.

“There shouldn’t have been any public activity [within the red zone].”

Many living in temporary shelters had begun moving back to their farms for economic reasons, despite repeated warnings, he added.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced since Sinabung rumbled back to life in 2013 after a period of inactivity.

It periodically erupts spectacularly, sending columns of ash several kilometres into the sky, and sometimes claims lives. Sixteen died during a particularly fierce eruption in 2014, and Sinabung remains at the highest alert level.

It is one of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

Source: Deadly volcanic eruption in Indonesia leaves village swamped by ash | World news | The Guardian

A series of tremors continued for around 24 hours.

Minor tremors are common around the Mt Hood volcano, which is located near to Portland, Oregon, with around three recorded every week within a 10 kilometre radius of the volcano.

But for 63 in just 24 hours is extremely rare and could be a sign that an eruption is on its way.

A spate of small tremors around a volcano usually signifies that magma and gasses beneath the surface are beginning to navigate their exit.

Portland State University Geology Professor Emeritus Scott Burns told KATU News: “If you get swarms under a working volcano, the working hypothesis is that magma is moving up underneath there.”

The tremors began on Sunday and continued into the beginning of this week.

The massive volcano, which reaches a height of 3,429 metres, has experienced four major eruptions in the last 15,000 years, but three of those have come in the last 1,800 years.

The last major one occurred in 1782 and erupted for almost two decades.

The news follows on from a similar announcement regarding St Helens volcano in Washington, where a spate of tremors have also been felt.

Professor Burns continued: “It just reminds us that we live in a geologically active area. Volcanoes do occur periodically.

Source: VOLCANO WARNING: Scores of tremors at Mt Hood signal it may be about to BLOW | Science | News | Daily Express

Although fears of a Yellowstone volcanic blast go viral every few years, there are better things to worry about than a catastrophic supereruption exploding from the bowels of Yellowstone National Park.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Yellowstone Volcano Observatory always pooh-pooh these worrisome memes, but that doesn’t mean researchers are ignoring the possible consequences of a supereruption. Along with forecasting the damage, scientists constantly monitor the region for signs of molten rock tunnelling underground. Scientists scrutinize past super-eruptions, as well as smaller volcanic blasts, to predict what would happen if the Yellowstone Volcano did blow.

Here’s a deeper look at whether Yellowstone’s volcano would fire up a global catastrophe.

Probing Yellowstone’s past

Most of Yellowstone National Park sits inside three overlapping calderas. The shallow, bowl-shaped depressions formed when an underground magma chamber erupted at Yellowstone. Each time, so much material spewed out that the ground collapsed downward, creating a caldera. The massive blasts struck 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago. These past eruptions serve as clues to understanding what would happen if there was another Yellowstone mega-explosion.

If a future super-eruption resembles its predecessors, then flowing lava won’t be much of a threat. The older Yellowstone lava flows never traveled much farther than the park boundaries, according to the USGS. For volcanologists, the biggest worry is wind-flung ash. Imagine a circle about 500 miles (800 kilometers) across surrounding Yellowstone; studies suggest the region inside this circle might see more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) of ash on the ground, scientists reported Aug. 27, 2014, in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

The ash would be pretty devastating for the United States, scientists predict. The fallout would include short-term destruction of Midwest agriculture, and rivers and streams would be clogged by gray muck.

People living in the Pacific Northwest might also be choking on Yellowstone’s fallout.

“People who live upwind from eruptions need to be concerned about the big ones,” said Larry Mastin, a USGS volcanologist and lead author of the 2014 ash study. Big eruptions often spawn giant umbrella clouds that push ash upwind across half the continent, Mastin said. These clouds get their name because the broad, flat cloud hovering over the volcano resembles an umbrella. “An umbrella cloud fundamentally changes how ash is distributed,” Mastin said.

But California and Florida, which grow most of the country’s fruits and vegetables, would see only a dusting of ash.

A smelly climate shift

Yellowstone Volcano’s next supereruption is likely to spew vast quantities of gases such as sulfur dioxide, which forms a sulfur aerosol that absorbs sunlight and reflects some of it back to space. The resulting climate cooling could last up to a decade. The temporary climate shift could alter rainfall patterns, and, along with severe frosts, cause widespread crop losses and famine.

But a Yellowstone mega-blast would not wipe out life on Earth. There were no extinctions after its last three enormous eruptions, nor have other supereruptions triggered extinctions in the last few million years. [Wipeout: History’s 7 Most Mysterious Extinctions]

“Are we all going to die if Yellowstone erupts? Almost certainly the answer is no,” said Jamie Farrell, a Yellowstone expert and assistant research professor at the University of Utah. “There have been quite a few super-eruptions in the past couple million years, and we’re still around.”

However, scientists agree there is still much to learn about the global effects of super-eruptions. The problem is that these massive outbursts are rare, striking somewhere on Earth only once or twice every million years, one study found. “We know from the geologic evidence that these were huge eruptions, but most of them occurred long enough in the past that we don’t have much detail on what their consequences were,” Mastin said. “These events have been so infrequent that our advice has been not to worry about it.”

A far more likely damage scenario comes from the less predictable hazards — large earthquakes and hydrothermal blasts in the areas where tourists roam. “These pose a huge hazard and could have a huge impact on people,” Farrell said.

Super-eruption reports are exaggerated

Human civilization will surely survive a supereruption, so let’s bust another myth. There is no pool of molten rock churning beneath Yellowstone’s iconic geysers and mud pots. The Earth’s crust and mantle beneath Yellowstone are indeed hot, but they are mostly solid, with small pockets of molten rock scattered throughout, like water inside a sponge. About 9 percent of the hot blob is molten, and the rest is solid, scientists reported on May 15, 2015, in the journal Science. This magma chamber rests between 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 km) beneath the park.

Estimates vary, but a magma chamber may need to reach about 50 percent melt before molten rock collects and forces its way out. “It doesn’t look like at this point that the [Yellowstone] magma reservoir is ready for an eruption,” said Farrell, co-author of the 2015 study in the journal Science. [Can You Outrun a Supervolcano? Maybe, Study Finds]

How do researchers measure the magma? Seismic waves travel more slowly through hot or partially molten rock than they do through normal rock, so scientists can see where the magma is stored, and how much is there, by mapping out where seismic waves travel more slowly, Farrell said.

The magma storage region is not growing in size, either, at least for as long as scientists have monitored the park’s underground. “It’s always been this size, it’s just we’re getting better at seeing it,” Farrell said.

Watch out for little eruptions

As with magma mapping, the science of forecasting volcanic eruptions is always improving. Most scientists think that magma buildup would be detectable for weeks, maybe years, preceding a major Yellowstone eruption. Warning signs would include distinctive earthquake swarms, gas emissions and rapid ground deformation.

Someone who knows about these warning signals might look at the park today and think, “Whoa, something weird is going on!” Yellowstone is a living volcano, and there are always small earthquakes causing tremors, and gas seeping from the ground. The volcano even breathes — the ground surface swells and sinks as gases and fluids move around the volcanic “plumbing” system beneath the park.

But the day-to-day shaking in the park does not portend doom. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has never seen warning signs of an impending eruption at the park, according to the USGS.

What are scientists looking for? For one, the distinctive earthquakes triggered by moving molten rock. Magma tunneling underground sets off seismic signals that are different from those generated by slipping fault lines. “We would see earthquakes moving in a pattern and getting shallower and shallower,” Farrell said. To learn about the earthquake patterns to look for, revisit the 2014 eruption of Bardarbunga Volcano in Iceland. Both amateurs and experts “watched” Bardarbunga’s magma rise underground by tracking earthquakes. The eventual surface breakthrough was almost immediately announced on Twitter and other social media. As with Iceland, all of Yellowstone’s seismic data is publicly available through the U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory and the University of Utah.

“We would have a good idea that magma is moving up into the shallow depths,” Farrell said. “The bottom line is, we don’t know when or if it will erupt again, but we would have adequate warning.”

Source: What Would Happen If Yellowstone’s Supervolcano Erupted?

Popocatepetl Volcano in Mexico began erupting yesterday morning, spewing lava and ash from its peak. Streams of smoke and debris have been flowing from the peak for over 24 hours.

The volcano, which is more than 17,000ft tall, is the second highest peak in Mexico and lies on the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. It is the most active volcano in Mexico, having erupted 15 times since records began.

Source: Popocatepetl: Mexican volcano erupts, prompting evacuation fears | Americas | News | The Independent

Officials have been forced to raise the volcano and aviation alert levels after the Pavlof Volcano ash spewed 30,000 feet into the air.The volcano on Alaska’s Aleutian Islands erupted with such strength “high-level” tremors could be felt hundreds of miles away.

There is also a risk small avalanches of hot rock could possibly cause mudslides,Alaska Volcano Observatory geophysicist David Schneider said.

The volcano alert level is now on “warning” and the aviation level is “red” – both their respective highest threat levels.

Source: Alaskan Volcano erupts with giant ash cloud triggering global flight fears | Science | News | Daily Express

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