Thursday, September 29, 2005

Museum gets ready for eruption

The silver volcano spews steam and smoke as colored lights imply hot, flowing lava. It's not the latest eruption of one of Hawai'i's volcanoes, but a stylized three-story-high facsimile inside the new Science Adventure Center at the Bishop Museum — the highlight of a 30-plus collection of exhibits that will open to the public Nov. 19.

With exhibit creators in the final two months of completing the $17 million center, they're tweaking the computer program that generates the erupting volcano as well as the sputtering lava that flows out of vents in the rift zone — and completing a spectrum of exhibits focusing on Hawai'i volcanoes, geology and biology.

"We were very worried about having something that was hokey," said museum senior exhibit designer Dave Kemble. "It's not a cheap Disney, but a teaching park where you learn about volcanoes. But it's a fine line between making it exciting and fun but not turning it into a theme park."

To that end, they nixed a working volcano made of fiberglass or artificial rock in favor of one with a skin created with foamed aluminum bubbled through a gas to give a porous, sponge-like look and leave tiny holes in the surface.

"It won't be a substitute to seeing the real thing, but if you see this, you'll understand the real thing much better," Kemble said.

"We're trying to create an immersive environment or interactive experience so the whole thing is engaging," Kemble said. "So you just don't look at things and read things. You do things or you're in things."

They consulted University of Hawai'i volcanologists for the science, and visited the real thing on the Big Island, walking on fresh lava and recent flows with designers from the Oakland, Calif., firm hired to create the exhibits, especially the erupting volcano.

That has been the most exciting part of the project, which will explain that Hawai'i does not have explosive volcanoes like Mount St. Helens, but shield volcanoes in which the eruptions are created by "hot spots" deep in the earth that bring magma up from the earth's molten mantle.

The volcano exhibit also will offer a cut-away section of the rift zone that shows how the magma flows underground, breaking through the surface in places of weakness.

Eruptions in the rift zone will be computer-controlled in a random pattern so visitors won't know exactly when they're going to happen — much like real life.

But there will be clues, such as seismographs that begin to show the kind of increased activity occurring before an eruption.

"I'm used to odd challenges to create effects," said Ron Davis, senior exhibit designer for the Oakland firm Gyroscope Ltd., which is designing and building the exhibit. "For me as a designer, the challenge is to make something suggestive of a volcano but not a literal representation of one."
Davis also wanted to make the large volcano seem light in the space where it sits.

"When visitors go inside, it gives you the sense you're a ghost walking through this rock to get a glimpse inside this volcano. There's a translucence that will let us do a lot of cool things with light."
The volcanic steam, meanwhile, actually is an ultrasonic nozzle of water shot against a surface at high pressure until it atomizes.

"It's like what's used in produce sections in grocery stores," Davis said.

Beyond the volcano, among the other exhibits will be a 16-foot tank with a robotic rover that explores the sea floor much like the actual robotic devices that discovered Lo'ihi, Hawai'i's newest underwater volcano. Visitors will be able to manipulate the robot from outside the tank.

"This is an underwater version of the rovers we send to other planets," said Bishop Museum education director Michael Shanahan. "Visitors can operate the robot to explore the ocean floor."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Earthquake cause volcano eruption

An earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale caused the eruption of a long-dormant volcano in northern Ethiopia at the weekend but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, geologists said on Monday.

The quake, which struck the remote region of Afar, about 980km northeast of the capital on Saturday, was followed by the eruption of Mount Arteale, Ethiopia's only active volcano which has been largely dormant for the past six decades, they said.

"The magnitude of the earthquake, accompanied by a severe volcanic eruption, was measured at 5.5 on the Richter scale," Laeke Asfaw, the head of physical observatory in seismology department of the Addis Ababa University.

Molten lava spewed from the volcano, covering large portions of its slopes and surrounding areas and thick blankets of ash and plumes of smoke were reported in the region, another seismologist at the university, Gezahegn Yirga, said.

The pair said experts had been sent to the area to evaluate any damage caused by the quake and the eruption that began on Sunday and continued throughout the day.

It was not immediately clear, however, when first reports might come in from the region near the Eritrean border which is inhabited mainly by salt-mining Afar nomads.

Gezahegn said the quake and eruption were caused by the expansion of tectonic plates under the Great Rift Valley, which for years has been regarded as highly susceptible to earthquakes and volcano eruptions.

Kamchatka's Shiveluch volcano shows signs of activity

Kamchatka’s Shiveluch Volcano has steadied but ash discharges of up to eight kilometers are still possible, a source in the Emergency Situations Ministry Kamchatka department told Itar-Tass on Sunday.
Local tremors and ash discharges of up to 6,500-7,000 meters lasted for nearly 5.5 hours on September 22. Researchers based in a camp ten kilometers away from the volcano said they heard a low frequency hum.
Volcanic fragments tumbled down to a distance of 15 kilometers, and volcanic ash fell down on the village of Klyuchi, nearly 30 kilometers away from Shiveluch.
Shiveluch is one of the most active volcanoes of Kamchatka with the height of 3,283 meters. Its eruptions are irregular. Currently, the volcano is passing through an active phase, and researchers say that visits may be dangerous. The clouds of volcanic ash may also endanger aircraft.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mt. St.Helens dome still growing

It's been a busy year for Mount St. Helens.

After snapping back to life with a series of earthquakes that started last September, the volcano has been a veritable lava assembly line, churning out a dump-truck load every second. The new dome inside the crater is growing up to 16 feet a day, shoving aside a 700-foot-thick glacier as if it were papier-mâché.

And there's no end in sight, say U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists.
"There's no reason to think it couldn't go on for another year, or for decades," said volcanologist Dan Dzurisin.

Scientists have been busy, too.

Since the eruption began, monitoring St. Helens has been an all-consuming job for experts at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash., said Cynthia Gardner, scientist in charge. Other projects have been shelved and $1 million devoted to the effort, not counting salaries.

That work is paying off with a richer picture of the region's most volatile volcano.
"It's been an exciting time, and we've learned a lot," Dzurisin said.

By analyzing the million small earthquakes that have rattled the volcano over the past year, scientists are beginning to construct a picture of the magma chamber 2.5 miles below the surface where the lava originates. Chemical analysis of the new dome suggests it takes about a week for molten rock to travel from the chamber to the surface.

For most of that trip, the rock remains fluid, Dzurisin said. About a half mile before emerging, it hardens up. As it thrusts out of the ground, the new rock forms whaleback ridges that climb, then crumble.

At its highest elevation, the top of the new dome stood 7,765 feet above sea level. It's lower now, but the volume has grown to 76 million cubic yards — 25 times the size of Safeco Field.

The magma itself is coming primarily from a pool that's been around since the volcano's spectacular eruption in 1980 and the series of smaller lava flows that followed, said geologist John Pallister. That's good news, he said, because it means the likelihood of another massive explosion is slight.

But a group of experts who examined the new lava rocks this summer found a bit of fresh magma mixed in, which may indicate the eruption is starting to tap into a deeper reservoir. If fresher, more explosive magma starts to move through the system, the chance of a big blow will increase, Pallister said.

The earthquake analysis also has yielded the first tangible evidence of a crack in the Earth's crust that extends for miles beneath the volcano. Scientists have long known it must be there — a weak spot in the crust that provides a pathway for molten rock, Dzurisin said.

"The volcano is there because magma has been rising through that zone of weakness for tens of thousands of years."

Scientists have been surprised at the eruption's persistence. Usually, such prolific lava outflows come in fits and starts. After the 1980 explosion left a hollowed crater, the volcano rebuilt a dome with multiple eruptions over the course of six years. In a single year, the current eruption has produced a dome nearly as big.

The current eruption came on with very little warning, which also was unexpected, Dzurisin said. The first earthquake swarm hit on Sept. 23, 2004. The first steam explosion was Oct. 1, and by Oct. 11 lava pushed through to the surface.

Could future, more destructive eruptions occur with even less notice?

"We're confident the volcano would give us some warning of a major change," Dzurisin said. "It could be as short as a day. It would more likely be a week or months."

On clear, fall days, St. Helens is likely to put on a nice show for visitors, with a steam plume rising high into the sky. From Johnston Ridge Observatory, about five miles north of the crater, the view is spectacular, Gardner said.

"Go to the volcano," she advised. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Canary Islands volcano could create catastrophy

The eruption of a volcano in the Canary Islands could trigger a ''mega-tsunami'' that would devastate Atlantic coastlines with waves as high as 330 feet, scientists said on Wednesday.
They said an eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma, part of the Spanish island chain off West Africa, was likely to cause a massive chunk of rock to break off, crashing into the sea and kicking up huge walls of water higher than any other in recorded history.

The tsunami would be capable of traveling huge distances at up to 500 miles an hour, the scientists said in a research paper to be published in September's Geophysical Research Letters.
Simon Day, of the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre at the University College of London, said that as the volcano was not erupting at present, the short-term and medium-term risks were ''negligible.''

But Cumbre Vieja should be monitored closely for any signs of activity so that emergency services could plan an effective response, he said.

''Eruptions of Cumbre Vieja occur at intervals of decades to a century or so and there may be a number of eruptions before its collapse,'' said Day, who collaborated on the research with Steven Ward of the University of California.

''Although the year-to-year probability of a collapse is therefore low, the resulting tsunami would be a major disaster with indirect effects around the world.''


The effects would spread north, west and south of the Canaries, with the west Sahara bearing the worst of the wave's energy.

The energy released by the collapse would be equal to the electricity consumption of the entire United States in half a year.

Immediately after the landslide, a dome of water 900 meters (3,000 feet high) and tens of miles wide would form, only to collapse and rebound.

As the landslide rubble moved deeper under water, a tsunami would develop. Within 10 minutes, the tsunami would have moved a distance of almost 155 miles.

On the west Saharan shore, waves would probably reach heights of 330 feet.

Florida and the Caribbean, the final north Atlantic destinations to be affected by the tsunami, would have to brace themselves for 165 foot waves some eight to nine hours after the landslide.

Wave heights toward Europe would be smaller, but substantial waves would hit the coasts of Britain, Spain, Portugal and France.
The research paper estimated water would penetrate several miles inland and that the devastation would cause trillions of dollars in damage.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Mexican volcano shows signs of activity

Western Mexico's Volcano of Fire blasted ash and gas 3 miles into the sky on Friday with an explosion that was heard in villages 10 miles from the crater, according to local officials.
The Jalisco state civil defense agency said ash from the 10:46 a.m. (1146 EDT) eruption fell on towns to the northwest and it said emergency workers there were distributing hospital-type masks to protect against fine ash.

There were no reported injuries. The 12,533-foot volcano on the border of Jalisco and Colima states -- 420 miles west of Mexico City -- is among Mexico's most active and most dangerous volcanos.

It has erupted repeatedly in recent years. On July 27, a pre-dawn explosion shot incandescent rock, ash and steam up to 8,800 feet into the air.

Another blast on July 5 sent ash and gases nearly 3 miles up.

Volcano exhibit will open in November

An active eruption on Oahu is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.

On Wednesday designers and engineers tested a prototype volcano at Bishop Museum.
It's part of the upcoming "Pu'u O'o" volcanic vent exhibit.

The $645,000 volcano includes active eruptions, gusts of hot air and lava plumes.
It's about 40-feet in diameter at the base, and reaches 26-feet high.

The volcano will erupt several times a day, and visitors will actually be able to experience what it's like to crawl through volcanic caves. It's scheduled to open on November 19th.

Crater Lake is monitored the least

Crater Lake may be Oregon’s only national park, but it receives the least monitoring for possible eruptions among the state’s five most active volcanoes, partly because it lies so far from population centers.“Crater Lake is the worst-case scenario,” said seismologist Seth Moran of the U.S. Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash.

“Mount Saint Helens taught us that we need a decent network of seismic monitors or else we might miss the subtle signs (of volcanism). Once they wake up, they’re too hot to get close to.”Although there is a network of seismic monitors up and down the Cascades, the nearest one to Crater Lake is 29 miles away.“In every (other) case, volcanoes have a monitor within five miles, but Crater Lake is a remote volcano, not near any town and it hasn’t erupted very recently,” Moran said.

“To be frank, resources are limited, so we have to concentrate on the most likely ones: Rainier (near Seattle), Hood (near Portland) and South Sister (near Bend).”Geologists say the five Oregon volcanoes most likely to become active are Hood, Jefferson, South Sister, Newberry and Crater Lake.Moran said money is lacking for more personnel and for purchase and maintenance of equipment that would form part of the monitoring network.Crater Lake blew violently only 7,500 years ago, and Wizard Island, the volcanic cone within the caldera that holds the lake, blew only 5,000 years ago.

The eruptions was among the most spectacular volcanic events in local human memory, and left a huge caldera that filled with rain and snowmelt and is now among the purest natural water on earth. The event is recalled in the mythology of the Klamath Indians whose territory was hit by lava and ash.Since then, said park historian Steve Mark, there have been only hints of the volcano’s power, like the gaseous clouds emerging from the waters through the summer of 1945 and magma-caused earthquakes up to 6.0 magnitude at nearby Mountain Lakes Wilderness Area in 1993.Although Crater Lake is called “the sleeping giant,” “we haven’t had any indication that Crater Lake is active,” said Mac Brock, chief of natural resources for the park.

“A volcanic eruption is really highly unlikely. It’s not considered an area of concern like Mount Rainier.”But that doesn’t mean that a Crater Lake eruption won’t happen someday, Mark said.Ten-thousand years from now, Mark said, “it wouldn’t surprise me if (it) had erupted. Crater Lake is due to rebuild itself in time.”

Friday, September 16, 2005

Volcano or not, that is the question

Recent eruptions at Mount St. Helens have rekindled interest in the patch of land west of Bend in Central Oregon. Scientists say it probably started growing in 1997 and has been rising 1.4 inches a year since. The likely cause of the bulge is a pool of magma.

Larry Chitwood, a geologist at Deschutes National Forest, told The Oregonian the pooling magma is under tremendous pressure causing the Earth's surface to expand and bulge. The uplift could be anything from the early stages of a volcano, to a pooling of liquid rock.

USGS geologists admit, they just don't know. In March 2004, 350 small earthquakes indicated magma was moving underground, but the bulge has been quiet since.

Possible Oregon volcano could be a threat or not

Because it lies far from heavy populations, Crater Lake receives the least monitoring for possible volcanic activity, even though it is considered one of the five most active volcanoes in Oregon.
"Crater Lake is the worst-case scenario," said seismologist Seth Moran of the U.S. Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash. "Mount St. Helens taught us that we need a decent network of seismic monitors or else we might miss the subtle signs (of volcanism). Once they wake up, they’re too hot to get close to."

Although there is a network of seismic monitors up and down the Cascades, the nearest one to Crater Lake is 29 miles away. Two are distant to the west, one in Klamath Falls and a couple far to the south, he said.

"That speaks for itself," said Moran. "In every case, volcanoes have a monitor within five miles, but Crater Lake is a remote volcano, not near any town and it hasn’t erupted very recently. To be frank, resources are limited, so we have to concentrate on the most likely ones — Rainier (near Seattle), Hood (near Portland) and South Sister (near Bend)."

Moran said money is lacking for personnel and for purchase and maintenance of equipment that would form part of the monitoring network that relays data in real time.

"Crater Lake is suffering not for lack of interest but because it’s a good distance from Vancouver (location of Cascades Volcano Observatory) and because we’re forced to make cutbacks," Moran said.

However, he added, Crater Lake is at the point in its cycle where it would wake up by venting lava and building itself back up, rather than exploding.

The five volcanoes most likely to become active are Hood, Jefferson, South Sister, Newberry and Crater Lake. The latter made the list because it blew violently only 7,500 years ago, and Wizard Island, the volcanic cone within the caldera that holds the lake, blew only 5,000 years ago. South Sister, Hood and Newberry, all in the Central and Northern Oregon Cascades, have all erupted more recently.

Seismic monitors at Dodson Butte and Butler Butte, about 30 miles west of Crater Lake, and also in Klamath Falls, reliably monitor the national park down to 1.5 on the Richter scale, said Moran.
For scientists working at the park, volcanic activity is a thing of the far distant past or future.
Park historian Steve Mark said, "We used to have a monitor at the administration building here but the bouncing of traffic on the road above us would set it off, so it was removed."

Crater Lake was the most spectacular volcanic event in local human memory when it exploded violently, leaving a huge caldera that filled with rain and snowmelt and is now among the purest natural water on earth. The event is recalled in the mythology of the Klamath Indians whose territory was hit by lava and ash.

Since then, said Mark, there have been only hints of Mazama’s power — gaseous clouds emerging from the waters through the summer of 1945 and magma-caused earthquakes up to 6.0 magnitude at nearby Mountain Lakes Wilderness Area in 1993.

These were associated with the Klamath Lake earthquake that damaged Klamath Falls and included 2,500 aftershocks over several months. That seismic swarm is not associated with Crater Lake, said Moran.

Although Crater Lake is called "the sleeping giant," "we haven’t had any indication that Crater Lake is active," said Mac Brock, chief of natural resources for the park. "A volcanic eruption is really highly unlikely. It’s not considered an area of concern like Mount Rainier — or like Mount Lassen, (a Northern California volcano that last erupted in 1915)."

Still, said Mark, it’s only a question of when. "Today it’s in the caldera stage (a water-filled crater). That will change."

If we could peep 10,000 years into the future, added Moran, "it wouldn’t surprise me if Mazama had erupted. (Mount Mazama is the ancient volcano that collapsed to form the Crater Lake caldera.) It could do big or small eruptions. Most volcanoes are like Mount St. Helens now, periods of gases and lava flows. Crater Lake is due to rebuild itself in time — and so it would be doing the flows, not the explosions."

Possible eruption predicted in El Salvador

Officials said Tuesday they are stepping up emergency preparations after a study by experts indicated that the rumbling Ilamatepec volcano is likely to erupt soon.

Interior Minister Rene Figueroa said officials are starting to practice evacuations and are preparing shelters for the estimated 10,000 people living near the volcano, some 30 miles west of the capital.

Antonio Arenas, director of the National Service of Earth Studies in El Salvador, speaks about the increasing level of activity of the Ilamatepec volcano, San Salvador, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2005.
Officials said Tuesday they are stepping up emergency preparations after a study by experts indicated that the rumbling Ilamatepec volcano is likely to erupt soon.','') ;

"The studies by the scientists tell us that in the coming weeks or months we could have some type of eruptive manifestation," Figueroa told a news conference.

"There is a map of shelters that could be used if that is an event that we hope to God does not happen," Figueroa said.

The 7,812-foot peak, also known as the Santa Ana Volcano, emitted clouds of gas and vapor and apparently spat out some glowing rock Aug. 27-29.

The head of El Salvador's Territorial Studies Service, Antonio Arenas, said the volcano began to show unusual activity in early August, and activity increased last Saturday.

"What had been small peaks of activity began to be bigger" as fresh magma has been detected entering the volcano's chambers 4 to 5 miles beneath the surface.

He said the seismic tremors are "characteristic of volcanos that have or that are going to have some kind of volcanic eruption."

The volcano erupted in 1920 and in 1904.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

How well prepared are people to disastrous situations?

Earth scientists and volcanologists are examining whether the series of earthquakes that rocked the Sumatra in Indonesia for the last one year would lead to volcanic eruption in the region and the government preparedness in such eventuality.

History cannot forget Indonesia’s Krakatau eruption in 1883, which was preceded by an earthquake of 8.7 magnitude. Already, during the last eight months, the volcanoes like Telang in Sumatra, Barren Island in Andaman region have been activated after the series of earthquakes.

More than a dozen earthquakes preceded the major earthquake of Sumatra, which had a magnitude of 9 in December, 2004 that triggered tsunami in Indian ocean killing thousands of people. Over 20 earthquakes preceded the March 2005 earthquake of Sumatra, which had a magnitude of 8.7 and already, over 200 earthquakes of over 5.5 and 6.5 magnitude have been recorded in the Sumatra region, said D Chandrasekharam, an IIT professor and volcanologist.

He said, in various data published after December 2004, the Indian plate was constantly being drawn below the Sumatra plate.

“What is happening to the material that is being subducted below Sumatra?,” Chandrasekharam asked, answering it himself, “the answer could be that the subducting material must be melting, thus promoting continued subduction. This process of melting would result in seismic activity.”

This phenomenon is true in all subduction zones, the scientist said. The rate of subduction during the pre-December 2004 earthquake was estimated at 6.7 cm per year, while it was estimated more than 6.7 cm per year after the December 2004 earthquake, Chandrasekharam said.

He further said, the accumulation of melted material cannot stay below the earth’s crust for a long period. As the volcanoes in this region have already been activated, close monitoring is essential.

“These are relatively small volcanoes compared to those like Krakatau, Toba and Sorikmarapi. The Krakatau eruption of 1883 was preceded by an earthquake of 8.7 magnitude,”Chandrasekharam said.

Toba and Sorikmarapi lie just below the area, where all the present earthquakes are located (Nias and Northern Sumatra). More than 130 active volcanoes are present in Indonesia, which is more than any other country on earth. They comprise the axis of the Indonesian island arc system, which is generated by northeastward subduction of the Indo-Australian plate.

Toba is a stratovolcano, which erupted about 74,000 years ago, ejecting 2,800 cubic metres of tuff into the sky, which created a major disaster over the entire Asian continent. Now, this is a dormant volcano.

Michael Rampino,of New York University warned, a massive volcanic eruption capable of causing as much devastation as the cosmic bodies occurs every 50,000 years.

The young Toba tuff has an estimated volume of 2,800 cubic kilometres (km) and erupted about 74,000 years ago, he said.

There have been no eruptions at Toba in a historical time, but the area is seismically active with major earthquakes in 1892, 1916, 1920-1922, and 1987.

A recent article, (Zeynab El Fatah from northern Sumatra), in the Victory New magazine said, Rampino’s research pointed out that Toba blasted a crater 100 km long and sent 3 billion tonne of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere and a dense volcanic cloud around the globe.

According to the department of science and technology officials, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and its Indonesian counterpart are exchanging information on earthquakes.

After the tsunami experience of December 26, 2004, the IMD is in touch with the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the Pacific Tsunami Warning System in Hawaii with the help of the ministry of external affairs.

Department of science and technology (DST), will be working with their Japanese counterparts, on earthquakes in the Indian ocean region, the officials said, adding that the tsunami warning system will be in place within two years.

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has carried out seismic observations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. According to the GSI, it is conducting some study on the ocean bottom features for a better placement of tsunami warning system.

“So far, there is no such proposal for working with Indonesia and that too, on volcanoes,” they said. However, DST has a project proposal with IIT Mumbai to work on volcanoes in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Nightmare volcanic eruption remembered

Dormant for hundreds of years, the Soufriere Hills Volcano on Montserrat woke up in July 1995. A series of eruptions followed, burying streets and buildings around the island, submerging the capital, Plymouth, like a modern-day Pompeii.

Volcanic eruptions devastated two-thirds of this British overseas territory, which now looks like a barren lunar landscape.

Lazelle Howes was the island's Minister for Health, Education and Community Services at the time of the eruptions - she was also in charge of the relocation of refugees to the UK.

We've learnt to live with it... and what we have learnt to do is to buy brooms, lots of brooms because when it starts to ash we clean up right away

Shirley SpycallaMontserrat resident"I desperately want to go back, I'd love to go back. I can't go back... the facilities aren't in place. Where would I live? My house? I don't have access to it," she says.

"Every time I see the pictures of the residents and what they're going through in New Orleans everything comes back to me."

Peter Kokelaar, a volcanologist who was on the team assessing the UK's handling of the crisis, says the "tardiness of the government in making adequate provision for the evacuees in the north did cause considerable hardship".

By August 1997, he says, there were still 1,600 people living in shelters.

The decision to evacuate the island or stay was destroying the community and families.

Staying put

The last great eruption of rocks ash and rubble from this volcano killed 19 people in June 1997. Rosemond Brown's father, Joseph, was among them.

"He didn't actually leave when he was told to leave because he's not a person that would like to live in shelters and stuff like that.

"On the morning of the big eruption that killed all these people he went back in, said he was going to sleep, take a nap, and that was the last of him," she recalls.

Two-thirds of the island's population of about 11,500 people left the island - 4,000 of them travelled to the UK.

But Rosemond's sister Violet moved to a place that was to become another disaster zone.
"My sister lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, and I couldn't get word about whether she was dead or alive until about two days ago."

The Soufriere Hills volcano is expected to have a serious eruption again in the future, meanwhile, ash eruptions are still a regular occurrence.
Shirley Spycalla, although living in the so-called "safe" north zone of the island, can still see the volcano from her window.

She decided to stay on the island throughout the crisis.

"We've learnt to live with it... and what we have learnt to do is to buy brooms, lots of brooms because when it starts to ash we clean up right away," she says.

"There's something very special about this island I wouldn't change this for anywhere in the world."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Technology to help warn people in advance of eruptions

Back in the spring of 1980, geologists and other science specialists with and for the government were actively tracking and predicting the eruption of Mount St. Helen in the state of Washington, actually not a great deal north of Portland, Oregon.

While history had noted that such volcano eruptions in various counties had killed thousands, the advances in science and the greatly-increased capability of reaching people with warnings and sound advice seemed to assure that the coming eruption should not claim human lives -- certainly no large toll of lives.

Portland and other population centers were far enough away that they would get no direct impacts, although there were cautions about impacts on rivers, including the big Columbia River, running to the ocean.

When, in May, the eruption became imminent, danger zones were mapped and color-coded and warned away from. Difficult as it was amid brush, dense woods, rocky terrain, etc., local, state and federal people hunted out folks, including stubborn, longtime residents who didn’t want to leave, adventurers who wouldn’t believe they could not flee in time if necessary, doubters about the scope of the volcanic impact, etc.

The most famous in 1980 was a man named Harry Truman, same name as the late former President (from 1945-1952), though not indicated related.

In the end, as the volcanic eruption came, close to the forecasts on May 18, a few over 60 people died including that elderly state of Washington Harry Truman, some campers who wanted to see the eruption up close and others who simply wouldn't be warned or wouldn’t believe. Maybe a few who, despite the publicity and markings, didn’t know.

Considering all this, one can imagine the difficulties there had to be to help in time for a significant number of people in a population center the size of New Orleans as a hurricane-flood threat was a real possibility.

Despite all the modern technology and huge advances in communications even since 1980, and more media people than the afflicted in some situations, people seem to know less than when we waxed shut hand-written letters and waited eight months for a reply from London.

An attempt for wit in the current grim scene has included one notation that if each of the media people swarming the New Orleans scene would depart with a bucket of water, the flood would be over.

But aside from all the perceived shortcomings of governments or inabilities or unwillingness of people to connect and understand sufficiently to avoid miseries and a significant number of injuries and deaths, there should be a realization that we pay a price for the constant degrading of all our services. This didn’t happen just since Bush or since Clinton. It’s gone on for decades.

Communications is more than a matter of technology. A message arriving means nothing if not heeded. In these respects, it is really too bad that we are closing license branches and rural post offices and ending personal deliveries of so many things, maybe cutting back on libraries and other services by which government and people and businesses and people actually connect as humans.

Of course, there are huge logistics involved with a city like New Orleans and many other problems. There are needs in the economy and in government to get the economies involved in size. But there is a need also for contact, and a need for trust to develop or have a chance, even where there are differences, many of which should be minimized, not magnified.

So-called snail mail really does have some advantages over e-mail, even as wonderful as the advances may be.

In last January’s large ice storm that knocked out the Bluffton North Power Station and downed electric installations of American Electric Power (I&M-AEP) and others over a considerable area, Wells County Emergency Management Agency director Jerri Lehman and rural firefighters of Wells County plus some other volunteers went house to house in rural stretches of power-dark Southern Wells County to make sure people in homes were okay -- to get folks to where there was heat and food and water.

Now, THERE was a form of communications technology that works in ALL seasons and places.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mauna Loa, a famous hawaiian volcano

Mauna Loa is a massive shield volcano whose summit rises 13 680 feet (4170 meters) above sea level. The volcano’s lava is extremely fluid because of its low content of silica and gases and its very high temperature.

During eruption, the lava can flow more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) before it cools and hardens (old flows visible in the photograph). Spreading out in broad sheets as if it were melted tar, layers of lava have accumulated over millions of years to form Mauna Loa’s domal profile.

Near the summit of Mauna Loa is Mokuaweoweo Crater, with a depth of nearly 800 feet (245 meters), a length of 3 miles (5 kilometers), and a width of 2 miles (3 kilometers). During active periods (the last in the spring of 1984), lava streams flow from the crater down the slopes of the volcano.

Together, Kilauea Crater and smaller Halemaumau Crater (not discernible in photograph), at an elevation of 4090 feet (1247 meters) and a circumference of 8 miles (13 kilometers), are surrounded by a wall of volcanic rock 200 to 500 feet (61 to 153 meters) high.

A string of craters extends eastward along a rift zone, site of the current eruption (steam pall). Steam is blowing southwest from the main crater lake, Puu Oo, now filled with lava, which travels down the mountainside to the ocean through lava tubes and enters the ocean (steam pall) along the eastern side of the newly built (l992) Kamoamoa Delta.

The dark lava flows, which covered roads and subdivisions during the eruptions between 1983 and 1990, are visible east of the steam palls. The clarity of this photograph allows easy identification of the Olaa Rain Forest (dark green) north of the Kilauea crater and the agricultural land along the eastern coast.

Volcano caldera on Mars may be the result of a collapsed magma chamber

The HRSC obtained this image during orbit 1034 with a ground resolution of approximately 10.8 metres per pixel. The scene shows the region of Biblis Patera, at approximately 2.0° North and 236.0° East. Located between Olympus Mons and Tharsis Montes, the volcano Biblis Patera is 170 kilometres long, 100 kilometres wide and rises nearly three kilometres above its surroundings.

The bowl-shaped depression (the ‘caldera’) may have been formed as the result of collapse of the magma chamber during eruptions of the volcano. The caldera has a diameter of 53 kilometres and extends to a maximum depth of roughly 4.5 kilometres. The morphology of the caldera suggests that multiple collapse events have occurred.

The radial depressions and faint concentric circles on the flanks of the volcano are most likely faults associated with the formation of Biblis Patera. In the south-west (top left), the linear features extending north-west to south-east appear to be faults. Surrounding Biblis Patera there are more faults with a similar orientation and which may be related to the formation of the Tharsis Rise. Biblis Patera is older than the surrounding plains, which consist of lava flows originating from Pavonis Mons (the middle one of the Tharsis Montes volcanoes).

In the main colour image, clouds obscure the surface to the north-east of the caldera (bottom right), making it appear grey and less reddish-orange in colour. The stereo and colour capability and the high-resolution coverage of extended areas with the HRSC allow the improved study of the complex geological evolution of the Red Planet.

By supplying new image data for volcanoes like Biblis Patera, the HRSC provides scientists with the opportunity to better understand the morphology and volcanic history of Mars. Data from the HRSC, coupled with information from other instruments on Mars Express and other missions, improves our understanding of this fascinating planet.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Volcanoes on Mars may be active

The cones, seen in images from Europe's Mars Express probe, have no blemishes from impact craters.

This suggests the volcanoes erupted very recently and that the site could have ongoing volcanism.
Mars Express scientist Gerhard Neukum presented the results at a conference in Cambridge.
"Mars is a planet that was very recently active - maybe one, or two, or three million years ago. And in some areas, I have the impression it is really ongoing," said Dr Neukum, of the Free University in Berlin, Germany.

Future eruptions

But what cannot be determined is when, if at all, some of these volcanoes might erupt again: "It could be a million years from now, it could be tomorrow," he added.

Mars is a planet that was very recently active - maybe one, or two, or three million years ago
Dr Gerhard Neukum, Free UniversityDr Neukum acts as the principal investigator for the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express, which took the images in which the cones were discovered.

There may be 50-100 of the volcanic cones covering a flank of the North Pole about one million square kilometres in area. They are between 300m (984ft) and 600m (656 yard) tall, said Dr Neukum.

In addition to the North Pole, other regions with recent - and possibly ongoing - activity on Mars include parts of Tharsis - home to the volcano Olympus Mons - parts of Elysium and the so-called highland-lowland boundary.

By counting the number of craters on the surfaces of Solar System objects, scientists can estimate the age of those surfaces.

If they are heavily cratered, they are deemed older, while smoother surfaces are considered younger. This assumes a constant cratering rate since the heavy bombardment that terrestrial planets underwent about four billion years ago.

Fresh cones

The cones appear to be fresh with no discernible evidence of cratering. Dr Neukum admitted it was possible the cones could be ancient features that have been eroded by wind, but added that this was unlikely.

"I don't see any wind-related features in the region. We should see it and we should see the remains of craters somewhere. But we don't," he told the BBC News website.

Volcanic activity appears to have peaked on Mars at around 1.5 billion years ago, Dr Neukum said, adding: "Mars is still active within certain limits, but it's still not dead."

Dr Neukum thinks that volcanic activity strongly influences glacial activity on Mars. This is because on the Red Planet, eruptions also mobilise water.

In some cases, this water freezes and forms glaciers, says Dr Neukum. But other scientists believe glacial activity on the planet is more strongly influenced by the inclination of Mars in its orbit around the Sun.

Pilanesberg National Park

Lying in the maw of an extinct volcano, the landscape of Pilanesberg is rugged and wild. Eruptions about 1 300 million years ago laid the geological foundations for what is now a diverse and beautiful setting with wooded gorges, rocky outcrops and sweeping grasslands. If on game drives you get the feeling of being protected in the palm of a giant hand, it's not entirely imaginary: the reserve is fringed by three concentric rings of hills, the Pilanesberg alkaline ring complex, to rock scientists in the know.

Home to the Big Five and then some, it also has wonderful birds and a healthy reptile count.Self-drivers have a good chance of seeing game on their rounds, but be disciplined about sunrise and sunset drives to get the best results. If you opt for a night drive with one of the resort vehicles, do so at your peril - spotlights are often manned by guests who wave the lights wildly, blinding all those in sight.

Accommodation: There is no accommodation within the reserve, but you will find a variety of places to stay on the outskirts. Cost: Prices range from R280 to R2 800 a night.

Contact the park: Phone 014 555 5354.

Where to stay:
Bakgatla Camp offers colonial-style chalets for self-catering and safari tents starting from R280 a person a night sharing. Phone 014 555 1000.

Manyane Camp has self-catering chalets and safari tents which start from R300 a person sharing for a B&B. Phone 014 555 1000.

Bakubung Bush Lodge has comfortable studio rooms and chalets from R940 a person sharing. Phone 011 806 6888.

Tshukudu Bush Lodge is five-star luxury from R2 395 a person sharing. Phone 011 806 6888.

Game Reserve Madikwe is best known among tourists for its highly successful wild dog populations, but the reserve has also been a valuable source of income to its impoverished community. If you can afford it, it's one of those dream holidays and worth every Big Five rand you'll spend.As beautiful as Madikwe is, so too is it untouchable.This is a private provincial game reserve, an oddity that, nevertheless, is beyond the financial reach of most of us local plebs.

Lodges are top dollar and pitched at foreign tourists, however, many are running below profitable occupancy and, if you're flexible, it's possible to find discounts during the low-season winter months.Cost: From R450 a person a night to "the sky's the limit".Food: What you get is what you pay for. We suggest: Madikwe Mooifontein, a self-catering lodge that sleeps 10 people for R4 500, which translates to R450 a person a night. Phone 011 789 1605.Contact: Madikwe Safaris is the most comprehensive booking agent, phone 011 315 6194.

Game ReserveTucked away in the heart of the Southern Kalahari near the border of Botswana, Molopo is the province's best-kept secret. Its rolling red Kalahari dunes are carpeted with silky bushman grass. The bird list of 120 species includes specials such as tawny and martial eagles, bataleur and lappet-faced vulture.Although well stocked with large antelope such as gemsbok, red hartebeest, eland, zebra and giraffe, those who like to eyeball their game up close could be frustrated.As is the case with other parks in the province, Molopo also offer hunting.

Accommodation: Tent or caravan camping is at Phiri Camp in the reserve, which has ablutions with hot water for R40 a person a night. There is also Molopo Camp, a converted farm house which sleeps eight people for basic self-catering at R80 a person a night.Cost: Park entrance is R15 a person.Food: Self-catering is the only option, so you're at the mercy of your own talents.Contact: Gerald Botha 082 873 8780.

Mafikeng Game ReserveOccupying a big, flat area of sour mixed bushveld outside the town of Mafikeng, game spotting in Mafikeng Game Reserve is not terribly difficult.Herds of zebra, springbok and red hartebeest are common and it's fairly easy to pick out the buffaloes and rhinos in the bush. It is difficult to feel a sense of "getting away" in this reserve which is small at 4 600ha and close to busy roads and the town.

Accommodation: Manyane Game Lodge borders the reserve and has its own entrance into the park. Self-catering chalets, which sleep four, are reasonably comfortable and cost R400 a night. Cost: Park entrance is R15.Contact: Phone 018 381 5611 (Mafikeng reserve), 018 381 6020 (Manyane lodge). North West Parks and Tourism 018 397 1500.

Damaged equipment removed from Mt. St.Helens crater

Scientists removed more than 500 pounds of damaged equipment from Mount St. Helens' crater on Friday, when they took a helicopter to the volcano to make new observations of its continuing dome-building eruption.The equipment was battered in a series of explosions within the crater over last fall and winter, according to a briefing Saturday by the U.S. Geological Survey.The volcano's new lava dome, which has been growing since last October, is shorter now than it was a few months ago because it's once smoothy exterior has splintered and fallen off into piles of rubble.Most recently, the dome has developed a slump in its middle, according to the USGS.

Mt. St.Helens goes through changes

A recent survey of a bulge that covers about 100 square miles near the South Sister indicates the area is still growing, suggesting it could be another volcano in the making or a major shift of molten rock under the center of the Cascade Range.
Recent eruptions at Washington's Mount St. Helens, pictured, have rekindled interest in Oregon's South Sister volcano.

Recent eruptions at nearby Mount St. Helens in Washington state have rekindled interest in the annual Sisters survey and its findings.

Oregon has four of the 18 most active volcanoes in the nation — Mount Hood, Crater Lake, Newberry and South Sister.

A recent U.S. Geological Survey report said monitoring is inadequate at all of them, with only basic monitoring at about half of the active volcanoes.

Unlike the volcanoes, the bulge gets an extensive annual survey to track its growth. Spread out across an area nearly as big as the city of Portland, it's centered about three miles southwest of the South Sister, about 25 miles from Bend.

The results of the late August survey won't be ready for weeks, but scientists have reached some conclusions about the bulge from past monitoring.

They say it probably began growing in 1997 and has been rising ever since at a rate of about 1.4 inches a year. It was first observed from space using a relatively new imaging technology known as radar interferometry that can measure changes in the Earth's surface.

The likely cause of the bulge is a pool of magma that, according to Deschutes National Forest geologist Larry Chitwood, is equal in size to a lake 1 mile across and 65 feet deep.

The magma lake is rising 10 feet each year, under tremendous pressure, and it deforms the Earth's surface as it expands, causing the bulge.

Other causes could be anything from the birth of a new volcano — a fourth Sister in the making — to a routine and anticlimactic pooling of liquid rock, researchers say.

"The honest and shortest answer is, we don't know," said Dan Dzurisin, a USGS geologist.
Dzurisin recently led a three-person leveling crew on a slow walk across the top of the bulge. They were hoping to detect any change in its surface using survey equipment accurate to one-sixteenth of an inch for every mile measured.

Dzurisin's survey data, in concert with space imaging and satellite positioning measurements from two dozen fixed points on the bulge, give scientists an idea of the bulge's depth and size.
Additional information from seismographs and chemical monitoring of area springs reveal movement of the magma underground. A swarm of 350 small earthquakes in March 2004 indicated magma was on the move, but the bulge has been quiet ever since.

Whether the magma will move again or ever reach the surface is a mystery. But if it did, geological history suggests it would result only in small cinder cones that spew ash and lava.
The good news is that such an eruption likely would not seriously affect any population centers, Chitwood said.

Such cones are the most common volcanic features on Earth, he added. Central Oregon has about 600. Basalt flows have occurred in the area of the bulge every 1,000 to 1,500 years for the past 4,000 years, he said. And the area is due for another.

"The bulge is on time," Chitwood said. "The bus has arrived."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lava provides clues from the past and the future

Scientists on drill ships are studying colossal slabs of volcanic lava hidden under the sea that shaped its climate and helped determine its life forms and record Earth's violent past.
They think their research can help explain what's happening to our warming world today.
The extent of some of these buried lava flows is mind-boggling. Fragments left by a series of eruptions 200 million years ago in what's now the Atlantic Ocean stretch across four continents, in places ranging from New England to France and from the Amazon to West Africa.

An even larger outburst, 120 million years ago off the Indonesian island of Java in the southwest Pacific, slathered molten rock over more than 1.2 million square miles of ocean floor, enough to cover Alaska or Western Europe with a layer up to 18 miles thick.

Along with somewhat smaller -- but still enormous -- volcanic eruptions on dry land, these belches from the planet's fiery interior contributed to a series of mass extinctions of most of the organisms that were then alive.

Although the extinctions were devastating to life at the time, scientists think they opened the way for new, more advanced creatures to evolve, including ourselves. Without them, we wouldn't be here.

The blasts from the past may have ominous implications for future climate change, however, some scientists say.

"The rapid release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, happening today, appears to have happened in the past, too," said Paul Wignall, an earth scientist at the University of Leeds in England.

"In many ways, these rapid and giant eruptions seem to replicate the effects of fossil fuel burning, and so have provided natural experiments closely similar to human activity," Wignall said in an e-mail message. "The consequence of rapid warming of oceans and atmospheres appears to be mass extinction."

Lava is a common type of rock that's been melted by temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and flows out from a volcano or a crack in the Earth's surface. It rises from a 400-mile-thick layer of hot, gooey material known as magma that lies between the planet's crust and its solid core.

The vast expanses of seafloor lava -- technically known as "Large Igneous Provinces" -- are "one of Earth's most fascinating features," said John Mahoney, a geologist at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. "They provide insights into the causes of major environmental and biological changes in the past," he said in an e-mail interview, and "almost certainly played an important role in bringing about these extinctions."

The oceanic lava sheets are mostly invisible from the surface, but Earth's continents also bear traces of huge volcanic eruptions, some of them recent.

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, for instance, contains a 50-by-40-mile crater left by a series of volcanic eruptions, averaging about 600,000 years apart. The latest explosion came 630,000 years ago, so the park is overdue for another.

"Eventually Yellowstone will erupt again," said Don Hyndman, a geologist at the University of Montana. "When it does, I don't want to be living in Bozeman" -- 90 miles away. "The last event blew ash as far as Kansas and Arkansas." It produced enough lava, ash and rock to cover New York state 67 feet deep, he said.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mayon threatens of possible eruption

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned on Wednesday that another round of major eruptions of Mayon Volcano may occur following the magma reactivation and extrusion of lava pile or lava dome within the summit crater.

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist chief, said the latest episode of lava accumulation indicates a phase of low-level magmatic activity which might lead to two general scenarios, such as major eruptions and “recharging mode” that a major explosive eruption may occur.

“Mayon’s magma system is reactivating which could lead to another round of major eruptions. The other possible situation is that Mayon is merely in a recharging mode and that a major explosive eruption are some years away, consistent with general and relatively nonviolent periods of activity since the l968 eruption.”

“This notice is a confirmation of lava accumulating within the summit crater. At present the extrusion rate of the lava pile, or lava doom, is very slow and that the volume of lavas is small enough to be contained by the crater,” Laguerta said.

Remy Escobal, 28, resident of Barangay Bogtong, Legazpi City, told The Manila Times that an exodus of snakes from the slopes of Mayon has occured since last month.

“We noticed that several snakes from Mayon’s slope have been found. We also heard successive rumbling sounds of rocks from the volcano especially at nighttime,” Escobal said.

While Marvin Lita, 38, of Barangay Salvacion Daraga, Albay, told The Times that he also noticed a series of minor earthquakes in their area.

Salvacion village is about 7 to 8 kilometer-radius from Mayon.

Two weeks ago, the office of the Public Safety Management and Disaster Office, led by Cedric Daep, and Laguerta conducted an aerial survey and discovered that a lava pile occupies the unusual bowl-like morphology on the crater floor.

The lava pile resulted from slow extrusion of magma following a string of ash explosions that occurred between March and May in 2003.

In October 2003 the Ligñon Hill Observatory in this city reported incandescent glow on the summit indicating that fresh magma had breached the surface.

Phivolcs raised the alert status to Level 2 to reflect the increase in volcanic activity. At least two ash explosions occurred in mid-2004 followed by reports of summit plow.

Since then, Laguerta said that volcano-monitoring equipments consistently recorded more tremors, higher-than-usual sulfur dioxide emissions and slight inflation of the edifice.

If the crater fills up, lavas will spill over to the lowest portion of the crater rim that faces the southeast portion of Mayon.

The growth of the lava dome also increases its instability which may result in a partial collapse of pyroclastic flows that are likely to impact the permanent danger zone.

Extrusion of lavas are sporadic, discrete explosions are also considered to affect the zone.
Laguerta advices the public to keep away from the 6 kilometer-radius of the danger zone.

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