Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mud volcano in the middle of the ocean?

MUD spewing out of the sea 8km off the eastern coast of Trinidad could be a mud volcano that could form a temporary island.

Richard Robertson, head of the Caribbean nation's Seismic Research Unit, said the mud was pouring out of an opening or several openings in an underwater hill or mountain at a depth of 12-15m near the Point Radix coast.

“It's probably looking more and more like a mud volcano,” Mr Robertson said.

“Waves are breaking around it, which suggests that it is just below the water surface so it's only a matter of time when it breaches the surface. "Even if a so-called island is formed, it will eventually submerge because it is made of mud and is loose."

Since mud eruptions are not classified as a volcano, the Seismic Research Unit of Trinidad and Tobago does not plan to investigate further but will monitor the phenomenon.

A similar event occurred in 2001 off Erin Bay in the southern region of the oil and gas-producing twin-island nation when a mud volcano rose 1.5m above sea level, creating an island that collapsed after several days.

In 1997, a mud volcano erupted on land, burying 10 houses in the central village of Piparo. Villagers had reported rumblings days before.

Trinidad's eastern coast is a major area for oil and gas exploration and several companies have flown over the Point Radix coast to determine whether the mud eruption would affect their exploration operations.
The state-run Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management cautioned small boats to avoid the area.

Local villagers who depend mainly on fishing for their livelihoods said they were scared.
“I just pray that what happened in Montserrat don't happen here. We just have to pray,” said 50-year-old Isaac Sendall.

Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano began erupting in 1995 and eventually destroyed its original capital, Plymouth, and the island's airport. Much of the island's south remains uninhabitable.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Russia is facing an upcoming volcano eruption...again!

Residents of Kamchatka in far eastern Russia are on alert for yet another volcano eruption.

With two volcanoes continuously active for the past 11 years, the Russian Academy of Sciences is warning seismic activity has intensified at a third volcano, the Bezymyanny, Itar-Tass news agency reported Monday.

An eruption occurred at Bezymyanny in May with heated gas, steam and
rock fragments pouring down the volcano slope onto the village of Klyuchi some 25 miles away.

A spokesman for the academy's Geophysical Service told the news agency weak tremors have been recorded on the surface of the volcano along with a minor thermal anomaly that exceeds the air temperature by some nine degrees.

Monitoring of the Bezymyanny volcano has been continual because eruptions occur quite suddenly approximately twice each year.

Kamchatka, its landscape dotted with active volcanoes, was discovered by Russian Cossacks more than 300 years ago.

Tanzanian volcano erupts!

Oldonyo Lengai mountain in Tanzania has finally erupted. This brings to an end the numerous earth tremors that have hit East Africa for the past week. The seismic waves responsible for the movements emanated from this point.

The powerful eruptions that occurred on Thursday from 10pm will, according to experts, reduce the underground activity that was responsible for the tremors. It will also restore calm in the region that had for the last one week been engulfed in fear and anxiety.

Three days ago, some Nairobi residents spent the night in the cold as they awaited a major eruption that never occurred.

So intense were the fears, that it took Internal Security minister, Mr John Michuki’s efforts to calm the restless nation.

But on Thursday, thousands of Maasai herdsmen living around the area vacated their homes in the wake of a trail of the eruptions, that left two children injured and a school damaged.

School children were scalded

Media reports in Tanzania indicated that the molten lava spewing from the crater scalded two school children.

The activity also damaged a 300-capacity Meigoi Primary school around the area. But no deaths were reported. Experts said people in the area that experienced the tremors can now smile and thank God for the eruption as the tremors are for gone now.

Dr Eliud Mathu, head of Geology Department at the University of Nairobi, noted that the lava emanating from the mountain was not very hot. He added that the gases are not poisonous enough to affect residents.

"It is a sigh of relief and we can now thank God that all is well," Mathu told the Saturday Standard by telephone.

Mathu said the lava, which recorded heat of 510 degrees centigrade is ‘relatively cool’ compared to the hottest, which is normally 1,100 degrees centigrade.

According to reports in the "Guardian" of Tanzania, more than 1,500 people, most of them Maasai families, vacated their homes in Ngaresero, Orbalal and Nayobi villages following the tremors that triggered the volcanic eruption.

Tourists told to keep off the area

Villagers are reported to have heard roaring on the rugged geographic feature they call ‘Mountain of God’ before the volcano started discharging ash and lava.

Tanzanian authorities have since warned tourists to keep off the area for security reasons. Mathu concurred, saying the area should be avoided until after two weeks when the lava will have cooled.
The mountain is the world’s only active volcano that emits natrocarbonatite lava, which Mathu said has got no capability to flow further than about two kilometers from the mountain.

This kind of lava, which almost contains no silicon, is also much cooler in temperature compared to other emissions, he said.

Mount Oldonyo Lengai is 3,450 metres above sea level and is located south of Lake Natron on the Tanzania-Kenya border.

According to an official at the Kenya Meteorological Department, Mr Samuel Mwangi, the eruptions normally throw volcanic ash into the environment, which causes pollution.

"The pollution changes the characteristics of the atmosphere making the air very dirty," said Mwangi.

Mt Etna, on the Italian island of Sicily, is said to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Russian volcano eruption is quite a sight...for students!

A volcano erupting 1,800 miles away is giving students and scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks a unique research opportunity.

Klyuchevskoy, a 15,862-foot volcano in the Russian Far East, has been erupting since January but on June 28 began blasting ash up to 32,000 feet high.

“It looked like the volcano was belching ash like no tomorrow,” said John Dehn, a researcher with the Alaska Volcano Observatory at UAF. “There was a nice big eruption. It erupted for quite a while — many hours, more than a day.”

It was the largest eruption to occur in the North Pacific in a decade, Dehn said, and it is providing students at UAF with the opportunity to work with scientists across the world as they monitor and study the volcano.

The UAF graduate students, working with the Alaska Volcano Observatory, began working immediately to track the massive ash plume as it spread across the region.

Volcanic ash moves quickly through the air, Dehn said, and within a day the ash from Klyuchevskoy had reached Alaska.

“At one point, we had a continuos ash flow from Klyuchevskoy east across the Bering Sea passing over the Aleutian Islands … and up to the Alaska Peninsula,” he said.

Volcanic ash wreaks havoc on jet engines, according to Ken Deans, another researcher with the volcano observatory.

“Any ash that travels to Alaska is drifting right through the superhighway of air travel to the Far East,” he said. “It’s critical for us to understand how distal plumes are moving.”

Using Web cameras, satellite images, weather data and computer algorithms, the Volcano Observatory team created three-dimensional computer models of where the ash would most likely travel. That information was used by federal and international officials to reroute air traffic around the dangerous clouds of volcanic ash. The staff at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, which is a joint program of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Geophysical Institute at UAF and the State of Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, is charged with monitoring about 160 potentially active volcanos around the north Pacific region — 70 in Alaska — Dehn said.

“In the North Pacific we have, on average, about seven eruptions a year that put ash into air traffic lanes,” he said. “In Alaska it happens less frequently, but it’s not uncommon to have a couple each year.”

In January 2006, Mount Augustine, located in Cook Inlet, spewed out ash, disrupting air traffic in the region.

As of Wednesday morning, Klyuchevskoy was no longer belching large amounts of ash, but researchers here are still keeping an eye on it and are noting some small steam plumes and a few faint thermal anomalies, Dehn said. While Dehn and his colleagues continue to monitor the volcano on computer screens, other researchers from UAF are getting a closer view.

A handful of graduate students from UAF are traveling to Russia this week to study Klyuchevskoy up close.

“The ones that are traveling over to Kamchatka (the region of Russia where the volcano is located) are in a very enviable position,” Dehn said. “It’s a very rare experience for students to see an erupting volcano. It’s one thing to read in a book. It’s another thing entirely to see it with the naked eye.”

Volcano tours are not only amazing but they are also educational!

A series of guided hikes to the rim of an erupting volcano will be featured during a summer of field seminars by the Mount St. Helens Institute.

The nonprofit institute focuses on education, research and stewardship at Mount St. Helens. For detailed information about the field seminars or volunteer opportunities, check .

The 2007 field seminars ­include the following:

- Saturday: A guided climb to the crater rim led by Larry Mastin, geologist. Examine volcanic rocks and deposits of various types and ages on the flanks of Mount St. Helens. Cost: $150, maximum of 11 students.

- July 28: A guided climb to the crater rim led by ­Peter Frenzen, plant ecologist. Examine how past eruptions have influenced plant life. Cost: $150, maximum of 11 students.

- Aug. 11: A guided climb to the crater rim led by Gary Walker, lead climbing ranger. View the volcano and crater through the eyes of a local resident who has spent his career managing and protecting forests around the volcano. Cost: $100, maximum of 11 students.

- Sept. 1: A guided exploration of the developing ecosystem north of the crater led by John Bishop, plant ecologist. Learn what determines who lives and who dies in one of the Pacific Northwest's most extreme natural environments from a scientist who has spent two decades studying the valley north of the crater. Cost: $80, maximum of 11 students.

- Sept. 8: A guided climb and introduction to the mountain stewards program led by Gary Walker, lead climbing ranger. An introduction for climbers interested in volunteering for the 2008 Mountain Stewards Program. Cost: $50, maximum of 22 students.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Types of magma may be clues to violence levels of eruptions

Like rising bubbles in champagne, gases from Earth’s interior can ascend to the surface and cause magma to explode in dangerous splatters.

A new study, detailed in the July 13 issue of the journal Science, shows that these volcanic “gas slugs” originate from deeper inside the planet than previously thought.

The work, by Mike Burton and colleagues at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy, could help scientists understand why some
volcanoes erupt more violently than others.

Like overflowing chiliWhile the classic image of a volcanic eruption is that of explosive flares that shoot columns of lava and ash into the air, volcanoes are also capable of much milder outbursts.
Called “Strombolian” activity — after the Stromboli volcano in Italy where it has been best studied — these small volcanic blasts consist of relatively viscous lava sputtering from the throat of volcanoes, like over-cooked chili on a stove.

Strombolian eruptions are driven by pockets of water vapor and other gases ascending rapidly through lava tubes inside the Earth. The elongated bubbles, or “slugs,” can measure several tens of meters long and are formed by several smaller bubbles coalescing together as they climb toward the planet’s surface. At Stromboli, the slugs rise at a speed of about 6 feet (2 meters) per second.

(“Slugs” is a scientific term used to describe a bubble with a length at least twice as long as the diameter of the tube through which it travels. It does not refer to slimy gastropods in this context.)
Previous studies based on seismic data have suggested the slugs originate from a depth of at least 820 feet (250 meters), and possibly as much as half a mile (900 meters) beneath a volcano’s summit crater.

Underground plumbingIn the new study, Burton and his team measured changes in the composition of gas escaping from Stromboli during both quiet and active periods. They measured the gas from a safe distance using a beam of infrared light that can detect chemicals in the air. The chemical composition of the gases can be used to gauge the pressure at which they formed, and thus the depth at which the slugs originated.

The team’s findings suggest the gas slugs formed as deep as 1.7 miles (2,700 meters) below the surface.

Steve Lane, a volcanologist at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study, said the new findings are “very important” and will help scientists understand how the structure of Stromboli’s hidden plumbing system changes with depth, as well as how fluid flows within the conduits.

“These changes are often precursors of change in eruption style and provide a powerful forecasting tool,” Lane told LiveScience.

People flee eruption of Indonesian volcano!

Some 3,000 people have fled the slopes of an Indonesian volcano after it spewed ash, smoke and other volcanic debris.

"Up until today, some 3,000 people from eight villages on the slopes of Gamkonora have left their homes for safer grounds," said Penta Libela, the deputy district chief of West Halamahera on the island where the volcano lies.

Mount Gamkonora, about 2,700 kilometres north-east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, was placed on a level three alert on Monday, one level below the top warning which signals an imminent eruption.

Ash and smoke shot up as high as two kilometres from the peak on Monday and has since soared a kilometre into the air.

"It is not an official evacuation program," Mr Libela said.

"The population panicked because of the eruption and fled on their own and as the local government, we are merely helping by providing more vehicles and assigning temporary shelters."
Four villages, each more than 20 kilometres away from the crater, are accommodating most of the displaced.

The 1,635-metre volcano has been relatively today, Mr Libela says.

"There are small eruptions that release volcanic material, including ash, and smoke, but according to the vulcanology office, these are not serious eruptions," he said.

The ash blanketed some villages on the volcano's slopes on Monday, but Mr Libela says he could not immediately say whether the ash has rained on any other areas since then.

He says there were no reports of casualties.

Indonesia sits on the so-called "Pacific ring of fire," where continental plates meet, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activity.

The archipelago nation has the world's highest number of active volcanoes.
Gamkonora has erupted 12 times, the most recently in 1987.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Another volcano eruption in Hawaii

With lava once again flowing across the collapsed floor of the Pu'u O'o crater, the Kilauea volcano eruption that began in 1983 may once again present a spectacle for visitors to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

The return of lava to the bottom of the crater was first reported by tour helicopter operators yesterday morning, and was confirmed by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists yesterday afternoon.

The lava flowed eastward and ponded near the crater center, and loud gas-jetting noises could be heard as lava splattered on the crater floor, scientists said.

While the activity did not prompt any changes in operations at the national park, it hints that lava may once again be flowing from the crater into the ocean. That could take awhile, however, since the floor of the crater collapsed by at least 330 feet during the eruption pause.

"It's nice to see the lava returning to its long-term source," Park Ranger Mardie Lane said. While most of the park is open, the East Rift zone and the trails serving that area remain closed, Lane said.

Lava was last seen at the Poupou ocean entry on June 20, but the supply of magma to Pu'u O'o apparently was temporarily cut off during a swarm of earthquakes that began June 17.

Magma then was diverted into the upper East Rift area, causing the rift zone to expand by nearly 3 feet. A small eruption on June 19 from the upper East Rift covered almost 2 acres with lava, but quickly stalled.

Scientists said the interruption in the flow from Pu'u O'o resembles a similar series of events in late January 1997, when magma stopped flowing into the crater, but resumed after a 23-day pause. Lava resumed its flow toward the ocean a few weeks later.

The eruption from Pu'u O'o has been nearly continuous from 1992 to 2007, and the recent pause was the first stall in the eruption since Dec. 15, 2000.

The current Pu'u O'o-Kupaianaha eruption of Kilauea is the most voluminous outpouring of lava on the volcano's East Rift zone in the past 500 years. The eruption has added nearly 500 acres to Kilauea's southern shore, destroyed 189 homes and other structures, and buried long stretches of highway.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Mud volcano's eruption is unstoppable

Since May 2006, more than 15,000 people in the Sidoarjo district of Java have been displaced by the hot mud flowing from a natural gas well being drilled by Lapindo Brantas, an oil well company. While some scientists have speculated that the earthquake that struck Yogyakarta two days before the well erupted may have cracked the ground, others have suggested that the company’s drilling procedure was faulty.

Some 125,00 cubic metres of hot mud continue to erupt every day. Scientists suggest that the eruption may be a mud volcano impossible to stop.

The Company smelled gas in Sidoarjo,licked its lips,whetted the borehole,and forced its fist through the county’s reserveuntil it came:eruptingfrom the bowels of the earth a geyser of mud gushing fromand by now become Sidoarjo: no villages buta stinking tsunami, no paddies butsteaming pools of mud, no hatcheries butglowing mud tributaries, no one butthis immortal volcano of mudmonster released, relentless blobthe Company calls a naturaldisaster: the island'sfault.

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