Saturday, March 29, 2008

Underwater Monowai volcano erupts in New Zealand!

You wouldn't know it but a large volcano eruption is taking place in New Zealand.

It's not visible because Monowai is completely underwater - north of the Kermadec Islands, and is about 1500 metres deep.

Its conical cone reaches to just 120 metres below the surface of the Pacific.

French Polynesia's Laboratoire de Geophysique is taking recordings of what is going on and Dr Oliviere Hyvernaud told Fairfax they recorded a "big acoustic event on February 8".

He added it was strong "but not a monster".

Monowai was in an eruptive phase but it was difficult to say whether it was a strong eruption.
In New Zealand GNS Science geologist Cornel de Ronde said French Polynesia sees the sound signals more easily than stations in New Zealand.

Monowai has erupted regularly over the years, he said.

Dr Ian Wright of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has closely studied Monowai and in a paper to be published in the international Journal of Geophysical Research argues that in May 2002 the volcano itself collapsed creating an "explosive interaction and cooling of hot magma and volcaniclastic rubble with ambient seawater".

Dr de Ronde said Monowai was similar to Mount St Helen's in the United States which collapsed and then rebuilt itself over time.

The latest activity has gone unnoticed on the surface as its location is off the main shipping routes.
In previous years Royal New Zealand Air Force over flights have spotted large sulphur slicks.
What was thought to be a shoal of fish was first reported in the area in 1944 but it was not until 1977 that it was recognised as a volcano.

It was surveyed by HMNZS Monowai, thus its name.

Russian volcano is waking up!

Koryaksky and Avachinsky volcanoes, located 25 km from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, become more active. Specialists of the Geophysical Service detected the highest activity on March 25. The Kamchatka branch of the Geophysical Service of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Vostok Media, over 60 separate seismic shocks were registered by the devices in the volcanic area.

Visual observation is complicated in view of weather conditions. The veil of clouds hides tops of the volcanoes. The last eruption of a volcano from the group of the Kamchatka “home” volcanoes – Avachinsky – occurred in 1991. As all three volcanoes are seen within a distance of 100 km, the eruption could be seen by dwellers of Petropavlovsk and closely located towns.

Before and after pictures of Kilauea's crater prior to its violent eruption

Kilauea volcano is still putting on a show as thousands of people make the trek to watch the lava flow into the ocean. At the top of the mountain geologists are keeping an eye on Halemaumau Crater.

That is where earlier this week a volcanic explosion blew rocks over a 75-acre area.

Scientists said it could explode again so some of the roads and lookouts remain closed.

Photographer Charlene Meyers was one of the last people to view the crater before the explosion early Wednesday morning. She took an extraordinary picture as the mountain neared the breaking point.

"I want everyone to know, it has not been doctored. It has not been touched period. It is exactly the way I shot it," Meyers told KGMB9.

Meyers is a volunteer at Hawaii Volcanos National Park and an avid photographer.

It was dark out when she snapped the photo of the crater, but she was able capture enough light by leaving the lens of her camera open for 72 seconds and by taking advantage of bright moon light.
"The crater can be seen. You can pick out the detail in the crater. The red glow, even though it's very bright, did not get totally blown out, meaning so bright that you lose everything about it. And then of course the stars came out. So to get those three ... and then the plume is beautiful," Meyers said.

Meyers has taken thousands of shots of lava. Some of them are so nice people have asked if they can buy them. So meyers, a confessed lava junkie, opened a
web site featuring some of her best stills.

"It's just exciting. You are watching new land being built for starters. You can stand there and the next thing you know, there's what we call a break out where lava has just opened up out of a crevasse and started to pour," she told KGMB9.

An active volcano provides opportunity for lots of quality shots, and now the Halemaumau Crater shot joins Meyers list of favorites.

For a look at more of Meyers pictures, watch the video version of this story, or visit her
web site.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Did volcanic sulphur kill dinosaurs 65 million years ago?

The dinosaurs may have been wiped out by a massive series of volcanic eruptions that belched gas into the atmosphere, British scientists say.

A series of eruptions that formed India's hilly Deccan Traps also pumped huge amounts of sulphur into the atmosphere 65 million years ago - with devastating effects on the Earth's climate, the researchers believe.

Gigantic eruptions are one of two leading explanations for a series of mass extinctions that have killed off vast numbers of species periodically over the last 545 million years.
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Other scientists have blamed asteroids hitting the Earth - generally considered the prime suspect in the case of the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Up to now there had been doubts about the killing power of volcanoes because researchers had struggled to measure just how much toxic gas would have been released.

But excavations in the Deccan volcanic rock - known as flood basalt - led to the discovery of traces of glass, allowing the British-based team to analyse the gases it originally contained.

Writing in the journal Science, they conclude that the massive of amounts of both sulphur and chlorine released in the Deccan eruptions would probably have had a "severe" environmental impact.

"Gases from a series of eruptions of the Deccan Traps may have 'battered away' at life on the planet at the time, leading to the mass extinctions,” said volcanologist Stephen Self of the Open University in Milton Keynes.

"It certainly bolsters the case, though it doesn't prove it," he added.

"There have been several major mass extinctions and most of those have, uncannily, occurred while one of these huge flood basalt provinces was being formed."

Evidence: India's Deccan Traps were formed by lava from eruptions at the time of the dinosaurs' extinction.

The volcanoes may have spewed 10 times more sulphur into the atmosphere annually than humans have done recently by burning coal in power stations and through other industrial activities.

The result would have been sulphuric acid in the atmosphere and widespread acid rain, with the surface of the Earth being cooled down and normal patterns of weather circulation being disrupted.

Kilauea erupts with a blast!

Something's up with Hawaii's famed Kilauea (kih-luh-WAY'-uh) Volcano.

The 4,200-foot-high tourist attraction has been oozing lava in a slow-motion eruption for more than a-quarter century. Now, there's been a rare explosion at its main crater, the first since 1924.

Wednesday's blast scattered debris, including gravel-sized rocks, over a 75-acre area. Nobody was hurt, but there was some minor damage to a wooden fence.

Parts of the park have been closed to visitors. And emergency officials are making plans to evacuate nearby villages if the winds blow toxic gases in their direction.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kilauea Volcano's lava reached the ocean

The latest flow from Kilauea Volcano reached the ocean overnight, according to scientists with the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

A scientist flew over the flow with Hawaii County officials on Thursday morning.

"On a general basis, it is a real strong tube that leads to the ocean and is quite a healthy flow at this time," Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said.

Access to Kilauea's eruption was cut off Wednesday after the current lava flow crossed the last Big Island access road to the site.

Kim warned that people should stay out of the area at this time because of the potential for part of the flow to break off and surround them. County officials said they know there are people sneaking into the site at night, but police and state park officials are out advising people the area is restricted.

County and state highway personnel are working to cut a road to a new lava-viewing site. The road would cut the 2.5- to 3-mile walk that people would otherwise have to face.

Kim said he hopes to have the new road for people to view the flow up by 2 p.m. on Saturday. The area will be accessible from 2 p.m.-10 p.m. each day. That is subject to change, depending on any potential dangers.

Hawaii County and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park workers will man the site to inform and educate the people who go to the area, Kim said. Kim said that based on past experience, he expects more than 1,000 sightseers per day.

The National Park's flow has continued to hit the water, but people are kept at least a quarter-mile from the flow because of the direction of the wind and the potential for fumes.

Kim said he hopes to set up the viewing area just a few hundred yards away.

He urged people to bring shoes, water and flashlights when they do go to the new lava-viewing area.

After threatening for several days, lava crossed the access road at the end of Highway 130, cutting off a lava-viewing site and forcing evacuations. The 2.6-mile road was built to the lava-viewing site in 2001.

The lava hitting the ocean is a spectacular sight.

"Lava going into the ocean is a phenomena that is a rarity because most volcanic eruptions in the world takes place in such remote areas that are so very dangerous that very few people have the opportunity to see it," Kim said. "This is a special opportunity that the government can make this power of nature, creation of nature visible to the average person."

Big Island Civil Defense officials said the lava continues to make its way through the Royal Gardens subdivision toward the ocean. The flow could reach the ocean as soon as this weekend, officials said.

"The speed at which she moved from the base to where she is now is much, much faster than anyone, I'm talking about the scientists, anticipated. We are where we thought we would be by maybe next week sometime at the earliest, and here we are," Kim said.

Lava from the volcano eruption that began in 1983 destroyed four or five abandoned structures in Royal Gardens over the past two weeks.

The flow forced the last residents to leave the area.

The homes that were in danger were not destroyed on Thursday, officials said.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Experts inform government to expect a large volcanic eruption very soon!

There’s no way of knowing when or where the next volcano will blow in Auckland.

But authorities are testing their readiness for a major eruption with a simulation exercise next week.
Exercise Ruaumoko will put evacuation, public information and emergency procedures to the test.
"It’s the first large-scale test of our plans," says emergency management group controller Harry O’Rourke.

"Nobody’s tried to do an evacuation of 200,000 or more people from Auckland, which is what we’re trying to do on paper."

The public are not involved in the practice run, but small focus groups will follow the scenario and give feedback on how they might respond.

The exercise scenario includes minor ground tremors followed by bigger shakes and finally a full-blown explosion.

Experts say there’s no way to tell where the next eruption will blow but it’s likely to be a new vent, not an existing volcano.

"There’s no real trend in terms of location or size," says Auckland Regional Council hazard manager Jane Olsen.

"It could appear anywhere within the volcanic field."

The first warning will come from Auckland’s seismic monitoring network, which picks up the small tremors caused by magma surging upwards from 100km underground.

It could take days or weeks to erupt, causing stronger earthquakes as it breaks through harder rock near the surface.

The most recent eruption 600 years ago created the largest volcano in the Auckland field, Rangitoto.

When the next one blows it’s likely to leave a devastation zone of 3km.

Most damaging will be base surges of gas and ash travelling along the ground at 100kmh.
"They’re extremely destructive but unlikely to travel too far from the vent," Ms Olsen says.
A 5km radius around the explosion would be evacuated, with up to 220,000 residents and almost as many employees forced to leave.

Police inspector Mark Hall says it would be hugely difficult.

"Auckland has enough problems as it is with roading infrastructure, without adding a mass evacuation."

Mr Hall says most people would be told to head south, because an Auckland eruption could block essential services to Northland.

Updates for the exercise can be read on

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Could a volcano eruption shift the ice sheet in Antartica?

The West Antarctic rift is a region of volcanic activity and crustal stretching that is roughly the size of the western United States (from Salt Lake City to the Pacific Ocean). About 98 percent of it is buried beneath glacial ice, up to 2.5 miles thick, and bedrock beneath the ice is 2000--3000 feet below sea level over large areas.

All of this makes it a difficult region to study. It is interesting nevertheless, because volcanic eruptions beneath the ice could destabilize the ice sheet, leading to as much as 25 feet of sea-level rise.

Could a volcano eruption shift the ice sheet in Antartica?

The West Antarctic rift is a region of volcanic activity and crustal stretching that is roughly the size of the western United States (from Salt Lake City to the Pacific Ocean). About 98 percent of it is buried beneath glacial ice, up to 2.5 miles thick, and bedrock beneath the ice is 2000--3000 feet below sea level over large areas.

All of this makes it a difficult region to study. It is interesting nevertheless, because volcanic eruptions beneath the ice could destabilize the ice sheet, leading to as much as 25 feet of sea-level rise.

Is Mount St.Helens' eruption near the end?

The eruption of Mount St. Helens may have finally petered out.

More than three years after the volcano reawakened spectacularly in the fall of 2004, scientists say the eruption appears to have stopped ... for the time being.

"Volcanoes do this sort of thing," said Steve Malone, a University of Washington research geophysicist who has studied Mount St. Helens since it erupted catastrophically on May 18, 1980. "They erupt for a while, then it sort of dies out, and something changes in the future, and then they’ll erupt again."

Yet scientists acknowledged that almost 40 months is a long time for a volcano to steadily churn up solid rock. The mountain has built a lava dome of at least 122 million cubic yards, all of it pushed out as blocky chunks similar in chemical composition to the lava dome that emerged in the six years after the 1980 eruption.

The new lava dome radically uplifted, severed and then shoved away a 600-foot-thick glacier that accumulated in the 18 years between the 1980s dome-building and the latest period of dome growth that began with a flurry of earthquakes on Sept. 23, 2004.

By the fall of 2006, St. Helens was continuing to pump out the equivalent of 25 Olympic-sized swimming pools every day.

That rate had dwindled significantly by this past autumn.

Since the end of January, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have detected no discernible growth of the lava dome, negligible gas emissions, hardly any earthquakes and no wider ground deformation.

Officially, scientists are terming this a "pause" in the eruption.

"Whether that means this period has ended or has just paused, we won’t know until there are further developments," said Dan Dzurisin, a USGS geologist in Vancouver. "Dome growth has stopped. Whether or not this period of eruptive activity is over, is a different question."

The USGS lowered the alert level from a Watch to an Advisory, but pilots still should keep their heads on a swivel when sightseeing around Southwest Washington’s dyspeptic peak.

"It’s certainly not as big an issue as it has been," said Cynthia Gardner, scientist in charge of the Cascades Volcano Observatory. "But it’s a little ‘heads-up,’ not to ignore Mount St. Helens altogether."

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