Guest Video: Heli-Biking in Kamchatka

We do things like this precisely because we are so small and the land is so big.

Yes, many of those volcanoes are active. They are monitored by KVERT.


Guest Videos: Laguna del Maule Volcanic Complex

First off, here’s a skiing video, without a single mention of volcanoes. But everything they are travelling over, under, around and through is part of the Laguna del Maule volcano complex on the Chile-Argentina border.

Yes, it’s an active volcano. In fact, until last year it seemed the most likely candidate for the world’s next supereruption.

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Galapagos Volcanoes

Here is a 2013 post I did on the other blog that is relevant now because there are two eruptions going on there at the moment:

La Cumbre:

and Sierra Negra:

Ah, the Galapagos! Thinking of Darwin and giant turtles now?

Well, the land itself – a volcanic archipelago – is alive, too.

Per the accompanying text for that NASA Earth Observatory flyover, Straddling the equator approximately 1000 kilometers to the west of the South American mainland, the Galapagos Islands lie within the heart of the equatorial current system. Rising from the sea floor, the volcanic islands of the Galapagos are set on top of a large submarine platform. The main portion of the Galapagos platform is relatively flat and less than 1000 meters in depth. The steepest slopes are found along the western and southern flanks of the platform with a gradual slope towards the east. The interactions of the Galapagos and the oceanic currents create vastly different environmental regimes which not only isolates one part of the Archipelago from the other but allows penguins to live along the equator on the western part of the Archipelago [because of the cold Humboldt or Peru ocean current, shown in blue…Barb] and tropical corals around the islands to the north. The islands are relatively new in geologic terms with the youngest islands in the west still exhibiting periodic eruptions from their massive volcanic craters.


The Galapagos Islands are dramatic from the ground …



… or from a boat, at night, about a quarter-mile offshore (the military tries to evacuate tortoises and other animals at risk when there is an eruption): Continue reading

Guest Videos: Fire and Ice

I saw some news recently about possible increased activity in some Icelandic volcanoes and was confused about where the threat was.

There was an outburst flood (indicating heat near the surface) from Vatna Glacier, and an uptick in seismicity at Bárdarbunga volcano (which is partly covered by Vatna), probably because the Bárdarbunga system is inflating again, after its 2014-2015 eruption, as fresh magma moves into the system).

There are so many active volcanoes here, with such exotic-sounding names to a native English speaker, that it is easy to get them confused. These events actually involved separate activity at two of the most impressive volcanoes in Iceland.

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PopocatepĂ©tl: A Dangerous Volcano

People in central Mexico have always felt a strong personal link with Popocatepétl, which they often call Don Goyo.

As we saw last time, when this volcano broke its five-decade silence with a VEI-2 bang in 1994, local people responded with traditional ceremonies; artists were drawn to the event; government officials took emergency measures; and scientists expanded their monitoring networks.

For almost a quarter of a century now, Don Goyo has been on center stage. People have adjusted to it and are moving on with their lives, as people always do after a natural disaster.

But scientists just updated the official hazard map (Spanish) for PopocatĂ©petl, which we’re going to take a look at in this post.

The volcanologists did reassure everybody that there is no sign of any increased or upcoming increase in activity; the volcano is still at a “Yellow, Phase 2” alert level.

Also, to counter popular rumors, they stated in no uncertain terms that Don Goyo is not connected to Guatemala’s Fuego, which recently had a deadly eruption, or to Kilauea, out in Hawaii, with its spectacular lava flows. Each of these three volcanoes has its own plumbing system and exists for different geological reasons.

The problem with Popocatépetl is that, not only in 1994 but also at any point in modern times, this volcano has never shown the levels of violence that the geologic record proves that it is capable of.

And now Don Goyo has 25 million human neighbors, unfamiliar with its historic power and living less than 65 miles (100 km) away from its summit.

Ashfall risk from Popocatépetl

Ashfall risk for Popo

See CENAPRED’s hazard map (Spanish) for details. “Ciudad de MĂ©xico” is Mexico City.

  • The dotted line shows the area that would get at least 4 inches (10 cm) of ash if Don Goyo had another eruption as powerful as one about 14,000 years ago.
  • Red: In a big eruption, this unfortunate area could get lots of volcanic ash (up to yards/meters in depth) as well as a bombardment of rocks up to a foot (30 cm) in size.
  • Orange: Just a little ash would fall here in a small eruption, but up to 3 feet (1 meter) or more in a big one.
  • Yellow: This region isn’t at much risk of ashfall in small eruptions at PopocatepĂ©tl, but it could get several inches (dozens of centimeters) in a large eruption.

Seismic sensors, deformation monitoring, and gas/hydrothermal studies can pick up signs of such approaching events, especially the big ones.
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Popocatépetl: Don Goyo

A certain Spanish adventurer was under a lot of pressure in the summer of 1519.

He and his men had forfeited their lives by mutinying in order to go seek their fortune in the New World. After arriving there, he had scuttled the boats to thwart an unhappy faction that wanted to turn back; and now enemies surrounded them on every side while up ahead were the Aztecs–skillful fighters who wore elaborate constumes, launched attacks with screeching skull whistles, and would carve the heart out of your living chest or kill you in some other cruel way if they won.

Also, gunpowder–the Spaniards’ only hope of staying alive in the New World, let alone conquering it–was running low.

Despite all this, Hernán Cortés had to pause and describe for posterity something wonderful he had seen:

[E]ight leagues from this city of Churultecal are two very high and very marvellous mountains . . . at the end of August they have so much snow or something else on top that, if not snow, looks like it. And out of the one that is highest comes many times, day and night, a huge column of smoke, like that from a big house, rising from the mountain up into the clouds, as straight as a vein, with so much force as it emerges that, although up in the mountains the wind [is] always very strong, it cannot twist it.
— Hernán CortĂ©s, quoted here, translated by Google Translate and me

Popo plume and Izta Popo

Top: Screen capture from this YouTube video (Spanish). Bottom: A 2010 sunrise view from the Aztec side of the mountains; Cortes saw them from the east. The “smoking mountain’s” plume (right) is hardly visible in this shot. What is now called CortĂ©s Pass (Paso de CortĂ©s) connects the two mountains. (Joaquin MartĂ­nez Rosado, public domain)

While momentary awe is always welcome, Cortés still had urgent practicalities to attend to. Recognizing an active volcano when he saw one, he sent a team under the command of Captain Diego de Ordás up to the summit to collect sulfur for making more gunpowder.

Here is what the crater of that “smoking mountain”–PopocatĂ©petl, in the ancient Nahuatl language–looked like in 2013 when its usually icy and snow-covered slopes were dark with ash after some eruptions.

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Mount Merapi

Indonesia is an exciting place for geoscientists, but the rest of us get a little confused by all the headlines about erupting volcanoes there: Tambora, Bromo, Sinabung, Agung, Merapi . . .

Let’s focus on that last one, because it has recently begun to stir again.

Perhaps you’ve seen this video from May 11, 2018:

Indonesian volcanologists later determined that was a steam-driven (“phreatic”) explosion that happened when magma came in contact with ground water circulating in the volcano’s walls.

Wonder why ordinary people would be relaxing and eating in such a desolate place?

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Aso Volcano, Japan

This is a repost from my other blog, first published on August 11, 2013. Since then, Aso has had some remarkable eruptions: check out the Global Volcanism Program link below for more details and images.

NASA Earth Observatory

Click to enlarge. Yes, some volcanoes are occupied. See the Naka-dake volcanic cone in the middle of the large caldera, sitting there just like Wizard Island sits in the Crater Lake caldera? Only this caldera isn’t full of water. The people of Aso – not supervillains – have built a city in the caldera, around Naka-dake. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Information: Global Volcanism Program (Smithsonian). Volcano World. (Oregon State)

Monitoring (note: only the Japanese-language website seems to be working right now). See also the Japan Meteorological Agency – despite the name, they watch for all natural hazards in Japan. Currently JMA has no warnings posted for Naka-dake, which does have frequent, small-scale eruptions and is quite a tourist draw.

Webcam (in Japanese, but real-time images).

Featured image: ka.sha (busy & OFF). CC BY 2.0

Guest Videos: Nyiragongo’s Lava Lake

Molten rock at Kilauea’s summit has disappeared from view, but the world’s largest lava lake is still bubbling away in the crater of Africa’s Nyiragongo Volcano.

The tricky part is getting down there to check it out.

It isn’t easy for tourists to approach Nyiragongo’s summit, either.

But the fascination of that incandescent glow is intense.

More information:

Smithsonian Global Volcanism page


OSU article on “The Most Dangerous Volcano in the World” (videos of Hawaiian lava flows aren’t from 2018)

Photovolcanica: Nyiragongo

If Twitter Was Around When Mount St. Helens Blew

It’s wonderful (from a distance) to follow the ongoing eruption at Kilauea via the Web. Twitter is especially helpful.

I’ve been wondering what the 1980 reawakening and eruption of Mount St. Helens would have been like on Twitter. Here are some tweets I’ve found from volcanologists and other interested people who have not forgotten May 18, 1980, as well as a movie from the National Archives.

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