Guest Videos: Taking A Volcano’s Pulse


If you have been following the Popocatepetl updates, you’ll know that I’ve been paying attention to the webicorder recently.

It’s fun to be able to see the volcano’s activity even when weather has it shrouded in clouds.

What is a webicorder?




What do earthquakes have to do with volcanoes?

A better question is, what can earthquakes (and webicorders) tell volcanologists about the events deep inside a fire mountain?




Popocatepetl, of course, is not a long-dormant volcano–its present activity began in 1994! I have no idea what I am looking at on the PPIG webicorder, but it’s fun to try to figure out.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory starts you out with lots of information on how to read a webicorder and also has live links to webicorders on Alaskan volcanoes.

And if you want even more information, check out the USGS seismogram display page! (Note: This includes non-volcano-monitoring seismometers, too.)



Featured image: Mammoth Mountain (left) by Geographer via Wikimedia, CC BY 1.0. Long Valley Caldera MEM webicorder (right; I don’t know if this relates to Mammoth Mountain), California Volcano Observatory


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The Ten Most Hazardous US Volcanoes


Update, October 29, 2018: The Yellowstone Observatory posted more information on Yellowstone Caldera’s ranking and on the threat assessment process today.


Original post:
It’s a little early to be making top-ten lists for 2018, but the USGS just released their 2018 update to the National Volcanic Threat Assessment:


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The link takes you to an abstract of the report and a free PDF download.

Note that threat level doesn’t mean that the volcano is about to erupt. They looked at the bigger picture, placing volcanoes according to how they scored on a list of potential hazards.

If we had assessed only the hazards aspects of U.S. volcanoes, then the generally more explosive volcanoes in Alaska and CNMI [the Marianas**] would be more strongly represented in the higher (more hazardous) ranks. Because we include exposure factors in the assessment, volcanoes in CONUS are more strongly represented in the highest threat category owing to the greater nearby ground-based and airborne population, and more critical infrastructure exposed to volcano hazards . . .Eleven of the 18 [very high threat] volcanoes are in Washington, Oregon, and California, where explosive and often snow- and ice-covered edifices can project flowage hazards long distances to reach densely populated and highly developed areas. Five of the 18 volcanoes are in Alaska, near important population centers, economic infrastructure, or below busy air traffic corridors. The remaining two very high threat volcanoes are on the Island of Hawaiʻi, where densely populated and highly developed areas now exist on the flanks of highly active volcanoes. Large eruptions from any of these very high threat volcanoes could cause regional- or national-scale disasters.

**: In its October 26th weekly update, the USGS says that Supertyphoon Yutu has destroyed ground-based monitoring equipment on Saipan, affecting all CNMI volcanoes, including Farallon de Pajaros, Supply Reef, Maug, Asuncion, Agrigan, Sarigan, Pagan, Almagan and Guguan. Only satellite monitoring is possible now.

Ten Most Hazardous Volcanoes

The ten highest-threat volcanoes on the list are:

1. Kilauea, in Hawaii. We know. We know.

2. Mount St. Helens, in Washington. Global Volcanism page (GVP). Local volcano observatory (VO) page. Wikipedia page.

3. Mount Rainier, in Washington. GVP. CVO. Wikipedia. Continue reading

Kilauea Update: No Eruption, Some Refilling of Middle Rift Zone


Update, October 21, 2018: From an October 18th HVO update:

A slight inflationary trend near and east of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō suggests that magma may be refilling the middle East Rift Zone. Low seismicity and reduced gas emissions do not indicate that the magma is shallow, but HVO continues to closely monitor this area and will report any significant changes.


Original post:
This VEI 3 eruption, which actually began in 1983 at Pu’u O’o, doesn’t seem to be over yet.



On October 16th, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) reported that ground deformation indicates that the middle East Rift Zone is refilling (current status updates here). This would be around the area of the Pu’u O’o crater.

Recall that this past May, the LERZ eruption that made headlines all summer was preceded by floor collapse at Pu’u O’o, followed by the disappearance of the summit lava lake, which had filled a crack at Halemaumau, the summit crater, that first opened up in 2008.




And here is what the Halemaumau area looks like today. As volcanologist Erik Klemetti notes, much of it slowly collapsed after the lava lake drained.



This volcano is a very dynamic place.

We will just have to wait and see what Pelee has planned next for Kilauea’s neighbors and a watching world. I’ll continue to add significant updates at the Kilauea page linked up top.

Here’s the HVO Kilauea page


Featured image: Grace Simoneau/FEMA via Wikimedia



Volcanoes. In France.


Here is the sort of travel video you might expect about France–but somehow a volcano manages to intrude itself (pun intended) into the background. And that round lake is a maar.



As a matter of fact, France has a whole field of volcanoes, with the last activity there around 6,000 years ago, per the Global Volcanism Program.

It also has a volcano park: Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park. Here’s a lovely video by a local resident who hiked in it.



More information
Chaîne des Puys Global Volcanism Page

Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park UNESCO page.


Guest Videos: Veniaminof Volcano in Alaska


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Credit later corrected to A. Eckert and Captain J. Timmreck)


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Credit later amended to note that video was captured by A. Eckert


Here’s what it looks like from space:


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And this is what Veniaminof looked like (from a distant town) when it erupted in 2013, per the National Weather Service:



More information:

Alaska Volcano Observatory:

Wikipedia page

Global Volcanism Program page


Featured image: Cyrus Read/Alaska Volcano Observatory/US Geological Survey http://www.avo.alaska.edu/images/image.php?id=128211


Guest Video: The Columbia River Flood Basalts


Back in 2014, I took the train to Oregon from the East Coast (and highly recommend long train journeys–it’s a great way to see a lot of country). From Spokane, Washington, down to Portland, Oregon, the rail went through the Columbia River Basalts.

Flood basalts are incredible features anyway, but this landscape looked like an alien world. Long after the lava had hardened, ice-age megafloods pounded the land, carving new channels, deep holes, and strange-looking contours in the dark rocky cliffs.

Those hours of travel were fascinating, but it would have remained just a nice travel memory had a paper on the Columbia River Flood Basalts not made the news this past week.

It turns out that the Columbia River Flood Basalts very probably changed Earth’s climate, back in the day (the Miocene), causing it to warm up for several million years.

So I looked around and found the video below. Even though it is only a draft from Columbia Gorge Community College, it has great views of the basalts. And there is a geologist there to tell you what you’re looking at! The quality is rough in spots, but hang in there during the part where it goes black; video will return.

And even in draft form, this really does show the scale of these things:




A little lagniappe. It’s entertaining, even if it is long (a little over an hour) and in lecture form, and gives more information and perspective:


Edited September 23, 2018, 8:01 p.m. Pacific.


Guest Video: Öræfajökull


Update, October 26, 2018: Volcanologist Erik Klemetti has a good blog post up about this volcano. Should we be worried? A resounding no, he says. At least not right now.


Original post:

Let’s all start practicing this new Icelandic name now, just in case this restless volcano does go off in our lifetimes!



Given Öræfajökull’s size and its history, an eruption could be bad (though you never know what a volcano is going to do until it does it).

There are a lot of gloom-and-doom videos and sites out there, but here are some online information sources I’ve found reliable:

  • Icelandic Met Office
  • The Smithsonian’s GVP page.
  • Various posts by Dr. Erik Klemetti, including this one, and this.
  • Jón Frímann Jónsson–an interesting though not expert lay source whom many of us online volcanophiles relied upon during the lead-in to the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjalljökull.
  • London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) website. This should be the first place you check, if you want to know if Öræfajökull has really erupted. The link to Toulouse VAAC on this page is also helpful.

Featured image: Satellite image of Öræfajökull, showing cauldron of glacial meltwater in late 2017. Antti Lipponen, CC BY 2.0.


1,939 Years Ago This Week, Vesuvius Erupts


On the left, a contemporary view of Vesuvius in 79 AD, as seen in artwork in a Pompeiian villa. They had no idea it was a volcano.

On the right, Vesuvius after the eruption, as seen from an excavated Pompeii. That bump on the right is all that remains of the former structure. The double-peak cone formed during the 79 AD eruption.





Pliny the Younger to Cornelius Tacitus, soon after the disaster:

Thank you for asking me to send you a description of my uncle’s death so that you can leave an accurate account of it for posterity(1); I know that immortal fame awaits him if his death is recorded by you. It is true that he perished in a catastrophe which destroyed the loveliest regions of the earth, a fate shared by whole cities and their people, and one so memorable that is likely to make his name live for ever: and he himself wrote a number of books of lasting value: but you write for all time and can still do much to perpetuate his memory. The fortunate man, in my opinion, is he to whom the gods have granted the power either to do something which is worth recording or to write what is worth reading, and most fortunate of all is the man who can do both. Such a man was my uncle, as his own books and yours will prove. So you set me a task I would choose for myself, and I am more than willing to start on it.

My uncle was stationed at Misenum, in active command of the fleet.(2) On 24 August, in the early afternoon, my mother drew his attention to a cloud of unusual size and appearance. He had been out in the sun, had taken a cold bath, and lunched while lying down, and was then working at his books. He called for his shoes and climbed up to a place which would give him the best view of the phenomenon. It was not clear at that distance from which mountain the cloud was rising (it was afterwards known to be Vesuvius); its general appearance can be best expressed as Continue reading