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

Book Preview: Fancy Breeds Fit Into At Least One of Five Informal Categories

This post, adapted from one of the facts in my upcoming ebook “50 Facts About House Cats (And Where They Come From),” builds on last week’s post on moggies and fancy-cats.

Purebred dogs get genetic testing, yet no cat registry requires DNA tests to validate identity, pedigree, and parentage.

That’s because geneticists are struggling to identify feline fancy-breeds in the lab.

One problem is that all cats look alike under the skin. Yes, that’s hard to believe, considering all the various feline looks today . . .

. . . but it’s true. Almost all of the genes in these animals are the same.

Another problem for researchers: cat breeding hasn’t been around long enough for clear-cut genetic breed differences to accumulate.

They’re working on it, though. Four different regional genotypes have been found, as well as multiple domestic cat “races.”

This all helps the boffins categorize the forty-plus modern cat breeds.

What are the five informal categories?

Short answer and details are best combined here.

While this isn’t formalized in the cat fancy, a review of scientific literature finds the following (exactly which breed goes where depends on the study; Menotti-Raymond and others, in the source list, used these examples–your mileage may vary):

1. Mutations: A spontaneous genetic change produces an interesting look that cat fanciers develop into a new breed.


  • Scottish Fold
  • Selkirk Rex
  • Sphynx

Continue reading

Guest Video: Redwood National Park

So how’s your week going? Ready for a break?

Let’s go for a walk in the park and meet some BIG trees and the wildlife that lives among them.

What most of us don’t realize is that this isn’t just a forest of giants–it’s the last remnant of a biome that once covered western North America until Earth’s climate changed back in the Miocene, a few million years after the continent’s “cat gap” ended.

I came across this while researching the cat book series (emphasis added):

Subsequent to 15 Ma [million years ago], the West began to aridify, and the forests gradually shifted coastward . . . A few remnant species from the Miocene forests still remain in the modern coastal regions of California (e.g., the northern California sequoias), but they have been eliminated from inland regions. The Miocene deciduous forests did not disappear rapidly but slowly declined. A significant drop in warm season temperature occurred around 13 Ma, and the first signs of seasonal drought in the growing season appear in leaf assemblage analyses in the early late Miocene (circa 10–11 Ma) . . .

— Lyle et al., “Pacific Ocean and Cenozoic evolution of climate

Featured image: 12019 at Pixabay. Public domain.

Mount St. Helens Isn’t Erupting

That’s resuspended ash from earlier eruptions.

Yes, volcanoes can still be hazardous decades after they erupt. Several weeks ago, the Alaska Volcano Observatory noted resuspended ash from an eruption up there 106 years ago!

DTG: 20181014/1620Z


PSN: N4611 W12210


SUMMIT ELEV: 8363 FT (2549 M)

ADVISORY NR: 2018/004



OBS VA DTG: 14/1612Z

OBS VA CLD: SFC/FL090 N4614 W12215 – N4614 W12208
– N4609 W12208 – N4610 W12216 – N4614 W12215 MOV
W 20-25KT

FCST VA CLD +6HR: 14/2200Z SFC/FL090 N4615 W12216
– N4613 W12208 – N4609 W12208 – N4610 W12216 –
N4615 W12216





Update, October 15, 2018: No need for another VAAC advisory, apparently (perhaps because it doesn’t get up to flight level), but resuspended ash is apparent again today in the VolcanoCam:

Note the light ash cloud streaming off to the right.

That can’t be fun for the volcano’s human neighbors!

Update, October 21, 2018: Here’s the official word, passed along this past Friday:

U.S. Geological Survey
Friday, October 19, 2018, 7:50 AM PDT (Friday, October 19, 2018, 14:50 UTC)

Current Volcano Alert Level: NORMAL
Current Aviation Color Code: GREEN

Activity Update: All volcanoes in the Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington are at normal background levels of activity. These include Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams in Washington State; and Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters, Newberry, and Crater Lake in Oregon.

Recent Observations: Activity at Cascade Range volcanoes remained at background levels throughout the week. Earlier in the week, strong winds stirred up dust and ash from deposits on the north side of Mount St. Helens, prompting notices of volcanic ash plumes. There was no eruption. As winds die down and rain moves in next week, the lingering dusty haze will dissipate. As we move into winter, snow and moisture will hold these fine particles in place.

The U.S. Geological Survey and Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) continue to monitor these volcanoes closely and will issue additional updates and changes in alert level as warranted.

For images, graphics, and general information on Cascade Range volcanoes:
For seismic information on Oregon and Washington volcanoes:
For information on USGS volcano alert levels and notifications:

Featured image: Current US Forest Service Mount St. Helens VolcanoCam image.

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.

Book Preview: The Recipe for Fancy-cat Starts With a Moggy

This is another of those old posts that I had to rewrite into a book chapter. Hope you like it!

Fancy-cats are the beautifully groomed felines you’ll see at a show. The other 80% of the world’s cats are unpedigreed (but equally beautiful) moggies.

Once upon a time, there weren’t any fancy-cats. And most moggies were striped tabbies. Today’s fancy-cats are sometimes tabbies, but fanciers prefer to build a cat breed on some unique feature.

Like floppy ears.

This works for the Scottish Fold–Internet celebrity cat Maru’s breed.

It’s a good example of the pleasures and perils that happen when you turn a moggy into one of the most popular breeds in the cat fancy.

What are cat breeds?

Short answer: For many centuries, people across the world collected moggies whose appearance attracted them. When the cat fancy arrived in the Victorian era, it brought these enthusiasts together. They formalized the various looks into pedigreed breeds.

Details: Any dog in the street might be a mutt, with quite a mixture of canine purebreds in its background. That’s because humans have bred dogs for various purposes since mid-Neolithic times, while mongrels happened on their own.

Cats have followed a completely different path, with street cats eventually ending up as prize-winners. Continue reading

New Horizons Opens A Path to Pluto (and Beyond)

Apparently the updates menu goes by the original post date, and this 2014 post is still buried. It shouldn’t be, since New Horizons is now closing in on its next target wa-a-a-a-a-a-y out there on the edge of the our little corner of the Universe. Also, people should check out that 2006 launch video again: that was powerful!

Update, October 5, 2018:

Here is more information on the upcoming Ultima Thule encounter.

Somehow I missed updating this post for the Pluto flyby in 2015. Here is a video that NASA put up about a year ago to show us all what New Horizons saw up close:

Beautiful, but weird! I’m not a musician, but that silent video makes me want to write some music!

Original post:
Let’s watch the 2006 launch of the fastest spacecraft ever to leave our planet.

Put on your hard hat and watch your speaker volume as an Atlas V rocket, Centaur rocket, and five solid rocket boosters light up.

Yeah. That baby took only 9 hours to reach the Moon.

Continue reading

Guest Videos: Veniaminof Volcano in Alaska

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

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

Here’s what it looks like from space:

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

Kilauea: HVO Decreased Alert Level Today

USGS/Hawaiian Volcano Observatory caption for this image (full size image here), with emphasis added:

This wide-angle photo shows the fissure 8 cone (center of image) and the long line of steaming areas extending uprift (west), towards the upper right corner of the image. No significant change was observed at fissure 8 during today’s overflight. Thermal images (see inset lower left) show no signs of lava within the cone – the small collapse pit in the center of the crater floor is cold.


Per HVO today:

HVO/USGS Volcanic Activity Notice

Volcano: Kilauea (VNUM #332010)

Current Volcano Alert Level: ADVISORY
Previous Volcano Alert Level: WATCH

Current Aviation Color Code: YELLOW
Previous Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

Issued: Friday, October 5, 2018, 8:47 AM HST
Source: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Notice Number:
Location: N 19 deg 25 min W 155 deg 17 min
Elevation: 4091 ft (1247 m)
Area: Hawaii

Volcanic Activity Summary: It has been 30 days since lava has been active at the surface of Kīlauea Volcano. HVO monitoring shows low rates of seismicity, steady, relatively low rates of deformation across the volcano, and only minor gas emission at the summit and East Rift Zone (ERZ). These observations indicate that resumption of eruption or summit collapse is unlikely in the near-term.

Accordingly, HVO is lowering the Volcano Alert Level for ground based hazards from WATCH to ADVISORY. This means Continue reading

Book Preview: There’s more to cat memes than Internet LOLcats

What’s slowing down completion of the ebook, with 50 facts about domestic cats and where they come from, is that these last chapters I had intended to base on blog posts, and those old posts just aren’t that good; I’m having to rewrite almost every one. Here’s the final version of the one on cat memes–hope you enjoy it!

Does your phone or tablet have curved edges? That’s a meme.

According to the website Know Your Meme, Apple came out with curved edges on its iMac G3 in the late 90s. Everybody loved the look and everybody copied it. Today all portable computers must have curved edges, even though there’s no practical use for them.

Memes are a cultural thing that catch on and persist. The word comes from the same root as “mimic,” and that’s what we do–see something we like, copy it, and share it with other people.

Add in cats, and you might break the Internet!

What are LOLcats?

Short answer: Images, often captioned in broken English called “lolspeak,” of funny-looking cats. The earliest ones, without lolspeak, are from the 1870s; true LOLcats became an Internet phenomenon in the 21st century.

Details: Whoever introduced Happy Cat–the image of an eager-looking gray-blue British Shorthair–in the early 2000s probably wasn’t thinking about the Victorian era at the time.

And when someone captioned Happy Cat with “I Can Has Cheezburger?” in 2007, they pioneered both LOLcats and the Cheezburger meme-making website; however, they likely were unaware that someone in England had published almost 200 similar images over a century earlier.

Back in the 1860s, Victorians were wild about both cats and a new technology called photography.

They held the first cat shows in London’s Crystal Palace–a gorgeous glass/iron/wood exhibition hall that just had been featured in a popular photographic essay.

This being Victorian England, society people used formal visiting cards. Now, everyone wanted photographs on those cards, and a cat lover/retired soldier in Brighton named Harry Pointer opened a studio, thinking that visiting cards with cat images would sell well.

He was correct.

Pointer’s cat pictures range from traditional poses to silly things like cats rollerskating. Some have captions, generally greeting-card sentiments like “Happy New Year,” but occasionally humor like “Bring up the dinner, Betsy” on an image of three cats sitting by an empty dish.

In the early 20th century, another Harry, an American named Harry Whittier Frees, Continue reading