Alaska’s Sitkin Volcanoes


You might already have heard of one of the two Alaskan “Sitkin” volcanoes, since headline writers at a few news websites are giving Great Sitkin Volcano the “about-to-explode” treatment.

Indeed, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) recently raised the aviation code on Great Sitkin Volcano to Yellow, since it is having a period of elevated seismicity.

Again.

Great Sitkin has been having swarms of small earthquakes off and on since 2016. There also was a small ash emission in early June.

Magma probably has moved into the volcano. But there is no sure way to predict exactly what Great Sitkin Volcano will do in coming weeks and months, as volcanologists told local journalists late last year.

Instead of going by the doom-and-gloom headlines, let’s get to know these volcanoes a little better.

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Guest Video: Critical/Strategic Minerals


An update on this February 2018 post is needed because the US Department of the Interior recently issued its final list of critical minerals (see end of post).


Gold, silver, and gems aren’t the only treasures out there. The materials that make our modern life possible aren’t always pretty, but they are very important. The rare ones, like the platinum group elements, are also expensive.

Recently, the US government put together a list of the minerals that it considers to be most important to the security and economic welfare of the country. While insiders recognize a difference between “critical” and “strategic,” in practice the two are pretty much the same minerals.

This list has a link for each of the 35 minerals, showing how they are used and lots of other information.

In addition, here is a webinar on critical minerals from 2016.


Update: On May 18, 2018, Interior issued its final list, which is the same as the proposed list:

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Another Kilauea Update


The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory/USGS just issued this; I think they mean that the overall deflation at Kilauea’s floor has been 3 feet, not that it dropped that much today. But it’s worth giving you a heads-up because the floor of Kilauea’s summit crater has collapsed before (there’s nobody in it, don’t worry) and it could again – there are some surprising parallels between this ongoing activity and what went on in 1924.

Anyway, here is the update. To follow this eruption in more detail, just click the link in the upper right corner of this page. And thank you for your interest!


HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY INFORMATION STATEMENT
U.S. Geological Survey
Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 2:35 PM HST (Thursday, May 17, 2018, 00:35 UTC)

KILAUEA VOLCANO (VNUM #332010)
19°25’16” N 155°17’13” W, Summit Elevation 4091 ft (1247 m)
Current Volcano Alert Level: WARNING
Current Aviation Color Code: RED

KĪLAUEA INFORMATION STATEMENT

Strong earthquakes within the summit of Kīlauea Volcano continue in response to ongoing deflation and lava column drop. As of the afternoon of May 16, the floor of Kīlauea caldera has dropped approximately 3 feet (90 cm). This movement is stressing faults around the caldera of Kilauea, causing them to move and resulting in strong earthquakes of up to magnitude 4.4 thus far.

Employees at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park and nearby residents are reporting frequent ground shaking and damage to roads and buildings. Hawaii County Police reports cracks across Highway 11 between mile markers 28 and 29. Although these are passable, motorists are urged to use caution.

As deflation continues, strong earthquakes in the area around Kilauea Volcano’s summit are expected to continue and may become more frequent. Areas further from these earthquakes may feel some ground motion as well, but much less severe.

The shallow depths of these earthquakes make them more damaging in the immediate vicinity of the epicenter, and individuals need to take precautions to minimize damage from the shaking, including the removal of unstable items from walls and shelves. Steep slopes should be avoided as they may become destabilized during strong earthquakes.


Featured image: USGS


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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George F. Kunz, Gentleman Explorer


It’s a Golden Oldies weekend, with a Geoscientist of the Week I first described back in 2014.


The US Geological Survey has said almost everything that needs to be said about this man: “George F. Kunz (1856-1932) [was] a mineralogist and gemologist, gentleman explorer, and employee of the USGS and Tiffany & Co.”

That’s pretty awesome.

The great dramas of money, power, history, and beauty all figured in Dr. Kunz’s life.

And until reading this, unless you happen to be a specialist or know a certain kind of New Yorker, you have probably never heard of him.
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Oklahoma Earthquakes

 
(scroll down past updates for original post)
 
Fracking well

Update, October 11, 2014: Recently Kansas had an uptick in earthquakes, too. One of them, a magnitude 4.4, was the strongest quake in Kansas for over a century.

Meanwhile, since August, a USGS seismologist published a study (PDF) that mentioned “earthquakes in the central and eastern United States that are thought or
suspected to be induced by fluid injection.” This inspired a legal blogger to comment on “the need to rely on sound science and evidence before making conclusions about what may or may not have caused a seismic event in the first place” (a free Lexology subscription may be needed to view the entire blog post).

In mid-September, the USGS put up an online feature report on induced earthquakes. It’s very informative.

 


 
Original post:

On October 22, 2013, the United States Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey released a joint statement warning of a “significantly increas[ed] … chance for a damaging magnitude 5.5 or greater quake in central Oklahoma.”

This is on top of the magnitude 5.6 quake in 2011.

How can this be? Earthquakes are caused by plate tectonics, right? (Well…see below.) Oklahoma sits in the middle of the North American plate, so why is it shaking? (Good question.)
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