CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Friday, August 18, 2017





NASA's incredible plan to save humanity from Yellowstone supervolcano: 'Risky' plan to COOL magma by pumping in water (but it could trigger an eruption instead of preventing one)


  • NASA has a risky plan to subdue the global threat of Yellowstone's supervolcano 
  • The agency thinks it could cool it by drilling to pump in water at high pressure
  • It erupts every 600,000 years, and it's been 600,000 years since the last one



NASA scientist has spoken out about the true threat of supervolcanoes and the risky methods that could be used to prevent a devastating eruption.
Brian Wilcox, a former member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense, shared a report on the natural hazard that hadn't been seen outside of the agency until now.
He spoke of the true devastation that could come from an eruption, and the 'risky' methods that the agency is considering for preventing one - including approaches that could potentially go array and set off a supervolcano accidentally.
One such plan would involve drilling into the bottom of the Yellowstone volcano, using high pressure water to release heat from the magma chamber.
Scroll down for video 
A former member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense shared a report on the natural hazard that hadn't been seen outside of the agency until now. The Grand Prismatic hot spring at Yellowstone is pictured
A former member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense shared a report on the natural hazard that hadn't been seen outside of the agency until now. The Grand Prismatic hot spring at Yellowstone is pictured
'I was a member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense which studied ways for NASA to defend the planet from asteroids and comets,' Brian Wilcox, now at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology, told BBC.
'I came to the conclusion during that study that the supervolcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat.' 
Earth has around 20 known supervolcanoes, which are simply unusually large volcanoes that have the potential to produce an eruption with major effects on the global climate and ecosystem.
A supervolcanic eruption could be a single short-term event or a long-term massive lava flow lasting up to millions of years 
A map of known 20 supervolcanoes around the world. Major eruptions occur every 100,000 years, with the last major known one being in New Zealand 26,500 years ago
A map of known 20 supervolcanoes around the world. Major eruptions occur every 100,000 years, with the last major known one being in New Zealand 26,500 years ago
Major eruptions occur every 100,000 years, with the last major known one being in New Zealand 26,500 years ago.
Such an eruption today could cause a prolonged nuclear winter and global starvation - the United Nations estimated that food reserves worldwide would only enable humans to survive for 74 days. 
NASA is weighing methods to prevent a supervolcanic eruption, but the proposed tactics would be difficult to convince politicians of and are extremely risky - some could even wind up accidentally triggering the eruption they are trying to prevent.
One of the most dangerous supervolcanoes is beneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, where pressure is building in an enormous magma chamber, causing hotspots. 
NASA believes drilling up to 10km down into the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park to pump in water at high pressure could cool it. The heat would be extracted through the underside of the magma chamber
NASA believes drilling up to 10km down into the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park to pump in water at high pressure could cool it. The heat would be extracted through the underside of the magma chamber
Supervolcanoes are simply unusually large volcanoes that have the potential to produce an eruption with major effects on the global climate and ecosystem. Such an eruption today could cause a prolonged nuclear winter and global starvation. A simulation is pictured 
Supervolcanoes are simply unusually large volcanoes that have the potential to produce an eruption with major effects on the global climate and ecosystem. Such an eruption today could cause a prolonged nuclear winter and global starvation. A simulation is pictured 
Yellowstone currently leaks about 60 to 70 percent of its heat into atmosphere via water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks, while the rest builds up as magma and dissolves into volatile gasses.
The heat and pressure will reach the threshold, meaning an explosion is inevitable. 
NASA has considered that if it could cool down Yellowstone - which is essentially a giant heat generator equal to six industrial power plants - by 35 percent, it would no longer pose a threat. 
But the proposed tactics seem impractical and dangerous, if not impossible.
One already defunct idea was to use water to cool down the supervolcano.

NASA'S PLAN TO PREVENT A SUPERVOLCANIC ERUPTION 

NASA believes drilling up to 10km down into the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park to pump in water at high pressure could cool it. 
Despite the fact that the mission would cost $3.46 billion, NASA considers it 'the most viable solution.' 
Using the heat as a resource also poses an opportunity to pay for plan - it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh.

Huge magma chamber discovered beneath Yellowstone

Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%
0:00
Previous
Play
Skip
Unmute
Current Time
0:00
/
Duration Time
0:30
Fullscreen
Need Text
But this method of subduing a supervolcano has the potential to backfire and trigger the supervolcanic eruption NASA is trying to prevent.
'Drilling into the top of the magma chamber 'would be very risky;' however, carefully drilling from the lower sides could work. 
Even besides the potential devastating risks, the plan to cool Yellowstone with drilling is not simple.
Doing so would be an excruciatingly slow process that one happen at the rate of one metre a year, meaning it would take tens of thousands of years to cool it completely. 
And still, there wouldn't be a guarantee it would be successful for at least hundreds or possibly thousands of years. 'Building a big aqueduct uphill into a mountainous region would be both costly and difficult, and people don't want their water spent that way,' Wilcox said. 
'People are desperate for water all over the world and so a major infrastructure project, where the only way the water is used is to cool down a supervolcano, would be very controversial.' 
But since it would be nearly impossible to convince policymakers of such a plan, NASA has since considered drilling up to 10km down into the supervolcano to pump down water at high pressure.
The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 662 F (350 C) and slowly extract heat from the bubbling pressure cooked beneath the National Park's surface. 
Despite the fact that the mission would cost $3.46 billion, NASA considers it 'the most viable solution.'  
Yellowstone National Park spans the midwestern US states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana (pictured)
Yellowstone National Park spans the midwestern US states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana (pictured)
Using the heat as a resource also poses an opportunity to pay for plan.
'Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh,' Wilcox said.
'You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment, and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years.'
'And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.' 
But this method of subduing a supervolcano may be too good to be true - it has the potential to backfire and trigger the supervolcanic eruption NASA is trying to prevent. 
'If you drill into the top of the magma chamber and try and cool it from there, this would be very risky,' Wilcox said. 
'This could make the cap over the magma chamber more brittle and prone to fracture - And you might trigger the release of harmful volatile gases in the magma at the top of the chamber which would otherwise not be released.' 
Carefully drilling from the lower sides, however, could work.
'This way you're preventing the heat coming up from below from ever reaching the top of the chamber which is where the real threat arises,' Wilcox says. 
Even besides the potential devastating risks, the plan to cool Yellowstone with drilling is not simple.
A mud pot near the Mud Caldron in the Mud Volcano in Yellowstone National Park. 'Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice,' Wilcox said
A mud pot near the Mud Caldron in the Mud Volcano in Yellowstone National Park. 'Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice,' Wilcox said
Doing so would be an excruciatingly slow process that one happen at the rate of one metre a year, meaning it would take tens of thousands of years to cool it completely. 
And still, there wouldn't be a guarantee it would be successful for at least hundreds or possibly thousands of years. 
'When people first considered the idea of defending the Earth from an asteroid impact, they reacted in a similar way to the supervolcano threat,' Wilcox says. 
'People thought, "As puny as we are, how can humans possibly prevent an asteroid from hitting the Earth?"'
'Well, it turns out if you engineer something which pushes very slightly for a very long time, you can make the asteroid miss the Earth - so the problem turns out to be easier than people think.'
'In both cases it requires the scientific community to invest brain power and you have to start early - but Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice.' 
In the map above, a bulls-eye shaped section of uplift can be seen at the Norris Geyser Basin, where the ground has risen roughly 3 inches. And, an elliptical subsidence can be seen in the Yellowstone caldera, with the ground dropping about 1.2 inches
In the map above, a bulls-eye shaped section of uplift can be seen at the Norris Geyser Basin, where the ground has risen roughly 3 inches. And, an elliptical subsidence can be seen in the Yellowstone caldera, with the ground dropping about 1.2 inches

EARTHQUAKE SWARM 

The University of Utah's Seismograph Stations (UUSS) have been monitoring the activity since it began June 12.
A total of 1,562 quakes have been recorded so far at Yellowstone since the swarm began.
Earthquake swarms are common in Yellowstone and, on average, comprise about 50 per cent of the total activity in the Yellowstone region.
Although the latest swarm is the largest since 2012, it is fewer than weekly counts during similar events in 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010. 
Tremors were recorded from ground level to 9mi (14.5km) below sea level.
Seismic activity could be a sign of an impending eruption of the supervolcano, although this is impossible to predict exactlyLast week, scientists revealed new evidence of the changes going on beneath the ground this summer as over 1,500 earthquakes have rumbled around the Yellowstone supervolcano in Wyoming.
A new map from the US Geological Survey shows how the ground around the Yellowstone caldera has deformed over the span of two years, as the quakes release uplift-causing pressure, allowing the ground to sink back down.
This activity is typically linked to changes in magma and gases deep below the surface – but for now, the experts say there's no cause for worry. 
The map, created by USGS geophysicist Chuck Wicks uses data from June 2015 and July 2017 to show how the region around Yellowstone has changed.
In the map, the colorful rings show the changes in the ground's elevation as seen by a radar satellite, according to USGS.
A bulls-eye shaped section of uplift can be seen at the Norris Geyser Basin, where the ground has risen roughly 3 inches.
And, an elliptical subsidence can be seen in the Yellowstone caldera, with the ground dropping about 1.2 inches.
Just 12 to 18 miles away, the summer 2017 earthquake storm is still underway, to the west of the Norris uplift.This activity is typically linked to changes in magma and gases deep beneath the surface – but for now, the experts say there's no cause for worry. The Dragon's Mouth spring (pictured, stock image) is among the park's many hydrothermal features created by the supervolcano
This activity is typically linked to changes in magma and gases deep beneath the surface – but for now, the experts say there's no cause for worry. The Dragon's Mouth spring (pictured, stock image) is among the park's many hydrothermal features created by the supervolcano
And, it's likely playing a role in the changes observed at the site. 
'The uplift and subsidence is usually interpreted as due to addition or withdrawal of deep magma and related gases and water at depths 5 to 15 km (3 to 9 mi) beneath the ground,' USGS explains.
'This cycle of uplift and subsidence is common and seems tied to earthquake swarms; that is, swarms appear to release the pressure that caused the initial uplift, thus allowing the region to return to a period of subsidence.'
While it may seem alarming, the experts say this behavior is common, and the locations are so far exhibiting minimal changes this month.
While the activity has spurred fears that the supervolcano could be gearing up toward an eruption, the experts say the risk of such an event is low, and the alert level remains at ‘normal’
While the activity has spurred fears that the supervolcano could be gearing up toward an eruption, the experts say the risk of such an event is low, and the alert level remains at 'normal'
'Behavior is similar to the past several months,' USGS notes in a monthly update released last week.
'Current deformation patterns at Yellowstone remain within historical norms.'
The earthquake storm has steadily persisted throughout the summer.
By August 2, the area had seen 1,562 events, with the largest magnitude of ML 4.4 
Yellowstone National Park was hit by more than 1,200 earthquakes in the span of just a month, seismologists revealed earlier this summer.
In an update on the ongoing earthquake storm, which scientists have been monitoring since June 12, the researchers said they'd recorded 1,284 events by mid-July, with the largest being a magnitude 4.4
Yellowstone has now suffered over 1,200 miniquakes


Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%
0:00
Previous
Play
Skip
Mute
Current Time
0:00
/
Duration Time
0:29
Fullscreen
Need Text
While the activity has spurred fears that the supervolcano could be gearing up to an eruption, the experts say the risk of such an event is low, and the alert level remains at 'normal.' 
The experts at the University of Utah Seismograph Stations (UUSS) have been tracking the current swarm on the western edge of Yellowstone since June 12.
Swarms of this kind are common in the area, they say, and make up roughly 50 percent of the seismic activity in the Yellowstone region.
'The swarm consists of one earthquake in the magnitude 4 range, 7 earthquakes in the magnitude 3 range, 105 earthquakes in the magnitude 2 range, 407 earthquakes in the magnitude 1 range, 736 earthquakes in the magnitude 0 range, and 28 earthquakes with magnitudes of less than zero,' according to UUSS.
'These events have depths from ~0.0 km to ~14.0 km, relative to sea level. 
'At the time of this report, there were 125 felt reports for the M4.4 event that occurred on June 16, 2017 at 00:48:46.94 UTC (June 15, 2017 at 18:48:46.94 MDT).'
In the most recent update on the ongoing earthquake storm, which scientists have been monitoring since June 12, the researchers say there have been 1,284 events so far, with the largest being a magnitude 4.4
In the most recent update on the ongoing earthquake storm, which scientists have been monitoring since June 12, the researchers say there have been 1,284 events so far, with the largest being a magnitude 4.4
As the swarm continues, they will continue to monitor its activity, and provide updates as seen fit.
For now, though, experts have left the alert level in the green zone, meaning activity is still considered normal.
If it were to erupt, the Yellowstone volcano would be one thousand times as powerful as the 1980 Mount St Helens eruption, experts claim - although they say the risk is 'low'.  
Experts say there is a one in 700,000 annual chance of a volcanic eruption at the site. Pictured is an artist's impression
Experts say there is a one in 700,000 annual chance of a volcanic eruption at the site. Pictured is an artist's impression
'Even with explosions, earthquakes, and notable ground uplift, the most likely volcanic eruptions would be the type that would have minimal affect outside the park itself.'
The swarm has steadily persisted over the last few weeks.
In a previous update, experts revealed the swarm had reached nearly 900 quakes by June 28.
And, when the earthquakes started on 12 June, USGS said it was the highest number of earthquakes at the park within a single week in the past five years. 






Yellowstone eruption: Report claims that US has contingency deal with Brazil, Australia to move millions of Americans


May 2014 – WYOMING - If the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts then millions of U.S. citizens could end up in Brazil, Australia, or Argentina. That’s according to the South African news website Praag, which said that the African National Congress was offered $10 billion a year for 10 years if it would build temporary housing for Americans in case of an eruption. The potential eruption of the supervolcano, one of the biggest in the world, has been a hot topic ever since videos of animals allegedly fleeing the area before an earthquake were posted online. Although the veracity of the claims haven’t been backed up, dozens of bloggers and others have been trying to figure out what, if anything, is going on. One of the latest theories is that the U.S. Geological Service and its partners, which keep an eye on the caldera, are hiding data from the public. The Praag article says that the South African government fears that placing so many Americans in South Africa could dramatically change the country.
“South Africa will not be part of the plan, because there is a risk that millions of white Americans could be sent to South Africa in an emergency situation and that this would pose a risk to black national culture identity,” Dr. Siph Matwetwe, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, is quoted as saying. “We have our own challenges, even if there is enough housing and infrastructure available, it will destabilize the country and may even bring back apartheid.” The gigantic volcano in Yellowstone has erupted three times over the last two million years, covering a huge area of surrounding land. Maps from educational institutions and government officials project that up to 17 states could be fully or partially impacted if the volcano erupted again. The far south of Canada could also get hit, as well as the far north of Mexico. Scientists aren’t sure when it will erupt next, although many have sought to assure the public that it probably won’t for a while. In reality, the volcano could erupt at any time, though officials would in theory be able to detect an impending eruption and alert Americans to the threat.

If Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, two-thirds of America will be left uninhabitable

July 2014 – MONTANA - Deep in America’s northwest, there lies a super volcano that, if erupted, has the potential to wipe out the majority of the United States. What is a supervolcano exactly? I think the name says it all, but officially, scientists define it as a volcano capable of an eruption thousands of times greater than any ordinary volcanic explosion. These super volcanoes burst when a growing pressure of molten rock, or magma, rises up from the Earth’s mantle. When the crust can’t contain the buildup anymore — boom. In historic times, we luckily haven’t experienced a supervolcano explosion. The most recent eruption occurred 27,000 years ago in New Zealand. But, mankind isn’t out of the woods yet. Deep below Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming lies a supervolcano that is very much alive.
A volcanic winter: A massive underground chamber filled with magma sits miles below the surface in America’s oldest national park. Though scientists are mixed as to whether the place could blow anytime soon, there is one thing they do agree on — if it did, it would push much of Earth to the verge of extinction. Its immediate effects would be deadly enough, with some estimates saying that 87,000 people would be killed instantly. A 10-foot layer of ash would spread up to 1,000 miles away, leaving two-thirds of the country completely uninhabitable. Once the plume rises high into the stratosphere, the released sulfuric gases would mix with the Earth’s water vapor, which National Geographic reports could launch the country and other parts of the globe into a “volcanic winter.” Essentially, the United States and much of the world would be brought to its knees.
Storm is Coming
 
But the carnage doesn’t stop there. The spread of volcanic ash, rocks and gas would immediately cease any sort of air transportation in much of the world. Just take into account the traffic shutdown following the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland. The relatively small explosion caused the closure of large swaths of European airspace, as well as a six-day travel ban in the impacted area. Those who do survive would be left with a big bill too. Doug Bausch, a senior scientist at FEMA, told WND that such a scenario would cause an estimated $3 trillion in damage for North America. The last time Yellowstone erupted — roughly 640,000 years ago — the American continent was devastated, with volcanic materials reaching as far as Louisiana, over 1,500 miles away. In the past decade, there has been some increased activity at the site. Since 2004, the supervolcano has been rising and just this month, roads were closed in Yellowstone after extreme heat from below was melting the asphalt on roads up above.
An explosion of “volcanic winter” magnitude; however doesn’t seem likely according the U.S. Geological Survey. They say that the chances of a large-scale eruption at Yellowstone “are exceedingly small in the next few thousand years.” However other geologists told the Huffington Post in a 2014 interview: “The bulging pocket of magma swishing around beneath Old Faithful might never blow its lid again. Or, it might put on a surprise fireworks show next Independence Day. Scientists just don’t know.”  -RYOT

Newly-discovered active volcano could erupt underneath ice in Antarctica and add to effects of global warming


Antarctic ice sheet is being threatened by an undersea volcano. Antarctica’s ice sheets may face a far more imminent threat than climate change: scientists have found a new volcano forming a mile under the ice, which is threatening a full eruption. The volcano appears to be a part of much larger system that is generating earthquakes and releasing heat into the ice above. Volcanic activity was discovered around 30 miles from Antarctica’s highest volcano, Mount Sidley, and although an eruption would be unlikely to breach the ice – the accompanying heat could have an effect on the landscape. Even a sub-glacial eruption would still be able to melt ice, creating huge amounts of water which could flow beneath the ice and towards the sea – hastening the flow of the overlying ice and potentially speed up the rate of ice sheet loss. “Numerous volcanoes exist in Marie Byrd Land, a highland region of West Antarctica,” said Amanda Lough, of Washington University in St Louis in the team’s paper on the subject, published in the Nature Geoscience journal.
“High heat flow through the crust in this region may influence the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.” The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the Earth’s two polar ice caps and covers an area of 5.4 million square miles – around 98 percent of the continent, making it the largest single mass of ice on earth. Although scientists have suggested that sea ice around the continent is increasing, land ice appears to be decreasing and the area is very sensitive to global warming.  Seismologists had set up two crossing lines of seismographs across Marie Byrd Land in 2010 – the first time such instruments able to withstand the cold temperatures year-round had been used. 
May 2014 – PHILIPPINES - A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has hit the northern shores of Camarines Norte and Catanduanes provinces early morning on Sunday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported. The tremor’s epicenter was at 93 kilometers northwest of Pandan town, Catanduanes and was tectonic in origin, the Phivolc’s Seismological Observation and Earthquake Prediction Division said on its official online quake recording site. It was felt at around 4:07 a.m. on Sunday, the bulletin said. The quake was too far from the mainland to affect residents and property and no aftershocks were expected, the Phivolcs bulletin said. Meanwhile, Phivolcs, in an 8 a.m. bulletin on Sunday, said it has recorded three volcanic earthquakes on Mt. Mayon during the past 24-hour observation period. Moderate emission of white steam plumes that drifted west-northwest and west-southwest was also noted over the same period but no crater glow was observed on Saturday night.
The volcano’s sulfur dioxide flux was measured at an average of 487 tons/day on May 6 while its geodetic results from ground deformation survey showed that its edifice, which showed swelling in November last year, has deflated and has returned to its 2010 level. Mayon Volcano’s alert status remains at Alert Level 1, which means that it is still at abnormal condition but no magmatic eruption is imminent, the bulletin said. However, the public was strongly advised anew to refrain from entering the 6-km radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) due to the perennial life-threatening dangers of rockfalls, landslides or avalanches at the middle to upper slope, and sudden ash puffs and steam-driven or phreatic eruptions from the summit, Phivolcs said. -

Volcanoes are waking up in the Aleutians: the most activity seen in 26 years


June 2014 – ALASKA – Sharply increased seismic activity and volcanic eruptions in the Aleutian Islands and the far western Brooks Range are being investigated by scientists. The Alaska Volcano Observatory says the activity over the past few months is the most seen by the station in 26 years. On the Alaska Volcano Observatory three volcanoes are classified with a yellow alert level—signifying signs of elevated unrest above known background levels—and three are at an orange alert level—heightened unrest with increased likelihood of eruption. Orange is the second-highest alert level after red signifying an eruption that is imminent or underway.
Pavlof Volcano released an ash plum in May that diverted aircraft. The 8,262-foot (2,518-meter) tall volcano erupted sending ash plumes as high as 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Aircraft were advised to avoid the area since ash could damage airplane engines. With heightened activity from all volcanoes, scientists still don’t have enough information to point to any larger trend or activity. “At this point, you know, we have to say it’s coincidental,” he said in an interview with radio station KTOO News. “It could be that there is a larger process at work, but we’re not able to say what that is at this point in time, or if there is such a process. You know, perhaps the answer is we haven’t been looking long enough to know.” –Mining

40: Reunion Island volcano wakes up after 4 years with major eruption

June 2014 – REUNION ISLAND – This morning at 1:35 am tourists on the French Indian Ocean Islands La Reunion tourists witnessed a spectacular many had been waiting to see for some time. The Piton de la Fournaise volcano erupted. “It made a few days that we were waiting for it, said Pascal Viroleau, CEO of Reunion Island Tourism, about the eruption of the volcano of Reunion Island, the Piton de la fournaise. According to Viroleau, “the volcano entered in activity this morning at 1:35 am.” Most recently, an eruption occurred on December 9, 2010 and lasted for two days. The volcano is located within Réunion National Park, a World Heritage site. It is considered one of the major attractions of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands. “Sleeping since December 2010,” Piton de la fournaise is considered as one of the major attractions of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands. Situated in the national park, classified in the World heritage by the UNESCO, its visit, combined with the attractions of the other islands constitutes a “must-seen” at the world level, added Viroleau. Piton de la Fournaise, a typical basaltic shield volcano, located on the French island La Réunion, is one of the world’s most active and productive volcanoes. It is in a phase of frequent but short-lived eruptions that start with lava fountains and produce large lava flows. Since the active areas of the volcano are not inhabited, its eruptions pose little danger and cause little damage. Piton de la Fournaise is a typical example of a hot-spot volcano. The volcano is about 530,000 years old and during much of this time, its activity overlapped with eruptions of its older neighbor, the deeply dissected Piton des Neiges shield volcano to the NW.
Three calderas formed at about 250,000, 65,000, and less than 5000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping of the volcano. Numerous pyroclastic cones dot the floor of the calderas and their outer flanks. Most historical eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high lava shield that has grown within the youngest caldera called the Enclos, which is 8 km wide and breached to below sea level on the eastern side.More than 150 eruptions, most of which have produced fluid basaltic lava flows, have occurred since the 17th century. Only six eruptions, in 1708, 1774, 1776, 1800, 1977, and 1986, have originated from fissures on the outer flanks of the caldera. The Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory, one of several operated by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, monitors this very active volcano. La Reunion is a French province in the Southern Indian Ocean and a member of the newly formed Vanilla Island group.
June 2014 – RENO, NV – In less than 30 minutes, the Lake Tahoe area had 5 earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 0.8 to 2.8 Friday evening. The first quake hit at 5:13 and was the strongest of the quintet, while the epicenter was 4.4 miles from Mt. Rose. A tsunami-producing fault in Lake Tahoe is overdue for another earthquake, scientists said in 2012 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The West Tahoe Fault is capable of producing a magnitude-7.3 earthquake and tsunamis up to 30 feet (10 meters) high in the clear blue lake, where million-dollar homes line the shore, researchers said. Earthquakes strike every 3,000 to 4,000 years on the fault, and the most recent shaker was 4,500 years ago, indicating the fault is overdue for another earthquake, said Jillian Maloney, a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
Because the fault crosses the lake, scientists worry a future earthquake will cause a tsunami in Lake Tahoe. The monster waves could form in two ways: by the fault displacing ground under the lake, similar to Japan’s Tohoku tsunami, or by causing landslides that displace the water. A combination of both could also create an even bigger wave. The most recent earthquake in the Tahoe region was about 575 years ago, on the Incline Fault, which becomes active about every 10,000 to 15,000 years. Scientists estimate its earthquake size potential at magnitude 7. At more than 1,645 feet (501 meters) deep, Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California and Nevada border in the seismically active Sierra Nevada region, is one of the world’s deepest freshwater lakes. We will continue to monitor this increased earthquake activity.
June 2014 – PERU - Geological authorities are reporting that the Sabancaya volcano in southern Peru has become active after 15 years of silence. According to information released by the Peruvian Geophysical Institute (IGP), Sabancaya has erupted several times. The first recorded activity at Sabancaya was in 1750, and the volcano became active again in 1784. 200 years later, in 1986, the volcano once again displayed activity. Now, the volcano is once again active, having gradually intensified since late February. Speaking to El Comercio, IGP investigator Orlando Macedo said “All this activity is part of an expected process. Before the eruption, tremors were occurring closer and closer to the volcano and the crater. However, the process is taking longer than that which we saw at the Ubinas Volcano, when everything happened in a matter of days. In the case of Sabancaya, this could go on for several months.” In addition to seismic activity, Sabancaya has also emitted plumes of smoke. No thermic anomalies have been observed by the IGP. According to the IGP, three seismic monitoring stations are keeping watch over activity at Sabancaya. Sabancaya, located in the southern region of Arequipa, is part of a volcanic complex that includes Hualca-Hualca and Ampato. –
June 2014 – Quito, ECUADOR – The National Secretariat for Risk Management of Ecuador today decided to change from orange to yellow the alert in Tungurahua Volcano, 80 km south of Quito, given the decline in activity. According to a report of the Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School, the volcanic activity at Tungurahua has remained low in the recent days, so the authorities decided to change the level of the alert.  In the first months of the year, the volcano showed an increased activity with columns of ash and gases that rose reaching four kilometers above the crater, causing the orange alert to be declared in the affected areas.  Although the alert level was changed, the Secretariat said that provintial and cantonal Emergency Operations Committees should keep on alert in order to react to any situation to protect the citizens.  At an altitude of five thousand 20 meters above the sea level, Tungurahua volcano erupted in 1999 and since then high activity periods with others of relative calm have been interspersed. –Prensa Latina
June 2014 – ITALY - Mt Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has erupted, spewing lava and ash into the night sky. Footage shows a spectacular display as red hot lava pours down the southern crater of the volcano. The new eruption forced the closure of an airport in Sicily, but no other disruptions have been reported. Several villages dot the mountain’s slopes, and the last major eruption of the volcano occurred in 1992.

After 30 years: Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Volcano showing signs of stirring

Geologist warn the sleeping giant known as Mauna Loa may be awakening. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on Earth. 
June 2014 - HAWAII - After a 30-year repose, Mauna Loa may be slowly stirring to life. While there are no signs of impending eruption, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has recorded an increased level of seismic activity on the flanks and summit of Mauna Loa over the past 13 months. Four distinct earthquake swarms — clusters of earthquakes occurring closely in time and location — have occurred since March 2013. Each swarm began with earthquakes northwest of the summit (Moku‘āweoweo Crater) at 4 to 15 km (2.5-9 mi) deep, followed by shallow earthquakes at the summit from several days to one month later. These earthquakes have all been less than magnitude-2.2, except for a magnitude-3.5 earthquake on May 9, 2014. The recent swarms have not been associated with the deformation of the ground surface that we would expect from intrusion of significant amounts of magma into shallow levels beneath Mauna Loa. However, ground deformation indicating shallow magma accumulation has been measured during many of the past 30 years, including two episodes of very rapid inflation immediately following the most recent eruption in 1984, and again from 2004-2006. The latter inflation started with a swarm of deep, long-period earthquakes at 45 km (28 mi) under the volcano. Prior to the 1984 eruption, seismicity was elevated for at least three years, with 28 earthquakes greater than magnitude 3, and 2 earthquakes greater than magnitude 4. The magnitude-6.7 earthquake on November 16, 1983, may also have been triggered by the pressurizing magma system of Mauna Loa. Earthquakes prior to the 1984 eruption were typically located northwest of the summit at depths greater than 5 kilometers (3 miles) and on the upper Southwest Rift Zone at depths less than 5 km (3 mi).
The seismic network that monitors Mauna Loa has been significantly improved since 1984. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2011, all of the seismic stations in the HVO seismic network were upgraded to use technology that results in less noise and better recordings. The current seismic network is better able to detect and locate smaller earthquakes than the network prior to these upgrades. It is likely that many of the small earthquakes that we currently observe would not have been detected by HVO’s seismic monitoring prior to the 1984 eruption. Though the size and number of earthquakes observed over the past 13 months has been significantly smaller than those observed in the three years prior to the 1984 eruption, they have been occurring in the same general areas of the volcano. The swarm in September-October 2013 occurred on the northwest flank, the same location as one of the swarms that occurred prior to the 1984 eruption. The May 9, 2014, magnitude-3.5 earthquake occurred in the same area of the upper Southwest Rift Zone as many magnitude 3 or greater earthquakes prior to the 1984 eruption. Interestingly, the March 2013 and April 2014 swarms occurred on the northwest flank in areas that were not active prior to the 1975 or 1984 eruptions. So why are earthquakes happening in these different areas?
Mauna Loa consists of a hot and plastic core that is composed of overlapping dikes intruded during the construction of the volcano’s edifice. Stresses arising from an intrusion of magma or gases under the volcano may be transmitted through the mushy core to the cooler and more brittle crust outside the core of the volcano. The earthquake activity present during the past 13 months has consisted entirely of earthquakes arising from brittle failure of the crust. The swarms below 4 km (2.5 mi) deep have occurred outside the core of the volcano and, thus, are consistent with a model requiring rocks around the core to adjust to stress changes within the core. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to monitor Mauna Loa for signs of an impending eruption. The likelihood of detecting a short-term change in activity that would lead to a successful eruption forecast is enhanced with a quality geophysical network that can monitor changes in earthquake occurrence, ground deformation and gas chemistry both in the summit and rift zones of Mauna Loa. –Big Island

Awakening? seismic unrest reported at Alaska’s remote Semisopochnoi Volcano

June 2014 – ALASKA - Another remote volcano in Alaska is showing signs of unrest or possible activity. The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) sent out the following alert: “A swarm of earthquakes at Semisopochnoi volcano that started at 10:00 AKDT (18:00 UTC) on June 9 escalated yesterday, June 12, at approximately 12:00 AKDT (20:00 UTC). The continuation of this anomalous seismic activity through the night prompts AVO to raise the Aviation Color Code to YELLOW and the Volcano Alert Level to ADVISORY. No eruptive activity is currently indicated. AVO is closely monitoring the situation and will issue further updates as conditions change.”
“Semisopochnoi volcano is monitored by a 6-station seismic network as well as satellite imagery. Five of the seismic stations on Semisopochnoi are currently operational. The telemetry system for the Semisopochnoi stations, located on Amchitka Island, was just repaired in late May. Semisopochnoi Island is located 65 km (40 mi) northeast of Amchitka and 200 km (130 mi) west of Adak in the remote western Aleutian Islands. The last eruption of Semisopochnoi occurred in 1987.” –Volcano Discovery

Vast ocean lays under Earth mantle, may be wellspring for world’s oceans

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up.” Genesis 7:11
June 2014 – GEOLOGY – A reservoir of water lying deep under the Earth’s surface may contain triple the volume of every one the world’s oceans and may even be the “wellspring” source of them, U.S. researchers say. Although not in a liquid form most familiar to all of us — it is instead bound within rocks deep in the Earth’s mantle — it likely represents the largest reservoir of water on Earth, scientists at the University of New Mexico and Northwestern University say. Writing in the journal Science, they report finding pockets of melted magma 400 miles underneath the North American continent that are likely signatures that water exists at those depths. Scientists have long questioned whether the mantle, the rocky, hot layer between the Earth’s crust and its core, might contain water bound up and trapped within rare minerals. The new discovery is evidence water can be transported from the surface of the Earth to great depth by plate tectonics, the movement of continents and plates over the Earth’s surface. “Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight,” says geophysicist and study co-author Steve Jacobsen at Northwestern. “I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet.” Movement and partial melting of rocks in the mantle’s transition zone — a region between the mantle’s lower and upper layers from around 250 to 400 miles deep — could allow water to become tightly bound to the minerals there, the researchers said.
To test if the transition zone could be a possible deep water reservoir, the researchers used seismic waves recorded during earthquakes to analyze the structure of the mantle in the zone and to detect if melting is taking place as tectonics drives rocks ever deeper. “If we are seeing this melting, then there has to be this water in the transition zone,” University of New Mexico seismologist Brandon Schmandt says. “Melting is just a mechanism of getting rid of the water,” he says. If the surface water the Earth possesses today came from such degassing of molten rock, the researchers say, that’s in contrast to the theory held by some scientists that water came to a young Earth by way of large, icy comets. It is of course the existence of liquid water on the surface of the Earth that makes our planet habitable and capable of supporting life, which is why its origin is of such interest to science. The latest findings are strong evidence of a process where water has long been cycling between deep interior reservoirs and the surface through the action of plate tectonics, the researchers say. “Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades,” Jacobsen says. And they may just have found it.

Alaska’s Pavlof volcano blows its top, threatens air flights

JUNE 2014 – ALASKA – Alaska’s Pavlof volcano turned up the volume on its new eruption yesterday (June 2), sending up a billowy ash plume that could threaten local flights, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO). The AVO tracks eruptions at Pavlof, a snowy cone on the Alaska Peninsula, using satellite imagery and earthquake monitors. The most recent eruption started Saturday, when heat-tracking by satellite shows a rise in surface temperatures at the volcano. NASA’s Landsat satellite also snapped lava streaming from the volcano’s peak. Pilots flying to nearby villages also called in reports to the AVO, and yesterday, local aviators said the volcano’s ash column had reached 22,000 feet (6,700 meters).
When Pavlof erupted in May 2013, ash fall forced regional airlines to cancel flights to communities such as Cold Bay, Sand Point and King Cove, the AVO reports. No flights have been reported canceled this week. The 8,262-foot (2,518 m) mountain is one of Alaska’s most frequently erupting volcanoes. On the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean, geologists are also monitoring the ongoing eruption at Indonesia’s Sangeang Api volcano. The volcano awoke with a spectacular blast on May 30. A NASA satellite image shows a thick plume of ash and volcanic gas drifting southeast. The airport in Bima, Indonesia, remains closed because of the glassy particles, which can destroy jet engines, NASA’s Earth Observatory reports.

U.S. scientists explore Grenada’s huge underwater volcano – poses dangerous tsunami risk to U.S. coast

The dangerous Kick’em Jenny volcano has erupted 10 times since 1939, with the most recent eruption in 1990.
May 2014 – CARIBBEAN - A team of scientists from the United States have traveled to Grenada, exploring the darkest corners of a huge underwater volcano off the island’s coast hoping to better understanding the mysteries of earthquakes and tsunamis, and ultimately saving lives. President of US Ocean Exploration Trust, Robert Ballard, famous for discovering the Titanic 12,000 feet below the surface of the icy North Atlantic in 1985, has set his sights on exploring the volcano, ‘Kick’em Jenny’, studying its eruption history and learn more about how underwater volcanoes can pose a threat. Ballard, who is also director of the Centre for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, said the Kick’em Jenny volcano has a history of explosive eruptions, which could have the potential to trigger tsunamis, the effects from which could be felt as far away as the northeastern United States. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the Kick’em Jenny volcano has erupted 10 times since 1939, with the most recent eruption in 1990. “This is the most hazardous part of our planet, where (tectonic) plates are head-on,” said Ballard, noting that the devastating 2011 Japanese earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami were both underwater earthquakes. The American television network, ABC TV,  said reporters from its ‘Nightline’ program accompanied Ballard and his team of 40 explorers aboard their exploration vessel Nautilus during the final 48 hours of their 90-day voyage, which was documented for an upcoming National Geographic special, ‘Caribbean’s Deadly Underworld’, which premieres Sunday on the US network, Nat Geo WILD.
The conditions around the Kick’em Jenny volcano are so dangerous to humans that Ballard and his team relied on the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) ‘Hercules’, a 5,000-pound submersible, to be their “eyes and ears inside the volcano,”  ABC TV reported. It said as Hercules descends into the volcano, Ballard and his team watched the robot’s live cameras from a control room aboard the Nautilus. After hours of searching, the team made a startling discovery. “It means that places that we thought there was very little life existing on our plant, we’ve just opened up a whole other area where life seems to be thriving,” Ballard said, adding “a lot of the deep sea is sort of like you know you can think of it as a desert. We just found an oasis in that desert.” On its journey, Hercules took pictures of its surroundings, made maps and collected samples, including organisms living inside the volcano and even reaching inside the volcano’s bubbling plume to gather materials, ABC TV said. It said such discoveries on Ballard’s trip could allow scientists to better understand the threats posed by underwater volcanic eruptions. “And there’s no reason to stop, there’s 72 per cent of the planet hardly explored. I like to tell children that their generation is the generation that will explore more of earth than all previous generations combined,” Ballard said. –Jamaica Observer
May 2014 – CALIFORNIA - For years, scientists have wondered about the forces that keep pushing up California’s mighty Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges, causing an increase in the number of earthquakes in one part of Central California. On Wednesday, a group of scientists offered a new, intriguing theory: The quakes are triggered in part by the pumping of groundwater in the Central Valley, which produces crops that feed the nation. “These results suggest that human activity may give rise to a gradual increase in the rate of earthquake occurrence,” said the study published in the journal Nature. “During wet periods of time when the fault is loaded down, the forces that are keeping the fault clamped down are greater. It inhibits the sliding of the fault,” says Colin B. Amos, assistant professor of geology at Western Washington University. Using new GPS data, the scientists found that mountains closest to California’s thirsty Central Valley were growing at a faster-than-expected rate compared to nearby ranges. The growth spurt — about 1 to 3 millimeters a year — was enough to lift them by half a foot over the last 150 years. Groundwater is very heavy, and its weight depresses the Earth’s upper crust. Remove the weight, and the crust springs upward — and that change in pressure can trigger more small earthquakes, the researchers said. “It reduces the forces that are keeping the fault clamped together — leading to more small earthquakes during dry periods of time,” said Colin B. Amos, assistant professor of geology at Western Washington University, the study’s lead author.
Other scientists studying a seismically active area of southern Monterey County near Parkfield observed that there tend to be more earthquakes during dry months than during wet months. The number of earthquakes there every year has roughly doubled between 1984 and 2005. “During wet periods of time when the fault is loaded down, the forces that are keeping the fault clamped down are greater. It inhibits the sliding of the fault,” Amos said. But the question as to why earthquakes have been increasing in Parkfield over time has been a mystery. The groundwater theory introduced by Amos and his colleagues gives one possible answer. “Over the long term, because we’re losing more groundwater, it could give rise to more seismicity by reducing these overall forces,” Amos said. Groundwater has been slowly depleted in the Central Valley to quench the thirst of farms and cities since the mid-1800s. That irrigation has already caused dramatic changes. In the 1930s, water diversions prompted the disappearance of Tulare Lake, once the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi, which was 60 miles across. Over the last hundred and fifty years, the Central Valley’s groundwater reserve has lost about 38 cubic miles of water — enough to drain Lake Tahoe. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Central Valley aquifers supply about 20% of the nation’s groundwater needs, making it the second-most-pumped aquifer system in the United States. The Central Valley produces one-quarter of the nation’s food, including 40% of its fruits and nuts.
The study published Wednesday does not suggest the next Big One to hit Los Angeles or San Francisco will be caused by human activity, Amos said. “Large earthquakes are going to occur on the San Andreas fault no matter what we do,” Amos said. But what is important is the idea that human activity could trigger more seismic movement. “It’s really opening up a possibility that humans are changing stresses on faults,” Amos said. “It’s a simple realization that human use of groundwater is having small but perhaps measurable impacts on the San Andreas Fault.” U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough, who was not affiliated with the study, said the idea that groundwater depletion can trigger earthquakes is very plausible. Hough went a step further than the researchers, saying it’s possible that smaller earthquakes in the Parkfield area could eventually trigger larger earthquakes that head south toward Los Angeles. “If you raise the rate of little earthquakes, you also raise the probability of a bigger earthquake,” Hough said. Parkfield was the starting point of a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that hit the San Andreas fault in 1857. The fault unzipped south for nearly 200 miles, down to the San Gabriel Mountains and ending near Wrightwood. That fault was so massive that shaking lasted from 1 to 3 minutes, trees were uprooted, and buildings were destroyed. “As near as we can tell, the foreshocks were in the Parkfield area,” Hough said. “It won’t necessarily happen that way” again in our lifetime, she said. “But the fact that it did happen once means that it could happen.” Hough said further study was needed to determine whether groundwater depletion in other areas could also trigger earthquakes. The part of the San Andreas Fault around Parkfield is fairly weak — meaning not much change in pressure is needed to loosen the fault and cause earthquakes. In contrast, sections of the San Andreas closer to San Francisco and Los Angeles are much stronger and more locked. Steve Ingebritsen, hydrogeologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who was also unaffiliated with the study, called the theory “an interesting hypothesis from a credible group of investigators that will drive more research.” He called the suggestion that groundwater depletion could lead to more earthquakes “somewhat controversial” and that more study is needed elsewhere in California and around the world to see if the findings can be replicated.

No comments: