Record Setting Asteroid Flyby

Jan. 28, 2013:  Talk about a close shave. On Feb. 15th an asteroid about half the size of a football field will fly past Earth only 17,200 miles above our planet’s surface. There’s no danger of a collision, but the space rock, designated 2012 DA14, has NASA’s attention.

“This is a record-setting close approach,” says Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program at JPL. “Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we’ve never seen an object this big get so close to Earth.”

2012 DA (splash)

A new ScienceCast video previews the close flyby of asteroid 2012 DA. Play it

Earth’s neighborhood is littered with asteroids of all shapes and sizes, ranging from fragments smaller than beach balls to mountainous rocks many kilometers wide. Many of these objects hail from the asteroid belt, while others may be corpses of long-dead, burnt out comets. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program helps find and keep track of them, especially the ones that come close to our planet.

2012 DA14 is a fairly typical near-Earth asteroid. It measures some 50 meters wide, neither very large nor very small, and is probably made of stone, as opposed to metal or ice.  Yeomans estimates that an asteroid like 2012 DA14 flies past Earth, on average, every 40 years, yet actually strikes our planet only every 1200 years or so.

The impact of a 50-meter asteroid is not cataclysmic–unless you happen to be underneath it. Yeomans points out that a similar-sized object formed the mile wide Meteor Crater in Arizona when it struck about 50,000 years ago. “That asteroid was made of iron,” he says, “which made it an especially potent impactor.” Also, in 1908, something about the size of 2012 DA14 exploded in the atmosphere above Siberia, leveling hundreds of square miles of forest. Researchers are still studying the “Tunguska Event” for clues to the impacting object.

“2012 DA14 will definitely not hit Earth,” emphasizes Yeomans. “The orbit of the asteroid is known well enough to rule out an impact.”

2012 DA (flyby, 200px)

A schematic diagram of the Feb 15th flyby.

Even so, it will come interestingly close. NASA radars will be monitoring the space rock as it approaches Earth closer than many man-made satellites. Yeomans says the asteroid will thread the gap between low-Earth orbit, where the ISS and many Earth observation satellites are located, and the higher belt of geosynchronous satellites, which provide weather data and telecommunications.

“The odds of an impact with a satellite are extremely remote,” he says. Almost nothing orbits where DA14 will pass the Earth.

NASA’s Goldstone radar in the Mojave Desert is scheduled to ping 2012 DA14 almost every day from Feb. 16th through 20th. The echoes will not only pinpoint the orbit of the asteroid, allowing researchers to better predict future encounters, but also reveal physical characteristics such as size, spin, and reflectivity. A key outcome of the observing campaign will be a 3D radar map showing the space rock from all sides.

During the hours around closest approach, the asteroid will brighten until it resembles a star of 8th magnitude. Theoretically, that’s an easy target for backyard telescopes. The problem, points out Yeomans, is speed. “The asteroid will be racing across the sky, moving almost a full degree (or twice the width of a full Moon) every minute. That’s going to be hard to track.” Only the most experienced amateur astronomers are likely to succeed.

Those who do might experience a tiny chill when they look at their images. That really was a close shave.


Kazahkstan Earthquake 01/28/13

Very strong dangerous earthquake in Kazakhstan – Very strong shaking expected near the epicenter

Last update: January 29, 2013 at 12:38 am by By

Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : 6.1 (preliminary)
Local time at epicenter : local time 22:38:55
Depth (Hypocenter) : 22 km
Geo-location(s) :
227 km E Almaty (pop 1,204,762 ; local time 22:38:55.2 2013-01-28)
185 km NW Aksu (pop 340,020 ; local time 00:38:55.2 2013-01-29)
101 km E Tyup (pop 13,437 ; local time 22:38:55.2 2013-01-28)
44 km SW Koshkar (pop 311 ; local time 22:38:55.2 2013-01-28)

Update 17:04 UTC : USGS reports M6.0 at a depth of 10.6 km
All reporting seismological agencies are reporting a very shallow and thus very dangerous earthquake. M6.0 is a potentially deadly earthquake in this area of the world.

Shaking map earthquake Kazakhstan January 28 2013

Update 17:02 UTC : The earthquake occurred in the triangle of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China (Xinjiang). We do fear that this earthquake will be damaging to some extend.
It is now dark in the area and we fear that electricity will be down. No electricity means a lot of uncertainty to reach the epicenter area and to do some rescue works.
The area is sparsely populated.

Update 16:58 UTC : EMSC has update their records to M6.1 at a depth of 10 km, less but still VERY DANGEROUS

Update 16:51 UTC : EMSC reports a Magnitude of 6.5 at a depth of 2 km. Various data which will become better the following minutes.

Update : The first notice reaching us is a preliminary Magnitude of 6.1 at a depth of 22 km = Very dangerous

Update : based on the many visitors from Kazakhstan, we think a major earthquake occurred there.

for more information and updates, go to:

(ps: if you can, please donate to earthquake report.  They do an amazing job.)

Doomsday Clock Holding

End Near? Doomsday Clock Holds at 5 ‘Til Midnight

by LiveScience Staff
Date: 14 January 2013
doomsday clock
CREDIT: Dreamstime

The hands of the infamous “Doomsday Clock” will remain firmly in their place at five minutes to midnight — symbolizing humans’ destruction — for the year 2013, scientists announced today (Jan. 14).

Keeping their outlook for the future of humanity quite dim, the group of scientists also wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to partner with other global leaders to act on climate change.

The clock is a symbol of the threat of humanity’s imminent destruction from nuclear or biological weapons, climate change and other human-caused disasters. In making their deliberations about how to update the clock’s time this year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists considered the current state of nuclear arsenals around the globe, the slow and costly recovery from events like Fukushima nuclear meltdown, and extreme weather events that fit in with a pattern of global warming.

2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, marked by devastating drought and brutal storms,” the letter says. “These extreme events are exactly what climate models predict for an atmosphere laden with greenhouse gases.” [Doom and Gloom: 10 Post-Apocalyptic Worlds]

At the same time, the letter did give a nod to some progress, applauding the president for taking steps to “nudge the country along a more rational energy path,” with his support for wind and other renewable energy sources.

“We have as much hope for Obama’s second term in office as we did in 2010, when we moved back the hand of the Clock after his first year in office,” Robert Socolow, chair of the board that determines the clock’s position, said in a statement. “This is the year for U.S. leadership in slowing climate change and setting a path toward a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Doomsday Clock came into being in 1947 as a way for atomic scientists to warn the world of the dangers of nuclear weapons. That year, the Bulletin set the time at seven minutes to midnight, with midnight symbolizing humanity’s destruction. By 1949, it was at three minutes to midnight as the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorated. In 1953, after the first test of the hydrogen bomb, the doomsday clock ticked to two minutes until midnight.

The Bulletin was at its most optimistic in 1991, when the Cold War thawed and the United States and Russia began cutting their arsenals. That year, the clock was set at 17 minutes to midnight.

From then until 2010, however, it was a gradual creep back toward destruction, as hopes of total nuclear disarmament vanished and threats of nuclear terrorism and climate change reared their heads. In 2010, the Bulletin found some hope in arms reduction treaties and international climate talks and bumped the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock back to six minutes from midnight from its previous post at five to midnight. But by 2012, the clock was pushed forward another minute.


Fish Oil’s Benefits Questioned

The Sad Story of Fish Oil and Small Sample Sizes


| Wed Jan. 16, 2013 10:22 AM PST

Keith Humphreys passes along the sad story today of fish oil’s journey from miracle cure to nothingburger. The chart below shows the evolution of research on Omega-3 supplements over the past 17 years, where a small “relative risk” number indicates a beneficial effect and 1.0 indicates no effect at all:

Humphreys explains how this happens:

When there were only a little data available, fish oil looked like manna from heaven. But with new studies and more data, the beneficial effect has shrunk to almost nothing. The current best estimate of relative risk (bottom row of table) is 0.96, barely below 1.0. And the “confidence interval” (the range of numbers in parentheses), which is an indicator of how reliable the current estimate is, actually runs to a value slightly greater than 1.0.

Why does this happen? Small studies do a poor job of reliably estimating the effects of medical interventions. For a small study (such as Sacks’ and Leng’s early work in the top two rows of the table) to get published, it needs to show a big effect — no one is interested in a small study that found nothing. It is likely that many other small studies of fish oil pills were conducted at the same time of Sacks’ and Leng’s, found no benefit and were therefore not published. But by the play of chance, it was only a matter of time before a small study found what looked like a big enough effect to warrant publication in a journal editor’s eyes.

Caveat lector. Don’t believe everything you read, especially if there’s only one study and it has a small sample size. It’s still possible that fish oil has a slight beneficial effect, but it’s unlikely. Spend your money on something else.


The NRA’s Governing Board

EXCLUSIVE: Unmasking the NRA’s Inner Circle

The NRA’s shadowy leaders include the CEO who sells Bushmaster assault rifles and a top director who lives in Newtown.


| Wed Jan. 16, 2013
NRA logo

The resurgent debate over gun control has put a spotlight on the hardline leaders of the National Rifle Association. In the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre delivered a full-throated rejection of gun control and called for more firearms in schools, while David Keene, the group’s president, predicted the failure of any new assault weapons ban introduced in Congress. The two NRA figureheads purported to speak for more than 4 million American gun owners, though the group’s membership may in fact be smaller.

But whatever its true size, today’s NRA, widely considered to be disproportionately influential in politics, operates more like a corporation or politburo than a typical nonprofit or lobbying organization. Its 76 board directors and 10 executive officers keep a grip on power through elections in which ordinary grassroots members appear to have little say.The NRA leadership is known as much for its organizational secrecy as its absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment. That may be why, until now, little has been known about some of its most powerful insiders. They sit on the NRA board of directors’ nine-member Nominating Committee, which, despite ballots distributed annually to legions of NRA members, closely controls who can be elected to the NRA board. Mother Jones has uncovered key details about the current Nominating Committee:

  • George K. Kollitides II, the chief executive of Freedom Group—which made the Bushmaster military-style assault rifle used in the Newtown massacre—was appointed as a member of the current committee, despite his failed attempts to be elected to the NRA board.
  • The current head of the Nominating Committee, Patricia A. Clark, lives in Newtown, just a couple of miles from the school where 20 young children and six adults were massacred.
  • While longtime NRA members and election watchers have reported that the Nominating Committee consists entirely of elected board members, the organization’s bylaws allow for three members to be appointed from outside the NRA board—as three of its current members were.
  • Two additional outsiders appointed to the current Nominating Committee include Roger K. Bain, a licensed federal firearms dealer in Pennsylvania, and Riley B. Smith, a timber company executive in Alabama.

Long before Newtown, and even before the bloodbath at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, a survey conducted in May 2012 by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that most gun owners, including current and former members of the NRA, favor tighter gun regulations such as universal criminal background checks. And according to an ABC/Washington Post poll published on Tuesday, 86 percent of gun-owning households support a law requiring background checks at gun shows to close the so-called “loophole.” So what motivates NRA leaders to remain so out of step with their constituency, flatly rejecting any discussion of legal reform?

One answer may be their ties to the $11.7 billion gun industry. Freedom Group’s Kollitides ran for the NRA board in 2009 but lost, despite an endorsement from gun manufacturer Remington. “His campaign didn’t sit well with some gun bloggers, who viewed him as an industry interloper,” according to a 2011 report in the New York Times.

George Kollitides

From George Kollitides’ 2009 campaign for the NRA board.

It remains unclear who among the NRA leadership tapped Kollitides, Bain, and Smith, to be on the current Nominating Committee.

“I was appointed,” Bain confirmed in a brief phone call. “I am not a board member,” he said, declining to say who appointed him. “This conversation is over.”

Calls to Kollitides and Smith seeking comment were not returned. The NRA declined to respond to multiple requests for comment regarding its board members and other organizational details. However, one NRA official, who declined to be named, said that Kollitides “has never been on the board, although he has run several times.”

But that need not stand in the way. “You’ve got a good friend you want to get more involved, and you nominate him,” a current long-serving NRA board member told Mother Jones.

According to this document obtained by Mother Jones, outsiders appointed to the current Nominating Committee include George K. Kollitides, Roger K. Bain, and Riley B. Smith.

Back in August 2011, the NRA Nominating Committee elected Clark, a board member since 1999, as its chair. Clark, a competitive sport shooter and an instructor in the Eddie Eagle GunSafe program heralded by LaPierre in his recent media blitz, is a longtime resident of Newtown. Her home is about a 10-minute drive by car from Sandy Hook Elementary School and about a 15-minute drive from the former home of Nancy Lanza, who was also murdered by her son on December 14 after he got possession of her semiautomatic assault rifle and other legally registered weapons.

Reached by phone on December 29 in nearby Bridgeport, Connecticut, where she works in the health care industry, Clark confirmed her NRA leadership role. When asked if she knew any of the victims or their families in Newtown, she replied, “This is a hard time for me. I am not really interested in giving an interview at this time.”

Unlike the NRA’s paid executive officers, who earn big money for their work, Clark’s directorship is unpaid. (LaPierre took home $960,000 from the NRA and related organizations in 2010; Kayne B. Robinson, the executive director of general operations, earned more than $1 million.)

Elections for the NRA board, which oversees the organization’s nearly 800 employees and more than $200 million in annual revenues, occur annually for 25 directors, who serve three-year terms. The vote typically involves less than 7 percent of NRA members, according to past NRA ballot results and pro-NRA bloggers. A low election turnout among members is not uncommon among nonprofit groups, but how a candidate gets his or her name on the ballot is key. According to an NRA supporter and self-proclaimed Second Amendment activist in Pennsylvania who blogs under the handle “Sebastian,” this occurs one of two ways: It requires a grassroots petition by members, which rarely gets a candidate on the ballot, or a candidate must be included on the official slate endorsed by the Nominating Committee.

“Read the bios in your ballot and you’ll see that almost all were nominated by the nominating committee,” complained “Pecos Bill” from Illinois last January in one pro-gun-rights forum. “Seems the NRA, fine organization that it is, is being run like a modern corporation and the ‘good ol’ boys’ are keeping themselves in power.”

to read more, names of the board members, etc, go to:

Solar Flare Possibility

CHANCE OF FLARES: So far today, solar activity is low. However, that could be the calm before the storm. The magnetic field of big sunspot AR1654 has grown more complex. It is now classified as a ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field, which means it harbors energy for X-class eruptions. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.

If there is a flare today, the blast would be Earth-directed. This sunrise shot, taken at dawn on Jan. 16th by Jan Koeman on the bank of the Westerschelde River in the Netherlands, shows how AR1654 (circled) is almost directly facing our planet:

“Sunspot complex AR1654-AR1656 was clearly visible through the clouds and mist,” says Koeman. “It was a wonderful sunrise even at -8 degrees celsius.”


First Nations Protest Across Canada


Aboriginal groups stage protests across Canada

January 16, 2013 06:28 PM EST | AP

WINDSOR, Ontario — Aboriginals slowed highway traffic, snarled a rail line and protested at the busiest Canada-US crossing point on Wednesday as part of a “day of action” in their ongoing dispute with the Canadian government over treaty rights.

Hundreds of supporters of the “Idle No More” movement gathered at one entrance of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario. Another entrance to the border crossing remained open, and organizers said the protest will not be a blockade. At one point, trucks were lined up for about almost a mile (2 kilometers).

The protests erupted almost two months ago against a budget bill that affects Canada’s Indian Act and amends environmental laws. Protesters say the bill undermines century-old treaties by altering the approval process for leasing Aboriginal lands to outsiders and changing environmental oversight in favor of natural resource extraction.

In northern Ontario, a group of people set up a blockade on a rail line Wednesday. Via Rail said the blockade halted the movement of trains between Toronto and Montreal and Ottawa.

Protesters also slowed traffic on a highway in Quebec and stopped a train on a rail line outside of Winnipeg. Marchers also temporarily diverted traffic from a bridge in New Brunswick.

About 200 First Nations protesters also took part in a 45-minute highway blockade north of Victoria. Protesters were also blocking the Canadian National rail line through Kitwanga, in northwest British Columbia.

The “Idle No More” movement, which has shown unusual staying power and garnered a worldwide following through social media, has reopened constitutional issues involving the relationship between the federal government and the million-plus strong Aboriginal community.

One aboriginal chief remains on a month-old fast that has galvanized the cross-country grassroots protest movement.


Natural Remedies for Eczema

Cure Eczema the Natural Way

4tth January 2013

By Carolanne Wright

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

A painful and often debilitating disease, eczema is a skin disorder that is suffered by millions. Frequently treated with steroids, the immune system is further compromised — inflaming the dermis and creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.

Toxic vaccinations also aggravate this distressing malady. Mercifully, natural remedies provide an intelligent option — curing eczema gently without the side effects of conventional treatments.

Connecting the dots between eczema, immunity and the gut

The first line of attack in overcoming eczema is healing the gut. Since a majority of those suffering from eczema experience leaky gut syndrome, it is important to take care of the digestive tract. When the intestinal wall becomes overly permeable with this syndrome, toxins pass into the blood stream which triggers an inflammatory response. Allergies and food reactions follow — along with eczema. Unfortunately, this whole cycle taxes the immune system.

One of the best ways to mend the gut and reduce permeability is to adopt an organic whole-food diet with plenty of vegetables, fiber and freshly juiced greens. Toss out processed and gluten containing foods, dairy, meat, unsprouted grains and sugar. Fermented foods are an excellent choice as are probiotics like those found in kefir and yogurt. Bone broth, with its high collagen content, also assists in healing the gut. Just make sure to source organic grass-fed ingredients. The amino acid L-glutamine is exceptional for strengthening the intestinal lining and boosting immune function. It also reduces allergies and improves nutrient absorption. Flax, borage, hemp and pumpkin seed oils supply essential fatty acids that are vital to balancing inflammatory response. Additionally, evening primrose and sunflower seed oils are first-rate sources of gamma linolenic acid which plays a strong role in skin health. And don’t forget about chia seeds – another outstanding source of omega-3 fats. On the herbal front, cat’s claw (una de gato) cleanses the entire digestive tract of dangerous pathogens, thereby reducing reactions that exacerbate eczema. Persimmon leaf extract is another medicinal herb that demonstrates extraordinary anti-inflammatory properties that clarify the skin and minimize discomfort.

Topical relief

To arrest the intense itch of eczema, several external treatments show promise.

Coconut oil – Seals and protects the skin while taming inflammation. Antibacterial and anti fungal action prevents infection in open sores.

Oat Flour and Slippery Elm Powder – Used in warm baths to coat and calm the skin.

Magnesium Chloride Spray – Applied topically to diminish inflammation.

Sunflower Seed Oil – Anti-inflammatory. Also serves as an excellent moisture barrier.

Sea Salt – Add to warm baths. Lends welcome relief from inflammation and pain.

Bentonite Clay – Detoxifies and comforts the skin when dissolved in a lukewarm bath.

Always remember to drink plenty of purified water throughout the day which flushes out toxins and hydrates the skin. Sleep and stress-reducing exercise are also important for robust immune function. By detoxifying the body, healing the gut and strengthening the immune system, eczema can be cured naturally without harmful after effects.


Need Some Energy — Try Chia Seeds

Chia Seed – Ancient Food of Aztec Warriors, Now on Wall Street

By Carolanne Wright

3rd January 2013

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

The versatile chia seed has a long history of cultivation and use in Mexico, Central and South America. Warriors of the past have recognized chia’s exceptional energy and stamina supporting attributes. Over the last several years, those wishing to boost vitality have discovered the extraordinary power of this seed as well. Incredibly, even the workers on Wall Street have adopted chia to healthfully promote stamina in lieu of dangerous stimulants.

A member of the mint family, chia has been grown since 2,600 BCE in the southern regions of Mexico. Cultivation spread to the Aztec and Mayan civilizations where it claimed such importance. It was used as currency to pay tribute to the nobility and priesthood. Known as the “running food,” Aztec warriors were exclusively fueled by chia seeds and water during conquests. Due to its high level of easily digestible protein, omega-3 oils, and abundant fiber, chia kept ancient societies healthy and strong.

The rediscovery of chia

The outstanding benefits of chia have also been embraced by present-day health enthusiasts who value potent, nutritionally dense food. Many have used this tiny seed to slim down, gain energy, and increase endurance. Since chia absorbs up to 10 times its weight in water and is an excellent source of fiber, consumption promotes a feeling of satiety, thereby helping one to eat less. Vigor and stamina are enhanced by the high quality protein found in the seed. As an added bonus, chia is a hearty, environmentally friendly crop that is drought and pest resistant.

An unexpected use in an unusual place

As reported by David Sax in Bloomberg Businessweek Lifestyle, a startling craze is sweeping through Wall Street: using chia as an alternative to the usual stimulants of coffee, energy drinks; and, yes, even cocaine. According to the article, chia’s popularity is due to the best selling book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall about Tarahumara Indian marathon runners who thrive on chia seeds. After reading the book, Dan Gluck and Nick Morris, a manager and trader in New York, began using chia to take advantage of all the nutritional and energy-boosting benefits. Both were so impressed with the results that they began spreading the chia news to friends and coworkers in finance. Soon a trend was born.


2012 Volcano Report fr/Erik Klemetti

2012 Volcanic Year in Review

The submarine eruption at El Hierro continued into 2011. Image: INVOLCAN

2012, for all the hype about apocalypse, was a volcanically-quiet year. No Eyjafjallajökulls, no Puyehue-Cordon Caulles, no Pinatubos. Sure, we had some notable eruptions, but most were small-to-moderate events that, many times, won’t even end up getting preserved in the geologic record. However, that didn’t stop me from posting way too much! No, really, it was still a great year for Eruptions, with decidedly more posts about the science of volcanoes when the actual volcanic events were low. Here is the 2012 Volcanic Year in Review!



The start of the year got us starting to wonder about potential eruptions that might follow — including heightened alert at Lascar (that didn’t lead anywhere) and increasing activity at Popocatépetl (that sort of led somewhere). We also saw some of the last gasps of the submarine eruption at El Hierro in the Canary Islands, but as you’ll see, it hasn’t stopped the island from rumbling.

However, the media was caldera crazy to start 2012. Maybe it was just the tip of the Maya iceberg, but the Daily Mail opened January with a terrible article about the supposed immediate threat that Laacher See posed to Europe. The newspaper had to rescind the article come February. I dissected some of the conspiracy theories surrounding Yellowstone and we had some rumblings of two active caldera systems: Santorini and Long Valley.

I also tackled your questions about my 2011 post on falling into lava, I put together a gallery of images related to some of the many volcano observatories around the world and looked that the supposed danger (and younger age) of Ubehebe Crater in California.


Probably the biggest show in February was the fire fountains and lava flows from Etna during one of its many paroxysms of 2012. Not only are Etna’s eruptions spectacular, but they occur in a highly populated area – unlike the periodic dome growth and explosions that occur at Alaska’s remote Cleveland volcano or Pagan in the Mariana Islands. These volcanoes require satellites to watch them carefully to see activity when there is no one on the ground to notice it happening. Two volcanoes had small eruptions that looked like they could be leading to larger events, but neither Kanaga nor Rincón de la Vieja had much to show for 2012 when all was said and done.

After feeling a little jaded about all the “bad journalism” posts I had to tackle, I decided instead to look at why I love volcanoes (much more satisfying). February also brought some great vistas from above, including a shot of the island of Java and a multitude of volcanoes from space. I tried to explain how bubbles in magma lead to explosive eruptions and Dr. Shan de Silva answered your questions about Andean calderas.

I also tackled a topic that came up repeatedly during the year – the missing eruptions in the ice cap record. Namely, the ice cores suggest a large eruption in 1258 AD, but no source has been definitively identified (although inroads have been made). Another mysterious caldera eruption, the Kuwae caldera eruption in the 1450s, was also examined about whether it actually occurred.


Etna kept up its pace with another paroxysm to start the month, but for me, the real news was the unrest at Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz. By the end of March, INGEOMINAS was expecting an eruption of the volcano near my mother’s hometown in “days to weeks.” Iliamna in Alaska also began to show unrest, with elevated seismicity that has persisted throughout the year.

One of the perks of my job at Denison is the field trips — and 2012 was no exception as I got to take students through some of the volcanic landforms of the Owens Valley in California, including Coso and the Long Valley caldera. I also looked at how hurricanes might influence volcanic eruptions after some research on Pinatubo and other subtropical/tropical volcanoes. March also saw the 30th anniversary of the eruption of El Chichón in Mexico – I looked back on the event and what might be in store at the volcano.

A March 23 image of Askja in Iceland, whose crater lake melted earlier than expected. Image: NASA.


Another month, another paroxysm at Etna. What we didn’t know then is that after April, activity at Etna would drop significantly. We had a little mystery in Iceland, where the crater lake at Askja was unexpectedly ice free months ahead of usual. Meanwhile, Nevado del Ruiz continued to rumble in Colombia. However, the most eyes were trained on Mexico’s Popocatépetl, where continued small explosions and seismicity prompted increased worry that a major eruption was brewing. However, as much as the volcano rumbled, nothing big came during 2012.

I tried to answer a question I get frequently: can humans trigger a volcanic eruption (short answer: maybe, but it would be hard and pointless). I also took on the quacks who try to sell bogus earthquake/eruption predictions (with some amusing backlash in the comments). I offered up a challenge to the earthquake prediction crowd, include the quackiest of the bunch, Piers Corbyn, but no one took me up on it.


Fuego in Guatemala was the headliner for May, producing its largest eruption in years. We also had ash from Nevado del Ruiz fall on cities close to the volcano like Manizales and Pereira. Other eruptions were so remote that only satellites caught the action, like the plume from Curry in the South Sandwich Islands.

Without a lot of other volcanic news during May, I looked at a pile of volcanic research, including the timing of caldera-forming eruptions at Yellowstone, volcanic lightning, the fate of all that volcanic ash, what to expect from the Baekdu Caldera in China/North Korea and how crystals can unravel the subvolcanic magmatism at active volcanoes.


Both Popocatépetl and Nevado del Ruiz kept on producing small eruptions as we headed into June, while Cleveland in Alaska had a explosive eruption, likely due to collapse of the dome that had been growing in the crater since earlier in the spring. We also saw the alert status raised at El Hierro in the Canary Islands for the first time in months after an intense seismic swarm occurred — but this swarm didn’t lead to any new eruption.

June marked the 100th anniversary of the largest explosive eruption of the 20th century – the famed Novarupta/Katmai eruption that produced the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. It was also the 1st anniversary of another significant eruption, the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle eruption in Chile/Argentina. Speaking of volcanically-active area, I decided to take a look at volcanism on Io and just how hot the surface of Jupiter’s inner moon might be.


July wasn’t too eventful on the volcanic front — but it definitely kept me on my toes after the 2012 Derecho knocked power out in Granville for 10 days. However, in volcano news, we began to get signs that Tongariro in New Zealand might be up to somethingseismic activity began to rise and volcanic gas emissions followed suit. Sakurajima, a fan favorite, also produced some of its larger explosions in the past few years.

I spent a lot of July on the road, mostly out in California doing labwork with my research student — but I did get to check out the Clear Lake area and saw some of California’s volcanic features from 30,000 feet. I also tackled why the volcanic rumblings in Colombia likely reflect more monitoring rather than more activity and how artificial volcanoes aren’t the cure-all for global warming.

A weather satellite image of the eruption plume from Tongariro in New Zealand. Image: NASA/NOAA/CIMSS


By the time August rolled in, it was becoming clear that 2012 was lining up to be a volcanically-quiet year (no matter what conspiracy fans tried to deny it). However, if you were in New Zealand in August, you wouldn’t have thought it was that quiet. Mere hours after I posted about the potential dangers of visiting White Island as a tourist, Tongariro had its first eruption on its main edifice in over 110 years. It turned out to be a minor, mostly steam-driven eruption. White Island also had a small explosive event to go with Tongariro’s … but that’s not all! A pumice raft was discovered in the Kermadec Islands north of New Zealand and eventually tracked back to a mid-July submarine eruption at the hitherto unrecognized seamount Havre. Sonar surveys later in the fall confirmed it as the source of the pumice raft as a new cone was imaged and all the pumice is still floating out in the western Pacific.

In other parts of the world, the Grozny Group in the Kuril Islands had a small explosive eruption while a small tephra cone was seen growing in the Buoco Nuovo crater at Etna.


Over the course of the fall, Nicaragua’s San Cristobal experienced eruptions large enough to prompt evacuations of people living near the volcano. Little Sitkin joined the parade of Alaskan volcanoes that showed signs of unrest, as a seismic swarm was noted at the remote volcano. We also saw ash from Anak Krakatau spread as far as 80 km from the island volcano — and I looked at how many people are displaced by volcanic activity in Indonesia. The future of Yellowstone caldera was the subject of a special paper in GSA Today (and guess what? It isn’t “end times”.)

In guest post at Lookout Landing, a blog about the Seattle Mariners, I discussed the potential volcanic threat Rainier poses to the Seattle/Tacoma area. I also took on the DOOOOOM that permeates media reports on volcano research — and lead me to write “A Media Guide to Volcanoes“.


I started October with one of my favorite satellite images of 2012 — a look down at the Three Sisters region in Oregon. In active volcanic events, the lava lake at the Halema’uma’u Crater on Kilauea reached a new high, while a new lava lake might have been spotted at the remote Indian Ocean volcano, Heard Island. We also saw a phreatic explosion at Poás in Costa Rica.

I talked about the great GSA Field Forum in the Sierra Nevada that I attended over at the GSA Speaking of Geoscience blog. My experiments with R produced a list of the most active volcanoes (in terms of >VEI 5 eruptions) during the last 10,000 years. I also looked at how to discuss models versus observations in science research and some fearmongering in the media over Salton Buttes and Newberry caldera. We also saw the unfortunate verdict of the l’Aquila trial in Italy, a verdict that could have ramifications in hazard monitoring for years.

The fissure vents from the late November eruption of Tolbachik. Image: KVERT.


November was the host to a number of eruptions, most prominently the second explosion of 2012 at New Zealand’s Tongariro. This came very soon after an alert from GNS Science about elevated temperatures at Ruapehu, Tongariro’s neighbor (and in all likelihood, a complete coincident). Volcanoes in Indonesia were as busy as ever while Santa Maria in Guatemala had some of its most vigorous activity in a while. A small plume was also spotted at Chirpoi in the Kuril Islands. However, the big action of November was just to the north of Chirpoi, on the Kamchatka Peninsula. In late November, Tolbachik, part of a complex of volcanoes that includes Bezymianny and Kliuchevskoi, had its first eruption in 36 years. It was an impressive fissure eruption that had produced lava flows that travels 10s of kilometers down the slopes of the volcano.

With all the excitement of the US Presidential election in early November, I looked at the perception of probability versus prognostication when it comes to volcanic mitigation. If you’re looking for a volcano movie to watch, I finally wrote up my guide to volcanic cinema and I described what a SHRIMP-RG is and how I use it in my research.


As 2012 drew to a close, we were greeted by the media frenzy about the supposed December 21 “Maya Apocalypse” and considering that you’re reading this, it is safe to say that the end of the world was not 12/21/12. The Tolbachik eruption went strong for much of the month, with some gorgeous lava flows that showed off all the textbook features we look for in these volcanic events. New Zealand’s White Island produced something that hasn’t been in any textbook: an odd looking spiky spine/dome in the central crater. We also got an impressive eruption from Ecuador’s Tungurahua and some evidence that active volcanism might be occurring on Venus. However, just as the year was coming to a close, Copahue on the Chile/Argentina surprised us with an unexpected eruption, sending a plume across southern South America. I closed out the year talking about why rocks melt on Earth — a useful thing to know if you’re into volcanoes!

So, there you have it. The Volcanic Year in Review … and hopefully 2013 will bring us more volcanic excitement.


Erik Klemetti

Erik Klemetti is an assistant professor of Geosciences at Denison University. His passion in geology is volcanoes, and he has studied them all over the world. You can follow Erik on Twitter, where you’ll get volcano news and the occasional baseball comment.