I apologize for being missing for the last week. The big Geological Society of America meeting is next week in Vancouver BC and not only am I giving a talk and co-chairing a session, but two of my students are presenting posters. Needless to say, things have been busy. My talk centers on what zircon can tell us about the storage conditions and source magmas across the Cascade Range. I have zircon data from four Cascade volcanoes: St. Helens, Hood, South Sister and Lassen, it is a great chance to see how the differences in different parts of the Cascade arc might influence the composition of zircon. My two students are both presenting on their pieces of the Lassen Volcanic Center project, so we’ll be presenting over 800,000 years of zircon data.
In case you missed it, be sure to read David Wolman’s coverage of the appeal for the Italian geologists convicted in the aftermath of the L’Aquila earthquake. It still amazes me how much the Italian judicial system is willing to believe in charlatans and find scapegoats for an act of nature.
Two updates for today, dominated by action at the two most famous hotspots on the planet:
A new fissure started erupting this morning to the south of the current activity in the Holuhraun lava fields in Iceland. These two new fissures are closer to the Vatnajökull ice cap (just 2 km north of its edge), so concern is growing larger than the eruption will start happening subglacially, potentially causing jökulhlaups (glacial outburst floods) as the lava erupts under the ice. The Icelandic Meteorological Office is also reporting that the cauldron (depression) in Dyngjujökull, the northern part of the ice cap, is getting larger and more pronounced, both of which are signs that more heat is being felt at the bottom of the ice (possibly caused by eruptions under the ~300-350 meters of ice). Check out these images of the cauldron on the ice surface. The most serious ramification is the potential for more explosive style of eruption if water can mix with the lava.
The steam plume from the eruption is reaching 4.5 km (15,000 feet) and the sulfur dioxide plume is beginning to spread beyond the region right around Iceland. Changes in the weather patterns around the island suggest that the plume may spread enough to reach Europe, although the only possible ramifications of that might be some sulfur odor across the British Isles.
A combination of a thermal and visible image of the Royal Gardens subdivision lava flow field, showing the active (bright) and inactive (dark) lava flows. You can also notice the prominent kipuku (forest surrounded by lava flows) on both sides of the active lava flow in the foreground. Image taken on May 31, 2012, courtesy of USGS/HVO.
There is a big anniversary this week (well, other than our first wedding anniversary) – but I’ll have more on that on Wednesday. Today, I thought I’d update a few bits of volcanic news from the past week or so. If you’re looking for even more details on the week’s volcanic events, check out the latest USGS/Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program Weekly Volcanic Activity Report (of which a few of the updates get linked to below).
Be sure to watch the Ruiz webcams to see any changes at the volcano.
The lava flows (see above) and ups/downs of the Halema’uma’u Crater lava lake have continued into the early summer at Kilauea on the Big Island. The level of the summit lava lake has oscillated over the last week, changing as much as 60 meters (relative to the floor of the summit crater) and parts of the crater wall falling into the lava lake. You can also check out a brief piece of the earthquake and volcanic threat to another Hawaiian island, Maui.
BAGANA Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) – Satellite map – summit elev. 1750 m
Based on analyses of satellite imagery, the Darwin VAAC reported that on 23 August an ash plume from Bagana rose to an altitude of 3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 93 km SW. Volcano Information : Bagana volcano, occupying a remote portion of central Bougainville Island, is one of Melanesia’s youngest and most active volcanoes. Bagana is a massive symmetrical lava cone largely constructed by an accumulation of viscous andesitic lava flows. The entire lava cone could have been constructed in about 300 years at its present rate of lava production. Eruptive activity at Bagana is characterized by non-explosive effusion of viscous lava that maintains a small lava dome in the summit crater, although explosive activity occasionally producing pyroclastic flows also occurs. Lava flows form dramatic, freshly preserved tongue-shaped lobes up to 50-m-thick with prominent levees that descend the volcano’s flanks on all sides.
RANAKAH Flores Island (Indonesia) – Satellite map – summit elev. 2350 m
CVGHM reported that observers of Anak Ranakah, a lava dome that formed in 1987 at the base of the large older lava dome of Ranakah, noted white plumes rising up to 10 m high during January-24 August. Seismicity initially increased in December 2010, but increased again during June-August. Based on visual observations and seismic data analyses, CVGHM raised the Alert Level to 2 (on a scale of 1-4). Volcano Information : A new lava dome, named Anak Ranakah (Child of Ranakah) was formed in 1987 in an area without previous historical eruptions at the base of the large older lava dome of Gunung Ranakah. An arcuate group of lava domes extending westward from Gunung Ranakah occurs on the outer flanks of the poorly known Poco Leok caldera on western Flores Island. Pocok Mandosawa lava dome, at 2350 m the highest point on the island of Flores, lies west of Anak Ranakah.
TAMBORA Sumbawa Island (Indonesia) – Satellite map – summit elev. 2850 m
Based on visual observation and seismic data, CVGHM reported an increase in activity at Tambora during the previous five months. Ground-based observers at an observation post in Tambora village noted dense white plumes rising 50-75 m above the caldera rimduring April and June, but no plumes during May or July. In August dense white plumes rose 20 m above the caldera rim. Seismicity started to increase in April and continued to increase through August. On 30 August the Alert Level was raised to 2 (on a scale of 1-4). Volcano Information : The massive Tambora stratovolcano forms the entire 60-km-wide Sanggar Peninsula on northern Sumbawa Island. The largely trachybasaltic-to-trachyandesitic volcano grew to about 4000 m elevation before forming a caldera more than 43,000 years ago. Late-Pleistocene lava flows largely filled the early caldera, after which activity changed to dominantly explosive eruptions during the early Holocene. Tambora was the source of history’s largest explosive eruption, in April 1815. Pyroclastic flows reached the sea on all sides of the peninsula, and heavy tephra fall devastated croplands, causing an estimated 60,000 fatalities. The eruption of an estimated more than 150 cu km of tephra formed a 6-km-wide, 1250-m-deep caldera and produced global climatic effects. Minor lava domes and flows have been extruded on the caldera floor at Tambora during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Gunung Tambora picture courtesy Pirata Alado – http://www.panoramio.com/photo/36914449
PAPANDAYAN Western Java (Indonesia) – Satellite map – summit elev. 2665 m
On 26 August CVGHM reported that Papandayan showed minor to no changes in recent seismicity, deformation, geochemistry, and visual observations; therefore the Alert Level remained at 3 (on a scale of 1-4). Seismicity remained high, but stable, and was dominated by shallow volcanic earthquakes. Deformation measurements showed no change, and water temperatures in multiple fumarolic areas and lakes remained relatively unchanged. Sulfur dioxide gas emissions decreased from 8 tons per day on 12 August to 6 tons per day on 23 August. Carbon dioxide in the soil at a 1 m depth in multiple areas did not increase. Visitors and residents were advised not to venture within 2 km of the active crater. Volcano Information : Papandayan is a complex stratovolcano with four large summit craters, the youngest of which was breached to the NE by collapse during a brief eruption in 1772 and contains active fumarole fields. The broad 1.1-km-wide, flat-floored Alun-Alun crater truncates the summit of Papandayan, and Gunung Puntang to the N gives the volcano a twin-peaked appearance. Several episodes of collapse have given the volcano an irregular profile and produced debris avalanches that have impacted lowland areas beyond the volcano. Since its first historical eruption in 1772, in which a catastrophic debris avalanche destroyed 40 villages, only two small phreatic eruptions have occurred from vents in the NE-flank fumarole field, Kawah Mas.
ETNA Sicily (Italy) – Satellite map – summit elev. 3330 m
Sezione di Catania – Osservatorio Etneo reported that nine days after the previous episode, the New SE Crater produced its twelfth paroxysmal eruptive episode of 2011 during the early morning of 29 August. The event was preceded by an explosion at 2252 on 27 August, and a series of ash emissions from the New SE Crater almost 15 hours later. Weak Strombolian activity visible during the evening on 28 August intensified during the night.
At 0115 on 29 August lava overflowed the rim through a breach in the E crater rim and traveled towards the Valle del Bove. Strombolian activity progressively intensified and two vents within the crater emitted pulsating lava fountains up to 100 m high. The lava fountains again increased in height and a dense plume rose a few kilometers above the summit before drifting toward the SSE. At the same time, a small lava flow issued from the area affected by the collapse of a portion of the cone’s ESE flank during the 20 August paroxysm. At 0220 the SE flank of the cone fractured and exposed a line of new eruptive vents down to the base of the cone that produced lava fountains. A broad lava flow fed by the vents descended into the Valle del Bove, somewhat to the S of the lava flow emitted earlier during the episode. The lava fountaining from the vents within the crater turned into ash emission just after 0220, whereas the lowest vent on the new eruptive fracture continued to produce incandescent jets until 0250. Ash emission continued at a diminishing rate until about 0315. Read also : Another beautiful eruption of Mt Etna (Italy) on August 29 2011 + videos Volcano Information : Mount Etna, towering above Catania, Sicily’s second largest city, has one of the world’s longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 BC. Historical lava flows cover much of the surface of this massive basaltic stratovolcano, the highest and most voluminous in Italy. Two styles of eruptive activity typically occur at Etna. Persistent explosive eruptions, sometimes with minor lava emissions, take place from one or more of the three prominent summit craters, the Central Crater, NE Crater, and SE Crater. Flank eruptions, typically with higher effusion rates, occur less frequently and originate from fissures that open progressively downward from near the summit. A period of more intense intermittent explosive eruptions from Etna’s summit craters began in 1995. The active volcano is monitored by the Instituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Volcanologia (INGV) in Catania.
KILAUEA Hawaii (USA) – satellite map – summit elev. 1222 m
During 24-30 August, HVO reported that the level of the lava-lake surface in the deep pit within Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u crater periodically fluctuated but remained below the inner ledge 75 m below the crater floor. At Pu’u ‘O’o’ crater, lava from sources on the E and S portions of the crater floor fed a lava lake that was formed during 25-26 August. A new source opened at the W edge of the crater floor during 29-30 August, and lava quickly spread N and S along the base of the W crater wall. Volcano Information : Kilauea, one of five coalescing volcanoes that comprise the island of Hawaii, is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Eruptions at Kilauea originate primarily from the summit caldera or along one of the lengthy E and SW rift zones that extend from the caldera to the sea. About 90% of the surface of Kilauea is formed of lava flows less than about 1,100 years old; 70% of the volcano’s surface is younger than 600 years. A long-term eruption from the East rift zone that began in 1983 has produced lava flows covering more than 100 sq km, destroying nearly 200 houses and adding new coastline to the island.
The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report is a cooperative project between the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program.
Updated every Week (mostly Wednesday), notices of volcanic activity posted on these pages are preliminary and subject to change as events are studied in more detail. This is not a comprehensive list of all of Earth’s volcanoes erupting during the week, but rather a summary of activity of volcanoes that meet criteria discussed in detail in the “Criteria and Disclaimers” section.