Japan planning ahead … way ahead


I found this little press release that doesn’t have a huge amount of information, but is interesting nevertheless. The Coordinating Committee for Prediction of Volcanic Eruptions of Japan (nice name) is putting seven volcanoes on “24/7” monitoring. That sounds like we might see a lot of eruptions in Japan soon … except that their rationale was that these volcanoes “are likely to affect public life by erupting or becoming active in the coming 100 years”. That is quite the window of eruptive opportunity! The question is what exactly “24/7” monitoring – does this mean that someone/something will watch seismicity for signs of activity, or will this be a dedicated position that coordinates seismic, gas and deformation monitoring? The article doesn’t say much beyond seismographs and (vaguely) GPS. Nor does it mention what the seven new volcanoes are beyond Mt. Shirane and Mt. Norikura. However, I do give Japan credit for having such foresight when it comes to potential volcanic hazards.
One volcano that is already being constantly monitored is Mt. Asama, which has been erupting for over week. However, folks are already wondering when officials will say that Asama is “back to normal”. You can get a good idea of the ash dispersal from Asama with this excellent satellite image (above) from just after the January 21, 2009 eruption.

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Redoubt from space

The NASA Earth Observatory website posted this great image of Redoubt taken from Landsat images in 2000.

You can see a few neat things. The main thing I notice is that the Drift River Oil Terminal is in about the worst place you could put an oil terminal near a volcano like Redoubt. All the material from recent eruptions at Redoubt get focused down into the Drift River, which then heads off into the Cook Inlet via the Drift River flood plain (upper right hand side of the image). When this image was taken, the Drift River is still grey with volcanigenic material even 10 years after the last activity, showing that most of the material is mobilized in that direction. It still amazes me that the oil terminal was ever allowed to be built in that location.
As for the current state of things at Redoubt, AVO reports that the seismicity is still going and things remain much the same as it has been for the past few weeks. Officials on the Kenai Peninsula are assuring residents that they’re ready for an eruption. At this pace, they might have months to prepare!

Soufriere Hills from space


The latest eruption of Sourfriere was captured from space, and NASA has just released the MODIS picture of the volcano in action. The image (above and linked) was taken 2 days after the first explosion of this unanticipated and unexpected eruption – December 4. You definitely get the idea of how much of the island of Montserrat is taken up by the volcano itself (pretty much all of it). Not much else to report on Soufriere Hills beyond the update from MVO (via SI/USGS) for the end of last week:

On 3, 4, and 5 December small, relatively slow moving pyroclastic flows traveled no more than 3.2 km down the Gages valley. In periods between the events, near-continuous emissions of ash-laden steam were noted. The Hazard Level remained at 3.

So, beyond the lack of any precursory activity, sounds like eruption-as-usual on Montserrat.

Eruptions Mailbag


So, I get a steady diet of email messages here at the Eruptions HQ, so I thought I could try a little roundup of the great information/links that you readers are sending (and I apologize for taking so long for some of these). Enjoy!
– Tim Stone tells us about GeoEye pictures of volcanoes. GeoEye is the new satellite launched to add to the Google Earth images of the planet. There are some quite striking images of volcanoes included in the collection.
– Richard Roscoe sends us to some updated images of the on-going volcanic activity on Montserrat. As usual, there is an abundance of excellent images and information on this Photovolcanica page.
– Dan Cerveny points us to the preview of a new TV show that talks about the current eruption at Chaiten in Chile. In Harm’s Way (on the CW) is about dangerous professions (volcanologists are always assured of a place on that list) and episode 106 featured John Seach quest for pieces of the volcano. Not sure when it might air again, but I’m sure it will pop up on reruns (or online).
Keep the emails coming!

Keeping an eye on Redoubt


Redoubt Volcano, in Alaska, is one of the more troublesome volcanoes in the state. Not only is it relatively close to population centers, but it also lies directly within the aircraft corridors above the Aleutians for planes headed to Asia and beyond. This means that USGS and AVO geologists have to be especially vigilant in watching Redoubt’s every move.
Currently, the volcano has been recently changed to a yellow (elevated) alert, due to increased steam/volcanic gas emissions (remember, the number one volcanic gas is water vapor) at the volcano. So far, there haven’t been any reported eruptions of ash (i.e., juvenile, fresh magmatic material), but you never know how far behind rumblings and steam that could be (well, you can have an idea that it could be “not far”). It has been almost 19 years since the last eruption (see the famous image of the eruption column above) of Redoubt, so we’re all on pins-and-needles to see whether this activity will lead to a new eruptive period.

Four months later, Chaiten is still erupting


I wanted to post the new MODIS image of Chaiten that caught the volcano erupting on September 3. I won’t go into too much details, there are a lot of great updates over on the Volcanism Blog, but needless to say, the volcano is still very active, producing tall ash columns (you can see the ash blanket around the volcano in the image above as the plume drifts off to the northwest), earthquakes and pyroclastic flows as the dome in the caldera continues to grow. I’ll be interested to see what geologists know about the eruption and volcano when the AGU meeting rolls around in December as there will be a special session on the Chaiten 2008 eruption.

Sulfur dioxide from Kasatochi


Sorry about the lack of update. Having no internet while moving will do that! I did see an email this morning that had some interesting information about the amount of sulfur dioxide emitted by Kasatochi (Alaska) during the current eruption (thanks to Simon Carn, UMBC):

The August 7-8 eruption of Kasatochi volcano (Aleutian Islands)produced a very large stratospheric SO2 cloud – possibly the largest since the August 1991 eruption of Hudson (Chile). Preliminary SO2 mass calculations using Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) data suggest a total SO2 burden of ~1.5 Tg. This figure will be revised in the coming weeks but is more likely to go up than down. The SO2 cloud has drifted over a large area of North America and is now (August 14) reaching Europe.

It seems like Kasatochi has released quite a large flux of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. What effect this might have on climate is hard to tell, typically large SO2 fluxes will lower global temperature (or at least hemispheric temperature) by a fraction of a degree annually – which can actually still have a perceivable effect on weather. For those of you interested in where all the SO2 is in the atmosphere, try out this site run by NOAA that provides maps and predictions for SO2 movement.

Kasatochi from space


NASA posted a nice image of the ash plume from the current eruption at Kasatochi (Alaska) showing the brown/grey ash mixing with white clouds over the Pacific. Not much else to report on the eruption other than that AVO reported that seismicity remained low from August 10-12.

Kasatochi ash causing airline cancellations


The current eruption at Kasatochi is causing a lot of flight cancellations for flights from Alaska to points in the continental US. The ash is swirling its way around the Aleutians along flight lanes (see above), with the ash drifting southeast over the Alaska Panhandle and could hamper air travel in Alaska and Canada for days according to the USGS (although Alaska Air says it might start flying again later today). As for the eruption itself, not much new news beyond the initial impression that the volcano went from quiet to explosively erupting to produce at 35,000 foot (~10,000 meter) ash column in a short period of time. The little bit of information I can glean from these articles mentions that activity at Kasatochi appeared to increase over the weekend (and that seismic activity increased and decreased over the weekend at one of the other erupting Aleutian volcanoes, Okmok).
Update 8/11/08 12:30PM PDT: Alaska Air has resumed its flights from Alaska.

Mixed results for the Aleutians


The folks up in Alaska have a lot to watch these days in the Aleutians, with three volcanoes erupting right now. Just a quick update on the current activity:
 

  • Kasatochi: The eruption that started Thursday and produced 45,000 foot ash columns has quieted by Saturday, but there are still moderate (M=5) earthquakes being recorded near the island (above, before eruption).
  • Okmok: Ash from the month-long eruption is falling on islands near the caldera.
  • Cleveland: Activity at Cleveland has quieted to the point that no ash column was spotted on Saturday.