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Feb 05, 2013

News 24

February 5, 2013NAPLES, ITALY – A restive supervolcano west of Naples is raising nervousness in the local Italian population. The ground of the Campi Flegrei “burning fields,” also known as the Phlegraean Fields, has risen more in recent weeks than it has in a long time. This does not necessary indicate a heightened risk of an eruption, however, said Thomas Wiersberg, a scientific drilling expert for the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam. The Phlegraean Fields are a large caldera, or volcanic crater, lying mostly underwater off the Italian coast. The caldera is thought to have been formed by a massive eruption some 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. The last major eruption in the fields of boiling mud and sulphurous steam holes, one of a few dozen super volcanoes worldwide, occurred in 1538. Wiersberg is part of an international research team that began drilling into the ground not far from the caldera last summer to monitor possible early warning signs of an eruption. The team has drilled a pilot hole to a depth of 500 meters but no data has been gathered yet, Wiersberg said in an interview with dpa. Italy’s Department of Civil Protection recently raised the alert level for the Phlegraean Fields, where Wiersberg said the ground was rising by about three centimeters a month. There are concerns that a magma chamber under the fields, presumably connected to the one under Mount Vesuvius, east of Naples, is filling up, the rising pressure possibly heightening the danger of an eruption. As Wiersberg pointed out, however, the two episodes of considerable ground uplift since the 1960s were not followed by an eruption. The uplift in the early 1970s, about 1.50 meters in three years, was somewhat greater than the current one, he said. “Many houses cracked,” after which the ground deformation sharply subsided, Wiersberg said. “But it’s true that the uplift has increased again during the past two or three months.” An eruption could have serious consequences for the heavily populated region with knock-on effects for the whole of Europe. There could also be worldwide impact, for example in the form of climatic changes. No forecasts have been made thus far. Since super volcanoes seldom undergo massive eruptions, empirical data is lacking. “It’s easy to assert there’ll be an eruption sometime. That doesn’t help us, though. We need more specific information,” Wiersberg said. He said the drilling project aimed in part to monitor the Phlegraean Fields over the long term and gain more knowledge of what had occurred earlier in the super volcano. “First we’ve got to understand what’s happening under the surface,” Wiersberg said. Then it may be possible to say more about the likelihood of an eruption. Fears of nearby residents, and some scientists, that the drilling could “awaken” the super volcano have proved to be unfounded. “Technically, everything went smoothly. No additional volcanic activities were triggered, nor were there any problems with gases or fluids,” he noted. It has not yet been decided when the scientists will continue their project and begin drilling to a depth of 3km. “At the moment it’s mainly a financial question,” Wiersberg said.

Seismologist warns of megathrust earthquake threat for New Zealand

HBTNZ

February 4, 2013NEW ZEALAND – Less than 100km off the coast of Hawke’s Bay is a deep-water trench that could be the site of a potential megathrust earthquake similar to the 2011 Japan earthquake, says seismologist Kevin Furlong. Despite the Hikurangi Trench’s potential, he said very little was known about the underwater valley, where the Pacific plate was dragged underneath the Australian plate. Professor Furlong, of Pennsylvania State University, said the worst-case scenario for the East Coast was not yet known. “Many, if not most, scientists working on these megathrust earthquake plate boundaries would argue that, although it is very, very unlikely, until we can demonstrate otherwise we should expect that major segments of these boundaries could rupture simultaneously. Most of the time, as was the case in Japan for the past several hundred years at least, segments rupture individually and so maximum earthquakes are in the mid-to high magnitude 7 range. But on rare occasions, such as in 2011 in Japan, bigger ruptures can occur. We need to decide how best to manage that potential and uncertainty.” The trench will soon be part of a global study into megathrust earthquakes. “Although we understand the general concept and general physics of megathrusts – the big subduction zone earthquakes – we are finding in our data from recent major events such as in Sumatra [Boxing Day 2004], Chile in 2010, and most recently in Japan, that they each have characteristics that differ from each other, and our existing models of how we might think they should behave during the actual earthquake rupture are incomplete,” he said. “So we need to improve our understanding, to understand what is causing this variability and whether we can anticipate it in advance. Part of the reason for this is that, during the main era over which our understanding of subduction zone earthquakes was developed from the mid-1960s until the 1990s, as the theories of plate tectonics were developed, we didn’t have any earthquakes of the size of these recent big ones. So although our understanding worked well for the slightly smaller events, it isn’t adequate for the really big ones.” He said regular quakes felt on the East Coast were related to the Hikurangi subduction zone and plate boundary. “Some are in the upper plate – the North Island – and some are on the boundary between the upper plate and the subducting Pacific plate. They all provide information about how the plate boundary is locked and how the different components are deforming. But unfortunately these earthquakes don’t help release the stress that is building up. That will only be released by big earthquakes but perhaps not for hundreds of years. In our research, one of the things we do investigate is what spatial patterns there are to these smaller earthquakes, as we can use that information to estimate the way in which the plate boundary is locked.” The 2011 Japan megathrust earthquake measured a magnitude 9 and triggered a tsunami that reached heights of up to 40.5 meters in constricted places, travelling up to 10km inland. There were 15,878 deaths and 2713 people reported missing.

Indonesia’s Paluweh volcano ejects a 43,000 ft ash cloud

Volcano Discovery

February 3, 2013INDONESIA – A large ash plume rising to 43,000 ft (about 13 km) altitude and extending 175 nautical miles to the south was spotted last night by VAAC Darwin. The likely cause is either a major dome collapse triggering a large pyroclastic flow or a vulcanian explosion of the lava dome. According to the first local press reports, an explosion occurred at the volcano last night at 23:36 local time. People from the north coast of Flores (17 km distance to the south) reported having heard rumbling and detonation sounds and seen incandescent lava ejections. A cloud of ash drifted over Flores and deposited about half a millimeter of fine ash in areas of the north coast. People were advised to stay home and wear dust masks. No reports were found about the situation on Palueh Island itself. The aviation alert level of the volcano was raised to Red.

Powerful 6.9 earthquake shakes northern Japan

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, February 2, 2013 13:46 EST

A powerful 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck northern Japan on Saturday, causing strong tremors across Hokkaido island but generating no tsunami or immediate reports of damage, authorities said.

The quake, which was preceded by an early warning broadcast on television and radio, hit near the town of Obihiro at a depth of 103 kilometres (64 miles) at 23:17 pm (1417 GMT), according to US Geological Survey data.

Japan’s meteorological agency said there was no threat of a tsunami from the quake, and public broadcaster NHK cited police in Hokkaido as saying there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Blackouts were reported in some areas and a number of highways were closed, Kyodo News reported, citing officials.

Strong tremors were felt throughout Hokkaido — the nation’s second-largest island and a popular destination for skiing — as well as the main island of Honshu which lies to its south, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Several of Japan’s nuclear facilities are located in Aomori prefecture in Honshu’s north, but the companies which run the facilities said there were no abnormalities reported after the quake.

Full Article

Austria shaken by strongest earthquake in 13 years

Austria 2-2

February 2, 2013AUSTRIA – A 4.5-magnitude quake shook southern Austria on Saturday, the country’s ZAMG meteorological and geodynamic institute said, but it was not immediately clear whether it had caused any damage. The quake struck at 14:35 pm (1335 GMT) and “was strongly felt” in the Karavanke mountain range bordering Slovenia, near Eisenkappel in Austria’s southern state of Carinthia, the centre said. About two months ago, an earthquake measuring a magnitude of 4.3 on the Richter scale hit the Slovenian side of the Karavanke mountain range, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of the Austrian border. In the year 2000, Austria’s eastern provinces and its capital Vienna were shaken by the strongest earthquake in 20 years, Austrian television reported. The quake, which measured 4.8 on the Richter scale, caused minor damage to buildings in the provinces of Lower Austria and Burgenland. The epicenter was in the Lower Austrian town of Ebreichsdorf, some 20 km (13 miles) south of Vienna.

Fields of fire: 4 volcanoes now erupting simultaneously in Kamchatka

Spiegel

February 1, 2013KAMCHATKA – Volcanic eruptions are hardly a rarity. It seems that a new one goes off every few weeks or so somewhere in the world. But a string of four volcanoes erupting in close proximity to one another is virtually unheard of. That, though, is what has taken place in recent weeks on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East. Four different cones and mountains, all within 180 kilometers (110 miles) of each other, have been active simultaneously since late November. Given that volcano experts don’t believe that the four volcanoes are being fed from the same magma source, the parallel eruptions would seem to be the geological equivalent of winning the lottery. That volcanoes erupt in Kamchatka is, of course, hardly news. The peninsula, which has a total land mass that is slightly larger than Germany, is one of the most active parts of the infamous “Ring of Fire,” the zone of volcanic and seismic activity that encircles the Pacific Ocean. Three tectonic plates — the North American Plate, the Okhotsk Plate and the Pacific Plate — collide beneath Kamchatka, with the peninsula’s coastal range boasting 30 active volcanoes. All four of the volcanoes now erupting have shown significant activity in recent years. Most recently, Tobalchik began spewing lava on Nov. 27 of last year, creating the impressive lava flows visible in the 360 degree video taken by Airpano. Shiveluch, the northernmost of the four, prefers shooting columns of ash high into the air, which it has been doing on a regular basis during the last four years since a magma dome in its crater exploded. Besymjanny awoke with a bang in the 1950s following 1,000 years of dormancy and has been active since then, with huge clouds of ash rising on a regular basis. Finally, the southernmost of the quartet, Kisimen, has been erupting regularly since 2010, and there is concern that it could perform a repeat of the violent explosion which sheered of half of the mountain some 1,300 years ago.

Indonesia’s Mount Lokon volcano shaken by double eruptions

Inilah translated

January 31, 2013INDONESIA – Mount Lokon in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, erupted twice throughout Thursday (31/01/2013) afternoon. Head Volcano Observation Post Lokon and Mahawu, Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) Bandung Geological Agency, Ruskanda Farid Bina, said the first explosion occurred at 6:54 pm and was followed by a second explosion at 10:44 pm, and that was followed by a boom that sounded up to the settlements located around the crater. “We could not observe the height of the eruption of dust because of the condition of the fog around the crater. At first eruption eruption dust altitude of about eight hundred yards,” said Farid. He said the series of eruptions occurred after an increase in seismicity that occurred on Wednesday (30/1) at 22:54 pm. “Until now the status is still at alert level three,” he said.

Russian scientists voice concerns about dangers of a supervolcano erupting in Italy

Voice of Russia

January 31, 2013ITALY – It looks like we may be in for an earth-shattering explosion. A dormant super volcano appears to be stirring under the Phlegraen Fields of Naples in Italy. Rising soil temperatures and surface deformation in the area have alarmed seismologists. In the distant past, volcanic super eruptions caused global climate change responsible for mass extinctions of plant and animal species. So far, scientists are unable to model the potential consequences of an awakening supervolcano. Latest studies show that the Phlegraen Fields have actually been swelling above sea level at a rate of 3 cm per month. Micro quakes and large amounts of gases accumulated in soil indicate that the volcano may be preparing to erupt, says Vladimir Kiryanov, Assistant Professor of Geology at the St. Petersburg University. “The Phlegraen Fields is a supervolcano. Yellowstone in the United States and Toba in Indonesia are also supervolcanoes capable of spewing more than 1,000 cubic km of magma. These are catastrophic eruptions. There was a huge volcanic eruption in the Phlegraen Fields some 30,000-40,000 years ago. Volcanic ash from that eruption is still found in the Mediterranean, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and even in Russia. We are now seeing the expansion of a magma pocket, which means that there might be an eruption at a certain time.” Super eruptions of such magnitude may produce the so-called “volcanic winter” effect when sulfur gases and ash will reach the stratosphere and cover the globe with thick ash clouds that solar rays will be unable to penetrate. Condensed sulfur trioxides will react with moisture, forming sulfuric acid. Downpours of sulfuric acid will hit the Earth. Scientists have obtained new evidence of a similar cataclysm following the eruption of the Toba super volcano on island of Sumatra in Indonesia about 74,000 years ago. But today, things promise to be even more devastating. Suffice it to recall the havoc wreaked by a minor increase in volcanic activity in Iceland in 2010 on air transportation over Europe. Super eruptions occurred so rarely that it is virtually impossible to calculate the approximate time span between the first and last stages of a future potential eruption. In the 1970s, the Phlegraen Fields inflated by more than 50 cm. There were even cracks in house walls. But then the process slackened. Apparently, the fact itself that a magma chamber is being filled with magma may or may not signal any immediate eruption. Alexei Sobisevich, laboratory chief at the Institute of Volcanology and Geophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, shares his view: “It actually seems to be a long-term precursor. A magma chamber may be filled up within a span ranging from decades to centuries. Many mounts grow by 5 cm per year. This is a natural process.” Some scientists hold that the volcanic system of the Earth is becoming increasingly tense and that underground cavities are full of magma, threatening to burst out any moment. Whether this will be a super eruption or a string of smaller eruptions, we should prepare for the worst.

Crater lake on White Island volcano dries up, as activity increases

Stuff

January 30, 2013NEW ZEALAND – The hot crater lake on White Island has now completely dried up as explosive rocks, mud and gas continue to be thrown into the air from the active volcano. White Island has been spewing a steady stream of gas since activity heated up in December. It’s the most active the volcano has been since 2000. GNS Science vulcanologist Brad Scott said a “small tuff cone” was forming on the bottom of the crater lake, and the active vent was producing “vigorous bursts” of mud, rock, steam and gas up to 100 meters into the air. “GNS Science’s past monitoring of the island shows that new eruptive episodes often develop out of this type of activity,” Scott said. “Small muddy lakes sometimes form in craters. As the unrest develops, geysering and explosions occur through these lakes, becoming more vigorous with time.” He said the activity did not necessarily mean an explosion or full-scale eruption would happen, although one could at any time. Even though there was an elevated risk to tourists on the island, conditions weren’t so dangerous that people could not travel there. Tourism has, in fact, been booming at White Island as the volcano heats up, with visitors eager to see some explosive action. Frontier Helicopters is one of three helicopter tour operators which fly around the island. Owner Mark Law said there had definitely been a greater interest in the activity from visitors lately. “It is our busy season, so it’s a little hard to gauge whether or not more people are coming to visit the island because of it, but there is a greater awareness about the island from tourists, definitely,” he said. Law said company worked closely with GNS to assess the safety and in a worst-case scenario – a full scale eruption – it would simply mean they would not be able to fly as close. “The only thing is, if it gets to any serious level of activity there’s an exclusion zone which we operate by, because you can never tell just how far it will throw rocks,” Law said. At this stage, it was still possible to get reasonably close to the crater. One of the pilots from Frontier was able to get about 180 meters away to film some spectacular footage of the explosions on Monday.

Eruption of Japan’s Mt. Fuji volcano could force the evacuation of more than half a million

Japan Times

January 30, 2013JAPAN – An eruption of Mount Fuji could force some 567,000 people to evacuate their homes, according to a new estimate. The projection is part of an evacuation plan crafted by the Shizuoka Prefectural Government that also says more than 130,000 people, comprising some 50,000 households, would have to relocate if lava were to reach residential districts in the city of Fuji, which lies just south of the 3,776-meter mountain. Depending on the number and locations of vents, evacuation from wider areas could be needed. The plan is based on a hazard map prepared by the central government based on Fuji’s last eruption, in 1707. Under the evacuation plan, 10 zones have been designated at the foot of the mountain based on the expected direction of lava flows. The plan specifies evacuation zones in four grades. The Yamanashi Prefectural Government is preparing a similar evacuation plan. Plans will be finalized at a consultation forum involving Shizuoka, Yamanashi and Kanagawa prefectures and the central government. Joint evacuation drills in the three prefectures will also be conducted.

Unending rivers of lava now flowing from Kamchatka’s Plosky Tolbachik volcano

Telegraph

January 28, 2013KAMCHATKA – A volcano erupting in Russia’s Far East has sent plumes of gas, ash and molten lava into the sky. Footage filmed on Friday shows rivers of molten lava flowing in the remote area of the Plosky Tolbachik volcano, in Kamchatka peninsula. “The hot materials have erupted to the height of up to one hundred meters,” said Yuri Demyanchuk, a volcanologist who has made several visits to the site. According to authorities, there is no immediate threat to residential areas, but officials have advised residents to ensure they have access to protective masks. The nearest town is around 60 kilometers away. The volcano started erupting in November, after lying dormant for almost 40 years.

42: Indonesia’s Batu Tara volcano erupts with explosive 2.1 km ash cloud

Volcano Discovery Wikipedia

January 28, 2013INDONESIA – A stronger than usual explosion produced an ash plume spotted on satellite data at 7,000 ft (2.1) km altitude today (VAAC Darwin). Batu Tara stratovolcano is a small isolated island in the Flores Sea in Indonesia. Vegetations covers the flanks of Batu Tara. The first historical eruption occurred in 1852 with explosions and lava flows. The last eruption occurred at the volcano in 2012.

Increase in activity reported at volcanoes in Ecuador

Ecuvisa translated

January 27, 2013ECUADOR – Seismic activity of the Tungurahua volcano in central Ecuador Andean increased today after the two quakes struck near the volcanoes on Thursday; while the emissions released by the Reventador volcano remains high, as in recent days. This was reported by the Geophysical Institute (IG) of the National Polytechnic School, which closely monitors the behavior of the two active Ecuadorian volcanoes. In the case of Tungurahua, located about 80 kilometers south of Quito, the IG said in its latest report that the two earthquakes of 3.1 and 2.3 degrees on the Richter scale recorded last night, were due to the activity of the volcano. After these tremors, the Institute’s network of seismographs noticed an increase in activity, due to the pressure and rupture of rocks within the volcano. In the last 24 hours, the IG has detected 10 long period earthquakes mild, related to internal fluid movement, and has also noted the decline of black ash and thick debris over Palitahua, a town in southern colossus. The report states that last night the two earthquakes were located in the northwestern flank of the volcano, less than 12 kilometers deep, caused by the “fluid pressurization and mobilization” inside the mountain. Because of the cloud cover in the area has been impossible to make observations of the surface of the crater, the report said. The Tungurahua, 5,016 meters high, last December saw eruptive pulse generations, characterized by explosions, and a constant emission of steam and ash. In early January, the phenomenon briefly subsided, and seismic activity showed an apparent calm. This behavior is common in Tungurahua, whose eruptive process began in 1999, and has since interspersed periods of high activity and periods of relative quiet. Regarding Reventador volcano, located about 90 kilometers east of Quito in an unpopulated area of the entrance to the Amazon, the IG said today there was high seismic activity, characterized by a constant tremor signal. That signal, high energy and low frequency, is maintained since last Tuesday and would be associated with the movement of fluids in the volcanic edifice. Although the dense cloud cover in the area has prevented scientists from making observations of the crater IG, seismic information warns of incandescent rockfalls from the flanks of the mountain. Reventador, of 3,485 meters, generating a large explosion in 2002 and launched into the air millions of tons of ash, by wind, they reached Quito, a city that was stained with a thick coat of that material.The Tungurahua and Reventador next to Sangay, are among the most active in Ecuador, which has more than fifty in all its geography, crossed by the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire.

41: Growing unrest seen at many of the world’s volcanoes

Volcano Discovery

TEP volcanoes

January 26, 2013EARTHBárdarbunga (Iceland): Earthquakes at shallow depths (around 5 km) continue at reduced rate. Reventador (Ecuador): Activity continues, but likely has becoming more intermittent judging from the seismic signal. Visual observations are most of the time impossible. In a special bulletin posted yesterday IGEPN summarizes the beginning of the new eruptive phase: Seismicity began to increase significantly on January 22. The same day, volcanologists received the first reports of sounds of explosions and rumblings heard. On the evening of 22 Jan, new explosive activity produced an ash-rich plume rising 1500 m above the crater, and a new lava flow was detected on the southeastern flank, with its length estimated about 1500 m and the flow front at 2600 m elevation. Volcanologists have also could see on photographs taken that day, that the lava dome from the previous eruptive phase had grown. Kizimen (Kamchatka, Russia): The new lava flow from the summit on the north-eastern flank of the volcano continues to be active, KVERT reports. Incandescence of the volcano summit, hot avalanches, strong gas-steam activity and moderate levels of seismicity accompany this process. Tolbachik (Kamchatka, Russia): The eruption continues with little changes. Lava flows continue to erupt from the southern fissure, accompanied by stable, relatively high levels of tremor. Our French colleagues from activolcans received a brief eyewitness report: (translated from original) “The activity of the active cone was always very intense. Until yesterday (25 Jan) activity was marked by vigorous strombolian explosions that sometimes merged into lava fountains of 200-250 m height.” Kilauea (Hawai’i): Good magma supply continues to feed the lava lakes at the summit (Halema’uma’u) and the rift zone (Pu’u O’o), and lava flows that reach the ocean in multiple locations. Today, a small swarm of shallow quakes is occurring at the upper eastern rift zone a few km SE of the caldera. So far, 6 quakes in the magnitude 2 range have been recorded in this area and under the caldera itself today. Long Valley (California): Tiny quakes continue to be recorded under and near the Long Valley caldera. A small swarm is visible today in an area 20 km to the SE of Mammoth Mountain, at the SW limit of the caldera. Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): The number of gas/steam/minor ash emissions has jumped from rates of less than 1 every 2 hours during most of the past days to about 3 per hour (65 between 24-25 Jan). CENAPRED describes them of low to medium intensity and has observed continuing incandescence at the summit. The latest satellite data show an increased SO2 plume in correspondence with the elevated activity, and some volcanic quakes are visible at the current (now fixed?) seismogram. Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Explosions have been becoming more frequent; the volcano observatory reports weak to moderate ones with ash plumes rising up to 900 m during the past day. Effusion of lava flows continues. Fuego (Guatemala): During 24-25 Jan, it was not possible to observe the activity, but rumblings generated by explosions were heard. The lava flow length this morning was 800 meters, in southwestern direction. Nevado del Huila (Colombia): An SO2 plume detected on the latest NOAA satellite data suggests a phase of elevated degassing has been taking place. Sangay (Ecuador): A possible ash emission was reported last night (25 Jan) by Washington VAAC, but due to night time, satellite observation was not possible. A small thermal hot spot was detected at the summit, which suggests that probably weak or moderate strombolian activity has resumed in the crater.

 

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