The Moon Still Isn’t the Cause of Big Earthquakes

By Erik Klemetti | January 17, 2018 2:51 pm
A nearly full moon on July 4, 2012. Flickr.

A nearly full moon on July 4, 2012. Flickr.

You know you’ve seen it before: you hear we’re going to have a “supermoon” and someone out there on the internet is claiming they know that we’ll have big earthquakes because the moon will be full and closer to Earth. Clearly, it will cause faults all over the world to start moving and it will be utter destruction.

Yet, here we are. I’ve written before about the obsession for some to try to crack the supposed code for timing of earthquakes, whether it be some believed link with the moon’s cycle or the alignment of planets or solar flares or whatever. It is just human nature, to seek out patterns in the noise to help protect against a perceived threat (or that other part of human nature that wants to bring fame and fortune to oneself). However, when all is said and done, none of these pan out to be anything.

But … sometimes we really do need to beat a dead horse to try to quell these beliefs in pseudoscience.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Alert Raised as Explosions Rock Mayon in the Philippines

By Erik Klemetti | January 14, 2018 2:50 pm
Ash billowing after a phreatic (steam-driven) eruption at Mayon in the Philippines on January 13, 2018. PHIVOLCS.

Ash billowing after a phreatic (steam-driven) eruption at Mayon in the Philippines on January 13, 2018. PHIVOLCS.

Mayon in the Philippines hasn’t erupted since 2014, but it appears that it is waking up from its brief slumber. PHIVOLCS raised the alert status at Mayon to Level 3 (on a scale of 0-5) after a weekend of steam-driven (phreatic) eruptions and hundreds of earthquakes. This change in alert level came with a mandatory evacuation of people living within six kilometers of the volcano and seven kilometers from the southern side because of the potential for rock falls and pyroclastic flows. Schools in the area have also closed due to the new eruptive activity. The latest PHIVOLCS report also mentions that a strong glow was observed at the summit crater and a new summit dome and small lava flow on the southeast flanks.

UPDATE 1/15/2018 8:00 AM: PHIVOLCS released a picture that shows the long lava flow and glowing rockfalls on the flanks of Mayon (see below). Over 9,000 people have been evacuated from the area near the volcano so far and more could come if the eruption worsens. Some flights have been canceled as well due to the activity at Mayon. PHIVOLCS also maintains a webcam pointed at Mayon, although the weather makes it difficult to see much of the volcano right now.

Read More

Mudflows Devastate Parts of Southern California

By Erik Klemetti | January 12, 2018 9:14 am
Sediment from January mudflows burying cars and homes in Montecito, California, seen on January 10, 2018. California National Guard/Flickr.

Sediment from January mudflows burying cars and homes in Montecito, California, seen on January 10, 2018. California National Guard/Flickr.

This week has been a tragic one for parts of Southern California. Heavy rains have triggered landslides and mudflows that have killed over 17 people with dozens more missing. Now, this tragedy is a sequel to an earlier disaster: Wildfires ravaged the coastal mountains near Santa Barbara. However, they are two events that tend to go together because the effects of one prompt the other.

The wildfires that burned forests and homes in 2017 have the net impact of destabilizing rugged terrain like is found in towns like Montecito, where numerous mudflows have struck. As vegetation is burned – both trees and ground plants – the soil is exposed to rain water (or snow melt, in other places). The soil absorbs the water, but instead of having plant roots to keep much of that soil in place, it becomes a slurry that’s vulnerable to the force of gravity.

Read More

Eruption of Kadovar Is the First Surprise of 2018

By Erik Klemetti | January 6, 2018 4:00 pm
The smoldering crater at Kadovar in PNG, seen on January 6, 2018.

The smoldering crater at Kadovar in PNG, seen on January 6, 2018.

It only took 6 days into 2018 before the first “surprise” volcano to erupt. Kadovar in Papua New Guinea erupted today, producing a volcanic plume of ash and volcanic gases that reached a few thousand meters (to ~7,000 feet) according to the report from the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center. The activity has been enough for local authorities to evacuate the people from the small village on the small island located 25 kilometers off the northern shores of New Guinea. However, rescuers did not find anyone where they expected when they arrived. An photo of the volcano taken today shows grey ash coating the upper parts of the steep edifice and the crater steaming vigorously (see below).

UPDATE JANUARY 7, 2018: It appears that the 500-600 residents of the island have been evacuated, but details are sparse. Local reports suggest that half the island is covered in “lava”. I think this is actually a mistranslation or misunderstanding and that this really means covered in ash or volcanic debris. With the potential for pyroclastic flows hitting the sea around the island or even a landslide from the volcano failing, the Rabaul Volcano Observatory has warned that there is a potential for a tsunami to be generated if the eruption continues.

Aqua MODIS image taken January 7, 2018 showing the steam-and-ash plume from Kadovar along with the steam plume from Manam. The brown area is sediment from rivers flowing into the ocean. NASA.

Aqua MODIS image taken January 7, 2018 showing the steam-and-ash plume from Kadovar along with the steam plume from Manam. The brown area is sediment from rivers flowing into the ocean. NASA.

Today’s Aqua MODIS imagery (above) shows the plume from Kadovar stretching far to the northwest, along with a wispy steam plume from Manam, located to the southeast of Kadovar.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Announcing the 2017 Volcanic Event of the Year!

By Erik Klemetti | December 28, 2017 8:00 am
The spattering surface of the lava lake in the Halema'uma'u crater at Kilauea. HVO/USGS

The spattering surface of the lava lake in the Halema’uma’u crater at Kilauea. HVO/USGS

The ballots are in and the votes have been counted. Time to count down to the winner of the 2017 Pliny Award for Volcanic Event of the Year. Last year’s champion was Bogoslof in Alaska and its activity continued into 2017, so can we have our first back-to-back champion or did another volcano’s rumblings take the crown?

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

France Rejects “Easy Energy” in Their New Oil Exploration Ban and That’s Good

By Erik Klemetti | December 20, 2017 11:04 am
The city of Paris at night. By 2040, all oil exploration and production in France will end. Wikimedia Commons.

The city of Paris at night. By 2040, all oil exploration and production in France will end. Wikimedia Commons.

Today, Emmanuel Macron, the current president of France, announced that his country would no longer allow for oil exploration in its territory and by 2040, all oil extraction in France would be ended. Now, at first, you might be tempted to say this is merely symbolic as France isn’t exactly an huge oil producer, but you’d be wrong. France does have some significant oil resources that will now be locked in the ground for the sake of not adding more carbon dioxide to the Earth’s atmosphere. France is putting its marbles into energy sources that won’t contribute as much to the increasing greenhouse gases being emitted by burning fossil fuels.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Time to Vote for the 2017 Volcanic Event of the Year!

By Erik Klemetti | December 18, 2017 8:40 am
The steaming island of Bogoslof, the 2016 Pliny winner, seen on August 26, 2017. The eruption was declared over on December 8, 2017. AVO/USGS.

The steaming island of Bogoslof, the 2016 Pliny winner, seen on August 26, 2017. The eruption was declared over on December 8, 2017. AVO/USGS.

Yes, it is that time of the year again. For those of you who read my old blog, Eruptions, you know that each year, I ask the readers to vote for the Volcanic Event of the Year — or, as I’ve dubbed it, the Pliny. If you need some refresher on what was all the volcanic activity from the year, check out the Smithsonian/USGS Global Volcanism Program’s Weekly Volcanic Activity Report or the abridged highlights of the year in the Atlantic.

Here’s our Pliny winners from the past:

2009: Sarychev Peak, Russia
2010: Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland
2011: Puyehue-Cordón Caulle, Chile/Argentina
2012: Tolbachik, Russia
2013: Etna, Italy
2014: Holuhraun-Barðarbunga, Iceland
2015: Colima, Mexico
2016: Bogoslof, Alaska

You can cast a ballot with up to 3 volcanoes ranked 1 to 3. Vote by leaving a comment here, tweeting your picks to @eruptionsblog with #2017pliny or emailing me (rockyplanetblog at gmail). The polls will be open until December 26 at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time, so cast your ballot and I’ll count down the top volcanoes as 2017 closes out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs
MORE ABOUT: eruptions, Pliny, volcanoes

Peering into Erupting Volcanoes Is a Real Challenge

By Erik Klemetti | December 14, 2017 9:31 am
The eruption of Agung on November 27, 2017. Michael W. Ishak / Wikimedia Commons.

The eruption of Agung on November 27, 2017. Michael W. Ishak / Wikimedia Commons.

Monitoring volcanoes is really hard. Not only are you trying to deduce what a volcano is going to do using context clues like earthquakes, gas emissions and deformation, but once an eruption starts, trying to get a peak at what is coming out at the vent is downright dangerous. New technology like drones and satellites have allowed us to more clearly see what is happening where we couldn’t before, and these new data can help volcanologists better understand what a volcano might be doing next.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Let’s Talk About the Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom Trailer

By Erik Klemetti | December 8, 2017 12:04 pm
Sure, this is supposed to be Isla Nublar, but I'm pretty sure this is a valley on the big island of Hawaii. A shot from the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer.

Sure, this is supposed to be Isla Nublar, but I’m pretty sure this is a valley on Oahu in Hawaii. A shot from the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer.

First off, don’t get me wrong, I love crazy geo-related films. I’m not going to pull a Neil DeGrasse Tyson here and take all the fun out of a movie because it is horribly, fantastically wrong when it comes to the science … but maybe we need to have a few words about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The first trailer came out yesterday and more or less, we can sum the movie up thusly: Dinosaurs versus the Volcano. From what I can gather, the plot involves trying to rescue dinosaurs from Isla Nublar because a volcano (who knew it was volcanic? And why would you put your Dino park there if it was?*) is about to go, as they say, “non-linear” and destroy them all. So, let’s go save the raptors.

* David Bressan reminded me that in the original novel for Jurassic Park, the park is powered by geothermal, so a volcanic island isn’t entirely insane … although apparently nobody did a hazard assessment.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Can One Eruption Trigger More? My Top 5 Volcano Myths

By Erik Klemetti | December 6, 2017 11:32 am
A small 2009 eruption at Sakurajima in Japan. Kimon Berlin / Wikimedia Commons.

A small 2009 eruption at Sakurajima in Japan. Kimon Berlin / Wikimedia Commons.

Whenever volcanoes are in the news, I see a lot of wild rumors roaming the interwebs. The worst kind are those that try to sow panic and fear amongst the people living near an erupting or potentially erupting volcano by either spreading false news or sensationalizing the events. Sometimes it is more innocent, where the media just gets the science or terminology wrong, like referring to the stuff coming out of a volcano as “smoke” (it’s not) and that the “Ring of Fire” relates to anything beyond a good literary image. However, there are a few things I see consistently whenever a volcanic crisis emerges and I wanted to tackle these myths of volcanoes. I’m sure there are more out there, but these are the ones that really bug me.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Rocky Planet

Rocky Planet covers all the geologic events that made and will continue to shape our planet. From volcanoes to earthquakes to gold to oceans to other solar systems, I discuss what is intriguing and illuminating about the rocks beneath our feet and above our heads. Ever wonder what volcanoes are erupting? How tsunamis form and where? What rocks can tell us about ancient environments? How the Earth might change in the future? You'll find these answers and more on Rocky Planet.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar
+