Vote for Groups E and F in the Geology World Cup

By Erik Klemetti | June 20, 2018 10:03 am

The 2018 Geology World Cup continues! Remember, vote for the other groups so far: Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D.

Group E

Brazil

The mouth of the Amazon River, seen from space in 1990. NASA.

The mouth of the Amazon River, seen from space in 1990. NASA.

Let’s not beat around the bush, Brazil has the Amazon. One of the most remarkable river systems on the planet, it dominates the central portion of the country and flushes an amazing amount of sediment from the base of the Andes to the west out into the Atlantic to the east. But that’s not all! The only flood basalt province in South America sits in the area where Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay meet. These Cretaceous lavas, known as the Paraná Traps, cover over 1.5 million square kilometers. There are even hints that some of the Paraná was explosively erupted.

Costa Rica

The steaming summit of Arenal. Wikimedia Commons.

The steaming summit of Arenal. Wikimedia Commons.

This Central American nation is dominated by volcanoes. Until recently, Arenal was a lighthouse of a volcano, in almost constant eruption since 1968. However, it fell quiet in 2010 and has remained that way. However, eruptions at Turrialba, Poás and Rincón de la Vieja in the last decade have made up for Arenal’s nap. Beyond these volcanic features, which are driving Costa Rica’s push towards energy independence through geothermal, Costa Rica has has some amazing coral reefs off the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of the country.

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Kīlauea Builds a Cinder Cone and a New Eruption Starts in the Galapagos

By Erik Klemetti | June 19, 2018 10:58 am
The cinder/spatter cone being built by Fissure 8, here reaching 50 meters at its rim on June 16, 2018. USGS/HVO.

The cinder/spatter cone being built by Fissure 8, here reaching 50 meters at its rim on June 16, 2018. USGS/HVO.

The eruption on Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone continues onward, with Fissure 8 building an impressive cinder cone similar to the one that was formed during the 1960 eruption that the current lavas have wrapped around (see map below). The cinder cone, built by the fountaining of lava from fissure 8, is now over 50 meters (170 feet) tall with a pulsating lava fountain that reaches 20-50 meters (60-165 feet). All this lava is feeding a very entrenched lava flow that is still reaching the ocean at the former site of Kapoho Bay. Small lava flows or occasional spatter are still spilling from Fissures 6, 16 and 18, but right now it is really Fissure 8 that is driving the eruption. The lava in the channel has been clocked at 24 km/hr (15 mph) close to the vent itself, when the lava is hottest. By the time the flow reaches the ocean, it has slowed down significantly to ~2 km/hr (1.5 mph), mostly thanks to all the cooling that has happened, making the lava stickier and more resistant to flow. The fast moving lava from Fissure 8 might suggest that the eruption is tapping even hotter magma, allowing for such rapid flows to form.

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Vote for Groups C and D in the Geology World Cup

By Erik Klemetti | June 18, 2018 10:17 am

I’ll have another post later today with some of the geology news of the weekend, including the eruptions in Kīlauea and Fernandina, along with the earthquake in Japan. However, first I’ll give everyone a chance to vote for Groups C and D in the Geology World Cup. If you haven’t voted in Group A or Group B, do it!

Group C

Part of the Great Barrier Reef, seen from space. NASA.

Part of the Great Barrier Reef, seen from space. NASA.

Australia: The only country that is also a whole continent, Australia also boasts the oldest crystals on Earth – the ~4.4 billion-year-old Jack Hills zircon. Off its eastern coast lies the Great Barrier Reef, a vast living carbonate platform while in the interior is Uluru, the island mountain made of ancient sandstone. Australia also has some of the most productive ore deposits on Earth.

The Møns Klint cliffs in Denmark. Wikimedia Commons.

The Møns Klint cliffs in Denmark. Wikimedia Commons.

Denmark: People tend to forget that Denmark is largest than the peninsula in Europe might seem. Greenland is still included in its kingdom, although it is relatively autonomous (much like the Faroe Islands). This means that included in the geology of Denmark are the multitude of glaciers that make up the Greenland ice sheet and some of the oldest rocks on Earth in the Isua complex. Back on the mainland, the Møns Klint are spectacular white cliffs made of chalk (a type of limestone) and Fur Island, a famed fossil locality.

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MORE ABOUT: Geology, World Cup

Vote in Group B of the 2018 Geology World Cup

By Erik Klemetti | June 15, 2018 8:53 am

Yesterday, we started the 2018 Geology World Cup with voting for Group A, so let’s move to the next group!

Group B

Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Wikimedia Commons.

Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Wikimedia Commons.

Morocco: Much of Morocco’s geology is linked with the slow collision of Africa and Europe. The Atlas Mountains rise up on the western side of Africa and represent the the stresses put on the two plates by Africa plowing into Europe over the last 65 million years. The mountain range that pre-dated the Atlas Mountains (called oddly enough the “Anti-Atlas”) were formed in the same collision as the Appalachians in North America, so even across the ocean, the two continents share a common ancestry.

Badab Soort hot springs in Iran. Wikimedia Commons.

Badab-e Surt hot springs in Iran. Wikimedia Commons.

Iran: I think when most people think of the geology of Iran, two things come to mind: oil and earthquakes. They’d be right, but Iran is actually quite a geologically complex country. At least 7 volcanoes that are considered potentially active lie within its borders, the Kavir-e Namak is a massive salt desert, hot springs have created amazing terraces (see above) at Badab-e Surt. This isn’t even mentioning the fact that some of the rock of Iran were created during geologic events that impacted both North America (Laramide orogeny) and Europe (Alpine orogeny).

Pico in the Azores. David Stanley, Flickr.

Pico in the Azores. David Stanley, Flickr.

Portugal: Two countries in Group B both reside on the Iberian Peninsula (which is also part of the cause of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco!) The mainland of Portugal has some impressive landscapes carved by glaciers of all things and Jurassic limestone beds that stretch across the coastline. However, to volcanologists, it is the bit of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic that stands out most: the Azores. These islands formed by hotspot volcanoes (like Hawaii) include the stunning Pico (see above). Portugal has also suffered some major earthquakes such as the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 that killed between 10,000 and 100,000 people.

Las Médulas gold mining region in Spain. cascalheira, Pixelbay.

Las Médulas gold mining region in Spain. cascalheira, Pixelbay.

Spain: The other Iberian nation actually finds itself in a very similar situation to Portugal. Off the coast of Africa lies the Canary Islands, another chain of hotspot volcanoes that erupted as recently as 2011. Back on mainland Europe, the northeastern border of Spain is dominated by the Pyrenees, a mountain chain that formed 100-150 million years ago. In more recent times, the Rio Tinto may be the birthplace of the copper and iron ages in Europe with mining occurring along the river for over 5,000 years.

 

Cast your ballot for Group B!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Welcome to the Geology World Cup 2018

By Erik Klemetti | June 14, 2018 8:04 am
2018 Geology World Cup

2018 Geology World Cup

The 2018 World Cup starts today! One of the world’s largest events of any kind will capture the planet’s attention yet again and Rocky Planet will be hosting the first Geology World Cup. Back in 2014, I ran the Volcano World Cup, where I pit each country that qualified for the real World Cup against each other based on their volcanic features and history. You, the reader, got to vote on which country moved on each round until we crowned Chile as the first (and now only) Volcano World Cup winner.

This time, I’m going even bigger. Instead of just the volcanoes of each country, we’ll be ranking the geology of each country. And just like last time, you get to decide who moves through. Some big name countries won’t even get a chance to compete – no Vesuvius or Etna (Italy), no Grand Canyon or Kīlauea (U.S.A.) and even the defending champion Chile won’t be here. However, you’ll see that there are some amazing geologic features you all love … and some that you’ll be amazed you didn’t even know existed.

So, starting today, I’ll be opening up the Group Phase of the 2018 Geology World Cup, starting with Group A. Take a look at my synopses of each country (and I’m saving some features for later in case each country makes it to the next round, so don’t get mad if your favorite isn’t listed!) and then cast your vote in the poll below. Just like the World Cup, the top 2 teams in each group move onto the Round of 16.

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MORE ABOUT: Geology, World Cup

Over 500 Homes Now Destroyed by the Continuing Kīlauea Eruption

By Erik Klemetti | June 11, 2018 10:15 am
Fissure 8 lava fountain and flow, seen on June 10, 2018. USGS/HVO.

Fissure 8 lava fountain and flow, seen on June 10, 2018. USGS/HVO.

The eruption that started near Leilani Estates on Kīlauea’s Lower East Rift Zone is now in its second month and so far, there is little to indicate that the eruption might be ending soon. Fissure 8 (webcam) is still the dominant player in the eruption, currently erupting three lava fountains that reach ~50 meters (~180 feet) and feed the lava flows that have erased Kapoho Bay. What’s worse is the lava flows that did head towards Vacationland on Kapoho Bay have now raised the total of homes destroyed by the eruption to over 500. Micro-house shelters are being built in Pahoa to accommodate the evacuees from the eruption, many of which will likely not have a home to return.

With the continued ocean entry producing hazardous laze and Fissure 8 pumping out copious sulfur dioxide, it might be some time before the people who lived in the area can head back to to what, if any, remains of their homes and property. Some residents have been able to return in places where the eruption seems to be over, but that could change quickly if fissures reactivate.

Lava flows reaching the Pacific Ocean in the former site of Kapoho Bay. Seen on June 10, 2018. USGS/HVO.

Lava flows reaching the Pacific Ocean in the former site of Kapoho Bay. Seen on June 10, 2018. USGS/HVO.

The lava delta that is formed where Kapoho Bay (above) used to be now extends over 2 kilometers (1 miles) into the Pacific (see below). There are areas where it seems that lava is flowing out under the sea, possibly as lava tubes carry the flows further than the shoreline. Beyond that, the new land (which is state-owned, by the way) is still very unstable like all lava benches/deltas. The channels bringing lava to the sea has also spawned some “spillover” flows has the lava breaches the levees.

The river that is carrying lava to the sea was examined by a drone recently and you can really see how the lava moves fluidly … but like a very sticky fluid. Even though it is flowing, it is stickier than cold honey. The darker patches on the flow are parts of the lava that has already started to cool as it hits what is frigid area (maybe 25ºC) compared to the 1150ºC lava. If the crust cools enough, you can cover over the lava flow and create a lava tube, which helps move lava further as that roof insulated the flow. That is how the lava flows that spilled over Pahoa in 2014 got as far as they did from their source at Pu’u O’o.

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Kīlauea Eats an Entire Bay and Lake in Hawaii

By Erik Klemetti | June 6, 2018 9:28 am

Lava entering the Pacific Ocean where Kapoho Bay used to be. Seen on June 5, 2018. USGS/HVO.

It almost sounds like the plot to a monster movie, but over the last few days, the lava flows from the Leilani Estates fissure eruption have eaten an entire bay (see above). What was known as Kapoho Bay is no more as lava from Fissure 8 poured into the bay, covered tide pools and has now converted the whole area into a peninsula jutting out over a kilometer into the Pacific Ocean. In the process, these flows have destroyed hundreds of homes in the Vacationland Hawaii development that once circled Kapoho Bay. Check out this article on Motherboard about who might own these new lands in Hawaii as the flows move the coastline outwards.

These same lava flows also filled and evaporated Green Lake, the largest lake on the island as well. Fissure 8 seems to be losing a little vigor (see below) as the lava fountain in the growing spatter cone is now reaching only ~40-50 meters (130-160 feet).

The fountaining at the new spatter cone on Fissure 8 with a pahoehoe lava flows extending out of the crater. Seen on June 5, 2018. USGS/HVO.

This is the nature of eruptions at Kīlauea, where any eruption can dramatically change the shape of the coastline. However, even with these flows, only 0.2% of the Big Island (~20 km2, 7.7 sq. miles) has been covered by these new lava flows! It really puts it back into scale about both how big the island is with its 5 volcanoes and how large Kīlauea itself is when this activity is covering only a small part of the volcano.

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Lava Flow at Kīlauea Now Filling Parts of Kapoho Bay

By Erik Klemetti | June 4, 2018 1:13 pm

Lava flows approaching Kapoho Bay in the lower East Rift Zone of Hawaii on June 3, 2018. USGS/HVO

The active eruption from Fissure 8 on Kīlauea has now produced a lava flow that is reaching the ocean at Kapoho Bay — across the middle of “Vacationland Hawaii” (see above), another development with many houses. The lava flow is forming a lava delta into Kapoho Bay, extending the land out into the ocean. The lava flow itself is almost 0.8 kilometers wide when it hits the sea and has created a delta a few hundred meters into the bay.

UPDATE 10 PM ET, June 4: It now appears that lava has filled much of the bay:

The biggest hazard to people from this new ocean entry is the laze or volcanic haze formed from seawater and hot lava interacting. Unfortunately, the winds are blowing the laze inland, so people need to stay away from the ocean entry. Hawaiian officials are imploring people to evacuate (or get arrested), both due to the volcanic events (like laze and lava flows) but also because as the lava blocks more roads, it will make it harder to evacuate later on. In fact, people had to the evacuated by helicopter over the weekend because their access routes were getting covered. People are also stranded with power or water due to the lava flows. The NPS, USGS and Hawaiian authorities are working to open another escape route through the national park, but work on that road will last for another week or two.

It appears that much of the activity has coalesced to Fissure 8 (see above), which is typical for these Hawaiian-style eruptions, where a new cinder cone can get established. This doesn’t mean that new fissure might not open or old fissure won’t reactivate, but much of the lava is now being erupted from the fissure 8 cone.

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Deadliest Eruption of 2018 Strikes Guatemala

By Erik Klemetti | June 3, 2018 8:04 pm

The world’s attention has been on Hawaii, but an explosive eruption today in Guatemala has now become the deadliest of the year. UPDATE 4:45 PM ET June 4: At least 69 people have been killed and hundreds injured in an eruption that generated multiple pyroclastic flows and heavy ash fall across the area near Fuego, the Central American country’s most active volcano. Three hundred UPDATE: Over 3,000 people living near Fuego have been evacuated as a precaution for more pyroclastic flows. Emergency responders are trying to reach people injured by the eruption, UPDATE: but have been hampered by the weather and conditions.

What is a pyroclastic flow? It is a jumble of ash, chunks of volcanic rock, hot gases and air that move down the sides of a volcano at hundreds of kilometers per hour. They are also hot at over 500ºC, so they pretty much wipe out everything — building, trees, bridges, people — in their path. UPDATE: This eruption is NOT lava, as many of the current news articles are saying. There may be chunks of fresh lava in the flow, but this is a hot debris avalanche, not flowing molten rock.

There is some startling video taken of one of today’s pyroclastic flows as they reached a bridge – however, before you watch this, remember if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, DO NOT stick around to film it. Run/drive/ride away as fast as possible.

Here is another showing a large flow (being filmed by someone speeding away):

The pyroclastic flows reached golf courses near Fuego, burying parts of the resort in hot ash and debris:

Rain that is falling today is also remobilizing this new volcanic tephra to form lahars (volcanic mudflows) in some of the rivers leading away from Fuego, UPDATE: which destroyed at least one bridge.

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How the USGS Used a Drone to Save Someone from Kīlauea’s Lava

By Erik Klemetti | May 30, 2018 3:18 pm
The lava fountain from Fissure 8 seen on May 28, 2018. USGS/HVO.

The lava fountain from Fissure 8 seen on May 28, 2018. USGS/HVO.

Few things are changing volcano monitoring and hazard planning more than drones. A decade ago, it either took expensive and dangerous helicopter flights or approaching eruptions on foot to get close enough to make observations. Today, we can watch volcanic eruptions and their results up close using relatively cheap drones that can fly into craters and over lava flows to see what’s happening. This provides vital data for volcanologists watching the volcano to understand how the eruption is changing. They can also be used to map volcanic deposits and find people who might be in peril due to volcanic activity. Paired with satellite monitoring, drones are making the job of watching volcanic eruptions safer for scientists and citizens.

Case in point: The recent events at Kīlauea. Earlier this week, fast moving lava flows from Fissure 8 (see above) prompted more evacuations of residents who had not left their homes so far. These new flows were discovered by a drone that was mapping the flows for the U.S. Geological Survey. When it was clear that the flows would potentially block escape routes, the survey team contact emergency managers so they could warn citizens.

Drone footage used to help find a resident from the Kīlauea lava flows. The glow at the top are lava flows and the beams from searchers flashlights can be seen near the house. USGS/HVO.

Drone footage used to help find a resident from the Kīlauea lava flows. The glow at the top is the lava flow and the beams from searchers’ flashlights can be seen near the house. USGS/HVO.

It turned out that a resident was rapidly becoming trapped by these new lava flows. The USGS team was able to find the resident with the drone and have them follow it out of the lava flows and vegetation to safety. Think about that: A drone used to map the flows then used that data to help guide a resident from the hazard zone! Not only that, but the drone was able to send real-time images and video of the lava flows to emergency responders to help them more efficiently help residents and know where to send people as the evacuation progressed.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs
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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.
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