2018 Geology World Cup Finals: Perú vs. Iceland!

By Erik Klemetti | July 13, 2018 3:47 pm

We’ve made it! The 2018 Geology World Cup Finals are here. One of the semifinal matches was really a squeaker while the other featured a blowout.

Final Match: Perú vs. Iceland

Ubinas, an active volcano in southern Perú, seen in 2015. Wikimedia Commons.

Ubinas, an active volcano in southern Perú, seen in 2015. Wikimedia Commons.

You’d have to say, Perú was a dark horse in this tournament. This is not to say the country doesn’t have spectacular geology, but they took out Russia, Colombia and Croatia to reach the finals. Perú is known for its volcanoes, including the 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina, one of the largest eruptions in South America in the past few thousand years — a VEI 6 eruption that likely impact global climate. The local impacts of the eruption and a vivid description were recorded by Catholic priest Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa. did you know the country was hit by a meteorite in 2007? It was a chrondritic meteorite that might represent some of the earlier stuff of our solar system. Perú is also home of some remarkable early whale fossils that could represent the link between land-dwelling and sea-dwelling whales.

Houses buried by cinder and ash from the Heimaey eruption in Iceland, 1973. Wikimedia Commons.

Houses buried by cinder and ash from the Heimaey eruption in Iceland, 1973. Wikimedia Commons.

Meanwhile, our other finalist blew past Japan, Australia and Iran to reach the finals easily. It isn’t really a surprise, though. The smallest country (by population) in the 2018 World Cup is one of the most dynamic places on Earth. Multiple geologic features and processes are Icelandic words, like geyser (geysír) and jökulhlaup (glacial outburst flood). The 2014-15 Holuhraun lava field eruption near Barðarbunga was the largest basaltic eruption in over 240 years and one of the largest sulfur dioxide producing eruptions in over 35 years. It is the site of one of the few occasions where humans were able to divert lava flow, preventing lava from blocking a vital fishing harbor at Heimaey in 1973. One of the most remarkable things about Iceland is also its use of geothermal energy — thanks to all that magmatism beneath the island, it can produce more energy than the country could ever use.

So, cast your vote for the champion in the 2018 Geology World Cup!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs
MORE ABOUT: Geology, Iceland, Peru, World Cup

Kīlauea Eruption Is a Long-Term Problem for People Living on the Big Island

By Erik Klemetti | July 12, 2018 12:27 pm
The channel of lava from Fissure 8 (in the background), seen on July 10, 2018. USGS/HVO.

The channel of lava from Fissure 8 (in the background), seen on July 10, 2018. USGS/HVO.

It is hard to believe, but the eruption on the lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea shows no signs of stopping. The lava erupting from Fissure 8 just keeps coming, adding more to the big island of Hawai’i as the lava snakes its way to the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, up at the summit of the volcano, the Halema’uma’u Caldera continues to see dramatic changes as the whole surface slowly collapses with the daily explosions and earthquakes. The eruption itself is now the largest known historic eruption on Kīlauea (which means the last 200 years).

The lava flows from Fissure 8 (top) are moving mainly through channels created by the lava itself. As the lava moves, the edges cool and you build levees on each side of the flow, building a perched channel where the lava continues to move (see below). Sometimes, those levees are topped over or breached and smaller flows can leak out the sides of the major channel. That seems to be the current pattern in the Leilani Gardens flow field and those breakouts are what are expanding the area that these lava flows are covering on the land. Otherwise, the lava either builds up the thickness of the new lava flow field or spills out to the Pacific (below). The entire lava flow field now covers ~29 km2 (11.2 square miles) and has added ~2.5 km2 (630 acres) to the island.

A lava flow from the Fissure 8 channel that was formed by an overflow on July 11, 2018. USGS/HVO

A lava flow from the Fissure 8 channel that was formed by an overflow on July 11, 2018. USGS/HVO

In some places, the lava flows have crusted over but are likely still carrying lava towards the ocean in lava tubes. Tubes are an even more efficient way to move lava as they are more insulated from the cold atmosphere, so a tube system will carry lava further. This is how the Pahoa lava flows in 2014 were able to get from the now-defunct Pu’u O’o vent down to the settlement of Pahoa.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Eruptions, Science, Science Blogs

Final 4 of the 2018 Geology World Cup

By Erik Klemetti | July 11, 2018 8:25 pm
2018 Geology World Cup

2018 Geology World Cup

Only 4 countries left in the 2018 Geology World Cup! Vote in the semifinal matches!

Game 1: Perú vs. Colombia

In what is likely a massive upset, Perú snuck by Russia by only a few percentage points. So, now the match for the finals is two South American teams. There isn’t a lot that sets Colombia and Perú apart: they both have active volcanoes, they both experience earthquakes, they both host parts of the Andes and parts of the Amazon Basin. Most people likely don’t even know that Colombia and Perú share a common border!

Game 2: Iceland vs. Japan

The second game is two island nations. One is dominated by basaltic volcanoes and a mid-ocean ridge (Iceland). The other is dominated by subduction zones (Japan). Japan might have many more earthquakes than Iceland, but Iceland runs the table on Japan in terms of glaciers. Both countries have actively grown in the past century thanks to volcanoes erupting in the ocean as well!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs
MORE ABOUT: Geology, World Cup

Geology World Cup Quarterfinals!

By Erik Klemetti | July 9, 2018 10:00 am

We’re down to eight countries in the 2018 Geology World Cup. Cast your ballot here to see which make it to the final 4 standing.

Game 1: Russia vs. Perú

The extent of the Siberian Traps in Russia. Wikimedia Commons.

The extent of the Siberian Traps in Russia. Wikimedia Commons.

Few volcanic events on Earth have been as big as the Siberian Traps in Russia. These massive lava flows and explosive ash deposits happened ~252 million years ago and lasted for hundreds of thousands of years. The eruptions may have dumped over 1 million cubic kilometers of volcanic material on the surface! That would have released a huge amount of volcanic gases that may have been the cause of the end-Permian extinction that wiped about 96% of sea life and over 70% of life on land.

Quelccaya Ice Cap in Peru. Wikimedia Commons.

Quelccaya Ice Cap in Peru. Wikimedia Commons.

Did you know that the two largest glaciated areas in the tropics occur in Perú? The Quelccaya ice cap contains a record of ice that goes back over 5,000 years — an integral piece of what we know about how the planet have changed during human civilization. As the ice cap melts due to climate change, many places around it that were normally very dry now have a source of water. That sounds good … except as the ice cap retreats and eventually disappears, that source of water will be gone for good.

Game 2: Switzerland vs. Colombia

The Matterhorn on the Swiss-Italian border. marchipatrick / Flickr.

The Matterhorn on the Swiss-Italian border. marchipatrick / Flickr.

The Matterhorn in Switzerland is a geologic feature called a “klippe“. This is a word that means it is a remnant of older rock that was pushed up over younger rock during a big tectonic collision. The rocks themselves that make up the Matterhorn originated in Africa, so the mountain itself is an immigrant to the Eurasian plate. Its distinctive shape was carved by glaciers that filled the Alps during the last Ice Age, leaving very steep sides when the ice retreated and the sides collapsed.

Aftermath of the Nevado del Ruiz lahars in 1985. USGS.

Aftermath of the Nevado del Ruiz lahars in 1985. USGS.

One of the deadliest eruptions in the last 100 years occurred at Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia. Many people have heard about the volcanic mudflows (lahars) that swept down the sides of the volcano on November 13, 1985. The eruption itself that caused the mudflow was surprisingly small and other than the mudflow itself, little record of the blast remains. However, the heat from the eruption melted enough ice and snow from the summit to send muddy debris down to Armero, which was buried a few hours after the eruption. The final death toll was likely over 21,000 people, many of which could have been saved if people heeded the warnings of the impending flow.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Is Volcanic Activity Increasing Across the Globe? No, But Your Brain Thinks So

By Erik Klemetti | July 6, 2018 9:09 am
Lava flows from Fissure 8 on Kilauea, seen on July 2, 2018. USGS/HVO.

Lava flows from Fissure 8 on Kilauea, seen on July 2, 2018. USGS/HVO.

Since high profile eruptions like the ones at Kīlauea or Fuego, those of us in the volcanosphere get a lot of emails/tweet/questions that ask a very similar question: Is volcanic activity increasing? In fact, many times the question isn’t even if it is increasing but why it is increasing, accepting without question the notion that we are experiencing more volcanic eruptions today than in the Earth’s past. However, ask a volcanologist (like me) that question, and you’ll get the same answer from pretty much everyone: No, it is not increasing. So, why do so many people think it is? Well, that comes from stuff going on in your head rather than anything in our planet.

So, why do people perceive volcanic activity as increasing when it isn’t? To answer that, let’s start with Mookie Betts. Many of you know who he is already. He’s not a famous volcanologist or an insightful statistician or a world-renowned anthropologist.

No, he’s an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Eruptions, Science, Science Blogs

2018 Geology World Cup Round of 16!

By Erik Klemetti | July 3, 2018 10:48 am
The Páramo de Sumapaz in Colombia, a Round of 16 team in the Geology World Cup. Wikipedia Commons.

The Páramo de Sumapaz in Colombia, a Round of 16 team in the Geology World Cup. Wikipedia Commons.

So, we’re made it through the 2018 Geology World Cup Group Stage. Now it’s time to vote for the countries that will make it through to the quarterfinals. To make it easier, I’ve created a single poll for your votes, so cast your ballot now!

The Matches:

Left bracket:

A1. Russia vs B2. Portugal: In soccer, this might lean strongly in Portugal’s direction but in geology, Russia is the behemoth. I mean, Russia is big enough that it has been the site of not one but two major asteroid/comet/something impacts in the past 150 years: the 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia and 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor. I’d love to think of something that Portugal could come back with beyond the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Now, that quake was the largest in recorded European history, close to a M8.5-9 (so as large as the 2011 Tohōku earthquake) and it even generated tsunamis. However, Russia isn’t exactly devoid of tsunami-generating, massive earthquakes either.

C1. Perú vs. D2. Croatia: Probably one of the bigger upsets of the Group Stage, Croatia appears in the Round of 16 instead of Argentina. Of course, it gets another South American juggernaut in Perú. The islands off the coast of Croatia in the Adriatic are picturesque and may even be hiding some active faulting under the region. Perú has multiple actively erupting volcanoes like Sabancaya. Some of the world’s largest gold deposits are found in Perú as well, including Yanacocha that has produced $7 billion of gold.

E1. Switzerland vs. F2. Germany: Well, at least Germany made it through here, am I right? The Alps have some of the most rugged terrane anywhere on Earth thanks to the active tectonics and the recent record of glaciers. Of course, current global climate change means that Switzerland may lose as much as 90% of its glaciers by 2100. You also can’t underestimate the importance Germany had in the growth of geology as a discipline, including Georg Bauer’s De Re Metallica, published in 1556.

G1. Panamá vs. H2. Colombia: It has to come to this. The two countries, once a single nation, face off in the Round of 16. Colombia is one of the world’s largest producers of emeralds as well as a major player in South American coal. Did I mention the cathedral made from a salt deposit carved into a mountain? Or the volcanoes, oh so many volcanoes? Anyway, Panamá’s tectonic importance aside, the first North American monkey fossils were discovered in the country during expansion of the Canal.

Right bracket:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Second Galapagos Eruption in June, This Time at Sierra Negra

By Erik Klemetti | June 27, 2018 9:38 am
Lava flows from the June 26, 2018 eruption of Sierra Negra in Ecuador. IG Ecuador.

Lava flows from the June 26, 2018 eruption of Sierra Negra in Ecuador. IG Ecuador.

A little less than two weeks ago, La Cumbre on Fernandina in the Galapagos erupted for the first time last September. That is no shock as the volcano has erupted 3 times since the start of the 21st century. What is surprising is that Sierra Negra on the neighboring island on Isabela erupted yesterday for the first time in 13 years. Two separate eruptions in the Galapagos in June!

The eruption at Sierra Negra so far is what we expect from shield volcanoes formed at ocean hot spots like the Galapagos: fissures and lava flows. The lava flows have quickly reached the ocean where video shows the rivers of lava created laze plumes and volcanic lightning! Pictures of the eruption (above) show some impression lava fountains coming from the fissures that opened on the flanks of the volcano. Unlike the eruption of La Cumbre, where the island is uninhabited, people live on Isabela. So far, local officials have closed the schools and shut down tourist activity on the island, as well as evacuated ~50 people. The eruption started after a brief earthquake swarm that started a few days ago.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Vote for Groups G & H in the 2018 Geology World Cup

By Erik Klemetti | June 25, 2018 10:09 am

The Group Stage is almost done, so here are the last groups in the 2018 Geology World Cup! Before we get to Groups G & H, how about an update on the other groups?

  • Group A: Right now, Russia is running away with the group, but the 2-3-4 spots are tight. Egypt sits at 18%, with Uruguay at 13% and Saudi Arabia at 12%. VOTE HERE
  • Group B: Iran is winning the group, but Morocco and Portugal are currently tied for 2nd at 20%. Spain lags back at 14%. VOTE HERE
  • Group C: Perú and Australia are neck-and-neck, with Perú barely in front 40-38. VOTE HERE.
  • Group D: Every group can’t be competitive I guess? Iceland is running away with this one, with Argentina is the clear #2. VOTE HERE.
  • Group E: Costa Rica currently leads the group, up 11% on Switzerland. Brazil is coming in last (!) right now. VOTE HERE.
  • Group F: Mexico is winning the group, but Germany and Sweden are tied for 2nd at 28% … and only one can move on! VOTE HERE.

Cast your votes below for last two groups to see who moves on to the knockout phase.

Group G

Belgium

Molar of Mammuthus primigenius from Belgium. Wikimedia Commons.

Molar of Mammuthus primigenius from Belgium. Wikimedia Commons.

Belgium is the land of sedimentary rocks. Very few igneous and metamorphic rocks are found anywhere in the country, where younger, less deformed sedimentary rocks are found in the north and deformed, older sedimentary rocks are found in the south. Sea level has risen and fallen, covering Belgium sometimes and then exposing those sediments at the surface. Belgium also has some good Pleistocene fossil localities, including walruses, whales, elephants and Neaderthals.

England

William Smith's Geologic Map of England and Wales, made in 1815. Wikimedia Commons.

William Smith’s Geologic Map of England and Wales, made in 1815. Wikimedia Commons.

England has quite the geologic history, even if we’re only counting England proper and not the United Kingdom. The first modern geologic map was made in England, using new principles like fossil succession to help develop geology. Limestone caves with cave paintings are found in Derbyshire. Whitby mudstones are rich in Jurassic Fossils. Ancient waterfalls carved in the Ice Age at Malham Cove. The Seven Sisters chalk cliffs in East Sussex.

Panama

Satellite image of Panama from 2003. NASA.

Satellite image of Panama from 2003. NASA.

Now, if we get past that Panama was once part of Colombia (and gained independence because the U.S. wanted a canal), how many people know that Panama has potentially active volcanoes? Barú and La Yeguada have both erupted in the last 1000 years. Panama itself isn’t even that old as geologic features go. It wasn’t until the last 20 million years that North America and South America were connected by Panama. However, that link caused a ripple in terms of biology and climate that we’re still feeling today.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Just How Big is the Kīlauea Eruption?

By Erik Klemetti | June 22, 2018 9:46 am
The Leilani Estates eruption seen by Astronaut Ricky Arnold aboard the ISS on June 20, 2018. NASA.

The Leilani Estates eruption (bottom right) seen by Astronaut Ricky Arnold aboard the ISS on June 20, 2018. NASA.

The eruption that started in Leilani Estates on the lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea is rapidly approaching the end of its second month, and right now, there are no signs the eruption will be ending soon. For many of us, this eruption seems unprecedented: How often do volcanoes erupt lava like this for months at a time? It turns out that it isn’t that uncommon, although in terms of the recent history of Kīlauea, this is a big event for the Hawaiian shield volcano.

The silvery lava flow from fissure 8 snaking towards the ocean. The glassy nature of the recent flows give the freshest lava that color. Planet, used by permission.

The silvery lava flow from fissure 8 snaking towards the ocean. The glassy nature of the recent flows give the freshest lava that color. Compare it to the thermal image (below). Planet, used by permission.

So, just how big? I’ve talked a bit about the scale of the eruption before, mostly to emphasize most of the Big Island of Hawaii has not been impacted at all by this eruption. At this point, the Leilani Estates eruption has covered 9.5 km2 with new lava. Of that, over 1.5 km2 is new land added to the island in the former site of Kapoho Bay (see map below). To add some context here, the whole Big Island is ~10,430 km2, so the eruption has coated ~0.09% of the island and added 0.01% to the island. Not exactly a huge amount, but it definitely feels big because of the impact the eruption has had to people living in the Leilani Estates and Vacationland area.

The lava flows from the 2018 Leilani Estates eruption as of June 21, 2018. USGS/HVO.

The lava flows from the 2018 Leilani Estates eruption as of June 21, 2018. USGS/HVO.

Now, estimating the area is relatively easy. Satellite images and aerial shots from helicopters, along with geoscientists on the ground, help map out just how much of the land surface is covered with lava. However, to get a volume, you need to know something about thickness and that can be highly variable. Sometimes that variability comes from the thickness of the lava flow itself – a’a is likely a thicker flow than pahoehoe – but that can be tricky because pahoehoe flows can inflate. The thickness is also a product of the land surface the lava is flowing over, so did it pond in a depression? Or is it merely a frosting? The edges of the flow field are likely thinner as well compared to the middle.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

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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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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