The Decade Volcano Programme

  Fig.1 The dead of Herculaneum, burnt to death by 800-centigree hot pyroclastic flows from Vesuvius AD 79 (O Louis Mazzatenta, National Geographic)

Fig.1 The dead of Herculaneum, burnt to death by 800-centigree hot pyroclastic flows from Vesuvius AD 79 (O Louis Mazzatenta, National Geographic)

The volcanic eruptions of Mount St Helens in 1980 and Nevado del Ruiz in 1985 made the general public aware of the dangers of co-existing with a large and potentially lethal volcano. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the possibilities of a lateral St Helens-type blast on a population of a great city as unaware of the hazard as the unfortunate citizens of Armero, Colombia. Blasts from the past such as Vesuvius 79 AD eruption that obliterated the large Roman cities of Pompei and Herculaneum or the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée on Martinique, that completely destroyed the town of St Pierre, leaving only two survivors out of a population of some 22,000, served to reinforce the message. With human populations world-wide soaring, it is inevitable that humans will settle closer to potentially active volcanoes in ever-increasing densities. As a result, more human beings than ever are at risk from volcanic eruptions.

With this in mind, the HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Association_of_Volcanology_and_Chemistry_of_the_Earth%27s_Interior” \o “International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior”  (IAVCEI) set out to identify volcanoes that had a history of large, potentially destructive eruptions and were located close to high-density populations. As the project was initiated as part of the United Nations-sponsored International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, hence the name Decade Volcano, it was hoped that the United Nations would fund the programme the aims of which was to identify the major strengths and weaknesses of current hazard management and contingency plans at each volcano, and how to address the weaknesses identified.

Fig. 2 The UN General Assembly. It was ultimately here support for the Decade Volcano programme must be obtained, not at some faculty. (Marty Lederhandler, Associated Press)

Fig. 2 The UN General Assembly. It was ultimately here support for the Decade Volcano programme must be obtained, not at some faculty. (Marty Lederhandler, Associated Press)

It must be realised that in a highly politicised world, decisions are rarely based on scientific grounds, but on what is politically feasible. Hence the volcanoes chosen had to have a broad appeal, geopolitical as well as demographic, to the representative body that was to grant the funding. But in order to achieve at least a semblance to a scientifically motivated choice, the volcanoes chosen had to threaten tens of thousands of people with at least two of the following volcanic hazards – lava dome collapse, pyroclastic flows, lava flows, lahars, tephra fall or volcanic edifice instability. Furthermore, the volcano had to have been recently geologically active. As a sop to the UN representatives, who in turn would have to have the sanction of their masters at home, any volcano chosen had to be politically and physically accessible for study and there must also be local support for the work.

In the end, the UN did not undertake to support the programme, and funding had to be obtained elsewhere. Where there is a national body responsible for volcanologic research and monitoring such as in the USA, Italy, Mexico or Colombia, this organisation has assumed responsibility for the volcano or volcanoes that naturally fall under their aegis. The European Union supports research and monitoring at European volcanoes whereas some of its member countries, France and Germany, have undertaken to support the work of Indonesian authorities at the same time giving French and German volcanologists access to research at active volcanoes.

 Fig. 3 Koryaksky volcano overlooking Petropavlovsk’s 180,000 inhabitants (Wikimedia)

Fig. 3 Koryaksky volcano overlooking Petropavlovsk’s 180,000 inhabitants (Wikimedia)

The 16 volcanoes given status as Decade Volcanoes, with the (main) human habitations threatened given in brackets, are:

USA – Mount Rainier (Seattle, Washington) and Mauna Loa (Hawaii)
Japan – Sakurajima in the Aira caldera (Kagoshima and Kirishima) and Unsen (Unsen and Nagasaki)
Russia – Avachinsky and Koryaksky (Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka)
Italy – Vesuvius (Naples) and Etna (Catania)
Greece – Santorini, a.k.a. Thera (Aegean Islands)
Spain – Teide (Canaries, holiday paradise of Europe)
Mexico – Colima (Colima, Manzanillo)
Colombia – Galeras (Pasto)
Phillipines – Taal (Manilla)
Guatemala – Santa Maria/Santiaguito (Quezaltenango)
Indonesia, Java – Merapi (Yogyakarta)
Democratic Republic of Congo – Nyiragongo (Goma)
Papau New Guinea – Ulawun (???)

While no one doubts that given a possible or hypothetical worst-case scenario, these volcanoes pose a serious threat to nearby human settlements, it’s quite obvious that politics has been a main factor in their selection as Decade Volcanoes. The financially and politically influential USA, Russia and Japan have each been assigned two with four to the equally politically and economically influential Europe, while the large Hispanic contingent of nations accounts for no less than five of the sixteen.

Nevertheless, it is a start and a good one too. The programme has led to a better understanding of the volcanic hazards and in one case, at Etna in 1992, measures were taken on the advice of IAVCEI (International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior) that eventually prevented a lava flow from reaching a town. Scientists and civil protection authorities have learnt to cooperate as with the very nasty eruption of Merapi in 2010, without which the death toll would undoubtedly have been much higher. Awareness of volcanic hazards from volcanoes not on the list has been heightened as well. A summary of the advances and achievements brought by the first ten years of the programme can be found at “http://www.sveurop.org/gb/articles/articles/decade.htm”  Directly below, followers of this blog may be surprised, or not as the case may be, to learn that our old friend Nemesio M. Pérez compiled the final report of the IAVCEI meeting in Teneriffe, 2010.

Fig. 4  The 2334 m high Ulawun stratovolcano, Papau New Guinea (listspress)

Fig. 4 The 2334 m high Ulawun stratovolcano, Papau New Guinea (listspress)

But it cannot be claimed that all the Decade Volcanoes represent the 16 volcanic centers most dangerous to human populations, nor that the efforts are directed where they are most needed. Let us look at Ulawun, Papau New Guinea as one example! Ulawun, a 2334 meter high stratovolcano, is the tallest volcano of the Bismarck Archipelago chain and one of the most active volcanoes in Papua New Guinea. According to John Seach, it is composed of lava flows interbedded with tephra and erupts basalt and andesite through Strombolian and Pelean eruptions. Thus the main danger to humans comes from the pyroclastic flows associated with Pelean eruptions, the other Decade criteria met are those of tephra fall and structural failure. John Seach reports that the 1980 eruption resulted in an 18 km high eruption column that devastated some 20 square kilometres and claims that structural collapse could potentially lay waste to an area hundreds of square kilometres. That is an area with a radius of about eight to ten kilometres.

But is Ulawun really such a highly dangerous volcano? First of all, as far as I can tell from maps and satellite images, there are few human habitations within the danger zone. Second, it erupts basalt and andesite, neither of which are associated with particularly devastating eruptions. Basalts erupt effusively as at Hawaii or semi-explosively as at Etna. Andesites predominantly erupt explosively, but rarely result in a high VEI as both volume-wise and explositivity-wise they are small to medium. Third, Ulawun erupts regularly, 34 eruptions over the past hundred years with most assigned a VEI of 1, 2 or 3 with a single VEI 4. While this is impressive and a constant reminder to the locals that theirs is a dangerous volcano, the regular eruptions prevent the build-up of a much larger eruption – and also inhibits the build-up of a large human population on its fertile slopes.Simpson Harbour Rabul USAF
Let’s now move our examining eye some 200 km to the NW of Ulawun! There we find Rabaul, the city of WW II fame fought over by the Japanese and Americans for its superb anchorages. Up until 1994, Rabaul was the provincial capital with a population of some 17,000 inhabitants. On September 19th 1994, the Tavurvur and Vulcan stratovolcanoes erupted simultaneously which destroyed the town as had happened previously in 1937. Fortunately, no more than five people were killed this time against 500 on the previous occasion. Today, the provincial capital has moved to Kokopo, a scant 20 km away, but Rabaul is slowly being rebuilt as happened after its 1937 destruction.

Why is Rabaul then, to borrow a phrase from Carl, such an ill-begotten piece of real estate? The reason for its superb anchorage is that it is a submerged caldera, 8 by 14 km wide. The town is located on the rim of the caldera and there are no less than eight vents of which four are stratovolcanoes such as the already named Tavurvur and Vulcan. Just to make certain of the town’s eventual destruction, the spit of land on which Rabaul is situated is not only the edge of the Rabaul caldera. A scant three kilometres due north lies the equally submerged Tavui caldera, source of the 5100 BC Raluan rhyolitic ignimbrite, an eruption listed as producing 4.0  ±  1.0  x  109 m3 of tephra.

Fig. 6 Map of the Rabaul Caldera (USGS)

Fig. 6 Map of the Rabaul Caldera (USGS)

No doubt there are other, and better examples of volcanoes that ought to have been Decade Volcanoes instead of some of the obviously less than well-chosen current ones, but it cannot be denied that the project has realised its goals and done so very well indeed! The context of its genesis, well before the advent of the world-wide web with its instantly accessible webcams and monitoring equipment, has to be taken into account as well. In the final analysis, the Decade Volcano programme has to be regarded as being highly successful.

HENRIK

Suggested reading:

HYPERLINKS :

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/42/WikiReader_Decade_Volcanoes.pdf

http://www.iavcei.org/” http://www.iavcei.org/

http://www.sveurop.org/gb/articles/articles/decade.htm

http://www.geo.mtu.edu/volcanoes/rabaul/rabaul.usgs.html

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122 thoughts on “The Decade Volcano Programme

  1. Too bad about Castro and Khrushchev.

    Probably two of the more reprehensible [censored] of the 20th century. How they are related to volcanoes is beyond me… unless you count the near real world test of the nuclear winter hypothesis that they were pushing for.

    I guess one of the side benefits is that the Airforce’s SR-71 version of the CIA’s YF-12 was placed into service because of them.

    GL Edit: 2012-12-31 16:33:00

    • It’s intended as an illustration of the obstacles that anything sensible has to overcome as people with as murky agendas have both seat and say in the UN to this very day. How do you convince such people to concede even a fraction using humanitarian and scientific arguments?

      • We chase Chimeras (like aspects of AGW which may or may not come to pass,) and certainly not within our ir even our grand children’s lifetimes. It is an apocalyptic “out there” Yet there is a ” Loosely associated pile of rock,ash, and snow.” that is capable of some real damage and it is not watched at all (Glacier peak-not Rainier which is bad enough) . We ignore things like this at our peril.

    • Forgot to thank you for those links to the Blackbird Program(s) had the pleasure of knowing an old “Skunk Works” Engineer. What is truly amazing was that the SR/A-12/YF-12 did NOT have an autopilot. Also it was built in the Analog Era. Hand flown start to finish with instruments, electronics, and other systems not so much different than the
      DC7’s I flew-same era. Other than Titanium construction ,Boron Fuel for the Hybrid
      Ram/Turbine engines that is….

      • If so, there is a book you might like. It’s not your run of the mill “loon” book.

        “Area 51, An Uncensored History of America’s TOP SECRET Military Base.” by Annie Jacobsen.

        She has a bit of rumination about the how and why of it being set up, and her logic is plausible. The rest of it is mostly reporting and connecting of the dots from interviews with employees that worked there.

        Within this telling, a bit of YF-12 vs SR-71 development comes to light… such as how a pilot that was assigned to the Air Force’s new Wizz-Bang Super Secret SR-71 program seemed to have several hundred (or thousands, I forget which) hours of stick time and more familiarity with it’s dynamics than the instructors who were coaching him through the program. He was a hand-me-down from the YF-12… which no one knew about (except for the very top of the Air Force Chain of Command)

        The book seems relatively accurate from my point of view. The discussion about the issues in the development of stealth pass the sniff test from what I know about EM propagation. (ex EW) Some parts of the overall design, by the very nature of achieving low drag, lend themselves to it’s stealthiness. In part this was due to the nightmare of trying to retrofit the U-2 with a stealth package that made an otherwise ungainly jet-powered glider… a friken nightmare to fly. So, it was implemented from the outset in the YF-12 design.

        • My old friend was in the airframe part of the Design team.One time I was talking to him.
          I have this hat that has ” :Area 51″ on it a client of mine gave it to me…
          He took one look at it and said:”AREA 51! that place isn’t supposed to exist , but I can tell
          you it does! ruined my first marriage too..!” Thanks for the book recommendation.

  2. Henrik, a very thought provoking article for a Christmas morning.

    It is worth bearing in mind that both Amero and Nevado del Ruiz were being monitored. Unfortunately at the time less was known about the specific threats, monitoring was less sophisticated and neither eruption occurred as expected. A lot of people had been evacuated from the area round Mt St Helens, which saved many lives. Amero was not so lucky.

    Clearly you have to start somewhere with a monitoring programme even if the criteria for monitoring are not those everyone would have chosen. The Decade programme has broadened our understanding of volcanoes and does save lives. But to save more lives, we need a greater understanding.

    If you were to expand the programme, how would you do it?

    • That’s the pertinent question, isn’t it! More of the same (identifying risks according to the DVP matrix, comparing with emergency planning and amending the latter) or expansion of studies in order to obtain a greater understanding in order to more accurately assess risks and potentialities?

      • In an ideal world you would do both, resources permitting. I would also add, if it is not there already, a rapid / emergency response facility for any volcano outside the programme which shows sign of unrest (especially if it has been dormant for a long period so there is very little data on it).

        • I was going to suggest picking 10 more volcanoes each decade and add them to the list

          pick which ones based on expected casualties, and chance of significant eruption, and so forth – so presumably magma type, repose time, population density, efficiency of current planning, and gps inflation would need to be factored in.
          And I guess (poorly or) unstudied volcanoes would need to be treated as being slightly more dangerous than the average volcano of that type.

          So if this decade were to pick 10 more volcanoes to add to the decade volcanoes
          which ones would we add.

          yellowstone is big but not likely to blow
          hekla is likely to go, but population of iceland is well versed and planned
          go on, give us a list of your top 10 candidates

          • I don’t know whether expanding the programme to more volcanoes is beneficial or providing a capability to respond (providing monitoring and expertise) to an unexpected / poorly monitored area that is showing signs of volcanic unrest is best. Suspect that the answer is a combination of both. The last mentioned may need more UN buy-in.

            Would I add Yellowstone and Hekla to the list? Hekla is already well monitored by IMO; Yellowstone is also monitored by USGS. So would there be any additional benefit?

    • BTW: Amero is the town which was destroyed in 1985 (Nov. 13) by lahars from the near-by volcano Nevado del Ruiz. It is one and the same event. Nevado del Ruiz was monitored at the time and also there were indicators: Some steam explosions in 1984, and even a precorsory lahar (of 27 km length) after an eruption in September 1985. There were volcanologists from different countries researching the volcano at the time and warning re. an eminent bigger eruption. They even publicized a hazard map of the region, which included the exact locations of the then lahar – so the eruption was expected and also the lahar danger at this place was known. (H.-U. Schmincke, Vulkanismus, p.214 / German edition). And Schmincke, a known volcanologist, continues: The catastrophe would have been avoided if a) the officials involved had taken seriously the warnings of the geologists and carried out an evacuation, and if b) the city wouldn’t have been erected at exactly the same location where her predecessors had been destroyed in exactly the same way in the years 1595 and 1845 (Schmincke, p. 215).

    • The quality is only 57.79%, it’s within a second of a larger quake more distant from Hekla, both of which are at the automatic depth of 1.1 km. Furthermore, nothing shows on the Heklavöktun pages, so I’d wait until they have been reviewed by a seismologist.

      • now revised, deemed a ghost,
        other EQ in-line of Vatnafjöll be the real one
        (0,8 R depth 8,5 km, 15,6 km SW of Hekla)

  3. Drat. And here’s me staring at the Hekla webcam waiting for it to explode. (The volcano that is – not the webcam). Happy Christmas to all! It’s been great fun being with this group and I look forward to an interesting 2013.
    Clive

  4. Shérine- thank you ! Nasty looking eruption,btw..Had an old friend, now deceased -was a
    B-25 gunner /bombardier that made regular visits to Rabaul the whole idea there was attrition
    the allied forces just went around it effectively cutting it off…

  5. ….……(¯`O´¯)
    ….……*./ | \ .*
    …….….*♫•*
    …………*•♥•*
    ………..*♥♫♥*’
    … ….*♥•♦♫••♥*
    ……..*♥☺♥☺♥*
    ……*♥•♥#♠♥#♥•*
    …..*♥♫♥♥♫♥♥♫♥*
    …*♥♥☺♥♫♥♫♥☺♥*
    ..*♥♥♣♫♥♣♥♥♣♥♫♥*
    ‘*♥♥♣♥♫♥♥♫♥♥♫ ♥♥*
    …………╬╬╬…………

    Merry Happy Christmas everyone 🙂

  6. Good reading, thanks.

    Btw there were some ondering about the snow on the blog a while ago, if you want it gone, uncheck the box on your WP account settings, if you’re registered/logged in, that is.(propably posted before, but a reminder anyway…).

    Nice tree, cowboy, haven’t seen those for a while

    • Thanks for that reminder! First time I noticed, I wondered what was going on before I realised it was the site and not my pc.

    • Yeah, i finally found the button back then, ( Very last line in the General settings) And i had turned it off, but some people complained… ” Hey was not everyone happy when we had that last year. …. So i thought Ok for the festivities. .. It deliberately slows down the behavior of my computer and with a post like the doomsday one… i would be frozen…
      I ll turn it of tomoorow when the new post goes in and turn it on for new years for a day or so. OK?

      • Normal users settings have that checkbox, so they can disable it even if it’s on in the blog. so if your computer starts to slow down you can turn it off, and back on when a “lighter” post comes around. On my laptop, I notice some slowing after about 150 replies.
        if i turn the snow off it takes about 400 replies, depending on the content of the post and number of embedded vids.

  7. Merry Christmas to all. I love the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it seems to take up all my time between family get togethers, shopping and working. Been lurking as much as possible, but I am sooooo far behind on serious reading. Hope to be able to catch up soon. Cheers! XOXO

  8. Some of the choices for Decade Volcanoes are passing strange, and Ulawun is IMHO just plain wrong. There will always be far too many candidates for a programme like this, of course. It may be that the choice of Ulawun was a nod to PNG’s history as host to one of the deadliest eruptions of the 20th century – the Mt Lamington disaster in 1951. Still, I am sure better choices could have been found while keeping a South Pacific focus for one candidate: Rabaul of course, or the Auckland Volcanic Field (which could potentially do a LOT of damage), or Taupo (potential to completely screw the NZ economy & kill a lot of people). For that matter, Mexico City has now sprawled onto one margin of a monogenetic field, so has to be counted with Auckland amongst cities that could receive a nasty surprise.

    Still, a worthy programme, but a real shame that (as usual) the UN was too bloody useless to actually do anything.

    • A politician will always balance the expenditure of “public” money (i.e. someone else’s, appropriated by politicians for the purpose of their re-election or, in the case of “less developed democracies”, their own upkeep and welfare) against how many votes it will bring. To be frank, volcano monitoring will never be high on any level of politicians’ list of “necessary outlays”. Thus the idea to make it a UN sponsored program was brilliant as politicians then could say that the expenditure was demanded by the UN, something a large segment of voters globally consider to be a worthwhile cause and public money well spent.

      Since UN support did not materialise, how then to persuade politicians to part with dosh? Prove that the program is valuable! Hence “the success” of Etna 1992. Hence the potential disasters of Seattle and Petropavlovsk as proven by their eruptive history with the unspoken question for the politician “Would you like this to happen on your watch having done little or nothing about it?” From this perspective, the choices were not so bad.

      As for Ulawun, the impression I got was that volcanologists considered it a completely unknown volcano which was a prime candidate for imminent sector collapse that could/would generate a substantial tsunami which, if it materialised, would constitute a perfect illustration of the dangers of leaving volcanoes unresearched and unmonitored.

    • With a plug in place, the next eruption will be explosive. The questions are when and how much. Let’s put it this way: Much as I’d love to visit, right now is too much of Russian roulette for me.

    • Since you mentioned White Island. . .As I have checked Earthquake Report the last few days—there seems to be a lot of quakes on North Island NZ. I mainly noticed unfamiliar names on their list discovering when I mapped them they were from NI. But don’t recall seeing so many of them as a rule there so are the ones listed just after shocks from the 6.3 earlier in the month? I am not imagining? Just wondering.

  9. So in the previous post, I was mulling over other volcanic systems that could or should be part of the decade list. See my reasoning below

    San Salvador – Located directly next to El Salvador (closer than Vesuvius to Naples). San Salvador is a historically active stratovolcano that has had eruptions ranging from VEI 3-4 since year 1200, but also has an unpredictable history, and the capability to produce much larger eruptions. San Salvador also has produced numerous flank eruptions, which could pose a threat to the extended municipality of El Salvador which partially resides on the volcano’s flanks. To further top things off, this massive volcano has gone caldera in the past, and the city of El Salvador literally sits within a saddle that straddles the area between El Salvador, and Llopango, which is a large caldera lake that formed one of the largest eruptions in the last 2000 years (around 450 ad, VEI 6+)

    Okataina – Bruce has covered enough information about the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVS) for us to realize the danger of Okataina and the other Rhyolitic volcanoes in northern New Zealand. Okataina formed New Zealand’s most deadly eruption in the 1800’s, and that was comparatively small. Okataina not only can erupt in massive fashion, it also has the problem of being able to erupt rather quickly without a prolonged warning time.

    Lokon Empung – Lokon Empung is a volcanic system that has been among the most frequently active volcanoes in the world over the last 1000 years. While many frequently active volcanoes are rather benign due to the low-explosivity of their eruptions, Lokon Empung poses a significant risk due to it’s proximity to major areas of population, and its’ potential to form larger eruptions. Lokon Empung is a twin-peaked volcano that sits on the northwest edge of the massive and ancient Tondano Caldera. This volcano has also been highly active in recent times, and an eruption that even reaches VEI 4 could cause a lot of problems for locals.

    Campi Flegrei – Campi Flegrei is famous for the potential to create a massive devastating VEI 7+ eruption in the middle of one of Italy’s most populated regions (naples). While the threat of massive pyroclastic clouds, tsunamis, and other devastating problems are a legitimate concern with the Phlegrean Fields, that alone wouldn’t warrant putting it on a decade volcano lost. The real concern with this caldera is the fact that it has historically created smaller eruptions within the densely populated caldera area. Even a vei 3 eruption within the caldera would be a catastrophe, and anything larger than that becomes increasingly problematic.

    Ibusuki Volcanic Field (part of ata caldera?) – In japan, most people are familiar with the Aso and Aira caldera systems, and some may be familiar with the Kikai Caldera located south of Kyushu. Each of these calderas are massive volcanic systems that have all formed massive VEI 7 eruptions larger than anything in recorded history. The submerged Kikai caldera is responsible for the largest eruption in the last 10,000 years. While the three previously mentioned calderas all are quite dangerous (aira / sakurajima is already on the decade list) there is another caldera in the area that gets little to no attention, that being the Ata Caldera. The Ata caldera sits at the very south tip of Kyushu in Japan, and is sandwiched between the Aira and Kikai Caldera systems. It is still being debated whether or not the Ibusuki Field is related to the Ata Caldera, as they are very close to each other, and the Ibusuki field would represent a standard somma system as is common for calderas around the world.

    One interesting aspect of Ata, is that unlike the other caldera systems, it has had very little activity for the last 1000 years. Whether the Ibusuki Field is part of the ATA caldera or not, it’s a dangerous volcanic area that has shown the ability to produce prolific eruptions with a very short repose time. The volcanic system showed off its’ strength by creating six eruptions greater than VEI 4 within a 300 year period (from 600 a.d. to 885 a.d.), and had caldera-forming eruptions prior to more recent activity. The fact that the system has had almost zero activity in the last 1200 years could be a bad omen for when it decides to erupt next, as it will likely be a larger eruption. As is true with most Japanese mainland Volcanoes, the Ibusuki Field has a problem of being very close to civilization, so even if it decided to create a VEI 3-4 event, it could cause a significant volume of fatalities.

    • I think you’re on the right track when you point out systems which due to human encroachment can be absolutely lethal given a medium-to-small eruption. As even with very large caldera systems, these smaller eruptions outnumber the big ones ~100:1, the chances are that the next very great volcanic disaster will be from a small-to-medium sized eruption in the wrong location.

      One of my favourite illustrations of this is the seven eruptions of Astroni some 4.1–3.8 years ago. Although the total amount erupted, 0.45 cu km DRE, is on the small side, the location, inside Naples city limits, and manner of those eruptions paint a terrifying picture. As the eruption pulsed, the column intermittently collapsed and caused a base surge. At Naples at least, the area is well monitored, but Colli Albani some 20 km from Rome and last active around 37,000 and 41,000 years ago is almost completely unstudied and devoid of monitoring. More worryingly is that the area exhibits bradyseism, earthquake activity and releases carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide which aspyxiated cattle as recently as 1999.

  10. tolbachik looks like it having a large eruption or have some one zoom the cam in to give us a better view plus hekla volcano has had four earthquakes near by today.

  11. This interesting paper by Chaussard and Amelung
    (http://www.agu.org/journals/gl/gl1221/2012GL053817/2012GL053817.pdf) shows inflation of West Sunda volcanoes (Sinabung, Kerinci, Slamet, Lawu, Lamongan and Agung), measured by ALOS Insar data 2006 to 2009. The first three erupted after the observation period, so that prediction technique is quite impressive!
    They also show a correlation between geological extensional setting and shallow magma reservoir (thought of Bruce Stouts recent posts about the Taupo volcanic field).

        • Thank you. It was interesting to research.

          I had the stuff available as I was looking into another area of the UK. I thought I saw a volcanic feature in a location where I did not think there should be one. But given how well the UK has been researched, it is very unlikely that I found anything “new” so I need to do more digging (research), especially as said feature was not very remote.

          • Hi again, you have mail 🙂
            At very worst, in yr new line of research you will have a null- hypothesis to present, and even if it’s known, it’s not well known…will look forward to it 😉

  12. Alright… I’ll play. I still think Castro and Krushchev are world class pieces of fecal matter. But, as Oliver St John-Mollusc mentions, it’s more an illustration of the fact that self serving human filth like this (and the rest of them) at least… for a moment, gave a shit and actually addressed a problem. The only problem is that like much of the “oh, but we care” crowd, the best that they have offered is a bit of lip service and the problem still sits… like a festering boil waiting to pop.

    Other entities… those who actually are fascinated by the science and the quest for knowledge have done more to further the realm of public safety than the gamut of self serving politicians and the bloated bureaucracies that serve them and further their true cause. The only real purpose those critters have is lining their own pockets to the detriment of science and public safety. Hello l’Aquila lawyers and judges… you bastards deserve to burn in hell. (Yeah, I said that, another Dragon may censor that, so it may disappear, it’s not polite or politically correct, but I stand by it. For the time being, I at least have a First Amendment right to express my opinion.)

    That being said… for an illustration of what a complete FAILURE the Decade Volcano Program actually is… just read through this post, the musing by the respondents of systems that really should be in the list, and what little has been done by the UN to address that issue or keep the pressure on the member states to stay on top of the matter. What a complete collection of babbling baboons, whiling away the time hurling feces at each other and listening to the ravings of megalomaniac lunatics with sociopathic tendencies. (Including the US, I’m impartial about that. The whole damned thing is corrupt)


    In “The duration, magnitude, and frequency of subaerial volcano deformation events: New InSAR results from Latin America and a global synthesis” – Fournier et al (2010) {a document that I can’t get at, but ran across while searching for an alternative to chryphia’s paywalled Chaussard and Amelung paper} they list 145 volcanoes and volcanic systems that have shown some deformation over the duration of the study. The list is relatively active and receives updates… and the cool part is that I was able to find the list (but not the document that it supports) online.

    http://www.geo.cornell.edu/eas/PeoplePlaces/Faculty/matt/volcano_table.html

    Poking around in the list I ran across a caldera system (actually, one in a group of several) that are on the island of Hokkaido. I had been looking at them in my caldera quest and have spent many enjoyable minutes snickering at the “six known supervolcano” statements in the media and looking at the different systems. Aso is part of the Akan Volcanic Complex… a collection of quite a few sizable calderas.

    Since the idea of population exposure came up, I went looking around for gridded population data. The idea was to locate what sort of population exposure there was for these volcanoes. After getting the data, I came to the conclusion that it would be rather cumbersome to do… but I could kludge my way through something similar.

    This is Aso:

    Yes, that jagged red line is the caldera for Aso. The population data is the unadjusted population per 2.5′ gridcell, overlaid on Google Earth.

    The data link for the gridded world population data set:

    http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/data/set/gpw-v3-population-count

    And another link that I found… haven’t tried it.

    http://cegrp.cga.harvard.edu/content/gridded-world-population-25-minutes-resolution-raster


    A note about Rabaul. In the article at the beginning of this post… an outline of Rabaul caldera is shown. What you may not know, is that Rabaul is made up of at least three nested calderas. Yep. It’s a repeat offender. Northeast is another caldera… submerged and not completely quiet (as noted). To the Southeast are about 3 others… though not quite as large as Rabaul.

    Anyway… that’s my two cents. Until now I hadn’t commented about it since I had issues with the two entities that I have aired my feelings about. Sorry for the hiatus.

      • Luckily inactive for at least 300,000 years after a period of activity of almost 2½ my, such a long repose time that the word “extinct” might not be inappropriate.

        • With fields like that, even a repose time that long doesn’t indicate you’re necessarily “out of the woods”. I have read a paper (will post link if I can find it again) which indicates that the monogenetic volcanism in Far North Queensland, responsible for some of the longest lava flows on earth, has had periods of over 1 million years between eruptions. The pattern there seems to be very large basaltic eruptions, ongoing for a century or more, followed by tens of thousands to over a million years between eruptions. Last activity in the area was ~13000 years ago. Now that is in a completely tectonic setting to Oregon, just using it to illustrate the point that repose time doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

          It would be interesting to come up with a list of urban centres potentially at risk from monogenetic eruptions. Of the top of my head I can think of the following volcanic fields that have the potential to impact some population centres:

          1. Auckland Volcanic Field.
          2. Parts of Mexico City have sprawled onto a recent volcanic field.
          3. Various small cities near the border of Victoria & South Australia (Warrnambool, Portland, Mt Gambier). Various eruptions up to 4,600 years BP and some quite long lava flows.
          4. Honolulu (last eruption 30,000 BP).
          5. Eifel Volcanic Field, Germany. Last eruption ~12000 years BP.
          6. Chaine des Puys, France. Last eruption ~4000 years BP
          7. Canada, USA, Mexico have several although mostly in relatively unpopulated regions. Isn’t there a cinder cone field near Albuquerque, New Mexico?

          I’m sure there are others, Japan, Chile, Central America, etc, are sure to have areas of risk.

    • Lurk, semantics. In spite of the failure to attract UN sponsorship/support, there actually is a Decade Volcano Programme in place, one that has met most if not all of the targets specified. Global awareness of volcanic hazards to human populations is up, something that can be illustrated by what happened when Merapi erupted in late 2010 – people in the area who could not access official information on how to deal with their situation asked and were given sensible, practical information online by others not in the official loop. I’d call the DVP a brilliant success in spite of and in the face of political indifference and incompetence.

      What we both can agree upon is that the semantic content of the word “politician” includes avaricious, self-serving, good-for-nothing cesspool filth and similar terms.

      • I agree to the in spite of characterization and the last paragraph explicitly.

        I did 20+ years of Naval service, and have been on several “interdiction” operations. In every case, despite the vilification of our actions by the press, every interdiction/board-search event was preceded by verbiage directly from the UN articles that approved our activity, even when we were operating under NATO control.

        Even though the UN gave it nothing more that hand waving and lip service, it passed some sort of decree that the enterprising in the geological community picked up and ran with. Not that different in implementation than the US using a UN decree to implement a policy.

        From that aspect, success. From the UN aspect, total … well, I already said that. No need to repeat myself.

          • Heh… yeah. Though I don’t really think he intended for it to be thought of as a viable method of doing things. (people have to earn their citizenship and the right to vote). In light of the way that many democracies and “representative” republics are devolving in to Tyrannies (Plato’s definition), you sort of wish the founding fathers of {pick a country} had read Heinlein.

    • Warning to anyone going after the gridded population data. The 2.5′ grid size makes a huge spreadsheet. I got it to load, but when I tried to convert it over to people per km, my computer choked.

      In order to do the conversion, you have to remember that one degree of latitude or longitude have different lengths depending on what latitude you are looking at.

      Trying to run:

      =(glp00g!ACY2)*( 5935 + 0.2248*(glp00g!$A2) + 0.00001753*(glp00g!$A2)^4 + 0.0000000175*(glp00g!$A2)^5 – 0.8862*(glp00g!$A2)^2 – 0.000000000000006956*(glp00g!$A2)^8)

      across 29,652,480 cells… my computer gave me the finger.

      If you wish to adapt it, the A2 is whatever latitude you are looking at, ACY2 is whatever the 2.5′ grid cell contains. This is a code fragment… it should yield the number of people per square meter…. but I wasn’t able to verify it. Like I said, my computer told me to pack sand.

  13. On the Tolbachik discussion above.
    We had 3 vents some days ago. Now it appears ( to me) that it moved to the right on the cam. ???And it is only 1 vent now. New volcano/mountain forming there?

    • Spica, to judge from Sherine’s shot of the “fireball”, there are at least three active vents. Whether or not it’s the same vents as previously is impossible to say with any great certainty. At least as yet. But it is clear that the activity has increased substantially.

    • Earlier, someone hazarded the idea that it may take on a lifecycle similar to Eyjafjallajökull.

      Not totally out of the question, considering where the “connector” dike from the lower to upper sill was at. Unlike Eyjafjallajökull, this rift/vent line is well opened and is not “blow-torching” in quite the manner that Fimmvörðuháls was prior to the main eruption.

      I won’t rule it out, but I don’t give it a high likelihood.

      {Think “free breather.” Unless it chokes down, there is not going to be a lot of push elsewhere. The only way I could conceive of it doing something else is through erosion in the conduit/channel/path}

      • Does anyone have an estimate of the volume of lava emitted yet? The last time Tolbachik erupted, in the 1970s, it emitted over 1 cubic km of lava. We’ve now been going for a month, and if it has held the reported rate of 400 cubic metres per second for that month we should be at a similar volume by now.

        I’m wondering if this eruption is on track to match 1975/76.

        Just love a nice flood of basaltic lava, as long as it isn’t down my driveway (or anyone else’s for that matter). 🙂

        • I don’t have a sound way of tackling that.

          High resolution before and after topology could do it… taking the volume change over the affected area.

          The best we can really do is to use their estimates.

          One thing that I am still studying… are OCSs.

          As most of you know, SO2 is the gas that most people fret over that can get into the stratosphere in large volcanic eruptions. Flood basalt events don’t necessarily make those tropopause popping columns.

          So, how do events like this or Laki have an effect? Much of the SO2 is leached out by water vapor in the troposphere.

          I think the answer are OCSs. Carbonyl Sulfides. Their emission rate is only a small fraction of SO2, but they have a monstrously long residence time in the atmosphere. Once they get lofted to the stratosphere via the tropical Hadley cells, they become converted to SO2 and then eventually sulfate.

          This is sort of me letting the cat out of the bag… and is part of the groundwork for a later post I plan to write… but I thought that I would just mention it.

  14. GNS responded to my query about the incandescence at White Island. They see it too. They’re looking into it, but given what they know about the spectral response of that webcam they’re pretty sure it’s picking up something in the near infra-red, rather than visible incandescence.

    Still something pretty hot involved obviously… will keep you informed if I learn more.

    • …Civil Defense officials are facing an increasingly panicky populace, put on edge by “the usual” non-scientfic predictions of disasterous earthquakes. While scientists don’t know whether a larger earthquake will come soon or not, and are doing what they can to calm the public…

      Say… this wouldn’t happen to be how the L’Aquila event started out would it?

      Get the lawyers ready, there’s money to be made.

      Note: Focal mechanisms (beach balls) look to be strike-slip.

      • “there was only one catch, and that was catch22”
        it boils down to “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”
        This is a fundamental principle of human existence; and therefore worth bearing in mind 😀

  15. I got some nice presents, my absolute favourite is The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, a serious work, 1400 pages long; unlike a regular encyclopedia this seems possible/ designed to read cover to cover… 😮
    I also got the latest kindle… which was a surprise!!! I do like an actual book, but; it’s PDF compatible… simply attach yr pdf to an email, send and before you know it, it’s int palm o yr hand… and searchable!!!

  16. I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. However I must confess to a sense of relief that I can now return to my usual routines. Family feuds and reconciliations are now dealt with and the cooking takes on some sort of normality. The annoying ailments that lurk until Xmas are also under control, although my usual energy has been lost somewhere between the Christmas day meal that both of us didn’t really want and the constant stream of family and friends attacking the Boxing day Buffet. I have one more urgent chore for today, post office and shopping for milk , then I can rest my poorly rib cage for the rest of the afternoon. Meg has had a well earned run (and being a lurcher I mean RUN…… 20MPH easily), the floor has been hoovered to remove dropped peanuts, snack crumbs and bits of torn wrapping paperSo now comes my rwally most enjoyable part of the season. Playing with my new Toys!! This year a Kindle. I can now look for good books to download. Any suggestions for good volcano related books available for a Kindle?
    @ Henrik…Thank you for a most interesting post. I too wondered why Ulawun. As for Kruschev and Castro……They produced the scariest near doomsday scenario in my lifetime….. I would hate to go through all that again!

    • Hi Diana, me too new kindle, and glad it over x I downloaded Observations on Mount Vesuvius…etc by William Hamilton and The Last Man by Mary Shelley which opens with: “I visited Naples in the year 1818.”
      Clive Oppenheimer’s Eruptions That shook the World is there too, but the vulcanological selection is a bit limited…
      Do see my comment above, it’s a decent bit of kit x

  17. @ all.

    Spica offered up the opportunity for me to release the next post. I am hesitant to do so.

    This post “The Decade Volcano Program” is a well written and insightful topic that deserves it’s time in the sun despite my disdain for certain political entities (as mentioned earlier).

    As noted… in parts of my rant bit, there are a lot of volcanoes that really should be in the grouping of the potentially nasty. IGN found that out with El Hierro, and the government of the island got caught with their pants down and no ready answers. This was painfully obvious from the disjointed statements from the officials about what was going on or what to expect. Hell, they even managed to have an institutional argument about the make up of the floaters.

    Indonesia had a full scale catastrophe with Merapi, given the potential for loss of life, they actually came out pretty well. Indonesia has more volcanoes than you can shake a stick at, so this is sort of routine for them. It’s a subject that is always there, reminding the government that it needs to keep an eye on whats going on.

    Comparing the two… El Hierro had little experience with awakening volcanoes, Indonesia, plenty of experience.

    We sat here in disbelief at some of the official statements that were put out… but then we were comparing the response to Indonesia and Iceland.

    All in all, the purpose of the Decade program was to raise volcano hazard awareness.

    For that we can be thankful.

  18. Hi

    Here is the summary for El Hierro’s earthquake since Juky 2011.
    This is a day by day animation.
    The day’s earthquakes appear as red dots, with dot size proportional to earthquake magnitude.
    Afterwards the earthquakes appear as small blue dots.
    I have added the magnitude scale on the side of the plot in blue.
    Data is from IGN
    Made on Octave using avconv for making the movie.

    • Thanks dfm. I watched and ruminated. Being early morning during holiday time my brain was sort of dozy…… I therefore listened to the deeper first thoughts, the almost subconcious that floated to the surface with the gentle rocking of your plot!!!.
      I was reminded that quakes happen when rocks are cracked. If magma has no obsticles the number of quakes are of course minimal.
      Reading Lurking’s comment about the politician’s reaction to the El Hierro eruption and puttting the last statement together. Thinking about time out that Bob took last year before starting again… and looking at what is right under the Island…….. I do hope that the Local authorities and Politicians of the canary Islands have mad a New year resolution to draw up some strong action and observation plans!

        • I mean next year !!!! I have lost track of dates and days!!
          Talking of next year….. 2013… surely a better date for a doomsday? I could start it off all over again 😀 😀 😀

          • I found this warning for sheep online……An ‘orrible prediction…… beware the Ides of Sheep……”Sheep must watch out for their health this month as the Illness Star flies into your chart. Worse, it joins forces with the Argumentative Star to create lots of quarrels and stress. The sick, elderly or very young must take extra precaution and avoid sleeping in South West bedrooms. Abstain from dangerous sports, drive carefully, postpone long trips away from home, reschedule medical procedures unless absolutely necessary and stay away from yin places such as hospitals and cemeteries. Incorporate some simple exercise routines into your schedule which not only do wonders for your health but will help perk you up. Eat healthily and don’t forget the vitamins and anti-oxidants. Lastly, arm yourself with protection amulets such as the Medicine Buddha Script Pendant or Wu Lou Health Enhance Amulet.”

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