Volcanic Mishaps 2: Mono Lake, California.

Mono Lake, from Wikimedia Commons.

Tufa Outcrops, Mono Lake.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

We had 2 weeks in California; after a weekend in San Francisco and some chillaxin’ by the pool in Sacramento; we took the roadtrip of a lifetime. (many thanks Val x) We visited Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, Yosemite, Mariposa and drove back to Sacramento via Route 49; the gold rush route…

Trees were more my thing in those days, I armed myself with Stuart and Sawyer’s Trees and Shrubs of California; (ISBN 0520221095) bought for $8 in a second hand bookstore in Berkeley and managed to tick off a fair few… Including this baby:


The Grizzly Giant, species: Sequoiadendron giganteum.
From Wikimedia commons.

Statistics: 63.7m high (somewhat truncated by a lightning strike, I guess…) Circumference at ground level: 29.5m, Diameter at 1.5 m from the ground: 7.8m, Estimated bole volume: 963m^3 and old enough to have lived through the action described below!!!

It wasn’t much of a mishap, more of an oversight… We were visiting because my girlfriend (at the time) had seen a picture; something like the one above, and had fallen in love with the desolate beauty of the place. So we went and looked around; we saw the tufa rock formed by accretion of materials at hydro thermal vents and exposed when Los Angeles began tapping Mono Lake’s tributaries; the lake itself is highly saline/ alkaline. We saw Black Point, formed under a much deeper Mono Lake 13,000 years ago; now a flattened cone of basaltic debris. We had a good long look at Negit Island; built by several eruptive episodes between 1600 and 270 years ago. We goggled at Paoha Island created by a magmatic intrusion under the lake between 1720 and 1850; it has an exposed section of rhyolite and 7 (count em’) dacite cinder cones! There was a seismic swarm in 1980 including EQs of up to 6mag (estimated, richter scale) and another in the nearby White Mountain fault in 1986.

Mono Lake is not the whole story; to the south there are a series of domes, coulees, flows and craters stretching all the way to the Inyo Craters; many of these were formed in a series of violent eruptions ~600 years ago. When I say violent I mean phreatomagmatic explosions followed by the opening of a 6km multi- vent fissure, pyroclastic flows affecting the Mono Lake area and then (geologically shortly afterwards) a virtual repeat 40 kms south at the Inyo Craters, followed by coulee and dome building!!! The remaining features are thought to have arisen in the last 2000 years. Mammoth Mountain and the Long Valley Caldera are nearby… Quite a piece of volcanic real estate, I think you’ll agree:

The Big Picture...

The Big Picture… Approx 50kms top to bottom.
Wikimedia commons again.

This sums it up pretty well:


The mishap? We were walking around in and admiring an awesome, starkly beautiful landscape, which:

“is considered one of the most likely sites for future volcanic activity in the United States”

according to Gates and Ritchie…

and I had absolutely no idea it was even a volcanic landscape until “yesterday” when I was glancing through their book!!!

Schtevie x

Disclaimer: The author is an amateur blogger and has absolutely no quailifications as a geologist or anything of the sort.

The article is not implying that “something is going on” and should give you no cause for concern at this time.

See the USGS website linked below for up to date information.


The United States Geological Survey:




Inspiration for the article from:

Gates and Ritchie’s; Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, 3rd edition. ISBN0816063028.

Online book on volcanic hazard management in Long Valley/ Mono Lake:


Not really a reference; (I nearly put my back out when I picked it up from under the tree!!!) but destined to be a new favourite:

Encyclopedia of Volcanoes; editor in chief Haruldar Sigurdsson. ISBN 012643140x.

GeoLurking Link Recommendations for the nitty gritty. (Note, all links provided documents even though some are in paywall company sites)

“Monitoring Unrest in a Large Silicic Caldera, the Long Valley-Inyo Craters Volcanic Complex in East-Central California” Hill (1984)


“Comparison of risk from pyroclastic density current hazards to critical infrastructure in Mammoth Lakes, California, USA, from a new Inyo craters rhyolite dike eruption versus a dacitic dome eruption on Mammoth Mountain” Kaye et al (2009)


“Elastic source model of the North Mono eruption (1325–1368 A.D.) based on shoreline deformation” Shaffer (2010)

Click to access ShBuRe10.pdf



Copied from comments for completeness, Schteve.


Sheepy Dalek:

Alan C Evil Riddel:

Ladies beware! If you have badly fitting undies, you may find me!!

What am I?
What are my origins?
2 points
I hope you ladies aren’t offended by this one 

Riddle – Name Those Volcanoes 
7 Dings 7 points

Variety number 9280, No 1 is used to produce a splendid accompaniment to VC riddle solving!

French FIS WC silver medalist might have crashed on No 2 whilst he learnt to snowboard-cross

No 3 The ‘toy’ volcano (photo below)

16762 No 4 is potentially hazardous and unstable

No 5’s new island emerged, bravely flew the Portuguese flag & vanished just 20 days later

No 6 (photo below)

With a No 7 Bang Bang I wish us all a belated, but very happy & peaceful New Year!



317 thoughts on “Volcanic Mishaps 2: Mono Lake, California.

  1. Schteve, San Vicente de la Sonsierra in La Rioja, Spain? You missed the ‘Picaos’. Nearby there’s a place where your car will drive up hill when you put it in neutral, magnetic oddity, a local took me there and showed it… It’s one of the most interesting regions of Spain. Video in 4 parts, in Spanish…

    • Hi Lughduniense, no not the same place, the San Vicente I knew was more of a village, dinosaur footprints all around and a lovely hot spring not too far away, it’s a geologically interesting region, and the wine they keep for the locals is pretty fine too…

  2. Xavier de Le Rue could be the snowboarder – but cant find a volcano link, unles it’s something to do with Pyrenees, De La Garrotxa national park.

  3. Riddle NTV update
    Just 3 to go and Nos 2 and 7 have been very nearly solved in the last couple of hours! There are hints, clues and oh so close anwers to be found in the last couple of dozen comments! I’ll be back very soon to do some more dinging! (Hopefully!)
    No 4 remains unchallenged!

  4. #4 = Mt. Fuji, Hokkaido, Japan. 16762 is the nº of the minor planet discovered by Seiji Ueda and Hiroshi Kaneda in Kushiro, Hokkaidō, Japan, on October 9, 1996. Full label: (16762) 1996 TK10.

  5. @schteve42, interesting article. Have to admit that I did not know that Snowdon was a volcano (albeit extinct) when a walked up it. Likewise, there area a few more mountains that I have walked up which have volcanic / igneous origins ……………….

    • Thanks Karenz, just goes to show how easy it is to miss these things, especially if you are not forewarned… I can’t think of any others I may have visited in ignorance, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any 🙂

      • Also discovered that I have Precambrian and Paleozoic rocks 300 m beneath my feet! Somewhere in that little lot there may be some igneous rock – if only underpinning of the crust 🙂

        • Heh, I guess that’s true for juat about anywhere in the world…The mantle is down there somewhere, and that is at least potentially igneous… 🙂

  6. Just No 4 left!
    16762 No 4 is potentially hazardous & unstable
    * ‘potentially hazardous’ is a term officially used to classify the threat level of certain extra terrestrial bodies who are frequently given names and numbers
    * ‘unstable’ implies that the number may need stabilising in order to find the volcano link (a kinda mathmatical anagram)
    Over to you …..

  7. Tolbachik cranking it up again after a few quiet days. Eruption column probably >5 km a.s.l. right now:

    • Ding – 1 point for Fred for Stromboli – phew well done!
      Answers, points, links and xplanations to follow now!

  8. S’pose I’d better give the odd hint before we get banned for purveyors of Blue Literature 😀

    Think – what has a well endowed lady and a mineral eg calcite in common?
    then apply the answer to a dynamic metamorphic rock, but finding the precise form!!

      • The Geological Survey has a marble (Cararra I believe)statue of Hercules, way back in the late18oo’s/early 1900’s, his ‘manhood’ was removed, replaced by a leaf, just to appease the lady visitors of the time; since, he has been re-united with his ‘bits’, but in the interim they were in the care of various Curators of the museum; rumour (a good one) has it, they were used as a paperweight when ‘persons’ were in his office during interviews…….. !!

        • My goodness…google Hercules Penis and see what you get…is that what Santa brought you for Christmas Alan 🙂 Am fed up with guessing now so off to make a new cocktail – discovered whilst looking for answer to Suzies Volcano quiz….Bang Bang Cocktail and it sounds very good. Enjoy. x

          • @ Alyson 22.56…thanks so much…but I’m not a star really, more of a meterorite..crash and burn sort of thing. for this riddle I think I deserve a point for the best innuendo links though. The riddle suggested that it might be a bit rude…so that’s the route I followed – up a blind alley as usual…sigh 🙂

  9. NTV Riddle – answers, explanations, links and points –

    No 1 Ischia – Sissel at 13.41 1 point
    Grape variety 9280 is Pinot Noir Precoce aka Ischia (Monte Epomeo)
    No 2 Bayonnaise Rocks – Kelda at 14.35 1 point
    Xavier de le Rue is Bayonnaise
    No 3 Oldoinyo Lengai – dfm at 18.09 1 point
    Katja Kafft the volcano photographer referred to Oldoinyo Lengai as ‘the toy volcano’
    No 4 Stromboli – Fred at 18.06 1 point
    ‘Potentially hazardous’ Asteroid 26761 Stromboli – ‘unstable’ 16762 = 26761
    No 5 Capelinhos – dfm at 18.17 1 point
    No 6 Santa Ana – dfm at 18.11 1 point
    No 7 Tequila Volcano – Kelda at 14.53 1 point
    Tequila Bang Bang is a great cocktail!

  10. Ptygmatic folded migmatite or fine-grained shale protoliths?
    “Ptygmatic folds are formed by highly plastic ductile deformation of the gneissic banding, and thus have little to no relationship to a defined foliation unlike most regular folds. Ptygmatic folds can occur restricted to compositional zones of the migmatite, for instance in fine-grained shale protoliths versus in coarse granoblastic sandy protolith.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migmatite

  11. Interesting, this topic discusses Mono Lake and now Mammoth mountain seems to want a little more attention. See the latest on earthquake-report.com

    Rescued from Schpam by Schteve…

  12. I think I’ll give a point to Sissel, this one is perhaps too obscure !
    refer Strain Slip Cleavage!
    In a nutshell, a second phase (or further) foliation superimposed on an earlier, existing slaty cleavage

  13. Just been nosing around the stats for VC, and thanks to Alan; (and all) somone found their way here with the search term Dragon & Sheepy Porn… 😮

      • Doing something similar to Kizimen on the first video, seems to be contagious. 😯

        There is though a lava dome behind the ash clouds (pyroclastic flows?) on Shiveluch.

        • Inge, most likely it’s just phreatic activity with steam explosions remobilising old ash/lava at this stage, similar to St Helens in March-April 1980. Someone compared it to clearing your throat, a good analogy.

      • Oh goody! Although it’s far too early to tell, is it possible that 2013 might make up for a rather humdrum 2012?

      • Always a possibility.

        Ever hear of the Emperor Sea-mount chain? Shiveluch is directly over top of where they go to die as they are subducted.

        (well, the roots of them… part of them are scrapped off into the accretion prism.)

    • Geolurking would be yr man.
      they’re pretty at the very least…
      pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, schweetcorn, ham, and schpicy pork in case you were wonderin… 🙂

    • No.. I can’t read the charts, but I can tell you what they are looking at.

      Your linked pdf is definitely related the the Quality Control website that you also linked.

      As has been mentioned…. especially with IMO, is that quality of the detected quakes goes up as the solution for the quake gets better with further analysis.

      The way it works, is that a rough solution is gotten via the automatic equipment. A model of how the crust behaves in a specific area is taken into account and the dynamics of that behavior are used to refine the solution.

      What you have here, are the nitty gritty background details of how this network operates. What the detection capability is and what nuances should be applied to get a better solution.

      The linked paper details what level of quake can be detected in different areas, the Quality control website indicates the capability of the system as far as frequency response is concerned. This response will be affected by several factors… such as background noise (wind and seas), temperatures, velocity of propagation, etc. In general, the same stuff we complain about when we see tremor crank up at a site only to find out that a weather system is rolling through. This, in essence, is the scientific level of that complaining… an a way to try and account for it in the analysis that is done with the signals that the network detects.

      How it’s done? Beats me.

    • Re the plots you have linked, at a glance I think they show quality control data for all instruments of the hellenic network…
      If these are available; imagine what else there may be…
      Nice digging :cheers: 😀

  14. OT: Damage Control.

    “Damage Control” is a line of thinking and qualifications for most shipboard personnel. It has to do with knowing how to mitigate catastrophes and things that go wrong so that you don’t wind up having to swim for it.

    Some of the things that are covered, are how to isolate and stop systems that can worsen your situation should they be left running. What switches to thrown, what hatches and access points to open/close and what valves to turn off for certain conditions.

    This line of thinking can be applied to the home. I was pondering this with a minor mishap the other day. How many in your house hold know how to shut off the water feed line to the sink? To the toilet? Where the main breakers are for the house are and what do they do?

    Carrying this a bit further, when do you give up trying to mitigate it and abandon the structure and call for emergency services? How do you best get out?

    In any disaster, keeping your head is paramount. No matter how bad it is, you have to stop and think about what you need to do.

    It’s a tragic tale, but I remember the first active house fire that I responded to as a volunteer. The house was a total loss and an infant died. Part of the problem was that there was a delay in calling for help, and the other, more pressing issue is that no one stopped to consider that the infants bed was next to the window… within arms reach. That child could have been saved if someone had stopped the frantic panic, picked up a brick, popped the window and saved the child. It could have been done in less than 20 seconds.

    So… stop for a moment and think about what you would do in some catastrophe. Burning grease on a pan on the stove? Put a lid on it and turn the burner off. If you have salt or baking powder, fine… but the lid is faster and more effective. Plan ahead, have one that’s the right size setting nearby.

    Teach your family where the cut off valve is for the toilet or sink, or how to secure power to the building if need be. I really think that shutting off the mains to my Grand dads house is what kept it from catching on fire when the tornado took off the roof. (visions of tube and post wiring in the attic went through my mind as I watched that looming column of darkness approach.)

    In short, think it out while you are sitting around leisurely drinking a cup of coffee. It could save your life later.

    • This lofi, but illustrative… I’ve seen this several times on training days… It’s a real how not to do:

      • “It’s about this time that survival in the shop would become negative”

        → Wrong. Plenty of fresh air down within 6″ of the floor. Get down there and crawl for it. Never give up!

        Standing? Yeah, pretty unsurvivable. After you cauterize your windpipe and lungs you aren’t going anywhere. The key is to not be there. Down and out is the way to go.

        • Yup, this particular video is an comedy of errors though… Did you see the part where she sprayed herself with the fire extinguisher…

        • Yep I took a bath in 100 octane due to a fuel hose break. I was up on the wing of a DC7. Far outboard main. The Fuel truck driver shut the whole thing down got out
          and ran to call FD.I did too down the boarding ladder and into the hosedown reels doused myself with water to the point of soaking as I stripped and ran to the shower. In my skivvies.leaving fuel soaked Nomex on the ramp. Airport FD shows up starts foaming ramp and wing. Stuff’s half gone at 100F+ by then … We get it all cleaned up and my back up Nomex on and we are back in the air in an hour…
          Trick here was everyone knew what to do the FS ramp rat was soaking me as I go to the hoses. The Truck driver shut it down no exhaust or heat shut the hose off too.
          FD came out and did what they could at that point, Everything worked. Oh and Lurk,
          the assistant chief at the for Medford airport FD was retired USN and was a Crash
          crewman on Carriers (can’t remember what the exact title was, but he sure as heck had his feces in one spot…

          • Safety gets drilled into you at every opportunity.

            One exercise that is done, is can you get from where you sleep… several decks down, to the topside of the ship… completely blind folded?

            The ship is graded on how well the crew as a whole, does.

            One interesting thing that I found out… and it sort of gives you pause. There is one ampule of morphine for each member of the crew locked away in medical in the event of mass casualty. I found this out due to a medicinals inventory board that I wound up on. Senior personnel from each department had to get together periodically and count/inventory all the heavy duty meds that the ship carried. Dunno if that was just due to the events with the medical staff on my ship or if it was fleet wide.

            For an example of mass casualty… look at the events of the USS Stark.

            They saved that ship.

            One of the dead was a CPO who was hit by an un-exploded warhead (only one of the two went off) as it careened down a passageway.

          • I was on a cruiser operating with the Enterprise when she burned. We spent time searching for people that might have gone overboard. If the Enterprise had been built as intended, she would have had a couple of Terrier batteries aft just below the flight deck. That would have greatly complicated firefighting efforts with full missile magazines to contend with. I was on the Kitty Hawk and worked with the Terrier system on it. There were many mistakes made in the initial response to the flight deck fire on the Enterprise. The Navy now puts much more emphasis on damage control then they did when I joined in 1966.

            We had an interesting situation on the Kitty Hawk while on Yankee Station. We launched a Vigilante off the starboard bow cat. The internal fuel tanks in the bomb bay fell out and ruptured. Due to the roll of the ship, they went over the starboard side and into the water. If they had rolled the other way they would have ended up in a row of armed and fueled aircraft parked on the port bow cat. That would have been fire from bow to stern as we had 30+ knots of wind down the deck.

          • Speaking of really wild stuff….

            We were on the firing line to kill a drone. It was a staged shot, each ship had to miss by a preset amount to register a kill but still have a target for the shorter ranged ships to shoot. The frigate aft of us launched… the missile lost a fin on boost and went into a wild bottle rocket style end over end spin (like when the stick comes off) and everybody pretty much shit their pants. Luckily it hit the water about 300 yards out and it looked like it was over until it made one last dash out of the water into the sky…. then the auto destruct mechanism went off (finally). I think it made it about 1500 feet out before it was over with.

            Now that was entertainment.

  15. There was a small hlaup (mini glacier run) in rivers Skaftá ( http://vmkerfi.vedur.is/vatn/VV_Frame.php?r=27844&load_graph=1&direct=1&station_id=218&station_name=Su%F0urland&page_id=384 ) and Djúpá (coming both from southwestern Vatnajökull) in Iceland, also in Gígjukvísl (http://vmkerfi.vedur.is/vatn/VV_Frame.php?r=27844&load_graph=1&direct=1&station_id=218&station_name=Su%F0urland&page_id=384 ).

    In Gígjukvísl water height went up rather suddenly from 20 to 89 cm, in Skaftá within 1 day from 185 to 230 and in Djúpá within the same time frame from 160 to 286 cm. Conductivity in Gígjukvísl went from 340 to 460.

    This is nothing unusual though, just water melting from the continuously “working” geothermal systems under Vatnajökull. Heightened water conductivity is also conntected to that.

  16. Good morning all Volcanically reasonably calm. The crazy weather here in UK continutes although I am grateful that the incessant, grey rain has stopped for a while. This morning is misty and so warm that the local woodpecker has started his drumming on next door’s nest box. This makes a good echo chamber and the sound is carried far. He’s hoping a female will be impressed. The only problem is that it’s far too early to think babies and nests. This should be happening end of March/April. I am sure we will get a cold snap before long. But this unseasonal warmth may be catastrophic for food growers especially orchard fruits.The trees need to stay dormant until frosts are gone
    Interesting accounts of near misses. I may be being aged and grumpy but somehow I remember when we followeed instruction, and sensible safety precautions were drilled into us. We may not have liked it… but we were (brainwashed?) into obeying sensible precautions.
    I am now expected to hold a long debate with my grandchildren to explain the necessity not to play with wheeled toys in the kitchen when Granny B is cooking. I am supposed to reason, to cajole…..
    I really got into trouble……having nearly roller skated across the kitchen floor balancing a hot pan.. I took the offending toy and binned it…….Then said…..” You get covered in boiling water you end up soscarred and
    ugly everybody will look at you!”. I was in trouble for binning the toy and for shouting at the child…… I scared him, EVIDENTLY THE THREAT OF MAKING HIM UGLY WORKED!!!! I bet he never leaves a toy in my kitchen again!…. N ow where did I leave my broomstick?

    • Oh Diana, you very well describe this kind of situation where mommy herself becomes an ugly natural disaster in an act of altruistic punishment 😈 . That is when appeal to logic just does not work (yet). I hate those moments….

  17. @Schteve: Thanks a lot again for your nice post with beautiful pictures! You are writing in a way which makes me feel I actually was there too.

  18. Hierro. Last week’s brief eq swarm has a surprisingly large effect on GPS stations Fron and H102. Both shifted about 20mm up and 20mm south:

    • BTW: One of the most affected regions is now the one around the mouth of Eyjafjördur, which was also affected by the earthquake swarms last autumn.

  19. Pingback: Sunday Summary | volcanocafe

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