The most dangerous volcanoes of the world! Talk part II

Why is a volcano potentially dangerous? Lets take a closer look on the different volcanic hazards.

Lahar at Mount Saint Helens 1982. Image by USGS.

Lahar at Mount Saint Helens 1982. Image by USGS.

Lets start with Lahars.

They  occurred at Mount Saint Helens, Pinatubo and at Eyjafjallajökull too.
What is a lahar: A lahar is a mixture of volcanic debris with water. They can happen when a volcano has a glacier or a lake on its top but it can also happen  years after an eruption as layers of ash are re-mobilized by torrential rainfall. Such a “mud flood“ as lahars are called in Indonesia has the liquidity of fluid concrete. It also carries  with it huge chunks of rock, whole trees and many other things which it comes across on its way down slope.  Lahars are local effects but represent a major threat for the people living close to river valleys many kilometres from a volcano.

Then there are pyroclastic flows.


1902-pelee-mapBoth Mount Saint Helens and Pinatubo  displayed these phenomena. A pyroclastic flow happens when the column of ash being lifted up by an eruption breaks down under its own weight. The speed of a pyroclastic flow depends on factors such as the density and the strength of the eruption but they can travel at the speed of an aircraft: up to 700 km/h. When they reach the sea, their speed can increase because the water steam produced by the immense heat right beneath lessens the friction. The pyroclastic flow that happened with the famous Krakatoa eruption in the middle of the 19th century reached coastlines far from the volcanic island itself. The most famous “killer“ pyroclastic flow is probably the historic one which killed thousands of Romans in Herculaneum 79 AD. Another very famous pyroclastic flow happened when Mount Pelée destroyed St. Pierre in 1902 or at Montserrat. Pyroclastic flows are local events without any global effect.

And most of the time when a volcano erupts there is ash.

How much ash is produced and how fine the grains are depends on the silica content of the magma, how much gas was inside the magma as it was rising and whether there was water involved somehow. Either through a glacier, a lake or seawater or if the volcano is caused by a subducting plate and groundwater has been pulled along with the subduction of the plate. Volcanic ash looks like fine splinters of glass under a microscope. It is harmful to inhale, potentially having effects like Asbestos. If ash gets distributed into the layers of the stratosphere, which is upwards to12 to 14 kilometres in altitude it reflects the sunlight and has a cooling effect on the Earth’s climate. Ash can have global and local effects. And, like with lahars, it can also be re-mobilized by storms happening years after the eruption. So better wear a damp cloth over your mouth if you walk through a volcanic ash cloud.

SEM image of ash from Eyjafjallajökull taken by author.

SEM image of ash from Eyjafjallajökull taken by author.

The next threats are gases. I am not able to provide any images to show this. Volcanic gases are invisible even though they are more or less highly poisonous. CO2, Carbondioxide is among them, locally one should be careful not to walk into ditches filled with CObecause, like in a wine cellar, one can die in a pool of CO2 as long as it is heavier than the normal gas mixture we call air and lies beneath the layers of “breathable” air. In the atmosphere CO2 can cause a greenhouse effect. SO2, sulfur dioxide, is another gas, which has local and global effect. Local because mixed with water vapour, sulphuric acid is produced which is rather unhealthy for your lungs. In the Stratosphere tiny droplets of Sulphur Dioxide reflect the sunlight and have a cooling effect on the climate. Depending on the height of the eruption column, it may take many years for the SO2 to be washed out. Another poisonous gas is H2S, hydrogen sulfide.

Volcanic lightning is a very local phenomena as it happens only directly inside the ash cloud. Nevertheless it is stunningly beautiful. It occurs because the particles “rub” on each other and thereby the particles get charged. This electricity shows as violent lightning strikes.

A rarely occurring hazard is a tsunami, which can be caused by the failure of a flank of a volcano. Stromboli  showed a smaller one of those a few years ago, when parts of Sciara del Fuoco slid into the sea. When one thinks of a flank failure of an Island, La Palma in the Canary Islands is the one mentioned most often in the press. Such landslides have happened frequently around the steep slopes of volcanic islands and will happen again in the future but it is hard to determine when. A larger earthquake could do the trick of causing such a landslide. Waves much larger than those displayed by the tsunamis of Sumatra or Japan could cause devastating damage even on coastlines on the other side of the ocean .(In the case of La Palma, the American East Coast could be majorly effected, says the press; our GeoLurking thinks not much will arrive in the States.)


To me Kilauea in Hawaii is not a really dangerous volcano. It is a shield volcano with slow flowing lava. And as sorry as I am if someone builds a house on a lava flow which is not even 100 years old, the destruction of that house by a new lava flow does not really come as a “surprise”.

As for Yellowstone, about which media loves to create a hype whenever some minor earthquake swarm happens or simply when there is the typical summer lull, nothing to report and Nessie has not been sighted lately. Yellowstone was a supervolcano, but nothing indicates a mayor eruption any time soon. Some scientists think that maybe some smaller volcanoes might be created. The whole structure will not be blown up at one unexpected, unpredictable moment, ruining America and killing millions worldwide; in my humble opinion, at least not anytime soon.

Volcanoes might have influenced history more than we know.

Ever heard of the eruption of Laki in 1783? Here are some beautiful images of the Laki fissures nowadays. As soon as the Laki fissure opened and huge lava flows started emerging, the people in Iceland took notice and started to pray. Ash was blown towards the west and men walking the streets of Helsinki noticed a fine grey layer on their black hats and coats. Leaves hung blackened from the trees in Bergen, Norway, but until the arrival of ships from Iceland around 3 weeks after the eruption started, few people recognized that they were the result of a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

The ash cloud later turned towards the south; reaching Germany, France, even Switzerland and later England following the wind pattern of those days. During the summer weather was terrible in many parts of Middle Europe. The smell of sulphur was in the air. Thunder and hail storms happened all the time. Only recently scientists looked at the death lists in parts of France and England. A high proportion of people working outside in the fields died. They inhaled the poisonous gases and hunger due to crop failures did the rest. The winter that followed was one of the hardest in recorded history. Thousands if not close to a million people starved to death the years following the Laki eruption. Back then no one knew a volcano in distant Iceland was to blame. They saw it as God’s influence or mismanagement by local authorities. The famine following the Laki eruption was very likely one of the factors which caused the uproar of the under privileged; resulting in the French Revolution in 1789. So volcanoes have the ability to change history and this was by far not the only event influencing the fate of humankind; just think of Toba.


I do believe that many more disasters of human tribes were originally of volcanic origin, we just haven’t figured this out so far, or we might never know for certain because of the lack of written history or because we are not able to exactly determine the actual amount of destruction so many years later. The eruption of a volcano could cause famine, cooling of the climate, death of many people, or death of a civilization. Or were there other events going on at the same time which could have caused the same effects? Volcanic eruptions have probably also destroyed primitive or poorly developed civilizations leaving little or no evidence that they ever existed.

again: t.b.c. tomorrow



Here is the announcement for the lecture on the museums Homepage (in German):

It includes a link to VC to part I of the article:

150 thoughts on “The most dangerous volcanoes of the world! Talk part II

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  3. Here’s something I’ve been wondering about Pinatubo. When it erupted, did it also destroy the magma chamber or was it just the summit that got destroyed?

    • Since Pinatubo did not suffer a real caldera formation I would be seriously surprised if the magmatic reservoir had been damaged. As far as I know the reservoir was never breached. And as you know it never went caldera.
      Pinatubo just had a very large non-caldera eruption.

      So, I guess your question is really if it could have another equally large eruption? If so, yes but only if it can build up to the same type of pressure in the system. My guess is that this was about as large as Pinatubo could erupt at current conditions, but that it in a few hundred to a thousand years could go even bigger.

      • While extremely unlikely, there is still a chance that it could have another huge eruption within a relatively short (geologically speaking) time period (think 200-300 years).

        Crater Lake (Mt. Mazama) erupted a VEI-6 eruption only 200-300 years before it had an enormous VEI-7 eruption. It all depends on the size of the magma chamber and how much magma is being stored. If the 1991 eruption was only 1/20th of the total magma chamber, and it refills quick enough, it’s hard to say when the next eruption would be or how large it could get to.

        With that said, based off past history and what we know, Carl is right in the fact that it will probably take over 1000 years to have another VEI-6 eruption.

        • Oh, I think you misunderstood me.
          I think it can have another equally large VEI-6 within this century. I was talking about a caldera collapse. Remember that the magmatic system was most likely not damaged, so it is at the end of the run for a stratovolcano size-whise, and as such can have repeated very large eruption in “short time” before going caldera.
          (mental reminder, write a post about how the cycle strato-caldera-strato goes…)

        • For reference, Crater Lake (mazama) erupted a VEI-6 around 5065 BC, then followed it up with a VEI-7 eruption in 4895, only 170 years later.

          If I had to take a guess at the mechanics behind this, I would say that this was probably related to a dual-magma chamber eruption, where the topmost magma chamber erupted the VEI-6 eruption in 5065, then the larger lower magma chamber destabilized and erupted not that long after the initial VEI-6. The VEI-6 eruption potentially triggered an influx of magma into the lower chamber through decompression melt, which henceforth mixed with more evolved dacitic & rhyolitic magma, and eventually blew.

          Of course, this is just a stab in the dark, but it seems like it would be a good explanation of how you would get two eruptions of that size in such a close time-period, with the small eruption occurring first.

      • Well. Pinatubo 1991 is indeed considered a (small) caldera-forming eruption. The collapse structure formed during the 1991 eruption is 2.5 km in diameter, so that’s definitely not a simple crater, but a small caldera.

        • Ah, here comes the man we can ask 🙂
          So, what exactly is the demarkation line between a very large crater and a very small caldera?
          And do you know if there was any damage done to the magma storage system?

          • I’m not an expert on this by any means, but If I believe correctly, a caldera floor should sit lower than the base of the edifice itself. This would indicate a collapse of the magma chamber, and material sinking back into that partially vacated chamber.

            If it’s just a large crater, it would be mostly above ground as a simple blast structure that blew up the existing edifice as the material forcefully escaped.

            Then again, a powerful enough explosion could dig out a crater lower than the surrounding base of the edifice. Wouldn’t the presence of a ring fault be indicative of a proper caldera?

            • I see some talk about Crater lake here, so I will chime in.

              Crater lake is the most interesting US cascade volcano in my opinion. While many other cascade volcanoes are more interesting for many other reasons, Crater lake catches my eye. Why? I think I have a bias towards calderas. Why am I saying this? I don’t know.

              But on topic. I do think that the caldera floor should sit near the base of the edifice. A large crater forms when the plug of magma gets blown out, like at El Chichon. A ring fault shows collapse.

            • Thank you mtac! I have one article already in the pipeline and am currently in the process of deciding the subject of my next. Your reply has convinced me that the one I am looking at is the correct one even if it’s going to be very difficult. So, just for you… 😉

      • From what I’ve read, Pinatubo certainly did form a small caldera; the heavy seismicity during and after the climactic phase certainly indicated something major was going on.

  4. I was just remiscing about the wonderful “toothpaste” image that Spica made of the Eyjafjallajökull ash. For those who have missed it, there is a huge repository of fantastic ash pictures made with a Sweep Electrone Microscope by Spica up in the top-menu. I seriously suggest grabbing a glass of wine one day and go through them. They are quite lovely.

    Yep, you guessed right. 😀

    DragonEdit: You sneaky little you! (Welcome to the Volcanocafé, guaranted to be the only place where you will have Dragons talking inside you scull…)

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    • As much as the idea intrigues me, I kind of would prefer to have you around. How about we go and sit in a wine cellar and drink some bottles instead?

      (you lost me somewhere)

      • “Carbondioxide is among them, locally one should be careful not to walk into ditches filled with CO2 because, like in a wine cellar, one can die in a pool of CO2 ”

        does this, hic, help?

          • Yeah , i had been thinking that the CO2 problem in wine cellars is widely known.
            Btw ( not very animal friendly ) Austrian Wine farmers sometimes had small dogs. They accompanied them into the cellar. The small dog would die before the gases reach the nostrils of a human.. its nose is just closer to the ground. Cats are also very welcome in basements used for storing wine. A dead cat would indicate there is a problem down there.

    • I live in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Lot’s of old pubs have a cellar under the pub to store beer and other beverages.
      They need to have a co2 alarm installed after some problems with people never coming back up from that cellar. The culprit is usually some sort of leaking from a co2 gas cylinder that comes with the beer nowadays…

  6. Brilliant posts, Spica, thanks.

    Where to start…………..

    Did the guy who died announcing Mt St Helens film the mountain exploding or was that a fictional film of the event? The image has stayed with me, anyway.

    There has been a 2.2 at 17km directly under Etna today. Any thoughts as to whether she might be feeding from the depths, or is it just a seismic event? Most quakes under the Med are at 10km, with a few at hundreds deep, so this is an anomaly, perhaps.

    ‘Fire Mountain’ by Peter Morgan is the most comprehensive journalistic account I have found about the eruption of Pelee. It really brings to life how the event unfolded at the time.

    First hand accounts are unforgettable – right back to AD79!

    Best wishes 😀

    • Btw, no that was not a “Volvo” (“Völva”) altho a quake could sent thing rolling,
      Volvo (equal number of letters, most even look similar!) translates “rolling” right?
      Um, eee ah … Umea (add a small sign abowe the a)
      Mmust add on “places to visit” to test your “stuff”.
      Maybe yur Army does not mind?
      Now, that did not come put right… no Völva eithr, this (girl/woman) should keep such in, by herself, or let IMO know.
      *deny all claims to reliabilty or such*
      *hope dungeon is well stocked*
      *hopless at writing Gagnam … err … Geoloco Style”*)

      • ah so, … *red face*
        Brain not engaged. So they did “reset”.
        Suppose that happens every time Hekla blows 😉
        “has started building new quak proof cellar, without a Train or video booth”
        but can also hire army of foot soldiers, place them near all known SILS in South Iceland. – Syncronise Watches – have then jump all at once, say at 23:15 hrs
        (maybe cheaper at 13:00 hrs ?)
        and have a few “Borises” at IMO jump from their seats …
        *no similarity to Sicily meant*

        I can happy go on untill some thing blows. Like a Blog marathon, eh?

        Maybe a tresure hunt is in order … good for learning Icelandic.
        International version …
        English often corrupting local languages, but likely the corruption comes from within.
        In their website header is this this list of continets and countries. I think China IS in Central Asia, see no need split Asia into China or Cental Asia, unless the Central has shifted. THAT is the order of the World, apparently. Nothing else, how about: by Size, Population, Geoloc.o., Alphabetical or what ever. I am sorry Canadians and all others not mentioned. You apparently are not “large enough important-isch” 😉
        Middle East
        Nelson Mandela
        South America
        Central Asia
        I do ask. Did they pass Journalist school or what ?

        • What I meant say this: That tresure is not “Indian” (anymore) … Its French!
          No doupt about it. (Unless found on Italy side. Then its Italian…)

          Also who flies a Boeing 707 from Mumbai to London, routing basically from the south-east that is, to hit a mountains SW corner, i.e. perhaps up to 270 deg off track (that if it was off intended course). I do blame Air Traffic Control (!)
          Unless this be crappy Journalists, of course.
          And the 1950 crash. A lovely Connie. Mrntions the 1966 crash too .. “Air India passenger flight that accidentally flew into a mountain near Mont Blanc in France” Near. Not on Mont Blank then?

          • Hi islander – it probably needs tg to fill in the details but I do recall reading about the dangers of up-drafts and down-drafts over mountainous areas that could send a plane dropping like a stone… My own experience of flying home from a holiday in Greece, over the Alps, was that the plane flew very high, much higher than usual, to get above some thick black towers of thunder cloud, each filled with its own lightning. It got pretty cold inside the plane, and it was also juddering from the air pressure.

            You never know, though – the treasure may still be Indian, (or even British?) if an heir can prove they belong to him or her. Good lad for handing them in!

            • Yea, bad weather etc. No need tell me. Flown in lots of turbolance, mountain waves and thrugh rotor-clouds, on purpose some. One only wonders why the debris has not been airlifted off the Glacier. We have done that here to clean up. Who to pay? The insurance company “owns” it so to speak. Guess who is paying for raising a small 114,000 ton cruise-ship right now.
              *now will stop get premium discount… so best shut my big m**th*

        • LOL! I thought you had ‘lost the plot’ when I read your post – but I see what you mean when I saw the straplines of the Daily Telegraph. Unfortunately journalists do tend to think that way – so I guess if there was a big story from Mexico or Canada it would be put in the ‘USA’ header. In the same way they are happy to have one correspondent in, say, Johannesburg to cover the whole continent. During the recent trouble in Kenya SKY News got briefings from someone in Jo’burg – but that is so far from Nairobi that she might as well have been in London.

          • 😉 I see it this way, SKY has two reporters.
            One at home and the other abroad!

            Also this on news(papers) or whatever entertainment we call them, classification of stories, my view:
            Fast stories – equals multiplies of errors.
            Small stories – no facts get it the way.
            Large stories – facts are well and truly hidden.
            Lucrative stories – Probably false.
            Breaking News – First version(s) likely is more wrong than right!
            Inside stories – Probably already paid for.
            Do we really have good news services? If there is a major war, say like Invasion of Kuvait long time ago. How many dead bodies were there in the news pictures? Or how many in conflicts after that (exception of a massacre in the Congo, was it there not?) I do not know, I am still looking.
            Guess after South-Vietnam the corpses photos were “not in fashion” anymore.
            *rant off*

  7. Hi
    I am back home and the talk is over. I had a little more than 40 vistors which is what i had hoped for.
    It went very well, i think, and people gave me a huge big applause. Many questions were asked afterward.
    I think i could spread some of the fascination volcanoes bring to me. There were also some young kids, which had been visiting me when i showed parts of my international dirt collection in the BioLab to a friends daughter. they had been promised to come but as long as they live in 50 km distance i was not so sure. i was glad to see them in the audience.
    Many people also promised to visit me some other day and ask more questions.
    It was a sucess.
    I also advertised volcanocafe and told people they can ask our crowd if they have questions… maybe some will stop by.

  8. I’m very pleased for you indeed, sounds like a triumph 🙂
    Will there be a review in the newspaper?
    I think your timing is perfect; right after the VC makeover we have the introductory address to end all introductory addresses!
    GO Birgit x

  9. By the way – my comment yesterday about not being able to post during the day was not a criticism of Volcanocafe. I agree with Carl that it would be much better for my employer to upgrade our computer systems (possibly my employer would tell me to get back to work!) 😀 I just hope that if Miss Hekla decides to do something, then she does it in the evening hours.

    • I understood that it was not any criticism 🙂
      My comment was more on the lines that we sadly can’t stay with technology that functions for the really old computers, if we did we would be sailed past quickly. Oddly enough I had a person today say that all of a sudden things worked better with the old computer…

      • I agree – I’m all for new technology that works! Perhaps I’ll try on my smartphone – I’ll wait till I have something sensible to say in the daytime and give it a try. 🙂

  10. Warning.

    A famous Icelander (because she had a psychic prediction for an earthquake near Krisuvik in 27 July 2009 which turned out to happen), predicts now that an earthquake will likely happen tomorrow (and a major one) in the south of Iceland (where I live).

    She said she got the prediction on a dream about the date and place, but the year was “likely” to be 2013.

    I dont took serious predictions (except one prediction that freaked me out in 21 May 2011, the day Grimsvotn had its huge eruption just seen from my window, because that was the day a US priest predicted the end of the world and it turned out such a widely talked prediction that everyone where I live joked about it, until the moment Grimsvotn turn its ash cloud up – obviously the world did not end and it was all just a freaking coincidence. But just hours before Grimsvotn I was just waiting for that freaking fantasy of watching all Icelandic volcanoes go boom. It scared as a mushroom cloud appeared in my eastern view.

    So, I really think tomorrow nothing is going to happen in Iceland. But I wouldn’t be surprised (such is reality sense of humor) if some event would happen somewhere in the world, or perhaps a tiny swarm in the south of Iceland, just to scare the hell out of us. Or an Hekla eruption 😀

    Anyways, not that I am superticious, but tomorrow I am not going near Hekla, north Iceland, or nor Thingvellir 🙂 eheh, LOL

  11. There is ongoing activity in the north of Iceland. TFZ
    A Coast Guard Vessel (Floating Rescue Center, without crew) is based in Húsavík Harbour. Crew and staff will be flown in, if anything shakes too much.
    They expect a large quake, there abouts in region, eventually. This has been drilled and rehersed, last winter and spring. And re-rehersed. I more expect quakes there (size unknown or speculated up to a 7,0 R) can happen there, yet there is area, in the south – around Skarð, in Landssveit County (west of Hekla) that has “load” present. Last large quake in about 1912-ish (after larger quake series, to its west, of 1896), delay 16 years (its now 13 years after the year 2000 quakes, but we had two then, and one in 2008). So will it? I do not know.

  12. Spica. Absolutely brilliant! Well done.! I am sure you will have made at least one future Volcanologist/Geologist. How I wish I could come over and see you and the museum. I think our museums could look at your set up there.
    Sorry I am late with comments and congratulations. Had a date with a medical scalpel yesterday and left a tiny part of me as an exercise for someone in the local Histology Lab.
    Trouble sleeping now though so these two posts have cheered me along as well as Icelander’s Gangnam comments; A wonderfully tempting invitation to Swtzerland (On my overland way to visit Spica) .Thank you GeoLoco : and now Irpsit’s heads up to an Icelandic Nibiruistic happening over the weekend. Stay Safe all in Iceland, Japan and everywhere else where the world’s Geology carries on doing it’s thing with no regard for us humans.
    I do hope we get lots more visits from young people here on VC…. I feel a rumination coming on……….

  13. How a Geologist is formed……….. in three not so easy stages
    1) A visit to a Museum or a talk like Spica’s or even a chance landing on the VC site sparks interest….
    2) The rudiments are taught at school or college (My thanks to these four lovely young budding geologists)

    3) At University a full understanding of how difficult and often very uncomfortable work as a geologist really is slowly sinks into the Student brain…….

    Fully formed geologists can be spotted on line posting and commenting here on Volcano Café.. They are the ones looking exhausted and propping up the bar on Friday nights with hair full of Volcanic ash and trousers muddy from measuring rockfalls, earthquakes and Noxious gasses
    However messy, they Love their work and find time to try to encourage those around them to see how amazing this world beneath our feet really is.
    My sincere thanks to Dr Boris Behnke ( A Proper, very experienced and qualified role model for embryonic Volcanologists) for his wonderful Grand Finale that I found on You Tube.

    My thanks to Islander for his Gangnam Style stimulus for this rumination

    • I am not, not shall I ever be a Geologist. My reason is simple, I do a lot of stuff, mostly recreational. I have had a fully satisfying career in the military and am pretty set in my ways. I also enjoy what I do, which is field technical support. I get to meet all sorts of less than ordinary people, and I am not forced to see each and every one every single day. The driving? Well, that’s a pain in the arse, but someone has to do it. My leisure time is mainly my focus in geology, as an amateur. I first became interested by digging for sharks teeth in limestone… 160 miles from the ocean. How did it get there? What is it? Where did Yazoo clay come from? (it has a really large coefficient of expansion when it gets moist and is quite adept at ruining foundations. But in situ, it is as hard as concrete when dry) Another item that spurred me along was why my hometown stuck up from the surrounding area. Turned out it there used to be a volcano there… 81 million years ago, in the same ocean that laid down those limestone beds that I used to dig in. (while dodging the occasional snake)

      It’s just a series of questions about stuff that has made me read what I can and try to understand it. Another motivation, “Do I live in a sinkhole prone area?” I found out the requisites for kharst topology and have come to the conclusion that no, I don’t like in a high threat area. It has potential, but nothing prolific like there is 85 miles away.

      Mt Redoubt got me into the plotting aspect of geology… taking those discrete points where earthquakes occur and trying to make sense of any patterns or trends there. Then came one of Yellowstone’s many swarms. (Lordy what a plot that was).

      Delving deeper into geology, you get into rock mechanics, metamorphism etc. Even the failure mechanics of landslides and caldera formation.

      I’m still waiting for GeoLoco to go into more detail about Quick Clay. That is some really bizarre stuff. His link to the Rissa video is fascinating.

      This thing even made tsunamis within in the lake that went down and hit a nearby town.

      • Right now I’n into detail with financial planning and would like some forms our so much appreciated economists elaborated to be quick clayish and liquify when you apply some pressure on them…

        And I’m shocked to see how few respect they have for Geology in other countries, just playing around during excursions and concentrating on idiotic videos more than on science itself. You can’t just turn into fun and derision when talking about serious topics. Incredible.

        • Good Morning GeoLoco. These Youngsters are Students. At 18 – 20 years old I remember rebellion at University. Some of us rebelled against the Politics of the day and were very serious about it. Then we had Our “Rag Weeks”. A week where we caused gentle mayhem and put the Town into carnival atmosphere. We made gentle fun of the Establishment and our Seniors and often our chosen Subjects. Money raised by silly antics, a Rag Week magazine full of jokes and light hearted articles and parades or shows went to a local Charity and we brought a smile to the faces of the local citizens. I am sure these youngsters have taken their course work and subject matter very seriously and will of course become hardworking and serious scientists for the rest of their working lives. Exams and serious study took up most of our time but it was also a time for being free, young and full of life.
          I don’t think they are deriding Geology. More they are reacting to show they can still have fun even in a work situation that is possibly alien to them. I got the impression they were being pushed quite hard to fit in a concentrated session of fieldwork into a short time and not in particularly comfortable surroundings. (Well that’s how it was with us when we did fieldwork, usually in the rain and a local Boggy expanse)
          I have a feeling at times our Financial Gurus and some Government bodies are still in “Rag Week” Mode deriding some aspects of their chosen fields of Study and unfortunately the benefits they are supposed to create for their country are not seen and Charities still have to struggle. I think you and I agree on this.

          • Uhm. I was kidding. Big time. 🙂

            My speciality was throwing big as possible stones into everything that looked like a bit of water. Once we had started kind of a “war” with that and one stone I took was really big and went a bit further that thought. The professor, in full explanations, ended up with a wet back and told me “well now I think it really is enough, isn’t it?”
            Another time we were crossing a river in a sort of “canyon situation”. My boulder came flying from a height of about 10m. No one endangered, be sure about that. But the fat “sploooosh” frightened a prof so much that he lost balance and ended up in the river with one leg. Let’s say, “deep enough” to make it a punishment for some of his lectures…
            Then was this famous italian professor. We were guests in Italy and did a field trip together. Much too long, and it started being really late, and he was just and simply annoying. Ok, we got it dude, it’s mantle rock… Geeez. We were 2 and hid behind a big rock, where we found quite a boulder. Together we managed lifting it. Throwing it down the canyon, approx. 15m high, nearly made us fly with the stone. The splash, together with the echo, was magnificent. The dude got a little pissed but our own profs had to hold back their smiles…

            So you see, ehm, I couldn’t judge anyone for combining happiness with seriousness. Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow, or something like that, as Mr Wilde once said… 🙂

            • And it has nothing to do with age. Still now when there are congresses or stuff where there’s no one losing a project or money because of my expertise (no, you won’t build that as you wanted too…), I’m not “too good” to grab some kg of good old stone and throw it into the nearest water like a small child. Cool thing is now I have a status that makes it impossible for anyone to blame it on generalities like “aah, that’s the youngsters…” No sir! It’s a way of life. As long as I can I will throw heavy stones into the water and make any joke that a situation allows (there definitely are situations where joking would be wrong). F U if you’re one of those who need to act like you’re serious, mature or whatever to give you credit because deep inside you’re not.

            • Age?….Now people my age should be serious. We have seen disasters, wars and so much stupidity by governments over the last ??? Number of years . We have realised that our day of walking through those gates to heaven (or hell) will actually happen despite wonder drugs, diets and exercise machines. We know humanity still is making avoidable “Mistakes”. How can one not be worried , anxious and despairing about the future?………

              Being still of a rebellious nature I defy the idea of a tranquil and sedentary drift towards the sunset of my life. I have plans. I have asked that when the time comes I want a 4 x 4 off road mobility scooter. I revel in being eccentric. I have promised all the family I believe in life after death because I want to haunt them and also put the bejeebies, frighteners and worse on some of the politicians that deserve it. Best of all , I may not be able to throw Boulders into water but I can frighten the bad mannered boy racers at the traffic lights and rev my engine up Loud and hard and give them bird …….I love that fleeting look of stunned amazement as they forget they are the ones who should be ahead not the granny in the trusty old estate car 😀 😀 ( I am really very careful on the road and I don’t EVER put anyone into danger. )……..
              Now WHERE did I leave my bag of marbles?????

            • When you spend a couple of hours polishing a passageway, frustration can come into play.

              One of my coworkers discovered that if he put a light coat of “metal polish” down, the deck (floor) would seem much shinier than with wax alone. In essense, it was a thin film of oil.

              It worked wonders when the Junior officers would go sliding into the corner and smack into the cableway.

      • I actually don’t know much about quick clay. I know clay from where I studied and work. Quick clay was a little bit of something on the professors table when he made the demonstration of its liquefaction, as a special case of clays. Then memories of an awful lot of theory – our mineralogy teachers where mad. But we learned a lot with them. And comes that one time I was checking a construction site. Quite a lot of clay in the soil, and the whole thing quite saturated with water as there was an aquifer “pushing up”. The whole terrain was moving in waves when you jumped – imagine when the caterpillar was dancing around there… They always hat the water level checked. The guy responsible there told me he once in a similar situation had lost a caterpillar… But that’s not liquefaction in the way quick clays do it. The soil in such situations can loose its “consistency” when water pressure exceeds the internal bonds within the material. Not even a question of classic swelling.
        Quick clays are marine and found in the northern part of the northern hemisphere continents. Their liquefaction is spectacular in 2 ways from my point of view (many more, but let’s forget about too much mineralogy; anyway I’m not ‘fit’ enough in that matter an special case to say more than wikipedia could).

        1) the fact that it does liquefaction
        2) this “contagion” / propagation of the mineral transformation

        It’s not only the very volume that has been disturbed that liquifies – the “state” of being liquid rather than “gelish” goes over from one part of the “atomic structure” to the next, up to “transform” these incredible whole valleys like in Rissa.
        Should go back to work, and anyway would have to do some catch up with my clay mineralogy before I start telling sh…

        • I lost a good pair of boots to clay. I was tromping around in a small patch of sugar cane that my dad had planted because being next to a creek, it was always too wet for anything else to grow there. This creek flowed past a hill that had copious amounts of rock hard yazoo clay in it. During the years of the creeks existance, it had evidently collected a quantity of this clay as sediment along the flood plain of the creek. My foot sank about 8″ and I couldn’t get it out. As I pulled on it, the other foot sank just as much if not a bit deeper. I was pretty much vacuum sealed right there on the spot. I leaned over and got my legs at an angle and worked my feet out of my boots and crawled back to firmer ground under the trees.

          This is the same patch of ground that literally ate a six foot 1.5 ” thick iron bar that I had been poking into the ground in the other patch of garden. (poke a hole, stick a bean pole in it, rinse, repeat). The iron bar slipped out of my hands and sank out of site. That scared the crap out of me. I kept having visions of some dark cavern underneath the soil there. In retrospect… I think that the mass of the bar was enough to carry it deep into a pocket of loose soil or clay. I’ve seen that patch of ground worked with a tractor, and it never sank out of site. It got stuck a couple of times, but never disapeared. (The tractor was extricated with an chain block and tackle secureed to a pine tree.)

          • Yup I lost wellington boots the same way.
            I used to mix Corn Starch and water in and pour some into petri dishes. I let them start by seeing how hard it was by tipping it upside down and allowing my class to feel the apparent dryness of it. Then I said “Make your two fingers dance or walk quickly over the surface lots of times”. The Children used to love the apparent change to liquid. Then would follow discussions about the dangers of quick sands and building houses in the wrong place. Quick clay like Rissa is scary but also are the quick sands on the coast near us that swallow people every year!. here is a clip about Morecambe bay. A couple of years ago 23 Immigrants collecting shellfish were killed by getting stuck before the racing incoming tide. It was very sad.

        • That contagion idea is a trip.

          In biology, a prion is a malformed protein. Mad Cow and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease are believed to be caused by it. The pretense of the malformed protein tends to cause other proteins of the same chemical make up to also misfold.

          It’s not a virus, it’s not a bacteria… its a malformed protein. Short of incinerating the (cattle) meat down to pure carbon, you can’t cook it out.

          Creutzfeldt–Jakob first occurred among early users of human growth hormone since it was harvested from cadavers. Get a dosage with a bad prion, and you stand a chance of having it propagate the improper folding to other similar proteins.

  14. Hi all. Don’t know if Carl will remember me, we used to talk about a certain Pakistan mini-volcano :-).

    I have been trying to become an expert on volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean (especially those of PNG, Vanuatu). I don’t have a lot of time nowaday’s but if you ever want any posts writing on these area’s I would be happy to help the brilliant VolcanoCafe.

    • Hi Lucas,
      Wilson was the name? I think we might be many to remember you, not only Carl.
      Good to hear you don’t have a lot of time. Often means that things are rolling in life, sometimes too much, of course…

    • Welcome back! Love to hear, err… correction, read about Pacific volcanoes. As for PNG, I know a little bit about two volcanoes Ulawun and the Rabaul s-volcano but nothing more. A few years ago, on a PNG nature show, they came close to a marvellous cone that would have been as tall as Ulawun had it not been for the fact that is was truncated by the most massive and deep crater I’ve ever “seen”, Bardarbunga included. On the show they said it was extinct and that the incredibly deep crater was due to erosion. I’m sure you know of many more equally interesting volcanoes so please, yes! I’d love to read your articles!

      • It could be Mount Bosavi, but the pictures available online do not match my recollection of what i saw on the box. Then again I’m old, and old people… 😀

  15. Climate change: the effects were always expected to be more than average in the alpine region (catastrophes like flooding and stuff due to more extreme precipitation events). Now a new study from the university of Bern claims it might be the opposite. But anyway, on a global scale we are FUBAR. The lack of temperature rise in the ocean water is due to a temporary charging of the deep waters, especially in the deep waters of the arctic. That will finally make things even much worse than “we” thought. All due to CO2 and my car in particular. It is well known that CO2 coming out of a plane is completely different from CO2 out of a car, and has very different effects. That’s why we don’t need to tax it the same way… I don’t mean to discuss that in a particular way, but I need to thank all these studies, the IPCC and the press for fabulous entertainment, since many years.

  16. Does anyone of you know more about patomskiy crater than wikipedia. I stumbled across images of it and as it is like “put on the ground”, it was sure to me not to be meteoritic. But then, volcanic? I don’t know… The ejecta would look different. Some kind of “gas eruption”? Yeah but to eject so many tons of material, I mean, what an energy / blast this would need…
    Think of it for some time but have no time and energy to do more research, that’s why I ask. Not trying to convince you that aliens have landed there 480 years ago or something…

  17. Islander: (now speaking at a scientific level), do you think that the strain at the SISZ (South Iceland Seismic Zone) was not released in both events of 2000 and 2008?

    A friend of mine knows someone at the earthquake research in Iceland, and told me this as well: that the strain is still there, and needs a third event to be fully released. And this is near more towards the west of Ingolfsfjall, near Hengill.

    Anyways, my impression is that strain near Hverargerdi is there, and also at Thingvellir, and also west of Hekla (near Árnes). These 3 spots have since long had a major earthquake and strain is probably high, since the adjustments of 2000 and 2008. So, two spots of south Iceland have “moved” while leaving the rest around, in a state of tension. In soon, these spots will have a major quake (between M5 to M6.5).

    We have seen many quakes in recent year just around Hengill, even some slightly large quakes (up to M4.5). That’s probably around the spot that will have the next major one.

    • Of course, there is even more stress in the north of Iceland, at Tjornes Seismic Zone. We have been seeing a lot of swarms this year there, in many locations (even one swarm today). A really big one (M6 to M7) is going to happen very soon, geologically speaking. I reckon it is highly possible within a decade, even within a year or two. In the South of Iceland, the quakes usually come in 2 or 3 events, separated by anything between 5 to 20 years. Last ones were in 2000 and 2008, after a long period of quiet.

      • And finally to finalize our strain-wise talk on the south of Iceland, further east we have our long waiting Hekla and Katla. While Katla has not erupted in proper way for a long time, Hekla so seems to be ready to have another, but we cannot know when. Anything up to 2020 is my window of confidence. Most likely, statistically inspired, will be with a winter-early spring eruption

        • Another thing: my cat is still very quiet/normal today. I am trusting my cat to have that sixth sense 🙂 Since he was born in April, I haven’t had a change to test his predictive abilities yet. 🙂

        • I have to admit that 3 years ago, I was pretty sure we would see Hekla and/or Katla “do something” until now. I’m a victim of looking at stats and all the pretty graphs and stuff we can get online these days. Everyday I look at and while I see more or less little dots wonder how I have let myself be so “sure”. The thing is, ask me now and if I’m honest I still say those ladies can switch into action-mode anytime. A week or month seems of higher probability to me than 10 years. Really disturbing.

        • Irpsit:
          We are talking about area south-east of Árnes (and Hekla), not Árnes area itself.

          South of Árnes was the quake location on 14:40ish hours 17.06.2000 (Saturday, and is the “Birth-day / Independence day of Iceland” 6,4+ R quake, that also triggered the “silent” quake in Kleifarvatn Lake, pulling the plug out of it) and then another 6,2+ R quake hit two-three days later, just after midningt (Monday/Tuesday night).

          And the Hveragerði / Ingólfsfjall, May 2008 was the 3rd event. So already three.
          So your source maybe have faulty memory.
          Probably there is “leftovers” there but I think not much over 6 R (yet). However area east of Skarð, and then down into Vatnaföll is the area that has not released its buildup.

          Anyways, the area west of Blue-Mountains (Bláfjöll), around Grindaskörð and Þríhnjúkar (“Into the Volcano” documentary was shot there) is the most potent and can pose “threat” against Kópavogur/Hafnarfjörður/Reykjavik areas, with already (by year 2000) up to almost 7,0 R quakes. This it not rumour, the estimate calculations exist in IMO, althou I do not the papers research name (by Páll Halldórsson). Maybe your source was referring to that.

          But I can agree that no disater happened about half-hour ago (13:00) but maybe its only late?
          But disasters do happen, unfortunately

          • yes i agree with you. what I heard does not make so much sense, other than the area around Hengill itself. But I do not know if Hengill area could have quakes much bigger than M5. And we have seen many swarms there already. ´

            Besides that, of course the Thingvellir area has not seen a big one for a loooong time. That’s my most worrying spot. In the 1780s (not sure about the year) that area had a very big one there, after Laki, and I read it somewhere that it could have been that Laki helped to make the strain already existing there unstable and then the quake happened. But it has been more than 200 years without a significant quake there. However, as we all know rifting in that area is “relieved” by activity further east – about 75% of rifting occurs in south Iceland around the Hekla-Katla-dead zone region, and about 25% around the area Thingvellir-Langjokull (I read the percentages in an article but I cant remember the exact percentages so I am just throwing a rough picture of them)

            Other than these, I agree that southeast of Árnes is another area of potential concern. Because with the eruptions of Hekla in last decades and the 2000 quake further west, there is a region in between that has been rather quake free, probably building strain. But also I think that as get east of Árnes the crust becomes more ductile, and then we reach the “dead zone” region of Hekla and its surroundings and its continuation towards the edge of Vatnajokull (which is the dead zone itself as we know it).

            Anyways, north of Hengill, Thingvellir, is also another sort of “dead zone”.

            I cant say how much strain is in each of these 3 regions. I would guess.estimate quakes could occur up to M5 around Hengill, around up to M6 around Reykjanes, not more than M4.5-5 around Hverargerdi or Selfoss area (if strain is still there), around M6-6.5 southeast of Árnes, or up to M6.5-7 in the Thingvellir area. But these are just my guess-estimates, based in how long since last quake and historically their largest magnitudes.

    • You mean in order to have enough “mass” above the chamber to build up the necessary pressure?
      Hm, personally I can’t help from thinking it’a complex enough that one can’t reduce that question to having a big enough heap on top of the bomb…

  18. And something hilarious…

    Someone emailed to our Volcanocafé mail and wanted to bock a concert at the Café. Yes, a physical concert. With that name I would have loved to book them…
    Here is the mail in my own translation from Italan:

    “Hello, Hello!
    We are a band from Rome “The Lateral Blast” we play Blues / Rock and this is our
    eleventh year playing. We currently have two albums and for mid-January comes our third album published at the Wolf Records of Leonardo Angelucci.
    Moreover, thanks to the collaboration in 2011 with rapper Roman Luca Metric Fattinanzi we have an EP single “Time Goes” as a Prize winner by the critics.

    We wanted to know if you could do a performance entertainment at Volcano Cafe for an unplugged concert that can entertain the evening.
    For us it would be a real honor as we have a name of an eruption chosen by our guitarist and drummer whom both are graduates at the Faculty of Geology.

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    Best Regards”

    Oh… I wish we could have booked them and that we actually had a Café!

    • Lol
      But on the other hand.. this is the internet.. we could invite them to do a livestream of one of their rehearsals or gigs on a friday evening 😉

        • Mate suggests: why not proposing some place they play to be the Volcanocafe for that evening. That could move, one day this place one day another. Just playing around with ideas in my head. Here in my hometown we have friends who do live streams. A group alled DorfTV.
          Those places could even serve Lava Baguette or Kick em Jenny Gumbos for that evening 😉

      • Oh! That looks a great place to eat….. I shall try making these here….
        Oh and I find it so odd that Icelanders have difficulty with the pronunciation of Crepes yet can happily pronounce Eyaf….Eyafy…. Eyaflla……eyjafjall……Oh Darn it! Thingy jokull

  19. Public Service Anouncement!

    The Riddles will be tomorrow + More news on Volcanocafé Mk II
    This to not interfere with Spicas series of articles.

    Otherwise it is normal Friday Rules, music, sillyness and so forth!

    • Interesting. A bit short time for us to know if this is a true trend or something atmospheric. Something definitly to keep an eye on.

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