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Posts Tagged ‘volcanoes’

Indonesian volcano erupts again, spewing hot ash

Posted by Admin on August 30, 2010

TANAH KARO, Indonesia – An Indonesian volcano dormant for four centuries erupted for the second straight day Monday, shooting clouds of hot ash more than a mile into the air and forcing 30,000 people to flee.

Mount Sinabung spews volcanic materials into ...

Mount Sinabung spews

Some domestic airplanes had to be diverted because of poor visibility.

Many villagers living along the slopes of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province wore masks as they packed their belongings and headed to emergency shelters, mosques and churches, said Andi Arief, a presidential adviser on disasters.

Their abandoned homes and crops were blanketed in gray soot and the air was thick with the smell of sulfur.

While two people died — a 64-year-old woman from respiratory problems and a 52-year-old man from a heart attack — it was too early to say if the volcano was to blame, said Priyadi Kardono of the National Disaster Management Agency.

Sinabung last erupted in 1600, so observers don’t know its eruption pattern and admitted over the weekend they had not monitored it closely before it started rumbling days ago in the lead-up to Sunday’s first, less-powerful blast.

Hours later, the alert was raised to the highest level.

Like other volcanoes along the Sumatra fault line — the meeting point of the Eurasian and Pacific tectonic plates that have pushed against each other for millions of years — it has the potential to be very destructive.

Stiff magna forming inside the conical tip can act as a plug, allowing pressure to build up until it reaches a bursting point.

“A volcano with a long repose period could deliver a more powerful eruption,” as was the case with Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, which killed about 800 people, said Alain Bernard, a professor at the University of Brussels.

Sinabung could either go back to sleep or produce a series of blasts with increasing intensity, he said. “A Pinatubo-size eruption is a rare event and unlikely to appear during the following days. It takes normally weeks or months,” said Bernard.

Though strong wind shifts or a powerful follow-up blast could affect air traffic in nearby Singapore and Malaysia, Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said so far only four domestic flights heading to the provincial capital of Medan were diverted.

The number of people evacuated reached 30,000 by Monday afternoon, said Erni Damanik with the Tanah Karo district information center. Many people living along the base of the 8,000-foot (2,400-meter) mountain have also moved to outlying villages.

Food, emergency tents, and medicine were on the way to the scene, officials said, including more than 17,000 respiratory masks.

Indonesia is spread across 17,500 islands and is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location within the so-called “Ring of Fire” — a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

It is also home to some of the largest eruptions in recorded history.

The 1815 explosion of Mount Tambora buried the inhabitants of Sumbawa Island under searing ash, gas and rock, killing an estimated 88,000 people.

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa could be heard 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) away and blackened skies region-wide for months. At least 36,000 people were killed in the blast and the tsunami that followed.

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Associated Press writers Irwan Firdaus and Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report from Jakarta.

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Big volcanic eruptions in Guatemala, Ecuador

Posted by Admin on May 31, 2010

Here we go people, the year that the bottom of the World falls out…

By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA | Posted: Friday, May 28, 2010 9:39 pm

Explosive eruptions shook two huge volcanos in Central and South America on Friday, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and disrupting air traffic as ash drifted over major cities.

Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks Thursday afternoon, blanketing the country’s capital with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. A television reporter was killed by a shower of burning rocks when he got too close to the volcano, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Guatemala City.

In the village of Calderas, close to the eruption, Brenda Castaneda said she and her family hid under beds and tables as marble-sized rocks thundered down on her home.

“We thought we wouldn’t survive. Our houses crumbled and we’ve lost everything,” Castaneda said while waiting for rescue teams to take them to a shelter at a nearby school.

Meanwhile, strong explosions rocked Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano, prompting evacuations of hundreds of people from nearby villages.

Ecuador’s National Geophysics Institute said hot volcanic material blasted down the slopes and ash plumes soared 6 miles (10 kilometers) above a crater that is already 16,479 feet (5,023 meters) above sea level.

Winds blew the ash over the country’s most populous city, Guayaquil, and led aviation officials to halt flights out of the Pacific port and from Quito to Lima, Peru.

Neither of the eruptions was expected to disrupt airports in neighboring countries like Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano did in Europe.

In Guatemala, the ash billowing from Pacaya has been thick and falls quickly to the ground, unlike the lighter ash that spewed from the volcano in Iceland and swept over much of Europe, disrupting global air travel, said Gustavo Chigna, a volcano expert with Guatemala’s institute of seismology and volcanos.

In Ecuador, the ash cloud drifted out over the Pacific Ocean and was tapering off Friday evening.

Sandro Vaca, an expert at Ecuador’s National Geophysics Institute, said Tungurahua’s latest eruption was not in the same league with Iceland.

“The ash stretched for hundreds of kilometers, while the plume of ash from the volcano in Iceland covered nearly all of Europe for thousands of kilometers,” Vaca said.

In Guatemala, at least 1,910 people from villages closest to the Pacaya volcano were moved to shelters. Some 800 homes were damaged in the initial eruption late Thursday. A second eruption at midday Friday released ash in smaller amounts from the 8,373-foot (2,552 meter) mountain, according to the Central American country’s Geophysical Research and Services Unit.

The unit reported an ash plume 3,000 feet (1,000) meters high that trailed more than 12 miles (20 kilometers) to the northwest.

In Guatemala City, bulldozers scraped blackened streets while residents used shovels to clean cars and roofs.

The blanket of ash was three inches (7.5 centimeters) thick in some southern parts of the city. The government urged people not to leave their homes unless there was an urgent need.

The capital’s La Aurora airport would be closed at least until Saturday, said Claudia Monge, a spokeswoman for the civil aviation agency. Flights were being diverted to Mundo Maya airport in northern Guatemala and Comalapa in El Salvador.

The television reporter who was killed, Anibal Archila, had appeared on Channel 7 broadcasts standing in front of a lava river and burning trees, talking about the intense heat.

David de Leon, a spokesman for the national disaster committee, confirmed his death.

The most active of Guatemala’s 32 volcanos, Pacaya has been intermittently erupting since 1966, and tourists frequently visit areas near three lava flows formed in eruptions between 1989 and 1991.

In 1998, the volcano twice spewed plumes of ash, forcing evacuations and shutting down the airport in Guatemala City.

Eruptions at Tungurahua, 95 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, buried entire villages in 2006, leaving at least four dead and thousands homeless.

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Associated Press writer Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador, contributed to this report.

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Iceland volcano could have world consequences

Posted by Admin on March 23, 2010

Iceland volcano could have world consequences

1783 eruption changed weather patterns, sent poisoned air to British Isles

By Gudjon Helgason and Paisley Dodds

updated 7:30 p.m. ET March 22, 2010//

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Blasts of lava and ash shot out of a volcano in southern Iceland on Monday and small tremors rocked the ground, a surge in activity that raised fears of a larger explosion at the nearby Katla volcano.

Scientists say history has proven that when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts, Katla follows — the only question is how soon. And Katla, located under the massive Myrdalsjokull icecap, threatens disastrous flooding and explosive blasts when it blows.

Saturday’s eruption at Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) — dormant for nearly 200 years — forced at least 500 people to evacuate. Most have returned to their homes, but authorities were waiting for scientific assessments to determine whether they were safe to stay. Residents of 14 farms nearest to the eruption site were told to stay away.

Several small tremors were felt early Monday, followed by spurts of lava and steam rocketing into the air.

Iceland sits on a large volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic’s mid-oceanic ridge. Eruptions, common throughout Iceland’s history, are often triggered by seismic activity when the Earth’s plates move and when magma from deep underground pushes its way to the surface.

Like earthquakes, predicting the timing of volcanic eruptions is an imprecise science. An eruption at the Katla volcano could be disastrous, however — both for Iceland and other nations.

Iceland’s Laki volcano erupted in 1783, freeing gases that turned into smog. The smog floated across the Jet Stream, changing weather patterns. Many died from gas poisoning in the British Isles. Crop production fell in western Europe. Famine spread. Some even linked the eruption, which helped fuel famine, to the French Revolution. Painters in the 18th century illustrated fiery sunsets in their works.

The winter of 1784 was also one of the longest and coldest on record in North America. New England reported a record stretch of below-zero temperatures and New Jersey reported record snow accumulation. The Mississippi River also reportedly froze in New Orleans.

“These are Hollywood-sort of scenarios but possible,” said Colin Macpherson, a geologist with the University of Durham. “As the melt rises, it’s a little like taking a cork out of a champagne bottle.”

There are three main places where volcanoes normally occur — along strike-slip faults such as California’s San Andreas fault line, along areas where plates overlap one another such as in the Philippines and the Pacific Rim, and in areas like Iceland, where two of the Earth’s plates are moving apart from each other in a so-called spreading system.

Unlike the powerful volcanos along the Pacific Rim where the slow rise of magma gives scientists early seismic warnings that an eruption is imminent, Iceland’s volcanos are unique in that many erupt under ice sheets with little warning.

Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, a geologist at the University of Iceland who flew over the site Monday, said the beginning of Saturday’s eruption was so indistinct that it initially went undetected by geological instruments. Many of the tremors were below magnitude 2.6.

Using thermal cameras and radar to map the lava flow, Gudmundsson and other scientists were able to determine that the lava from Eyjafjallajokull was flowing down a gorge and not moving toward the ice caps — reducing any threat of floods.

He said he and other scientists were watching Katla but Monday’s trip was meant to assess immediate risk.

“A general expectation is that because of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, the fissure would widen and in that sense, there’s a greater risk of extending into or underneath the glaciers and prompting an eruption at Katla,” said Andy Russell with Newcastle University’s Earth Surface Processes Research Group, who went with a team to Iceland before the eruption. “From records, we know that every time Eyjafjallajokull erupts, Katla has also erupted.”

Russell said past Katla eruptions have caused floods the size of the Amazon and sent boulders as big as houses tumbling down valleys and roads. The last major eruption took place in 1918. Floods followed in as little as an hour.

Those eruptions have posed risks to residents nearby, but most of Iceland’s current population of 320,000 live in the capital of Reykjavik on the western part of the island.

Southern Iceland is sparely populated but has both glaciers and unstable volcanoes — a destructive combination.

The last time there was an eruption near the 100-square-mile (160 square-kilometer) Eyjafjallajokull glacier was in 1821, and that was a “lazy” eruption that lasted slowly and continuously for two years.

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Iceland is one of the few places in the world where a mid-ocean ridge actually rises above sea level. Many volcanic eruptions along the ocean basin often go undetected because they can’t be easily seen.

First settled by Vikings in the 9th century, Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice because of its volcanos and glaciers. During the Middle Ages, Icelanders called the Hekla volcano, the country’s most active, the “Gateway to Hell,” believing that souls were dragged into the fire below.

The last major volcanic eruption in Iceland occurred in 2004 with the Grimsvotn volcano.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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