Mount Hood, located in Cascade Volcanic Arc of northern Oregon, is a stratovolcano, a conical volcano built by layers of hardened lava, volcanic ash and other by-products of volcanic activity. Mount Hood is known to be a potentially active volcano, with the last eruption taking place around 200 years ago in the 1790s (not too long before the Lewis and Clark expedition) and a series of small streams and ash explosions occurring in the mid-1800s. However, this 500,000-year-old mountain rarely showed violent eruptions like Mount St. Helens, with only slow lava flows occurring in the past eruptions. While scientists assure that it is showing no signs of eruptions today, visitors frequently witness stream plume rising from the fumaroles, the opening of the volcano.
Glaciers and perennial snowfields are also important constituents of Mount Hood, covering approximately 13.5 km2. There are 11 major glaciers and one snowfield, with the largest glacier being the Eliot and Coe Glacier on the north flank of the mountain. Interestingly, the past lava flows during the last ice age influenced the distributions of these glaciers, and glaciers, in turn, provided water, the source of mobilization for lahars (destructive mudflows).
Shiveluch Volcano, a super volcano in Siberia, erupted on Wednesday. The volcano is located in the northernmost portion of the glacier-covered volcano belt in the Russian Far East called the Kamchatka Krai. Although no locals were believed to be impacted by the blast, the Shiveluch eruption spewed ash 10 kilometers into the sky. The ash cloud has reportedly been extended to a length of 100 kilometers, chiefly in the southeastern direction. An “Orange” aviation warning was issued by the Kamchatka Volcanic Response Team. Airlines were advised to change their flight routes as ash particles could stall the aircraft’s engine. The Russian volcano service had also issued volcanic ash advisories since early November. Prior to this event, Shiveluch erupted almost a decade ago in March 2007.
Klyuchevskoy, a glacier-covered volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia, is erupting. The volcano, 4,750 meters in elevation, has had a history of extensive activity over the last 7,000 years. It has been emitting gas, ash and lava since April 3. Several organizations are closely monitoring its eruption. They note that ash explosions reaching 6 to 8 kilometers in height could occur at any time, affecting flights from Asia to Europe and North America. Local impacts could also be extensive.
KVERT, the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team, posted an update about Klyuchevskoy’s eruption today:
“Explosive-effusive eruption of the volcano continues: there are bursts of volcanic bombs to 200-300 m above the summit crater and up to 50 m above the cinder cone into Apakhonchich chute, and strong gas-steam activity of two volcanic centers with emission of different amounts of ash, the effusing of lava flows along Apakhonchich chute at the south-eastern flank of the volcano. According to the video data, an intensification of the eruption was noted on 06 July: strong explosions sent ash up to 7.5 km a.s.l. According to satellite data by KVERT, a large bright thermal anomaly in the area of the volcano was observed all week, ash plumes drifted for about 350 km to the southwest, south and southeast from the volcano on 02-05 July; and dense ash plumes drifted for about 400 km to the southeast and east from the volcano on 06-07 July.”
Enjoy these striking photos of Klyuchevskoy’s eruption and glaciated peaks below.
Ash erupted from Ecuador’s glacier-covered Cotopaxi volcano last week after seventy quiet years. The debris shot five kilometres into the air, covering homes, cars, fields and roads as it descended, according to the Independent.
Patricio Ramon, of Ecuador’s Instituto Geofísico, said the eruption was phreatic, meaning that molten rock encountered water, creating a forceful release of steam.
“[I felt] in shock, not knowing what to do when I saw everything was moving. Then a strong smell of sulfur filled the mountain. Tourists were also concerned and wanted to leave as soon as possible,” resident Franklin Varela told Ciudadana, an Ecuadorean radio station.
Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s second highest volcano, peaks at 5,897 metres and lies 45 kilometres from the capital, Quito. Its glacier, also named Cotopaxi, is considered to be of significant economic, social and environmental importance, according to reports of the United Nations Environment Programme. Meltwater from the glacier provides Quito with water and hydroelectric power, but in the last 40 years, the ice has thinned by more than 38 percent. Most of this retreat is attributed to climate change, but eruptions can exacerbate glacial retreat by rapidly melting ice and triggering floods. Researchers from Instituto Geofísico told El Universal they considered Cotopaxi one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world due to its potential for lahars, or mudflows, often triggered by glacial melt. When Cotopaxi erupted in 1877, lahars travelled as far as 100 kilometres from the volcano.
The most recent ash eruptions led to the evacuation of hundreds of residents and livestock from El Pedregal, a community close to the volcano, reported La Hora. Farmers have expressed concerns that the ash that fell on their livestock feed will harm their animals.
Residents have been warned to avoid inhaling ash. Quito’s Mayor, Mauricio Rodas, told citizens he would hand out masks and told the city to remain calm.
Researchers continue to observe Cotopaxi’s activity as the volcano’s activity increases. On Saturday, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, declared a state of emergency.
The president’s announcement comes the same week as a series of strikes against his government’s labor policies and changes to the constitution that would allow him to run for president at the end of his term. The army and police have been dispatched and civil guarantees are temporarily suspended.
“We declare a state of emergency due to the unusual activity of Mount Cotopaxi,” Correa said. “God willing, everything will go well and the volcano will not erupt.”
As communities pick themselves up from a series of volcanic eruptions in southern Chile, stories of heartbreak and happy reunions emerge.
Last week, glacier-covered Calbuco erupted three times, displacing thousands of local residents and animals. The eruptions sent ash 20 kilometers into the air, according to the BBC, and triggered a series of mudslides, which followed the melting of glaciers and recent rainfall in the region.
Hundreds of families were forced to leave behind their pets and efforts have since been launched to rescue lost animal companions. Many zones were deemed unsafe and families were unable to return, but in some cases, there have been happy reunions.
“Our government’s commitment is not only to be concerned, but to actively meet the needs [of communities], so that they can return and resume normal life as soon as possible,” Chile’s president Michele Bachelet said at a press event.
Some families are gradually returning to their towns to inspect the damage and see if anything can be salvaged. Residents are documenting their experiences on video and social media.
One such video, shot in Ensenada by Claudio Domingo Hernandez Matamala and viewed more than 200,000 times on Facebook, shows an emotional reunion between one abandoned pet and his worried owners. The dog sustained some minor burns on his back but was otherwise alive and well.
Other reports haven’t been as joyous. Feral dogs attacked and killed five sheep evacuated from exclusion zones surrounding the Calbuco volcano.
The local government has taken measures to protect animals and keep them in trailers away from dangerous dogs, but many animals are still stranded near volcanic activity. Officials say they are uncertain about how much livestock has died from inhaling volcanic ash, though reports suggest some have died from contaminated water.
But not all dogs have taken to attacking livestock in their hunger. One dog, now nicknamed “Ceniza” or “ash,” was adopted by the military after contributing to rescue efforts. Ceniza boosts the moral of troops as they work to rebuild communities.
Meanwhile, locals are scrambling to clean out the ash that covers their towns. There are concerns that the ash will hurt crops and take a toll on residents’ livelihoods.
“Now we have to think about the future,” Piedro Gonzáles, a resident of Ensenada, told Agence France-Presse. “We hope that in two months Ensenada can returnto normal. But it depends on whether the volcano can leave us alone.”
A group of well-placed observers have warned the world about the possibility of a major volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2015. Steen Jakobsen, the chief economist of the Danish trading and investment firm Saxo Bank, and the bank’s strategy team have issued their “Outrageous Predictions” for the coming year.
They state that these predictions are “independent calls on events that can upset global markets or politics. They are strategic in nature rather than an exercise in getting everything right, while our aim is to encourage alternative thinking.” An eruption of the Barðarbunga volcano could send a cloud of ash and noxious gasses that would threaten to block incoming solar radiation and cause crop failures across Europe, leading to rising food prices and political unrest.
Even if the ultimate consequences of the eruption were not so severe, the fear of poor harvests could drive food prices skyward and create severe economic and political disruptions. Saxo Bank mentioned other possible threats in 2015, including a housing market crash in the UK, Japanese inflation reaching 5 percent, a spike in cacao prices that would make chocolate much more expensive, and the resignation of Mario Draghi, the current head of the European Central Bank.
“The forecast is one of a series of “outrageous predictions” made by Denmark’s Saxo Bank for 2015” http://t.co/nFERxwnNE9
It might seem that these predictions are merely an effort of Saxo Bank to use improbable disaster scenarios to garner public attention during the news lull over the holiday season. But their track record is better than such a view would suggest. One of their predictions for 2014, “Brent crude drops to USD 80/barrel as producers fail to respond” came true, when oil prices fell below that benchmark on November 13 of that year. In 2011, three of Saxo Bank’s ten predictions proved to be correct: the yield on the U.S. 30-year Treasury bills fell below 3 percent, crude oil prices rose above $100 and then fell, and the price of gold surged past $1,800 an ounce. They did well with gold in 2013 as well, when the price of the metal, which had been rising steadily for more than a decade, tumbled and in December passed below $1,200 an ounce, as they predicted.
However, the Barðarbunga volcano and the associated Holuhraun lava field have been behaving in a fairly calm manner. Indeed, the Icelandic volcanologist Páll Einarsson has termed it a “peaceful eruption,” adding that, “it just keeps going day after day with little changes.” There are many signs of this orderly behavior. The movement of magma through subterranean passages shakes the earth in a steady rhythm, with several quakes reaching 5 on the Richter scale every month and many more less powerful ones. The volcanic caldera continues to subside, as magma flows away to new areas, where it can emerge. The fissures keeps on issuing significant amounts of lava. Holuhraun is reaching an area of 80 square kilometers, about the size of the island of Manhattan, and the volume of lava is more than a cubic kilometer. Fortunately, the lava has been moving to the north and east, away from the major glaciers, particularly Vatnajökull.
Scientists recognize that the future is uncertain. The eruption could taper off, or lava could emerge under glacial ice, it would create explosive bursts of steam, which would send large volume of ash high in the atmosphere and massive floods of meltwater as well. However, major problem for Iceland to date has been the massive releases of sulfur dioxide, a noxious gas that affects different parts of the country as winds shift, sometimes creating health problems, particularly for the elderly and people with respiratory conditions. For the time being, the warning level for an ash cloud is orange rather than the more serious level red. And the Institute of Earth Sciences told its followers on Facebook “We’ll keep an eye on the lava, but… Merry Christmas!” Let us hope that Saxo Bank’s prediction does not come to pass.
There are few sights in nature as impressive as a fiery volcanic eruption. GlacierHub has featured many photos and stories from Iceland’s recent volcanic eruptions, and another useful way of understanding some of the more intangible aspects of volcanoes is through data visualization.
One of the hot spots (if you’ll excuse the pun) in Iceland is the Bárðarbunga volcano near the center of the country. Each day, the Icelandic Met Office updates the aviation warning color for all of Iceland’s volcanoes. Green means everything is normal, red means an eruption is immanent and air travel must be grounded. Bárðarbunga has been “forever orange” for weeks now, even as other eruptions have come and gone. The gif shows the daily warning progression of Bárðarbunga and you can see just how the volcano has been at “heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.”
Map overlays, size comparisons and seismic graphs are all well and good, but what if you’re a budding volcanologist? Elska is an Icelandic pop singer who makes music for children and families. In late August, she posted a cartoon drawing explaining the eruption to children, which included, among other things, anthropomorphized magma moving closer to the surface and a handy pronunciation of Bárðarbunga (hint: say baur-thar-boun-ga).
Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at email@example.com.
The recent volcano eruptions in Iceland have created enormous circular depressions in two of the country’s glaciers. These dramatic features, which differ from each other in their origins and shape, are visible from the air.
A reconnaissance flight over Bárðarbunga, the volcano where the first earthquakes were detected last month, shows that the ice over the caldera has fallen nearly 20 meters across an area about 7 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. This is a change in volume of 250 million cubic meters. The scientists at the University of Iceland attribute this shift to a movement of the base of the glacier rather than to melting. Magma has drained from a chamber under the glacier as it moves to the northeast and erupts onto the surface. As the chamber has emptied, the rock above it has shifted downward, carrying the glacier ice downward as well. This is the largest subsidence that has been observed in Iceland since measurements of the surface were begun over fifty years ago. This movement does not seem to be associated with geothermal activity at Bárðarbunga, or of a higher likelihood of an eruption there. A recent photo from a helicopter flight shows the large extent and relative shallowness of this cauldron (the technical term for these craters).
Another flight travelled over Dyngjujokull Glacier, to the northeast of Bárðarbunga. It showed two separate depressions, somewhat smaller in extent, but almost twice as deep, reaching down 35 meters. These are probably associated with small eruptions of lava below the surface of the ice. Such eruptions can cause the formation of cauldrons like these, without unleashing outburst floods. There is some risk of continued eruptions, including larger ones, at this site.
In recent days, the lava eruptions from the main fissure have been moving in two directions. The main flow from the eruptions is traveling to the northeast. It has recently reached the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River, releasing large quantities of steam. As this intrusion of lava into the river continues, explosive releases of gasses could occur, or a dam could be formed by the cooled lava, creating a lake and subsequent floods. A smaller branch of the fissure has opened close to Dyngjujokull. Should another branch open up a few kilometers to the south, under the glacier itself, there might be a flood or an explosive release of large quantities of ash. For the time being, though, the threat level remains at orange.
The eruption and steam have created hazy skies over the area. The Icelandic Civil Protection Authority has issued alerts to people downwind of the eruption with respiratory conditions, since there are elevated concentrations of sulfur dioxide. They continue to monitor the entire region carefully.
Our colleague Gísli Pálsson wrote this morning from Iceland, “The show is on; this time a considerable eruption.”
At the Holuhraun lava field, lava has been erupting since Sunday morning. These lava fountains reach more than 50 meters high. Though they are dramatic, they do not release ash that would interfere with aviation. This activity is about five kilometers from Dyngjujökull Glacier. If the fissure opens under the glacier, floods might result.
These lava fountains are just part of the activity along the fissure that stretches to the northeast from Bárðarbunga. As the attached map shows, there have been a large number of earthquakes in recent days associated with this fissure, though there is earthquake activity nearby as well, linked to other fissures and faults. This map comes from a source tweeted out by Dave McGarvie, a remarkably well-informed volcanologist who is currently in Iceland. For more information, you can follow an animation of the earthquake activity, also tweeted by McGarvie.
At the northeast end of the fissure, directly at Bárðarbunga, the risk of a subglacial eruption has increased. The earthquake activity continues to be strong, with one earthquake today registering 5.1. A flight over the glacier on Friday noted new crevasses, a sign of melting at the base of the glacier. As a result, the risk to aviation has been raised again to red, for the third time. A small portion of the airspace north of the area has been closed to aviation, but no airports or commercial flights have yet been affected. The evacuation orders continue in effect.
Further reconnaissance will have to wait a day or two. The remnants of Hurricane Cristobal are approaching Iceland, bringing winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour and rains. The heaviest rains are expected in the southeast of the country, around the area of the eruption. The storm will pass, but the future of the eruptions remains uncertain.
The Icelandic Met Office announced that an eruption began at midnight, local time, at Holuhraun, north of Dyngjujökull. Lava is emerging on the surface, rather than beneath a glacier, so it is directly visible.
The lava is being emitted from a fissure about 900 meters long, with what the Civil Protection Authority calls “low lava fountains with thin flowing lava.” The lack of ash means that the risk to aviation at present is small. Had the eruption occurred under the ice, there would have been a much larger risk of an ash cloud like the one in 2010 that halted air traffic for six days.
The Icelandic Met Service had briefly raised the warning level at Bárðarbunga to red, but after a few hours brought it back to orange. There is a small area restricted to aviation, but it does not extend even to the regional airport at Akureyri in the north.
A webcam from the area at Bárðarbunga does not show much activity, though last night the eruption from Dyngjujökull could be seen in the distance.
Authorities are continuing to order an evacuation area north of the glacier. The possibility of an outburst flood cannot entirely be ruled out, even though the magma has moved north of the country’s major glaciers to areas of bare rock.
Though we don’t have many dramatic photos to show at this point, we would like to share a cartoon that appeared yesterday, just before the eruption started. It comes from a producer of children’s music, who lives on a new volcanic island near the main island of Iceland. You can follow her on twitter at @islandofelska.
And we would like to send our thanks to Gísli Pálsson, who sent us an email this morning from Reykjavik to alert us about the eruption. You can read his account of a recent visit to a glacier in a non-volcanic part of Iceland here.
Our Icelandic colleagues have just contacted us. Ásdís Jónsdóttir writes “Just a note to tell you that an eruption has begun in Vatnajökull – it is under the outlet of Dyngjujökull. It started about half an hour ago (at quarter past two p.m.). They are evacuating areas to the north of the glacier (they were partly evacuated earlier).” Gísli Pálsson adds “ It’s now maximum alert, limited air travel around.”
The Icelandic Meteorological Office ha upgraded the aviation alert to red: “Eruption is imminent or in progress – significant emission of ash into atmosphere likely.”
Their most recent report indicates that lava has emerged under the glacier, but that the future progress of this event is still unknown: They list six points (From http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/articles/nr/2947)
A small lava-eruption has been detected under the Dyngjujökull glacier.
The Icelandic Coast Guard airplane TF-SIF is flying over the area with representatives from the Civil Protection and experts from the Icelandic Met Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences. Data from the equipment on board is expected later today.
Data from radars and web-cameras is being received, showing no signs of changes at the surface.
The estimate is that 150-400 meters of ice is above the area.
The aviation color code for the Bárðarbunga volcano has been changed from orange to red.
Some minutes ago (14:04), an earthquake occurred, estimated 4.5 in magnitude.