Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Living under the constantly erupting Kilauea Volcano in Hilo, Hawaii, we are especially attentive of news about other volcanoes around the world. It seems to us that a lot of volcanoes have been erupting during the past couple of years. Some scientists claim there are not more active volcanoes than usual but just more reports due to the increased population combined with better communications. They claim that 50 to 70 volcanoes erupt each year and 20 are always erupting.

But looking at volcanic reports, there seems to us to be a large number of active volcanoes, many of them having huge eruptions pushing emissions far up into the atmosphere. Since the beginning of 2009 thirty-seven volcanoes around world have started or continued eruptions,
including Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. Many of these erupting volcanoes are having major ash emissions reaching high altitudes which cover the earth.

In Indonesia at least seven volcanoes are currently erupting; Krakatau’s eruption has pushed ash to10,000 feet and Ibu’s eruption created a white-grey plume which rose over 1300 feet above its summit. Volcanoes are erupting in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Mariana Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Barren Island, and Japan. In September, the Mayon Volcano in the Philippines exploded ash up to 2300 feet.

In Alaska, Redoubt’s eruption created an ash emission up to 50,000 feet in March and Cleveland Volcano created an ash cloud reaching an altitude of 20,000 feet in October. Sarychev Peak Volcano on the Kurile Islands pushed ash emissions to 34,000 feet and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula is having a record six volcanoes simultaneously erupting.

In August, Mexico’s Popocatepetl Volcano emitted ash to an altitude of 27,000 feet. Chaitén Volcano in Chile has had major eruptions this year with ash emissions reaching 100,000 feet. There are eruptions taking place in Mexico, Chile, Columbia and the Galapagos Islands. In Europe Montserrat Soufriere Hills, Mount Etna, and Stromboli Volcanoes are erupting.

Volcanoes are mostly tracked by satellites, so eruptions are not always seen due to the satellite’s position, darkness or clouds. This list does not include the numerous strong earthquakes under or near volcanoes this year, nor the consistently emitting volcanoes like Yellowstone or Long Valley in Mammoth Mountain which discharges 50-150 tons of carbon dioxide gas at the Horseshoe Lake Tree Kill Area range daily

The rate at which sulfur dioxide (SO2) has been released from Kilauea Volcano here in Hawaii has typically been between 150 and 200 tonnes/day, but in late December 2007, the emission rate increased to nearly 300 tonnes/day and it continued to rise until March 2008 when it reached 1,800 to 2,000 tonnes/day. The rate has slowly let up since then but is still up to 500 to700 tonnes/day, almost 4 times what is was before 2007. These emissions have crated haze and vog across Hawaii which sometimes reaches all the way to Guam.

Two thousand years ago Plutarch claimed that the eruption of Mount Etna in 44 B.C. dimmed the Sun and suggested that the resulting cooling caused crops to shrivel and produced famine in Rome and Egypt. Gasses from volcanoes result in numerous impacts on the climate and the USGS is currently studying gas emissions at 70 active volcanoes in the US alone.
Sulfur dioxide is known to cause global cooling and ash injected at high altitudes can blot out the sun.

We notice here in Hilo that on days when heavy volcanic emissions (VOG) are overhead, it reduces the electrical production from our solar panel by 50%. We wonder if these global volcanic emissions will mean a colder winter this year or perhaps for several years to come?


Andrew Cooper said...

I have read the USGS volcanic reports for many years, delivered to my RSS reader automatically each week. A result of a life long interest in the natural sciences, including geology. Have seen quite a few eruptions, lived in Portland during the Mt. St. Helens episodes.

If anything this year has seemed rather quiet, there have been some weeks with only eight or ten volcanoes actively erupting. Between twelve and twenty is typical. This week is more normal with eighteen volcanoes listed on the report.

Be careful when looking at something for the first time, it always seems like a lot. Keep tabs on it for a while and you start to see what the long term trend is.

Of course, living on a set of active volcanoes can change your perspective a bit.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I live up the coast from you in Paauilo and have been on the Island a tad longer than you have. We rent and find it workable. I keep a blog on Blogstream, primarily a photographic effort and then investigate the uniqueness of that which I have captured. Thought I would put to use my new digital Canon Rebel.

When I was a principal in Alaska we would fly to and from Iliamna to Anchorage skimming the flank of Redoubt peak each way. What a truly majestic mountain. Iliamna is isolated with a generationally isolated Eskimo culture. They are purely subsistence culture. It's literally only an hour flight out of Anchorage on a Bush plane. You can't drive anywhere. Apart from living here, we would pick Anchorage second. Imagine that.

Perhaps you can help with a question. We have probably a 15 foot bush like tree on the corner of our rental property that for the 2 1/2 years never produced fruit. It's actually in our neighbors yard but now drapes over the fence. Right now it has fruit. It looks like a guava but the fruit is quite different almost identical to a tomato (in color, size, texture and appearance) when ripe excepting for much more distinct seeds (like those of an apple). The fruit begins green, then yellow, then an orange red. I tasted a ripened red fruit and it was not tart at all with the actual texture of a tomato. It's about the size of our tangerines. There is nothing ruddy about the appearance being like a tomato when ripe.

Is this a strawberry guava? The tree looks like a guava, having opened an apple quava, found it really acidic and with a gooshy mess of seeds in the middle. This fruit seems so radically different from that.

You know what, this is a tree that has been growing rapidly because this is the first time I could not see the cable junction on the telephone pole on the other side of it. That kind of growth is typical of a guava variety.

Lucy2010 said...

The globe is cooling, not warming, according to long-term trend data published by our weather services. Tieing global warming to a threat of increased volcanic eruptive activity is silly.Volcanic activity (more specifically the lack of much volcanic activity) probably explains some increase in global temperatures toward the end of the 20th century.

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