Tuesday Tidbits - Indonesia, tsunamis, satellites and politics v. science

Well, after lamenting the slow volcano news, things are beginning to pick up again. Beyond the news of a potential increase in activity at Anak Krakatau, there are a few other newsworthy bits that have come up:

Mt. Kerinci in Indonesia

  • Mt. Kerinci in Indonesia is showing signs of eruption. The volcano is the highest mountain on the island of Sumatra, reaching 3,800 m / 12,400 feet and last erupted in March 2008. Its volcanic activity is marked by small (VEI of ash and tephra. Currently, the volcano is experiencing increased tremors and minor explosions that rained ash on a tea plantation on the slopes of the volcano. It sounds like the volcano means business as Heru Prasetyo, head of the Mt. Kerinci Observation Post, noted We have warned local people to remain cautious. We told them it's better to wear mask when going outdoor.
  • There is another report based on a study from the University of Portsmouth (UK) that a volcano in the Caribbean, Morne aux Diables, could be a significant tsunami hazard if the edifice were to experience a sector collapse. Not only are sector collapses common in the volcanic record (think Mt. Shasta, Socompa in Chile, Mt. Saint Helens and many more), but Dr. Richard Teeuw suggests that Morne aux Diables (as it is called in French) has one flank that is primed for collapse, endangering upwards of 30,000 people who lived on the shores of Dominica (and it isn't the only volcano in the West Indies that might pose this threat). The article does wander into the depths of other potential tsunami-generating sector collapses such as Cumbre Vieja in the Canary Islands and Stromboli, Italy. Remember, sector collapse do not need to be trigger by eruption - normal tectonic seismicity can lead to these events as well. They can also be helped along by processes like hydrothermal alteration and fracturing that weaken the volcanic edifice.
  • For those of you interested in just looking at pictures this morning, NASA posted a satellite image of the area around Aracar in Chile. I'm always struck with how much the high Andes in Chile and Argentina look like a different planet (doubly so when you're actually out there hiking through them.) Note the flat, round pancake-like domes on the north and south of the main ridge of the volcano - these are likely domes of dacite lava.
  • In what sounds like the plot to a disaster movie, the president of the island government of the Canary Islands is criticizing a local scientist who fears the islands are not prepared for an eruption on Tenerife. You can almost hear the alarms going off in many volcano experts heads when the president mentions that another expert doesn't think there is a danger. Another example of politicians versus scientists - one is trying to keep the public calm, the other is trying to keep people informed. The last eruption on Tenerife was in 1909.

More like this

Not many people are aware of tsunami hazards in the Caribbean. I guess tourism marketing fails to mention it.

It's not just from volcanoes, but earthquakes from shifts in tectonic plates. How many people know the Caribbean has regular small earthquakes all the time, and that's why the power went out in the resort?

How many people even know about the Puerto Rico trench, and the negative gravity anomaly? Their cruise ships pass right over it, as if it isn't there, but there is a reason for that turbulence and the way people hide out in their cabins feeling seasick.

And of course that seismologist in Italy who worked for a government agency was portrayed by Italian officials as a quack. They tried to silence him by taking his warnings off the internet. He drove around with a loudspeaker warning about the earthquake.

Then the earthquake happened. Did his techniques predict it or not? The greatest revelation in all this is the actions of the officials. It wouldn't be hard for anyone to understand that when you live on a major fault line, you should be prepared for earthquakes at any time. It's common sense, isn't it? But common sense is in such short supply these days...