Vote for the next Volcano Profile

Now that we've had three Volcano Profiles: Rabaul, Hood and Vesuvius, now it is time to vote on the next volcano. Take your pick and leave comments!

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Things were relatively quiet, volcanically speaking, over the weekend and that reminded me, it is just about time to vote on the next in my Volcano Profile series. We've had two volcanoes featured so far: Rabaul in Papua New Guinea and Hood in Oregon. Take a look at the list below and vote for the…
The latest in my Volcano Profiles Series, we turn to Europe and Vesuvius. You could fill many, many volumes with the works produced on Vesuvius since Roman times. This profile will barely scratch the surface when it comes to the vast geologic and human history surrounding the volcano, but it is a…
The next up in my Volcano Profiles Series, is one of the most remote volcanoes on the planet, yet also one of the more closely studied and monitored (albeit from afar). Joining Vesuvius, Hood and Rabaul is Mt. Erebus, an active volcano on Ross Island in Antarctica and it definitely has some unique…
First off, I want to thank Dr. Behncke for taking the time to answer your questions - and also, thank you to all who sent him some thought-provoking questions. In fact, the questions and answers take up about 12 pages of text, so the Q&A will be divided into two parts. If you want to see one…

Here is a little more comment re Chaiten:

"Comment by Bob

Friday, 5 Jun 09 @ 6:24 PM

I find this subject fascinating, Alan.

âVolcanoes may tap chemically different sources during their lifespans, and their eruptive style changes accordingly.â

âEruptive styleâ changing is wonderfully complex, given that none of us could possibly witness the change. Current and future studies will chip away at the mysteries.

âChaiten is young, and it is a prime candidate for a really serious eruption.â

Young geologically, right? It already sits in a caldera. Do you know the approx time when an explosion caused the caldera? Or, how many times itâs already exploded?

âThe seismicity has built to a new high, so it certainly is not settling down.â

This is a new recent high, yes? How far back do the seismicity records go?

Itâs certainly a beautiful looking menace, reminiscent of the old tropical island movies. As destructive as it was, in visual terms I found Mt. St. Helenâs a bit of a dud.

âOf course all volcanoes eventually go extinct.â

Yeah, I saw quite a few in Hawaii, but I didnât trust âem."

By jim papsdorf (not verified) on 10 Jun 2009 #permalink

Put in my vote for Erebus, mainly because of its slightly-unusual alkalic composition and lava lake..I recall reading a vivid description of large felspar phenocrysts bobbing about in the lava "like chips in a deep-fat fryer" (from a homesick British volcanologist, at a guess)

The Fire and Ice symbolism of Erebus is perfect. Besides, vulcanism in Antarctica is not a subject often discussed & I'd like to learn more.

Eventually, I'd like to see something about Erta Ale. I've always been fascinated by the Afar Depression and Erta Ale is one of the fascinators.

Oh yes, and Mount Taftan (Kuh-e-Taftan) in Iran. Understudied.

I was going to suggest Anak Krakatau. But Mt. Erebus would be an excellent choice as well.

Other interesting earth pimples:
Mt. Mazama/Crater Lake
NE Lau basin

By JSBabcock (not verified) on 10 Jun 2009 #permalink

Hi Erik,
I had read somewhere, maybe on your blog, that some researchers had noted what seems to be a seasonal aspect to aluetian arc volcanoes and had attributed this to the seasonal shift between low and high pressure systems in the north pacific. This recent BBC article ( describes a link between typhoons and earthquakes in Taiwan. Are there other potential links between atmopheric and tectonic activity that you can comment on?

Hello Erik and thanks for a great site; I know you are a busy fellow, are there any other sites that simply report the news on vulcanism on a daily basis? I can't seem to find any and would like to be able to follow a world wide report. thanks


On the links to the left there are some you can choose from. Volcano News keeps up daily pretty good but is poorly orginized. Its a very comprensive list.

Also The Volcanism Blog is Great too with a huge link list.

By theroachman (not verified) on 11 Jun 2009 #permalink

For fellow Mt. Erebus fans, here is a movie I viewed today on the Mt. Erebus air crash. Air New Zealand ran a trip to view a volcano. A bunch of people caught the flight. But six hours before the flight, someone changed the computer navigation directions. And, by the way, forgot to tell the pilot. There are some great film clips of the volcano.

Mount Erebus Disaster (1979) (Part 1 of 5)

Or go to youtube and search for
Mount Erebus Disaster (1979) (Part 1 of 5)

My other volcano review choices include Chaiten, Redoubt, and Anak Krakatau.

Thank you for the most recent volcano review, Vesuvius.

That is one I have right behind this blog, but as you say, poorly organized. Nor is it in the least current. This old orb has a lot of activity, and it would be a wonderful thing if there was a group effort to show the dailies. thanks

I voted for Erebus for 2 reasons: 1) recently Russian sources stated it was a major contributor to the ozone "hole" which they also discounted as it appears and disappears, a phenomena. 2) The astronomy dept. at Stony Brook had invented an instrument to measure it from the ground back in 1978 or so, a Dr. Solomon, not related to the woman expedition leader Dr. Solomon, but our team's instrument couldn't stand up to the severe temperature changes.

Mt. St. Helens 30 years later is still in my mind, as US public education lead many to believe there are no active volcanoes in America. I traveled Greyhound bus through the dust to Seattle from Long Island, NY to get a plane for a short summer of NPS historical archaeology in Skagway, Alaska in 1979. Something to see, remaining glaciers, etc.

How about profiling the Ossipee Mountains in New Hampshire, home of "The Castle in the Clouds" a "perfect circle" ring dike left from a cataclysmic volcano exploding in the distant past? I've heard "taller than Everest" "10X Mt. St. Helens" etc. No one thinks of New Hampshire as volcanic much, yet that's where politicians start! A small rhyolite adit and associated paleo-tools, Mt. Jasper in Berlin, New Hampshire is now on the National Register of Prehistoric Places thanks to geology-trained archaeologist and anthropologist R. M. Gramly, PhD, RPI, Harvard U., who I once took archaeology classes and field-school from.

By George Myers (not verified) on 12 Jun 2009 #permalink

George Myers - it is fascinating to think that there was an active volcano 200,000,000 years ago in what is now Ossipee NH. It might be a days drive for Erik. I suppose if Erik hasn't yet visited that volcano he could go up and make a report on it within the next three years. Let's let him get settled in as he is now just moving to MA and taking up a teaching job there. I hope he can do a report sooner on Ossipee but let's give him slack as he has a lot going on - including writing for this blog. :)

I didn't know about that volcano in Ossipee - but now that I do - I may make a point to visit it when I return to New England.

Good suggestion. It might be interesting to find out what we can learn from a 200,000,000 year old volcano!

By Thomas Donlon (not verified) on 12 Jun 2009 #permalink

Brian, I saw the link you gave about the postulated Super Volcano under Mt. St. Helens and even had forwarded it to Erik.

Rereading your post, I came up with another angle on this. There are a number of Caldera Complexes in South America. Each of these shows evidence of multiple huge eruptions in the past. I would just guess that if the area under and around Mt. St. Helens was of such a nature to produce super-eruptions - that it would have already done so - and there would be visible surface indications of large Calderas in the area. Does anyone know of evidence for the remains of huge calderas around Mt. St. Helens? My guess is that if there is no history of hure eruptions in the area that even if there is a large magma chamber that it produces more isolated eruptions - or in a worse case maybe several volcanoes in the area would erupt simultaneously.

It is an assumption I am making - but given the little I know, I think the places that have had super-eruptions in the past will likely have more in the future. I probably won't live to see one - but who knows?

By Thomas Donlon (not verified) on 13 Jun 2009 #permalink

RE:Chaiten and comment by Jim Papsdorf. I found it interesting to look at a comment made my Erik about Chaiten in August of last year after Chaiten was erupting for about 3 or 4 months.
He recognized then that Chaiten was out of the ordinary for still erupting for all that time. Now, it is even 10 months after Erik made that comment.…

Chaiten is still seismically active, still growing, still pouring out vapor and ash, and still leaving us as uncertain about its future as ever. Some of the options that Erik wrote ten months ago still sound like solid possibilities to me.

âHowever, there is also evidence, such as at Santorini in the Aegean Sea, that the initial eruptions/activity could be years before the âbig oneâ. Chaiten might be taking the middle road - or it just might be setting itself up to erupt[] away for months without ratcheting up to a caldera-forming event.â

I am not familiar with the evidence of Santorini - and my search on the history of Santorini didn't mention the delay that Erik referred to. But who knows whether Chaiten will keep on doing what is doing, die down, or become more dangerous?

By Thomas Donlon (not verified) on 13 Jun 2009 #permalink

Thomas: While perhaps not strictly comparable, isn't it true that dome complexes can continue growing for a very long time after the original event? The Santaguito dome at Santa Maria has been continually active for some 77 years and counting, Bezhymianny's (sp?) Novy dome has been growing in fits and starts since 1956, and so on. Chaiten could still have some way to go.

Re: Santorini, I don't have references, but I'm sure I've read that there is an erosional surface immediately below the climactic ignimbrite, although there seems to be argument about how long the quiescent interval lasted; weeks? months? decades?

But maybe there is a better example: Crater Lake, where after a long repose period there was a major eruption (Llao Rock) about 150-200 years before the Big One. Thoughts?

Mike Don, you have more knowledge than I do and you are correct that Chaiten can continue to erupt for a long time.

What you wrote about Santorini and Crater Lake shows that even if Chaiten ceases erupting now - it could erupt again much more powerfully in decades or centuries later.

I am trying to understand large eruptions maybe and I would like to understand what is needed to produce an explosive rhyolitic magma? Yellowstone has had many large rhyolotic eruptions that weren't supervolcanic. They were apparently just extrusions of rhyolite that covered large areas of Yellowstone. Why are some eruptions highly explosive and some are not?

I saw on a TV a show about Santorini (or maybe it was Krakatau) where they showed a sample of a mixed explosive ejecta. There was a cooler magma in an upper magma chamber that violently erupted when it came in contact with much hotter magma rising from below.

So, for a violent eruption does there have to be a mix of a cooler magmatic mush or melt (my terms may not be precise here) and hotter rising magma that heats up the magma in the upper chamber causing that magma to want to explode as newly formed gas bubbles form - pressurizing that magma? If so, then if Chaiten has a simple magma chamber, it probably can't get more dangerous than it has been. However, if the magma chamber at Chaiten is very complex and there is a large body of melt that hasn't directly interacted with rising hotter magma - then maybe this could fuel another large explosive eruption if deeper hot magma comes in contact with it.

I realize I am very ignorant of volcanic processes so please share with me whatever thoughts you have.

By Thomas Donlon (not verified) on 14 Jun 2009 #permalink

Thomas: I'm not a professional, you need someone like Erik to explain. I know that 'magma mixing' when fresh hot magma (basalt or basaltic andesite) invades a cooling body of usually more silicic melt, has been used to explain some paroxysmal eruptions, like Novarupta/Katmai, Krakatau 1883, and maybe Cerro Hudson but none of these started with a prolonged period of dome extrusion like Chaiten

Mike Don,

There are no Caldera Complexes that I know of near Chaiten. So, this tips the odds in favor of Chaiten erupting more along the lines of its prior eruption and not along the lines of eruptions that took place at the different South American Caldera Complexes.

By Thomas Donlon (not verified) on 14 Jun 2009 #permalink

Be great if more was known about Chaiten's history. All I know is caldera collapse about 9.4 Ka, followed by extrusion of a massive rhyolite obsidian dome, a veritable glass mountain. How long did THAT episode last, I wonder?

And how does the chemistry of the current dome(s) compare with the original one? That might give geochemists some clues about Chaiten's plumbing

Since Villarrica isn't on the list (I have some kick-ass video of the lava lake sitting on my desk right now) I'm gonna have to go with Erebus.

The Ossippee volcano: 200 million years old, but active as recent as 283 years ago: From the New England Weekly Journal of 25 December 1727, pg. 2: "Extract of a Letter from Newington in New Hampshire, Decemb. 19 1727: The firft Shock of the late amazing Earthquake was fo very terrible with us, that every Thing feem'd to dance about the Housfe: This threw us all (as you may well fuppofe) into a dreadful Surprize at firft; but upon a little Recovery I was foon fenfible what it was; and immediately ran out of my Houfe, to make the beft Obfervation I could in fo great Confufion. I quickly heard the Dreadful Noife again, which appeared to me like that of Devouring Flames when the moft Combustable Matter is thrown into them : This made me conclude fome Subterraneous Fires had been the Caufe of it, and that there had been fome fearful Eruption of them in the Uninhabited Part of this Land. For the Prodigious Noife was repeated no lefs than 12 or 14 times in the fpace of 2 or 3 Hours; and as near as I can guefs, without a Compafs, the Center of it was at a great Diftance in the Wildernefs West and by North from my Houfe. And accoringly having Ocafion to ride out the Thurfday following in the Morning, the Sky being ferene and clear; as I rode over fome high Lands in our Parifh Ii look'd towards the Wildernefs whence the late Dreadful Noifes came, and apparently faw a very large Pillar of Smoke arife, which confirmed my Tho'ts of a fiery Eruption that way. And I believe ftill, I was not miftaken; for on Saturday laft Two Youn Men of this Parifh, who pafs for Men of Truth, came home from Black-Point, and bring us this awful Account, viz. That they faw there feveral Indians; who lately came into that Place, and told them, That a Mountain near where they were at the time of the Earthquake, was partly blown up with Fire, and burnt at fo prodigious a Rate, that it was Amazing to behold it: Upon this they all removed their Quarters as foon as they could; but yet have fince, and very lately too, feen the Flames arife in a very Awful and Amazing Manner. They alfo fay, they tho't the Great GOD was Angry with themn for being fo active in the Wars, and Refolved never more to engage in any War against the English. This I believe you may Report for a Truth." Note: Sounds like the volcanic eruption was north of Lake Winnipesaukee, near Moultonborough, which is a considerable distance northwest of Newington, where the correspondent lived. The Indians who spoke with the writers' neighbors moved their quarters away from the volcano to Black Point, which is south of the lake.

By Jenny Stephenson (not verified) on 10 Jan 2010 #permalink