Friday Flotsam: Soufriere Hills' big bang and submarine volcanism from space

Two impressive eruptions going on right now:

Soufriere Hills erupting on February 11, 2010. Image courtesy of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

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Sally Sennert from the Smithsonian Institution sent me an email to say that this week's USGS/Smithsonian Institute Weekly Volcanic Report will be delayed due to the inclement weather in the Washington DC area. She can't connect with the server, so the report can't be updated on the Smithsonian…
The plume from submarine volcano Fukutoku-Okanoba, erupting in February 2010. Almost a year after the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai eruption, where an undersea volcano sprang forth from the deep - quite spectacularly, we have new footage of another undersea eruption. Fukutoku-Okanoba, off the coast of…
A couple bits of news: The ash plume from the February 11, 2010 eruption of Soufriere Hills taken by theAqua MODIS camera. Image courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory. Flights have been disrupted in the West Indies since last week with the large dome-collapse eruptions of Soufriere Hills on…
A pyroclastic flow from the February 5 vulcanian eruption of Soufriere Hills. Image courtesy of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO). UPDATE: See some amazing images of the recent eruptive activity over on Stromboli Online. {Hat tip to the Volcanism Blog via Eruptions reader CK.} One event that…

Very nice pyroclastic flow footage @ 0:16.

The amount of SO2 isn't very big. I don't know the exact numbers, but the SO2 satellite isn't cuurently showing a big red spot in that area:

Note: keep checking the OMI SO2 website. The current picture might not be up to date. Maybe something more spectacular will be visible later today or tomorrow.

By Gijs de Reijke (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Randall - I don't know how much SO2 was emitted in this event, but generally Soufrière Hills is a volcano that emits much less SO2 than Etna even during its most violent moments. There's a brand-new paper entitled "Volcanic gas emissions from Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat 1995â2009, with implications for mafic magma supply and degassing", published in Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 37, L00E04, doi: 10.1029/2009GL041325, which gives the most significant peaks in SO2 emission (maximum 5000 tons/day with an error of 1500 tons) during the periods when there were pauses in the eruptive activity (actually an interesting detail). So I would think that a few thousand tons of SO2 were emitted in yesterday's event, nothing that will affect global climate, also because the plume height would have been too low.

Erik...FYI your site keeps coming up with an error in the code.
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It is in a javascript, here is the line of code:

so there won't be any impact on the hurricane season?
ie, increasing or decreasing?

@mots, My guess is that if this season's El Nino dissipates this spring, then conditions will be more favorable for hurrican formation in the west atlantic, caribbean and gulf this summer and fall.

Doug and Mots

The AMO and the NAO are the bigger players in the Atlantic and will have a bigger influence on hurricane formation in the West Atlantic...El Nino will have a minimal effect (if it even lasts that long) on Atlantic hurricanes.
They need to update their charts but the info about the AMO is very good. The AMO went negative in Jan.

Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO)
Cycles of Hurricane Landfalls on the Eastern United States Linked to Changes in Atlantic Sea-surface Temperatures (USGS) []: âHistorical observations suggest that the very active hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 may be part of a natural cycle in Earthâs climate system that is related to changes in mean sea-surface temperature (SST) in the North Atlantic Ocean.â

North Atlantic Oscillation

Hurricanes will be fewer in the North Atlantic, the ones that do form will tend to go more toward the Eastern Seaboard.

Doug and Mots I tried to post this with the links but it wouldn't let me so I am sending it without the links maybe Erik will post them later....just google the NAO, AMO and you can check my info;)

The AMO and the NAO are the bigger players in the Atlantic and will have a bigger influence on hurricane formation in the West Atlantic...El Nino will have a minimal effect (if it even lasts that long) on Atlantic hurricanes.
They need to update their charts but the info about the AMO is very good. The AMO went negative in Jan.

âHistorical observations suggest that the very active hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 may be part of a natural cycle in Earthâs climate system that is related to changes in mean sea-surface temperature (SST) in the North Atlantic Ocean.â

Hurricanes will be fewer in the North Atlantic, the ones that do form will tend to go more toward the Eastern Seaboard.

Hmm... the OMI SO2 picture currently shows that the eruptions of Soufrière Hills did produce a 'nice' amount of Sulfur Dioxide. Nothing really big though, compared to what we've seen from other volcanoes (Kasatochi, Sarychev Peak, Redoubt, Alu-Dalaffilla, Manda Hararo...).

By Gijs de Reijke (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

Gijs de Reijke yeah you are right it did put out some SO2 on that map you posted but I think Boris is wasn't big enough or go high enough up to do much to the weather.

damon scott hynes Maybe because it's a low end VEI3.

But then again, a few years back a mystery high-altitude SO2 cloud was detected, eventually found to have been produced by a bog=standard eruption of Nyamlagira (cinder cone, lava fountains, fluid low-silica lava flow). So the relationship of high-altitude SO2 and major explosive ebents is not as simple as one might think

(Edited to say, that was 'events' not ebents :o) Mea culpa, it's 6.43am and I'm only just up.)

The relation is indeed not as simple as one might think (if I remember correctly there was something about that on the Volcanism Blog shortly after Chaitén erupted). But if there would be a measurable effect on the weather (and I'm not just talking about a more intensly coloured sunset), there should be huge red spots on the map. Something like how Pinatubo should have looked like in the OMI SO2 picture if it would've existed back then. However, we all know what the SO2 readings looked like when it happened:…

By Gijs de Reijke (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

This is not related with Soufriere, but does anyone knows a photo of the 'Cuernos del Diablo' Volcano (not satellital), located in Chile roughly to the east of Calbuco volcano (see GVP). If you know a good one and you have no problem to send it to me or sending a link, I will be very grateful.

By Guillermo (not verified) on 13 Feb 2010 #permalink

Anyone notice that MVO stopped webcam broadcasting yesterday morning? Are there any other volcano webcams at Montserrat?

This isn't related directly to Monserrat, but I wanted to let anyone know who would like to know more (in other words not an expert) about volcanoes, I ordered the book "Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis" by David A. Rothery and it is very good. I just got it today and started to read it and I have learned some things I didn't know an I am in chapter 2. Of course, I am NOT an expert in anything; except for maybe spending too many years in college. LOL

@Damon: Did you mean peleean or plinian? If you meant plinian, it wasn't a large enough eruption for that, as Randall said, and also it didn't have quite the shape for it, either. Now Redoubt had a classic plinian last year and you can see(if you got to the AVO site and check the archives)in some of the pictures why they called it a plinian. Monserrat didn't look anything like it. I know there is more to it than shape of the ash cloud, but I think that size and shape have something to do with the designation.

Peleean is a term I haven't heard before and if it refers to Pele, I don't know exactly what kind of eruption that is. I though it was more like the fountaining you see in Hawaii sometimes where the fountain can reach 1200' or more.

For any of you who know more about this, I would like to know the difference between peleean and plinian. Or are they different terms for the same thing? Thanks.

@Mike Don: typos allowed here. :-) Sometime I think my computer invents a whole new language when I try to type something. LOL

Peléean Eruptions

These eruptions, which are typically violent and destructive, involve glowing avalanches of fresh, effervescing magma. Separation of a gas cloud from the avalanche produces a nuée ardent that may move independently of the associated ash flow. Airfall ejecta are not widespread. Viscous magma follows to form steep-sided domes and spines or short, thick flows, the flanks of which may collapse by gravity or internal explosions to produce hot block-and-ash flows. Volcanoes with this activity include Mount Pelée, Martinique; Mount Mayon, Philippines; Santiaguito, Guatemala; and Mount Lamington, Papua New Guinea. The characteristic features of these eruptions are:

Physical nature of magma: viscous; dacitic, andesitic, rhyolitic.

Character of explosive activity: moderate to violent ejection of solid or very viscous hot fragments of new lava; commonly with glowing avalanches.

Nature of effusive activity: domes and/or very short, thick flows; may be absent.

Nature of dominant ejecta: Essential, glassy to lithic, blocks and ash; pumice.

Structures built around vent: Ash and pumice cones; domes; local development of volcanic spines.…

Further examples of eruption types are Vulcanian (after Vulcano, Italy) and Peleean (Mt. Pelee, Martinique, West Indies). Vulcanian eruptions commonly involve relatively cool, thick, gas-rich magma. This type of eruption usually begins with steam explosions that remove old, solid material from the central vent. A cauliflower- or mushroom-shaped cloud of ash, often with lightning within it, then develops above the vent. The eruption of thick, sluggish lava flows indicates the end of the eruptive cycle. Peleean eruptions are characterized by the formation of domes and powerful, glowing avalanches of hot ash and blocks that travel down the flanks of the volcano.

Another type of eruption, Plinian, is named for a person rather than a volcano, though which person may not be completely clear. Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist who died in the A.D. 79 eruption of Vesuvius volcano, while his nephew, Pliny the Younger, made detailed observations of the eruption. Plinian eruptions, like the Vesuvius eruption, are large, explosive events that send enormous columns of ash, pumice, and gas high into the stratosphere. Pyroclastic flows and extensive ash fall are usually produced during these events as well. Recent examples of Plinian eruptions include Mount St. Helens (1980) and Mount Pinatubo, Philippines (1991).

Additional classifications of eruptions are based on the nature and scale of activity, for example, basaltic flood eruptions and gas eruptions. There are gradations between each type of eruption, and some volcanoes display more than one type of activity.

Vulcanian eruptions are named after the cone of Vulcano in the Lipari Islands west of Italy. Vulcanian eruptions can involve almost any type of magma but felsic magma, magma with relatively high silica content, is most common (Williams and McBirney, 1979). This type of eruption usually begins with steam explosions that remove old, solid lithic (rock) material from the central vent. The main phase of the eruption is characterized by the eruption of viscous, gas-rich magma that forms vitric (glassy) ash. An eruption cloud, a cauliflower- or mushroom-shaped cloud of ash, develops above the vent. The eruption cloud can be gray or black. Lightning in the eruption cloud is common during Vulcanian eruptions. Airfall, pyroclastic flow, and base-surge deposits can form a cone of ash, surrounded by wide sheets of ash. Tephra deposits from Vulcanian eruptions are more widely dispersed than deposits from Hawaiian or Strombolian eruptions. The eruption of thick, viscous lava flows indicates the end of the eruptive cycle (Williams and McBirney, 1979).

Peleean eruptions are named for Mont Pelee in the West Indies, where this type of activity was first witnessed and described in 1902-1903. Peleean eruptions are associated with rhyolitic or andesitic magmas. The two characteristic features of Peleean eruptions are the formation of domes and glowing avalanches (Macdonald, 1972). During the opening stages of the eruption, violent glowing avalanches of hot ash travel down the flanks of the volcano. These incandescent avalanches can start fires and are powerful enough to topple walls. Tephra deposits are generally much less widespread than most Vulcanian and Plinian eruptions (Williams and McBirney, 1979).

Following the initial explosive stage, viscous magma forms a steep-sided dome or volcanic spine in the volcanic vent. Gravity or internal pressure can cause the dome to collapse, resulting in hot block-and ash flows. Peleean eruptions generally complete their eruptive cycle in only a few years (Williams and McBirney, 1979). Santiaguito, in Guatemala, is an example of a Peleean eruption that has continued for decades. Photo shows a volcanic spine at the summit of the Mt. Pelee. Photograph by Heilprin.

Plinian eruptions are named for the famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder. He died during an eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Pliny the Elder's nephew described the eruption, which is characteristic of Plinian eruptions. Two key characteristics are an exceptionally powerful, continuous gas blast eruption and the ejection of large volumes of pumice (Walker and Crosdale, 1971). Plinian eruptions can last less than a day, such as the short-lived explosions of gas-rich, siliceous magma prior to the eruption of fluid basaltic lava flows in Iceland. Longer-lived, more voluminous Plinian eruptions can last for weeks or months. The longer eruptions start with showers of ash followed by glowing avalanches. In some cases, so much magma is erupted that the summit of the volcano collapses to produce a caldera. Classic examples of collapse to produce a caldera are Krakatau in 1883, Crater Lake about 7,000 years ago, and S antorini in 1500 B.C. During Plinian eruptions fine ash can be dispersed over very large areas. Total volume of tephra erupted during the formation of Crater Lake was 18 cubic miles (75 cubic km). The 1886 eruption of Tarawera is a rare case of a basaltic Plinian eruption. Photograph shows the Plinian eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. Photograph courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.

Rhyolitic flood eruptions are characterized by the production of large volumes of rhyolitic material that spread great distances from their vents to produce broad, nearly level plains (Macdonald,1972). Rhyolitic flood eruptions are from fissure vents. The fluidity of these eruptions is a result of hot ash flows. Macdonald cites the 1912 eruption of Mt. Katmai in Alaska as an example of a rhyolitic flood eruption. This eruption produced a caldera and greater than 1.8 cubic miles (7 cubic km) of ash. The area is now part of Katmai National Park.

Anyone have an opinion on the long shallow quakes at Yellowstone YMR:
I guess they could be from a snowmobile running right next to the station or a big truck close by....something tells me they might not be...not unless someone was out there at 2:00am playing on a is mighty cold there late at night to be playing around.... A couple of frolicking buffalo maybe?

Check out near by corders to eliminate vehicle traffic.
I think it is an interesting burst.

By Dasnowskier (not verified) on 13 Feb 2010 #permalink

Actually I meant the one after 8am is interesting.

By Dasnowskier (not verified) on 13 Feb 2010 #permalink

Dasnowskier...Yeah I wondered if they could just be noise....I knew the ones at 8am were not....and you are right they are very interesting.

To Randall Nix, thank you for that pictures. I think that is not I'm looking for, because is a poor-known 'volcano'. Thank you very much, anyway, I didn't see that photos before.

By Guillermo (not verified) on 14 Feb 2010 #permalink

Thanks, Randall, for the explainations. I have a much better idea of what is going on. It seems there is not too much difference between Vulcanian, Peleean, and Plinian. It is a matter of what is going on and how much. All three are explosive and behave a bit differently, but not much.

Anyway, I have learned some more and that keeps my brain working. :-D

Just wanted to let all of you know that the Turrialba site for the web cam is unsafe. I just went to check on it and Norton warned me about it.

@Yellowstone seizmic activity: I checked on it as I am sure most of you have and they don't seem to be mentioning the large weird wave at 2:00am. Maybe it was a couple of buffalo or it could have been a moose trying to upset the equipment. ;-D My DH had an experience with a moose once. He and another guy were driving up in Canada and they came upon another guy whose truck was being attacked by a moose! They got the guy out of there and into the next town. So moose will attack a car or truck. So will elk. Maybe Erik can give us some insight on this the next time he posts.

I was in a small tent in Yellowstone many yrs ago, camping at Mammoth. Beautiful day, but typically it snowed 6 inches that night.
My routine was to have my coffee ready to light just outside the flap, all I had to do was reach out and lite the burner, then back to sleep for an hour. Hot water and instant. Life was good.
So I open my flap, push aside a bunch of snow, stick my head out and theres a moose about two feet from my face.
He was looking at me like he thought my tent was taking a poop. I asked him if he wanted coffee and he walked off. I guess moose dont like instant.

Oh, the Geological point to that story -
theres a climate component to YS inflation/deflation hydrodynamic cycle.
Mammoth is dry as a bone in the fall, theres not as much water in the system until the snow melts on the high plateau.
I havent seen any studies on relation between snow pack/ melt and microquakes, but I havent looked yet. I bet someones an expert on it.

By Fitzpatrick (not verified) on 14 Feb 2010 #permalink

Fitz....I embedded a YouTube video I found on my site:
It's a video a tourist took last summer. In it a Park Ranger talks about changes to one of the normally calm blue pools at Norris after an earthquake;)
When the snow melts this year, it will be very interesting to see what changes they may find around Madison River and all along the old Northern Yellowstone caldera rim.

@Fitz: It could have been a bear, too, but there haven't been as many as there used to be and it is too cold anyway. Face to face with a moose! Hmmm. You are fortunate the moose walked off! Years ago, my parents were listening to a ranger in Yellowstone and he told the story of the time he was out skiing in Yellowstone and he came up on a moose, or the moose came up on him, and the moose was not happy. The ranger said you never saw somebody climb a tree, skis, boots, poles, and all, so fast in your life! He was in that tree for a good while before the moose left.

Anybody with any more moose or bear stories? Not exactly on the subject, but interesting anyway. Then there are the cougars, which we have in our area at the moment, but the deer are back so she must have moved to a different part of her territory. She has cubs, too.

so I've been reading the discussion about Vulcanian vs Plinean eruptions... could somebody tell me - what type of eruption was Mt Tambora 1815? I've read it was vulcanina, but after learning about plinean eruptions, I am wondering why it is not considered plinean...

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