Monday Musings: Marianas eruption, Yasur disruptions and the Guatemalan double whammy

Quick news on Memorial Day (in the US at least):

Ash soaked by rain from Tropical Storm Agatha on the roofs of homes in Guatemala after the late May eruption of Pacaya.

  • Sixteen scientists were evacuated from islands in the northern Marianas due to the eruption of the unnamed submarine volcano south of Sarigan Island. The eruption is continuing to be monitored closely by the USGS and National Weather Service as the plume - which is most steam with minor ash - could disrupt air traffic in/around Saipan. The latest USGS CNMI update:

    Seismicity at a single nearby station on Sarigan Island declined soon after the eruption of a large steam and ash cloud from a submarine vent 11 km (7 miles) south of Sarigan Volcano early yesterday. Satellite images show no sign of ongoing activity. An EMO observer aboard an overflight yesterday reported a large area of debris floating in the sea south of the island, and a stationary area of discoloration in the water, presumably above the vent. The crew on Sarigan reported passage of a small wave (less than 0.5 m) following onset of the eruption yesterday.

    UPDATE 5/31/2010 3:30 PM EDT: A few more details on the eruption from CNN.

  • Yasur in Vanuatu has experienced some increased activity, prompting warnings about disruptions of air traffic in the South Pacific. Only minor disruptions to/from New Caledonia are expected as the ash plume only reaches 1.8 km (6,000 feet), but right now when it comes to volcanoes, aviation is the only thing on their minds. No evacuations of local villagers near the volcano have been issued due to the current eruptive activity at Yasur.
  • Updating the news on the eruption of Pacaya and the arrival of Tropical Storm Agatha to Guatemala, the country has asked for international aid to recover from the duo of natural disasters. Severe flooding and landslides have occurred across much of the middle of Central America - and in Guatemala, ash-laden roofs have collapsed due to the weight of the ash and water mix. Pacaya is still erupting, adding more ash to the mess - with 14 people confirmed dead and over 50 missing.

More like this

The level of news-frenzy on some of the recent volcanic eruptions has died down, but if you're looking to see information on the many rumbling going on worldwide, look no further. Here is this week's Volcanic Activity Report put together by Sally Kuhn Sennert of the Global Volcanism Program.…
This week has been destroyed by workshops and my last death throes with a paper I am submitting on my research in New Zealand. And to think, I thought it might settle down a little after the students left. To news! Ash fall on a taxi cab near Guatemala's Pacaya. Pacaya in Guatemala erupted…
Dark ash covers an American Airline 737 on the tarmac at the airport in Guatemala City. Two volcanoes are making headlines right now (and neither is in Iceland). As I mentioned yesterday, Pacaya in Guatemala erupted (video) causing widespread disruption of life in the nearby Guatemala City and…
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…

And little news from Eyjafjöll. The tremor increased these last 36h especially at hvo station and mainly in the 0.5-2 Hz band and slightly in the 2-4Hz band. Slight increase in the 0.5-1 Hz band for the hau station. Insignificant variations for esk, god and mid stations.

By Jean-François… (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

Darriel: The top view looks like raindrops on the camera lens (possibly dirty with ash??). Bottom pic certainly looks like an ash plume at the right hand side; which might not mean a new eruption, could be a dust/ash plume from avalanching down the crater wall. Anybody got any better ideas?

@#3/4: There are most likely raindrops, which are mixed with dust. There is storm today in this area, so you are not seeing clouds but ash, which is in the air again. The area was hit by heavy ashfalls in the last days of the eruption.

Forgot to mention before; the Turrialba webcam is working again

@3 It could well be snow in the middle of summer. Ther was snow on the Cuillins down to 1000ft only about a week ago and we are a lot further south. The bottom pic looks a lot like snow falling from a heavy cloud. At least that's what it looks like when we have it.

By Brian (Skye) (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@Birgit #2, those micrographs are awesome. I found some of them really interesting in the formation and the gas holes in some filled with smaller particles. What did you use to coat them with and are these backscatter or normal? I can't remember all the ways you can view a sample (after all it was 1981 when I got my 2 yr tech degree in em/sem!) I am just curious to know what you did to prepare the samples.

Another question I have is about the FEI Phenom. What is it?

Thanks for posting the micrographs. It is so cool to see what came out of Eyjaf and all the different forms of the ash. One of the pics that I found really weird was one that was a rectangle and appeared to have two differen substances in it. Have you done any microprobe work or xray analysis? I'm not sure what I am thinking here as that would be hard to do on ash as you would most likely get charging of the sample and if you coated it with gold or some other metal that would affect what sort of graph you would get. It would probably take a lot of carbon to prevent that and it probably wouldn't work anyway.

Thanks again for posting those pics. Neat stuff.

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

#2 @Birgitt, Ich gratuliere Ihnen für die Zartheit Ihrer Sammlung.
Very touching to see ash samples collected in Iceland by our fellow Jón Frimann and there they are, in Austria, reunited in a museum.
I can't tell you how precious this is to all of us from all parts of the world who were here together watching and discussing the wonders of this country and its awesome volcanoes.
Thank you!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

Birgit, I figured out that the FEI Phenom is an SEM. Let me know what you can do with it that is different from other scanners, if anything. I am curious.

Just got through checking out the pics and I think the airlines need to see this stuff. Can you imagine breathing it?! Not good.

Thanks again for posting.

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

Poor Guatemala. They have a tough time now.

Some interesting seismic activity on Iceland I see. I wonder what happens next?

By Mattias Larsson, Swe (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@Birgit #2: Are you sure that the first image in the set is ash and not an AT-AT walker?

@Daniel #3: As far as I can tell, it's either ash or dust. It's too brownish to be snow.

By Reynir, .is (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@Matthias, #13: Thats right. Earlier I when I heard about ashfalls in the vicinity of active volcanoes, I thought that this is not too bad. Since I now experienced this myself, I know that this is much more serious.

@Chris, Reykjavik #15: I was just about to ask how often Iceland's capital city had experienced ash falls like this, and you unawarely answered my question. I'm surprised. With so many volcanoes around... Good for you. Thanks. :)

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

#16 Renato thanks for the link to Turrialba. Does anybody know if the "blue" column is actually blue or a trick of the light on normal steam. If it is blue is that a sign of Sulphur Dioxide degassing?

#18 Your welcome, Gordon. There was some speculation on gas colors over here a couple of days ago, due to the strange blue haze around Eyjafjöll, but no final conclusion whether it was or was not SO2.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@Renato, #17: In Reykjavik we had almost no ash falling - just a little bit to cover the cars and the raise the concentration for fine particles above the critical concentrations.
I witnessed the massive ashfalls, when I visited the area.

#20 Chris: Yes... I think you posted a very interesting video on this "expedition". Was that you? Sorry if I'm not so sure...
I was curious, because my grandma used to tell me stories about big amounts of ash on furniture when Dezcabezado volcano erupted in Chile/Argentina border, back in the 30 's. She lived near Brasilia, thousands of miles away from the mountain. So, I thought it would have been bad in Reykjavik, from Eyjafjöll.

#19 @Gordon: I think it's a trick of light, now it has all the rainbow into it. Beautiful!
BTW: I 've just remembered that the "blue fog" had something to do with the color of the leaves... I'm not sure...

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

I wonder if the effect is just light refracted through water droplets or some kind of ionization due to chemicals in the ash plume?

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

The change of colour through to purple together with the position of the sun, and the loss of colour now with the onset of cloud cover, makes me pretty sure now that it's refracted light through steam.

#25 Whatever it was, still amazing, don't you think? Just waiting to see if any lava flows ' showing...

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

#27 @Chris, Reykjavik: Hopefully it's over for now. A pity, though, for us lurkers.
Næsta ferð mÃn til Evrópu myndi vissulega fela à landinu. Hvaða a dásamlegur landi!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

I'll contact some people to see if I can get some more infor on the eruption in the Marianas.
There is a small, unnamed seamount just to the south of Sarigan near its flank, however if the position on the report is correct it may from a larger separate volcano a bit further south.

Not only volcanoes generate craters: a poor man-made sewage drainage system can do worse.
"In the northern part of Guatemala City, the downpour created a giant sinkhole that swallowed up a space larger than the area of a street intersection. Residents told CNN that a three-story building and a house fell into the hole."…

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@20 Chris, Reykjavik Do you often get winds from the SE in Reykjavik? I suspect only when Low passes south or High passes north for the most of the year. Normal winds are out of the SW no?
Oh and nice pictures too. All from Iceland?

#32 @Dan, FL: Talking about winds, I was just reading about forecasts on oil spill. Still no good news. I'm so sorry, but still hoping...

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@34, 35, 36...

I had a grim thought last night. That chemical dispersant is meant to break up the clumps and wads of crude so it is less of a visible impact.

In 1997, Hurricane Nora swept across the Baja and managed to topple a few trailers in Arizona. In American Meteorological Society's Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, it was reported that plankton were found in the ice crystal of the cirrus clouds... over Oklahoma.

So.. how will cropland respond to a mixture of crude oil, 2-Butoxyethanol (a paint thinner), organic sulfonic acid salts (not your normal salt, NaCl), propylene glycol and in another version of dispersant, hydrotreated light petroleum distillates.

Yeah Buddy...

@ Dan, take these my, somehow bitter, words as a comfort: thousands of years from now, there will not remain a single oil drop in the Gulf, and none of us, humans, to gaze at surviving Beauty.
For now, let us return to the volcanoes, and get some sense of humbleness.
@Lurking, with your graphs, you're digging our way through the mysteries underlying Icelandic volcanoes! Thanks.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

#36 OMG!!!!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

Activity at the Tungurahua volcano in central Ecuador maintains its intensity with a âvery importantâ number of explosions after the âbig oneâ recorded last week, said today the director of the Geophysical Institute (IG) of the National Polytechnic School, Hugo Yepes.
âThe trend has unfortunately not been to decline, as we'd expected, but rather maintained and we see a little more energy in some of the explosions, ie, theyâre getting a little stronger,â he said.
âAt the moment, the volcano activity (...) has changed and that change is entirely related to explosions that are timely, there is a loud noise, a great shot and vibration of windows,â
Yepes interview with Channel Teleamazonas.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@41 Renaldo Are you one of those people I'm jealous of that is multi-lingual? ;)
I didn't see anything about Tungurahua on the link you provided.
Pretty cool about the Jimmy Buffet hotel isn't it. Don't know how occupancy will be, but if it's got a Parrothead fashioned bar locals here will fill it up. :)

@all. Speaking of geologic crises-- there's one building in Pakistan. Several months ago, a landslide dammed a river in the mountain country. This has created an enormous lake behind fairly poorly packed soil. The gov't has tried to build a spillway in the dam in advance of the spring melt. The whole thing is coming to a head as we speak. I've been following it on
I've been following landslides because, after all, what are pyroclastic flows and lahars but ....;-) And, this blog covers the dynamics of various types of landslides.

@ lurking 31, that is odd-looking, isn't it? It's like a straight line plot. Hmm.

@34 That sinkhole looks like a dry cenote.

@40 Renato-- wow, those are wonderful pictures of Tungurahua volcan. The first one looks like a classic pre-camera painting of a volcano--

@Dan-- I don't read spanish either (it's on my list of to-dos. I do speak bad spanglish;-) But, I just scroll through the headlines 'till I find the headline or copy with the name of the volcano and click on the headline.

By parclair, NoCal USA (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@Parclair #43:
I loved the dry cenote theory!!!
I think I'm switching my default language on Google Transl. from Icelandic to Spanish.
Though I keep one tab tight locked on Ãórólfsfell cam.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@Dan, Fla. You've really got my sympathies. I finally tried to read an article about the spill in the Wall Street Journal, and couldn't make it past the first few paragraphs; I was at risk of breaking my teeth from clenching.

On a positive note, my sister, who spent many hours cleaning up animals after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska is heading to the gulf to help clean the animals there. I'm certain that she's not the only experienced cleaner heading in your direction. (That is such a miserable phrase "experienced cleaner". There should be no experience in these matters.)

By parclair, NoCal USA (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

#47 @Dan: Have another sip of your Marguerita and take a look at the other thread. News about Chaitén and Kamtchakta.
Chaitén has been upgraded to one of the 15 deadliest. Radiocarbons and witnesses of a huge eruption that occurred 320 years ago!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

For those wanting to break away from active stuff......The view on the Ãóró camera at the moment is breathtaking - simply beautiful. She's puffing gently into a blue sky.

By Kathryn, Australia (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

@Dan, #32: Actually I would guess that the wind goes more into the south-eastern direction. Yesterday it was different and we had a noticeble cover of ash on the cars this morning.
Thanks for the photos - they are all taken here in Iceland.

@34,43 Good morning over here - I showed the pic to geologist who immediately said "must be in limestone, karst country."

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 01 Jun 2010 #permalink

Since there is not much graphic material of the recent eruptions all over the globe available, I thought you'd like to see old Mamma Etna in her most glorious days - thanks to a new slides scanner I have now the possibility to make some of my best photographs shine in all their beauty. This is just the beginning, I've got to choose the best photos out of about 15,000 slides covering 15 years (1989-2004) of encounters with Etna and the other Italian volcanoes ...


My friend and I were just talking about this article, she is continually looking for to prove me totally! I am going to present her this write-up not to mention rub it in just a little!