Alert level goes up at Taal in the Philippines


The steaming vent area at Taal in the Philippines in September 1965, when the volcano produced a VEI 4 eruption.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has raised the alert status at Taal to Level 2 (of 4) and officials in the Philippines are getting ready if the volcano does come back to life for the first time since 1977. Taal is a mere 48 km (30 miles) from Manila - the capital of the Philippines and home to over 21,000,000 people in the metro area of the city. This location made Taal one of the UN/IAVCEI Decade Volcanoes as a large eruption from the volcano could be devastating.

The volcano has been quiet for almost 33 years now, but last year Taal began to show signs of life including increased steam emissions and bubbles (indicating degassing) in the volcano's crater lakes. Today, however, PHIVOLCS is reporting over 30 high frequency seismic events underneath the volcano and a greater increase in steam emissions, prompting the elevation of the Alert Status from 1 to 2. Now, earthquake swarms have occurred before at Taal over the last decade, and there have even been muddy geysers that have popped up in the crater lakes - these geysers prompted the last Level 2 alert in 2006 (thanks to deformation and increased seismicity that came with the geyser activity). Many of the eruptions over the last 40 years have been VEI 1-2 explosive events that were strongly influenced by the presence of the crater lakes (phreatic or phreatomagmatic eruptions), as the 1976-77 eruption produced copious ash-and-steam clouds. However, in 1965-6, Taal had a series of VEI 3-4 eruptions that killed at least 200 people. This eruption produced a 15-20 km ash plume after starting as basaltic spatter (sound familiar?). Additionally, a 1911 eruption produced a tsunami and killed almost 2,000 people.

You'd think with a volcano with as much of a deadly history as Taal that people would avoid it, however, Taal is actually a popular tourist destination thanks to its proximity to Manila. Volcano Island, in the middle of the largest crater lake, is now off limits due to its constant degassing, but much of the rest of the area can be visited. This tourism, combined with the high population within 100 km of the volcano means that PHIVOLCS will have its hands full if the volcano shows signs that it might have a significant eruption. PHIVOLCS does have hazard maps for Taal showing the zones of highest danger for ballistics, base surges (pyroclastic flows - the #1 hazard according to PHIVOLCS) and lakewater escape (due to seismicity) but one would imagine that ash would be a major problem if the volcano erupts explosively. Luckily, the volcano is closely monitored for seismic changes, lake temperature and chemistry and deformation from the Taal Volcano Observatory. For those intrepid webcam watchers, there are a few Taal webcams out there to check out.

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Erik-- I answered my own question in the previous link-- thanks, and sorry to bug you.

Info: only the 1st link on the webcam page is of the volcano; I'm still looking for more. Not that I'm addicted, or anything ;-P

By parclair, NoCal USA (not verified) on 08 Jun 2010 #permalink

When I see the lack of seismological monitoring resources in Africa, Vanuatu, S. & C. America and elsewhere, I get annoyed and frustrated.

The reasons are the obvious ones. Limited funds, local responsibility, unknown shortfall, more immediate necessities, a shortage of volcanologists, NIMBY... "Who cares if a volcano should blow up in some far off place killing people who foolishly live there and were unfortunate in not securing an advance warning system."

Here are two profitable reasons to monitor and research volcanoes in far flung corners of the world.

1) There is big money in geotourism.

More significantly tourists who travel to remote destinations are apt to spend time and money at other regional attractions.

Getting the publicity to pull in the geotourist is crucial. Internet access to real time monitoring is a big suspenseful tease.

If the pass-through economic benefit to other regional states had been emphasized, the "decade" project might have gained support for UN funding.

2) There ought to be huge interdisciplinary spin-off benefits from volcanological research. The topic of interest is a complex, heterogeneous, multiphase system that provides prodigious data from a diverse set of examples.

I expect that volcanology is an ideal accessible real environment to develop expertise in very complex, multi-component dynamic interactions.

The insights and experience gained from volcanology stand a good chance of being suitable for other situations else where.

Hey! What's that to the left of the image on Múlakot cam? Looks like steam or PC flow coming downslope??? Also seen from the extreme left of Hvólsvöllur, I think.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 08 Jun 2010 #permalink

There's a cloud of steam moving fast to the left of the crater on Hvosvöllur! Winds are very low.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 08 Jun 2010 #permalink

Well, that could be a cloud or another dust devil, but the speed of the wind, according to Jón's helicorders is null at the time, and the cloud moved so rapidly... Now it's gone. But the steam area on Múlakot is still visible.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 08 Jun 2010 #permalink

@ Raving no.3 Geotourism Plans

So: "big growth, big money and big development", eh?!

Sure thing, if you are right and we get all those "naturists (!) chasing after erupting volcanoes". (But of course, they will have nowhere to KEEP their money! Sorry!)

Your vision for geotourism would be a "hot project" indeed.......

;-)

Hi all, I'm an interested bystander, not knowing much at all about volcanos, but as a scientist the discussions on this website make for a great read everyday.

Just thought I'd say, I visited the Philippines in 2001 and on my trip around the islands I visited lake taal including a boat trip over to the central "volcano island". If anyone is interested I could dig out my old photos of the trip. I remember lots of interesting coloured water / crystals on the edge of the (central island) crater lake with some venting gases & a very hot day!

It would be a disaster if there was a large eruption there, as there are many houses surrounding the lake, and most people wouldn't have the resources to do much to help themselves if anything happened. A beautiful part of the country, nonetheless.

@ 9 Ems, Please do upload your photographs,they'd be interesting to look at.I was watching a video on Youtube in which tourists from Manilla were walking around inside the crater just before it was made off limits. I wondered if they realised just where they were walking lol.

Hi Zander, I will try & dig them out - think they were not digital photos so I'll see!
Although it's a while ago, there certainly weren't any indications to make tourists aware that it was in anyway an active volcano, other than what you could see/smell. I think that until you see images from google earth do you realise that the larger lake taal is the actual entire volcano - not just the little tiny volcano island in the middle of the serene lake!

It is (and has to be for many) about the money that can be made from tourism, as incomes are so low out there. I doubt whether any of the governments contigencies will have been communicated to the public in these areas:
http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/261295/gov-t-assures-readiness-case-taal-…

There seems to be some ambiguity as to what classifies as Taal volcano.Some websites say Taal is the world's smallest volcano citing the 408 metre tall cinder cone at one corner of the island inside Taal lake. Surely the volcano is the entire island inside Taal lake with the cinder cone being one of a couple of vents?

@ 12. Im pretty sure the lake covers the remains of a caldera collapse, I recall reading that Taal had VEI 6 eruption a few thousand years ago. Im pretty sure the volcano is the whole lake including volcano island.

Good question, what indeed is a "volcano"? Is it the mountain, the vent(-s) or the magma chamber/piping? Since the former are manifestations of the latter, I'd say the latter is the volcano proper. ;)

By Henrik, Swe (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

I agree with Henrik. It seems a bit ridiculous naming one little vent in a rather large caldera complex the smallest volcano in the world.

Wikipedia:
"Taal Lake lies within a 25â30 km caldera formed by four explosive eruptions between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago. Each of these eruptions created extensive ignimbrite deposits, reaching as far away as where Manila stands today."

That's small?

By bruce stout (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

@Erik - I agree with Renato. I'd hunt him down, though, and hang him by the unmentionables he/she/it keeps mentioning.

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

@13, Zander, sorry, posted after two sips coffee. Yikes. 2 days in a row.

By parclair NoCal USA (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

@ #12-#16 I think we all agree that the Volcano Island of Taal is not tall. Somehow that reminded me of a saying by Robert A. Heinlein, "Never frighten a small guy. He'll kill you." (From RAH "Notebooks of Lazarus Long", in "Time Enough for Love")

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Kutsi#19 - RAH now there's a name that takes me back to my teenage years... Auctioned off a large pile of SF to a local group a long time ago, and I've missed them ever since. I had a girlfriend who used to enigmatically quote RAH "sayings" at me, and I had to go and reread the books to find out what she meant.

@Gordon - I gotta boast here: I have "RAH Grumbles from the Grave" signed by Ginny.

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

I grok what you're saying---)

By parclair NoCal USA (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

@ Parclair, have another go lol.

@23 Zander. I hoped if I just didn't say anything, no one would notice. Sorry Simon. *eyeroll* *Headslap*

By parclair NoCal USA (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Hi to All,

Todays "silly quiz". Has anyone spotted that the Flir cam has had the same image up for about 24 hours now ? lol.

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

But on a more serious note..

There appears to be a new outbreak of meltwater but quite a way to the right of the old lake. I have a 81cm monitor on my computer and even with the poor definition on the Thoro Cam (set on 400%), I cam just make out what look to be 4 plumes behind the new meltwater just in front of Eyja herself. Am I seeing things or does anyone else see what I am seeing ???

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Sorry,"cam" should be "can".

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Henrik 14: Very good question. When it comes down to it, precisely defining "volcano" is dam' difficult.

-Is it the vent itself?

-Is it the vent+ accumulated materials ejected from it? (The 'volcanic edifice') This is the popular non-scientific definition

-Or is it the entire plumbing system, going down 100km and possibly underlying several hundred sq,km, which includes the edifice as a (fairly small) part of the whole? ('the volcanic system')

Logically it should be the latter, but that raises problems eg with several closely-spaced volcanic structures. Are they related, and part of the same system? Many volcanoes were named (because they're pretty obvious features) and classed as independent centres long before the days of petrographic study and trace-element analysis. and there is possibly a certain caution about re-classifying them.

Are the Three Sisters separate volcanoes, or progressively younger manifestations of the same system? If the former, why is/are Mexico's 'Three Virgins' classed as one volcano? And so on.

And what about an active cone within a broad caldera? Is Taal defined as Volcano Island, or the whole of the caldera filled by Lake Taal? If the latter, should not Sakurajima be defined formally as including the whole Aira caldera? (to give one example) It gets very confusing.

Kutsi#21, I am jealous, not so much of the signed copy, but that you still have them. I just checked my attic and only "time Enough For Love" remains which I just couldn't get rid of..

I just had a quick look to see if there were any appropriate aphorisms for "Eruptions" and bizarrely on the second page I looked (pg368) I found the following...

"Beware of the "Black Swan" fallacy.Deductive logic is tautological; there is no way to get a new truth out of it, and it manipulates false statements as readily as true ones.
If you fail to remember this, it can trip you - with perfect logic. The designers of the earliest computerscalled this the "GIGO Law" i.e, "Garbage in Garbage Out".
Inductive Logic is much more difficult - but can produce new truths."

Has anyone noticed that the wildflowers have flowered on Mula cam 1?

While searching for information on Italian seamounts today, I came across an interesting little theory on the myth of scylla-and-charybdis.

http://virtualwayfarer.com/a-possible-origin-for-the-scylla-and-charybd…

The author didn't carry the seamount notion as far as I might have, to include a seamount-fissure system that might have caused a temporary whirlpool to develop nearby, perhaps formed by hot gases ejection into anticyclonic flows known to exist in the waters above active shallow seamounts.

There is a seamount found within the Sicilian Straits, The Malta Seamount, but the model could have been any the of many seamounts found in the Mediterranean.

Henrik 14/Don:

Very good question. When it comes down to it, precisely defining "volcano" is dam' difficult.

-Is it the vent itself?

-Is it the vent+ accumulated materials ejected from it? (The 'volcanic edifice') This is the popular non-scientific definition

-Or is it the entire plumbing system, going down 100km and possibly underlying several hundred sq,km, which includes the edifice as a (fairly small) part of the whole? ('the volcanic system')

Logically it should be the latter, but that raises problems eg with several closely-spaced volcanic structures. Are they related, and part of the same system? Many volcanoes were named (because they're pretty obvious features) and classed as independent centres long before the days of petrographic study and trace-element analysis. and there is possibly a certain caution about re-classifying them.

Are the Three Sisters separate volcanoes, or progressively younger manifestations of the same system? If the former, why is/are Mexico's 'Three Virgins' classed as one volcano? And so on.

And what about an active cone within a broad caldera? Is Taal defined as Volcano Island, or the whole of the caldera filled by Lake Taal? If the latter, should not Sakurajima be defined formally as including the whole Aira caldera? (to give one example) It gets very confusing.

How about the volcanoes of Iceland..

the whole island there is actually one big volcano,that has lots of vents and cones and mountains of former active and active "volcanoes"...

to just name a volcano is not always as easy to define, as with the "Taal" volcano wich is a newly formed crater, formed in the old caldera,(the lake)wich is actually a part of a larger volcanic system that made that island..

so the whole island should actually have the name of the Volcano right??

Taal Island??..

Thor: I dug out my copy of 'Volcanoes Of The World' (1994 edition) and found this on Iceland (p152)

"Since our 1981 book, reorganisation by volcanic systems...has resulted in a substantial drop in number of volcanoes (from 71 to 35) but more meaningful grouping of genetically related surface features"

Seems to be relevant

#19, 20 and 21: still have all my Heinlein (non signed) but precious nonetheless. My only signed book is Gaia by James Lovelock, given to me by an ex student who met him on a uni field trip and asked him to sign it for me. It is my most treasured thing.

@Gordon #29 Yes, I've seen the wild flowers! Someone had mentioned before and I went there to check... Like in the Phoenix myth, from the ashes they bloom!
@Passerby #30 Talking about myths... I love the way the ancients found to explain what in many cases remain unexplainable still today . The Scylla-and-charybdis was one of the myths that inspired me most awe when I was a youngster reading the Odyssey - just couldn't figure out what they were exactly - giant whirlpools with a big open mouth? I'm not convinced that lava bombs could "explain" multi-headed monsters. What I think is that they didn't actually want to "explain" anything: they accepted nature the way it is and described what they experienced in a poetic form. And may be they were closer to truth doing so. (?!)
As for volcanoes, I keep the image I've always had from them - the good old conical shape. In fact, until Eyjaf, I didn't care much about Icelandic volcanoes because they didn't match the shape I had in mind since my childhood. Now that I fell in love to them, I have to accept the idea of them being effusive cracks on Earth's crust. What about calderas? Well, they are big volcanoes, with a crater lake and a small volcano within. Can anyone be more scientific than that? :)

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Another EQ on Jan Mayen micro-plate:
4.9 2010/06/09 16:54:24 70.351 -15.165 10.0 JAN MAYEN ISLAND REGION (USGS)

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Flooding alert on Eyjafjallajökull (lahars?), heavy rains forecasted between 5 and 9 in the morning - I'll post it in Icelandic, maybe someone could translate it:

Mikilli úrkomu spáð og hætta á aurflóðum - skráð 09.06.2010 kl. 17:10
à nótt er spáð allt að 40 mm úrkomu á Eyjafjallajökli. Reiknað er með að mest rigni á tÃmabilinu milli kl. 5 og 9 à fyrramálið. Við þessar aðstæður er hætta á að öskulög á Eyjafjallajökli geti skriðið fram og niður farvegi áa sem renna suður af fjöllunum. Ãetta á helst við Svaðbælisá, Laugaá og Kaldaklifsá en einnig geta slÃk flóð komið niður Holtsá, Miðskálaá og Ãrá.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

@Renato, #40: In short: They expect heavy rainfalls this night - up to 40mm of rain between 5 and 9 in the morning. This may lead to mudflows from the Eyjafjallajökull in the area.

#37 @Chris,Reykjavik Thank you! Hope you stay away from the path.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Mud flows are much bigger killers than lava flows! So please, attention!
A 6,0 M EQ in Vanuatu.
6.0 2010/06/09 23:23:19 -18.586 169.471 17.8 km VANUATU (NE of Traitor's Head)
According to Smithsonian Institute: "A submarine vent offshore between the tip of the peninsula and Goat Island, 5 km to the NE, erupted in 1881, the only historical activity of the Erromango volcanoes".

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Re: Eyja, A little bit gleaned from the IMO page dated May 24 (under 'ashfall") -"...Volcanologists and Geologists term this quieter spell of volcanic activity as a âpausedâ phase. However, it is typical for a volcano like this to have several âpausesâ as part of its overall eruption phase. Only when the volcano has been âpausedâ for three months will it then be regarded as being dormant."

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Does it mean something?
5.0 2010/06/10 02:13:23 7.256 126.840 60.8 MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

6.0 EQ Vanuato 6 minutes ago

All, for interest, as promised yesterday (#9) I dug out my old taal photos. As I suspected they were poor quality old-school photos, so I scanned them in and the results can be seen here:
http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/107090910741035698162/Taal?authkey=Gv1sRg…

they at least provide an overview of the whole structure of taal lake and it's size. Volcano island is to the right in photo 1 - behind the blade of grass! & in the centre of photo 5. Photo 3 provides a view from the side of volcano island in low evening light. Photo 4 is the panorama from within volcano island itself. Hope they are of some use!

Hi Ems@43, I think everyone is over on the new page now - thanks for the photos, I'll put a reference over there for you.

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 10 Jun 2010 #permalink

Some info. on Taal vocano = about 5000 people live on volcano island, mostly involved in fishing and farming, and tourist guide's, Nobody should be living there of course but this is the Philippines!!. I have lived in Tagaytay for 3 years, we are 2000-2500 above the lake so the weather is cooler. The big fear is steam explosions in the lake which is 30 miles long.

Hey I have been following your articles quite a lot & I must say that you come across as a pro in your area of study. You should start blogging more often , it would be really great.