Active volcanism in the Caucasus Mountains


Mt. Elbrus in southern Russia, one of the active volcanoes in the Caucasus Mountains. (Note the prominent flow levees sticking out of the snow cover on the dacite lava flow in the middle of the image.)

Most people (including myself) aren't fully aware of the active volcanoes in the Caucasus Mountains, but sure enough, there are volcanoes that have erupted fairly recently (geologically-speaking). One of the active volcanoes in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia is Mt. Elbrus, just north of the border with Georgia, and it has erupted as recently as ~50 A.D., which for a volcano is the blink of an eye (well, maybe a long blink as blinks go). Elbrus is big - it is the third tallest volcano in the northern hemisphere and appears as a twin-capped composite volcano (somewhat like California's Shasta - see the image above) reaching over 5,600 meters. Surprisingly little is known outside of Russia about the volcanic history of Elbrus beyond the most recent eruption almost 2,000 years ago, but it appears to behave much like many continental composite volcanoes - dacitic lava flows (one of which travelled 24 km), explosive eruptions and, currently, weak fumarolic activity and hot springs on the edifice itself. Some very recent research on Elbrus suggests the volcano has been active for over 200,000 years and might be a candidate for a caldera-collapse eruption (which wouldn't be the first in the area), but the latter is speculation.

All of this makes it surprising to stumble across a news article talking up the threat of an eruption at Elbrus. The title leaves much to be desired ("Scientists predicting Elbrus eruption") as the article actually goes on to say that scientists from the Elbrus Scientific Research Centre of Moscow State University noted that there is still persistent fumarolic activity at the summit of the volcano, suggesting that there is still magma relatively near the surface (within a few kilometers). The real threat at Elbrus is the glaciers and snow on the volcano that could catastrophically melt if the volcano were to erupt - thus the call by the ESRC for increased monitoring of the volcano - both in the form of seismometers and gas measurements. Clearly, that sounds like a good idea for any large volcanic system with thousands of people living nearby.

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Thanks again Erik,
cant quote that oven enough!

>>The real threat at "Elbrus"(Vatnajökull?) is the glaciers and snow on the volcano that could catastrophically melt if the volcano were to erupt...<<

Tuesday
03.08.201003:56:1364.429-17.2251.1 km3.090.033.6 km NE of GrÃmsfjall

So is this a sign that the heat is under the ice ?
a Mag 3,0 but only 1,1km ... so it was the icesheet moving or, a sign for your vision for Elbrus but at Vatnajökull?

Interesting story from NSF on Mount Hood:
"A new study has found that a mixing of two different types of magma is the key to the historic eruptions of Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, and that eruptions often happen in a relatively short time--weeks or months--after this mixing occurs."
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=117434&org=NSF&from=news

Title photo link and "Elbrus is big" link are dead.

Ok the title pic is back, obviously. Is it my ISP or a sporadic server?

@4 et al:

IndyBearFan88, took me a while to find the appropriate links. Could you please post them in the future?

For those Curious about when Anak Krakatau will go off the next time I will here put on the cap of Nosetraderian.
It seems like every time I sail past a dormant Volcano it either increases it's acitivity with at least filling of a lavachamber (Santorini) or erupts withing a few weeks. That has happened at the Behnckian resort of Sicilly, Montserrat and Anak K (formerly known as the volcano Krakatoa). Sadly I always miss the fun since I am well gone when it blows, and for that matter normally is without any way to get the news...
My prediction of Anak K blowing is based on that I am going sailing there with some friends during christmas in a boat filled with beer-keggs and scant brainage. I will go home on the fourtenth of january so it should blow about the end of january or beginning of fabruary.

By Carl at Home (not verified) on 04 Aug 2010 #permalink

@ Carl Sorry about that, I put the URL to the USGS page in the URL box when I posted so it linked it to my nickname instead of putting it in the body of the message. Duly noted for future reference.

Be careful on your voyage there at the end of the year, hopefully you won't have to have a Captain Lindeman moment... :P

By IndyBearFan88 (not verified) on 04 Aug 2010 #permalink

@8:

I would prefer to have the Loudon Captain Lindeman experience instead of the Bismarck Captain Lindeman. I would prefer to sail into a tsunami compared to having to contend with the 16 inch shells of the Rodney. But I guess that a better reference than Bismarcks Captain Lindemann would have been Admiral Karel Doorman of the "Sunda Strait Battle" fame;)

hi i see Mila site added more webcams for us all nice view of the pool

@10 Good heads up, Leon; thanks!

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 04 Aug 2010 #permalink

#10 @Leon Thank you! Never thought I could see people in their bathing suits in Iceland! Amusing webcam "frá Bláa Lónið".
For @Lady E's fans: there's a new thread for us.

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 04 Aug 2010 #permalink

From Olga over at KVERT on Elbrus

ÐÑивеÑ, Randolph,

ÐлÑбÑÑÑ Ð½ÐµÐºÐ¾ÑоÑÑе ÑÑенÑе оÑноÑÑÑ Ðº дейÑÑвÑÑÑим, ÑоÑÑ Ð¾Ð½ извеÑгалÑÑ Ð¼Ð½Ð¾Ð³Ð¾ Ð»ÐµÑ Ð½Ð°Ð·Ð°Ð´.

ÐоÑенÑиалÑнÑÑ Ð¾Ð¿Ð°ÑноÑÑÑ Ð¼Ð¾Ð¶ÐµÑ Ð¿ÑедÑÑавлÑÑÑ Ð»Ñбой вÑлкан, а еÑли он наÑодиÑÑÑ Ð² гÑÑÑонаÑеленной меÑÑноÑÑи - под ÑÑÑ Ð¾Ð¿Ð°ÑноÑÑÑ Ð¼Ð¾Ð¶Ð½Ð¾ полÑÑиÑÑ ÑÑедÑÑва на наÑÑнÑе иÑÑледованиÑ. ÐÑо и в РоÑÑии, и в ÐмеÑике одинаково.

Ð ÑвÑзи Ñ Ð¸Ð·Ð²ÐµÑжением иÑландÑкого вÑлкана, некоÑоÑÑе ÑÑенÑе пÑÑаÑÑÑÑ Ð¿Ð¾ÐºÐ°Ð·Ð°ÑÑ, ÑÑо в евÑопейÑкой ÑаÑÑи РоÑÑии Ñоже еÑÑÑ Ð´ÐµÐ¹ÑÑвÑÑÑий вÑлкан.

Ñ Ð´ÑмаÑ, вÑлкан ÐлÑбÑÑÑ Ð±Ð¾Ð»ÑÑе не бÑÐ´ÐµÑ Ð¸Ð·Ð²ÐµÑгаÑÑÑÑ.

С Ñважением,

ÐлÑга ÐиÑина.

You can run it through Google translate for the info. Basically she said they are likely wrong about this and it may be a shot to get some funding. Kind of like the oil slick...Cant find it now and cant get the funding if you do. Might be a reverse situation now though. If you dont have a volcano problem you dont get the money.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 04 Aug 2010 #permalink

Not only is the Elbrus Volcano in the Caucasus area, but there is also Kasbek Volcano located near by. The volcano has also been responsible for eruptions during the Holocene. The last eruption from this volcano has been dated using the Tephrochronolgical method, and places the last eruption at about 750BC.

By Stephen Cheslin (not verified) on 05 Aug 2010 #permalink

Even more recent volcanism is known in Turkey, including the famed Mt. Ararat. Not sure whether that volcanic belt is really tectonically related to the Caucasus volcanic belt - I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case. Volcanic activity has been recorded during historical times in eastern Turkey as late as the 19th Century, even at Ararat. Such historically recorded eruptions are also known in Turkey at such volcanoes as Nemrut Dagi - this is a caldera probably formed during the Late Pleistocene, but has had a number of eruptions recorded as late as 1650 CE and large obsidian flows like those you might see at Newberry or Medicine Lake Volcano.

It's a bit like the Cascades in terms of that while there's plenty of evidence of Holocene volcanism like at Elbrus, Ararat and Nemrut Dagi but little or no historical activity in most of them, even though historical records go much further back in the Caucasus region and Turkey. Although Turkey and the Caucasian countries have had many deadly earthquakes during recorded history, I don't know if there have been any real EQ swarms linked to any of the Caucasian or Turkish volcanoes during the 20th-21st Centuries.

By MK, Alberta (not verified) on 06 Aug 2010 #permalink

Thanks again Erik,
cant quote that oven enough!

>>The real threat at "Elbrus"(Vatnajökull?) is the glaciers and snow on the volcano that could catastrophically melt if the volcano were to erupt...

Tuesday
03.08.2010 03:56:13 64.429 -17.225 1.1 km 3.0 90.03 3.6 km NE of GrÃmsfjall

So is this a sign that the heat is under the ice ?
a Mag 3,0 but only 1,1km ... so it was the icesheet moving or, a sign for your vision for Elbrus but at Vatnajökull?

Posted by: Dennis | August 3, 2010 6:24 AM

2
Interesting story from NSF on Mount Hood:
"A new study has found that a mixing of two different types of magma is the key to the historic eruptions of Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, and that eruptions often happen in a relatively short time--weeks or months--after this mixing occurs."
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=117434&org=NSF&from=news

Posted by: Max | August 3, 2010 10:31 AM

3
The snow and ice are a risk even without an eruption. In 2002 the Kolka Glacier on Mt. Kazbek (in the Caucasus east of Elbrus) collapsed, killing at least 125 people. Story here:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Kolka/

Posted by: R Simmon | August 3, 2010 12:21 PM

4
A couple of mag 5+ quakes really close to Anak Krakatau first at 61.8km and second at 30.0km.

Posted by: IndyBearFan88 | August 3, 2010 1:51 PM

5
Title photo link and "Elbrus is big" link are dead.

Posted by: Jimmy | August 3, 2010 5:52 PM

6
Ok the title pic is back, obviously. Is it my ISP or a sporadic server?

Posted by: Jimmy | August 3, 2010 6:00 PM

7
@4 et al:

IndyBearFan88, took me a while to find the appropriate links. Could you please post them in the future?

For those Curious about when Anak Krakatau will go off the next time I will here put on the cap of Nosetraderian.
It seems like every time I sail past a dormant Volcano it either increases it's acitivity with at least filling of a lavachamber (Santorini) or erupts withing a few weeks. That has happened at the Behnckian resort of Sicilly, Montserrat and Anak K (formerly known as the volcano Krakatoa). Sadly I always miss the fun since I am well gone when it blows, and for that matter normally is without any way to get the news...
My prediction of Anak K blowing is based on that I am going sailing there with some friends during christmas in a boat filled with beer-keggs and scant brainage. I will go home on the fourtenth of january so it should blow about the end of january or beginning of fabruary.

Posted by: Carl at Home | August 4, 2010 7:04 AM

8
@ Carl Sorry about that, I put the URL to the USGS page in the URL box when I posted so it linked it to my nickname instead of putting it in the body of the message. Duly noted for future reference.

Be careful on your voyage there at the end of the year, hopefully you won't have to have a Captain Lindeman moment... :P

Posted by: IndyBearFan88 | August 4, 2010 7:44 AM

9
@8:

I would prefer to have the Loudon Captain Lindeman experience instead of the Bismarck Captain Lindeman. I would prefer to sail into a tsunami compared to having to contend with the 16 inch shells of the Rodney. But I guess that a better reference than Bismarcks Captain Lindemann would have been Admiral Karel Doorman of the "Sunda Strait Battle" fame;)

Posted by: Carl | August 4, 2010 8:07 AM

10
hi i see Mila site added more webcams for us all nice view of the pool

Posted by: leon | August 4, 2010 9:33 AM

11
@10 Good heads up, Leon; thanks!

Posted by: Kultsi, Askola, FI | August 4, 2010 10:10 AM

12
#10 @Leon Thank you! Never thought I could see people in their bathing suits in Iceland! Amusing webcam "frá Bláa Lónið".
For @Lady E's fans: there's a new thread for us.

Posted by: Renato Rio | August 4, 2010 2:55 PM

13
From Olga over at KVERT on Elbrus

ÐÑивеÑ, Randolph,

ÐлÑбÑÑÑ Ð½ÐµÐºÐ¾ÑоÑÑе ÑÑенÑе оÑноÑÑÑ Ðº дейÑÑвÑÑÑим, ÑоÑÑ Ð¾Ð½ извеÑгалÑÑ Ð¼Ð½Ð¾Ð³Ð¾ Ð»ÐµÑ Ð½Ð°Ð·Ð°Ð´.

ÐоÑенÑиалÑнÑÑ Ð¾Ð¿Ð°ÑноÑÑÑ Ð¼Ð¾Ð¶ÐµÑ Ð¿ÑедÑÑавлÑÑÑ Ð»Ñбой вÑлкан, а еÑли он наÑодиÑÑÑ Ð² гÑÑÑонаÑеленной меÑÑноÑÑи - под ÑÑÑ Ð¾Ð¿Ð°ÑноÑÑÑ Ð¼Ð¾Ð¶Ð½Ð¾ полÑÑиÑÑ ÑÑедÑÑва на наÑÑнÑе иÑÑледованиÑ. ÐÑо и в РоÑÑии, и в ÐмеÑике одинаково.

Ð ÑвÑзи Ñ Ð¸Ð·Ð²ÐµÑжением иÑландÑкого вÑлкана, некоÑоÑÑе ÑÑенÑе пÑÑаÑÑÑÑ Ð¿Ð¾ÐºÐ°Ð·Ð°ÑÑ, ÑÑо в евÑопейÑкой ÑаÑÑи РоÑÑии Ñоже еÑÑÑ Ð´ÐµÐ¹ÑÑвÑÑÑий вÑлкан.

Ñ Ð´ÑмаÑ, вÑлкан ÐлÑбÑÑÑ Ð±Ð¾Ð»ÑÑе не бÑÐ´ÐµÑ Ð¸Ð·Ð²ÐµÑгаÑÑÑÑ.

С Ñважением,

ÐлÑга ÐиÑина.

You can run it through Google translate for the info. Basically she said they are likely wrong about this and it may be a shot to get some funding. Kind of like the oil slick...Cant find it now and cant get the funding if you do. Might be a reverse situation now though. If you dont have a volcano problem you dont get the money.

Posted by: M. Randolph Kruger | August 4, 2010 4:23 PM

14
Not only is the Elbrus Volcano in the Caucasus area, but there is also Kasbek Volcano located near by. The volcano has also been responsible for eruptions during the Holocene. The last eruption from this volcano has been dated using the Tephrochronolgical method, and places the last eruption at about 750BC.

Posted by: Stephen Cheslin | August 5, 2010 11:31 AM

15
Even more recent volcanism is known in Turkey, including the famed Mt. Ararat. Not sure whether that volcanic belt is really tectonically related to the Caucasus volcanic belt - I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case. Volcanic activity has been recorded during historical times in eastern Turkey as late as the 19th Century, even at Ararat. Such historically recorded eruptions are also known in Turkey at such volcanoes as Nemrut Dagi - this is a caldera probably formed during the Late Pleistocene, but has had a number of eruptions recorded as late as 1650 CE and large obsidian flows like those you might see at Newberry or Medicine Lake Volcano.

It's a bit like the Cascades in terms of that while there's plenty of evidence of Holocene volcanism like at Elbrus, Ararat and Nemrut Dagi but little or no historical activity in most of them, even though historical records go much further back in the Caucasus region and Turkey. Although Turkey and the Caucasian countries have had many deadly earthquakes during recorded history, I don't know if there have been any real EQ swarms linked to any of the Caucasian or Turkish volcanoes during the 20th-21st Centuries.

Posted by: MK, Alberta | August 6, 2010 4:51 PM

16
I know aii no not really you guys talk to much and i cant understand

Posted by: sarah | October 2, 2010 2:07 AM