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22 May 2013

Help for Moore, Oklahoma

The news coverage of the destruction from the tornadoes in Oklahoma is pretty devastating. Rather than watch endless shots of newscasters wandering through the rubble, I’ve been paying attention to folks in the geoblogosphere who are speaking to the science as well as the disaster – particularly Dan Satterfield over at Dan’s Wild Wild Science Journal. He’s been doing a fantastic job blogging and tweeting about not only the scientific aspects of the tornado but the situation on the ground. As much as I wish I could be out doing disaster prevention work, I’m not able to just yet. But there are other ways to help.


25 April 2012

Hot s(tuff)

Volcanic tuff isn’t a particularly strong rock, but it easy to carve and shape, which is why it’s a very popular building material. Naples, Italy is especially known for this; the Neapolitan Yellow Tuff, Campanian Ignimbrite and Piperno Tuff, all formed by eruptions of the Campi Flegrei caldera, are three of the units quarried the most often for dimension stone. In “How tough is tuff in the event of fire?”, M. J. Heap et al. take a look at a potential threat to structures built from tuff.


27 June 2011

Las Conchas Wildfire: Photos

Here is a progression of photos from the Las Conchas wildfire, burning near Los Alamos, NM, from around 3pm yesterday afternoon to the evening. At last check, the fire had gone from a few hundred acres yesterday afternoon to more than 43,000 acres this morning. Los Alamos National Lab is closed for the day, although the fire is still a mile or so away from the Lab’s southwestern border.


4 May 2011

The Earth is out to get you!

Just a quick post today before I go enjoy some birthday mimosas. The New York Times has an interesting new infographic about where you should live to avoid natural disasters – namely hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Here are the maps (click to see the full size, readable version): Buffalo actually falls in an area of mild earthquake risk; we’ve had a few small earthquakes since I’ve moved here, and it’s …


29 April 2011

Archival Gold: FEMA Photo Library

It’s been a while since I did a photo resource post, and in light of the recent swarm of tornadoes and damaging storms, I though the FEMA Photo Library would be appropriate to highlight. The collection of photos on FEMA’s website does a great job of showing the human side of natural disasters – something that’s just as important to think about as the scientific side of hazard management and mitigation. The “Photo Collections” link doesn’t have many groups of photos yet, but a search on a particular hazard – floods, earthquakes, landslides, even eruptions – will turn up hundreds of photos, many recent (there are photos from last week’s tornadoes in the Midwest, for example).


31 March 2011

Buffalo gets some (experimental) volcanic action

Volcanic eruptions are both relatively unpredictable and very dangerous, and it’s difficult to collect direct observations of volcanic phenomena. Because of this, volcanologists are always looking for safer and more practical ways of collecting data from volcanic processes. When they can’t derive it from eruptive deposits, they turn to experimentation – usually in a laboratory setting. While this is definitely a useful approach, there are problems inherent in “benchtop” experimentation. Scaling down a volcanic process and using artificial materials (or already-erupted volcanic ones) can have varying effects on the usefulness of the resulting experimental data, something that volcanologists must take into account when drawing conclusions from experiments. Accordingly, a big part of geological experimentation is finding ways to reduce the complexity of natural processes in a way that still produces useful data.

One way to mitigate this problem is to do as little down-scaling as possible. This is the goal of a new experimental facility that the University at Buffalo is developing, and it was the subject of a recent EOS article of which Dr. Greg Valentine, one of the volcanology professors here, is a co-author. The article is “Large-Scale Experiments on Volcanic Processes”, and it ties in with a recent conference our Center for Geohazards Studies coordinated last September.


12 March 2011

Why earthquakes and eruptions are rarely linked

The geoblogosphere – and the rest of the news – have been buzzing with information and discussion about the recent M8.9 earthquake in Japan. Despite being a country that is relatively well-prepared for events like these, even Japan couldn’t withstand the power of such a quake and the resulting tsunami, and they will need help. Please consider donating to a relief organization such as the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, …


23 February 2011

Archival Gold: National Geophysical Data Center Natural Hazard Images

The media focus on the recent earthquake in New Zealand put me in mind of a resource that I turn to for photos of events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and landslides. The National Geophysical Data Center’s Natural Hazards Images website is a repository for a number of fantastic slidesets of these natural phenomena, and some of the slides are pretty famous images. They’re all available as high-resolution TIFF files, and each image comes with a detailed caption relating its subject to a natural process or hazard. The images are collected from government organisations such as NOAA and the USGS, as well as universities and press organizations.


6 November 2010

The volcano Gatekeeper

One of the sad – but not unexpected – stories to come from the eruption at Mount Merapi concerns the death of the “Gatekeeper” of the volcano, Mbah Marijan. Marijan was mentioned in a 2008 National Geographic article, “The Gods Must Be Restless”, that I blogged about a long time ago – and that has turned out to be depressingly prophetic.


18 May 2010

Reflecting on risk

USGS photo of the May 18, 1980 eruption. I don’t have any stories to share with you about the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, since I wasn’t around then – and the other geobloggers are doing a fine job of collecting reminiscences already. Volcanologists, like everyone else, sometimes joke about their jobs, but it’s anniversaries like today that have prompted me to reflect on it instead. I love the work …


7 May 2010

Volcano Vocab #4: Lahar

As suggested by a commenter on the last Volcano Vocab post, here’s a water-and-volcano-related term for you: Lahar (“lah-haar”).  Lahar is an Indonesian word for a mudflow of volcanic material – that is, a mass movement of volcanic debris that contains some amount of water. (A dry flow of volcanic material would usually just be called a debris flow or debris avalanche.) The key thing that distinguishes a lahar from a …


15 March 2010

Looking backward: Past eruptions at Volcán Santa Maria

On our way to visit the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory, Gustavo Chigna of INSIVUMEH (the Guatemalan equivalent of the USGS) was kind enough to take an afternoon off and show us some of the older deposits near Santiaguito. Our first stops were at an exposure of the air-fall deposit from the October 24, 1902 eruption of Volcán Santa Maria. This eruption was a devastating one, stripping the land for more than …


1 April 2009

Poor land-use planning and volcanoes

From So it looks like someone is already moving in on the new land created by the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai near Tonga*. That’s right – with enough Pa’angas, you could own some of the newest land on the planet, if you don’t mind digging yourself out from under the tephra every few days. The article I found didn’t say much about who’s claimed the land, but it …


9 April 2008

More news from Hawaii: Volcanoes National Park evacuated

(Image from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory) Looks like shifting wind + gas plumes = not fun out at Kilauea. Enough that the park closed completely yesterday, and several of the surrounding communities were put under voluntary evacuation notice. Shifting winds are blowing the gas plume emanating from Halema’uma’u crater out over the inhabited parts of the park and into local communities, which usually don’t have to deal with vog, or …


23 December 2007

The Gods must be restless? Take a look at the scientists.

I just finished reading the most recent National Geographic, and I spent some time thinking about Andrew Marshall’s article, “The Gods Must Be Restless”. In it, he talks about some of the beliefs that have grown up around Indonesian volcanoes – and there are a lot of them, considering that Indonesia has the most active volcanoes of anywhere in the world. I found myself conflicted about the attitudes of some …