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12 April 2016

New studies uncover mysterious processes that generate volcanic lightning (plus video)

Two new studies are unraveling some of the mysteries of this violent phenomenon and revealing the similarities – and differences – between volcanic lightning and the kind of lightning produced by thunderclouds. Understanding how this process works could enable scientists to use volcanic lightning to monitor and track the progress of powerful eruptions in real time, according to the studies’ authors.

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2 February 2016

Increase in volcanic eruptions at the end of the ice age caused by melting ice caps and glacial erosion

The combination of erosion and melting ice caps led to a massive increase in volcanic activity at the end of the last ice age, according to new research. As the climate warmed, the ice caps melted, decreasing the pressure on the Earth’s mantle, leading to an increase in both magma production and volcanic eruptions. The researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, have found that erosion also played a major role in the process, and may have contributed to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

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13 January 2016

Underwater volcanoes may have sent carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at the end of the last ice age

During the last glacial period, Earth’s land and sea stored carbon as both dissolved carbon dioxide and biomass. But as the ice receded, water warmed and organisms decayed, that carbon surged into the atmosphere. Most of the released gas came from the atmosphere originally, but in a new study, a data anomaly hints that a small percentage of it came from volcanoes erupting on the ocean floor.

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22 August 2014

10% of Iceland Closed as Concern Over Volcano Grows

Concern is increasing tonight that the Bararbunga (BOWR-Thar Boon-Ka) volcano may be getting ready to erupt. Earthquakes continue, and these type of quakes indicate that magma (Lava with high pressure gases) is moving beneath the volcano, which is much larger than the one that caused serious air travel disruptions a few years ago. Late today, Icelandic officials declared about 10% of Iceland off-limits, and is evacuating residents, hikers and campers …

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29 August 2013

Lessons of Volcanic Eruptions

  Volcanic eruptions are the most important natural cause of climate change, and they teach us many lessons about the climate system.  The cooling Earth experiences for a couple years after a big volcanic eruption, like that of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, helps us calibrate the amount of warming we will suffer in the future from continued human emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.  By filtering out the …

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17 January 2013

The two-faced crust of Mars

I am always a sucker for research that uses very simple observations to come to profound conclusions, and that is definitely the case with “The dual nature of the martian crust: Young lavas and old clastic materials” by Josh Bandfield, Chris Edwards, David Montgomery, and Brittany Brand. This paper suggests that the martian crust has a dual nature, where the oldest rocks are actually softer and easier to erode, while more recently lava flows have led to much more durable terrain.

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9 December 2010

Hell on Earth (and Io)

If you don’t follow the Boston Globe’s photoblog The Big Picture, you’re really missing out. The topics range widely from current events to pictures of saturn, and the photos are of course always stunning. Yesterday was an especially awesome set of photos from the indonesian sulfur mine Kawah Ijen. The photos were taken at night, and sulfur has the interesting quality that it burns blue, resulting in some spectacular and otherworldly scenes of fire and brimstone.

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