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5 June 2013
Buffalo is actually a lovely place to be in the summer even though it’s feeling very summerlike right now. But I wouldn’t pass up another chance to revisit the Big Island, because it’s a fantastic place to be at any time of the year. One of my favorite parts of the island, aside from the malasada shops, is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (Bet you couldn’t see that one coming!) I’ve been lucky enough to go there three times – once with William & Mary’s regional geology course, once with UH Hilo’s volcanology field course, and once with my parents for vacation. I loved showing my parents the park, since I’d been there with the William & Mary crowd the year before, and because I was finally getting a chance to show them what a volcano is really like.
17 January 2013
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.
21 September 2012
Evelyn of Georneys is hosting this month’s Accretionary Wedge, and has asked us for fun field memories. Looking back on all the field trips I’ve taken, I have quite a few, but I think the one that still sticks in my memory is my first visit to a volcano, ever. I’m pretty sure I didn’t find it hugely funny at the time (you’ll find out why), but in retrospect I always find myself laughing at…well, myself.
8 December 2011
Tuesday was the first chance I had to attend a press conference (one of the perks of being an AGU blogger!) I was especially excited about one of the first of the morning, which was by Hawaii volcanologist Don Swanson about explosive eruptions at Kilauea. Dr. Swanson worked (and still works) at the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory, so he knows Kilauea intimately (especially the information that can be drawn from …
2 November 2011
If you’ve spent any time poking around the blog, you’ll know that one of my non-graduate-school projects is helping raise money to fund volcano observatories in Guatemala, particularly the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory (where I did my field work). The International Volcano Monitoring Fund has made that possible – this year we raised $4,000 to buy equipment for OVSAN!
But the fundraising isn’t done yet, because there are other observatories in Guatemala that need the same help. So Jonathan Stone, a volcanology PhD student at University of East Anglia, has volunteered to organize running races in the U.K. to raise money for the IVM-Fund. He has recruited three of his friends to race (and raise money) with him, he had custom running shirts made (using the IVM-Fund logo), and even set up a Facebook page to advertise the effort.
31 October 2011
After all, what better medium for a volcanologist than something that glows such a lovely orange?
10 October 2011
A little while back, the Geological Society of London Blog posted about the best volcanoes for evil scientist lairs. Erik Klemetti didn’t like the top 5 choices, and decided to reveal his own: Mount Erebus. I have to admit, having evil (penguin) minions and an isolated location is pretty good for a mad scientist. And lava lakes are cool (and hot). But if I’m going to be spending all my time in my evil scientist lair, the climate had darn well better be warm, because I spend enough of my time dealing with below-freezing temperatures here in Buffalo. No Antarctica for me! So my evil lair is going to be in the South Pacific on Pagan Island. Never heard of it? Here’s why it’s awesome:
13 September 2011
This summer, while I was out in New Mexico, I went to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, which is hosted on Museum Hill, Santa Fe’s equivalent of the National Mall. As part of the festival, attendance at all of the museums was free, and I took advantage of the chance to visit a unique exhibit and hear one of the visiting folk artists speak about his work.
The Museum of International Folk Art was hosting the exhibit, entitled “The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Natural Disaster”; the concept behind it was to display art that came about as a result of natural disasters. In this case, four events were represented: Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the flooding in Pakistan in 2010, the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the 2010 eruption of Merapi. Being a volcanologist, I was particularly interested in the Merapi part of the exhibit – and lucky enough to be there on a day when the artist, Tri Suwarno of Java, Indonesia, was available to speak about his volcano-inspired shadow puppets.
17 August 2011
Last week I happened to be watching the National Geographic Channel and caught their new program, “How to Build a Volcano”. Being somewhat interested in volcano-building processes myself, I sat down with a pad of paper and got ready to take notes for a review.
The show started off with an exciting idea: bring together a special effects team and a group of volcanologists and try to replicate volcanic processes on a large (but controllable scale). Thus, building a volcano. The four volcanologists (Mike Manga and Ben Andrews of UC Berkely, Josef Dufek of Georgia Tech, and Ed Llewellyn of Durham University) worked with special effects expert Max MacDonald to create a 10-meter-high volcano in a Canadian quarry (and we all know from Mythbusters that anything involving an abandoned quarry is also going to involve explosions).
11 August 2011
Went to work at a not-so-super-secret government lab: Got in touch with my inner river rat: Did a little caving: Experienced a natural disaster (not good for my particular natural hazard research, by the way): Explored some ruins: Split a few rocks: Drove through a volcano: Drove up a volcano: Put 5,000 miles on the car: Took in some scenery: And came across a W&M alum a bit west of where …
15 June 2011
This past weekend I took a day to go revisit the Valles Caldera. While I was wandering the trails, I decided to do a little “rockhounding”. Geologists are often notorious for their rock collections, and I felt like mine was missing something that no volcanologist should be without: Obsidian.
Obsidian is basically volcanic glass – the result of lava cooling so quickly that it doesn’t have time to develop crystals. Pure glass is basically SiO2, and obsidian tends to form from rhyolitic magmas (which already have a high percentage of SiO2, typically greater than 68%). “Heavy” minerals in the obsidian (such as iron and magnesium) make the glass dark, and (depending on their oxidation state) can give it reddish or greenish hues.
10 June 2011
I meant to post this last year after my brief trip to Los Alamos, but now that I’m back on the Hill for the summer, it seems a shame not to show off the scenery!
The Jemez Volcanic Field in northern New Mexico – which includes the Valles Caldera – straddles the Rio Grande Rift in the east and the Colorado Plateau in the west. The Jemez contains volcanic rocks erupted from >13 to 0.13 million years ago, with compositions ranging from basalt (low silica content) to rhyolite (high silica). The best known of these is the Bandelier Tuff, a thick sequence of pyroclastic deposits which were erupted in several phases around 1.62 to 1.25 million years ago. The total volume of material in the Bandelier is around 300 cubic km (~75 cubic miles), and it covers much of the area in the Jemez Volcanic Field. (The Bandelier tends to be unwelded and relatively soft, and canyons have cut down through it in many places, creating wonderful vertical exposures as well as the mesas and plateaus that Los Alamos is built on.)
17 April 2011
It’s snowing again, so in order to avoid being depressed by the weather, I thought I’d post a few photos of the Belham River Valley on Montserrat. The Belham, which drains into the sea on the west side of Montserrat, channels both pyroclastic flows and lahars from the Soufriere Hills lava dome. Prior to the eruption, the valley held a number of houses and the island’s only golf course, but material from the eruption has since filled the valley bottom and made it unwise to live too close. Volcanic and volcaniclastic processes are constantly reshaping the landscape there, and having visited two years in a row (here’s the link to last year’s post about the Belham), I thought I’d see if any of my photos were good for before and after comparisons.
16 April 2011
The cable television program In the Arena hosted by Eliot Spitzer is on CNN weeknights from 8 to 9. I think it’s a good news show and try to watch regularly. The last couple of nights, they’ve had segments on nuclear waste storage presented by CNN reporter Drew Griffin. The reports have been unbalanced, in my opinion, due to the absence of any information from scientists familiar with the technical …
12 April 2011
If you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past week or so, the answer is attending the recent Soufriere Hills Volcano: 15 Years On conference, held from April 4-8 on the Island of Montserrat. (I gave a talk, which hopefully goes a little way toward justifying a trip to a Caribbean island in the last weeks of the semester!) The conference was fantastic, and I learned so much about lava dome eruptions (in addition to my own research) that I’ll probably be slotting whole chunks of new material into my dissertation.
1 April 2011
Just a quick post today, as I’m getting ready for a conference trip next week. For those of you who are familiar with the USGS poster “Geologic Hazards at Volcanoes” – a great graphical depiction of the different types of volcanic activity common at volcanoes – you’re in luck, because there’s a new version out today.
Download or view the updated poster for free here: “Geologic Hazards at Volcanoes 2011″
23 March 2011
Statistical analysis and volcano monitoring has established that there are both eruptions which were likely triggered by large earthquakes, and given us some plausible mechanisms for how this might happen, although this is still a rather rare event. Ron Schott brought up an interesting point in a comment, however: The mechanisms that I discussed are generally regarded as operating in the short-term – i.e., a few days to weeks after an earthquake (perhaps even a few months). But what about long-term earthquake triggering – are there connections between volcanic eruptions and earthquakes which happened years before? Are there any plausible mechanisms for long-term triggers, and how would they operate? I did a little research to see if I could find answers to either of these questions.
13 February 2011
Jim Lehane at The Geology P.A.G.E. is hosting this month’s Accretionary Wedge, and asks:
What geological concept or idea did you hear about that you had no notion of before (and likely surprised you in some way)?
I can’t think of any particular moments where something like this hit me all at once, but one concept that I’ve encountered as a grad student strikes me as something that I never really thought about much as an undergrad (or as a kid who liked volcanoes, for that matter). It’s the idea that an eruption style at a single volcano – not just in a region – can change dramatically in a relatively short period of time.
8 February 2011
I just had a great time talking with a first-grade class about volcanoes this afternoon – something that I love to do with kids of any age (and those who never really grow up, too). They came up with excellent, insightful questions about volcanoes and volcanic processes, and I was definitely kept on my toes when it came to answering. In fact, I definitely find it more challenging to talk to kids about geology than I do to adults, because kids are still learning about the world around them – they don’t necessarily have the background knowledge that an adult would, so I have to choose carefully how to explain things. It’s not a matter of “dumbing down” my answers at all, but a matter of putting them into context. This is where geologic analogies come into play.
2 February 2011
What plants really do like to live on volcanoes – and what kinds have I come across? Plant types on volcanoes could be divided into two rough categories: rock and soil dwellers. A rock dweller might thrive on a young or an old volcano, but plants that need soil are only going to do well on an older volcano (which has had time to form soil), or a tropical one (where soil formation is accelerated because of the climate). Volcanic rocks are often (but not always) full of vesicles, which makes them porous and ideal for retaining water. Volcanic soils are generally referred to as andisols, which are soils that form on volcanic ash and contain volcanic glass and compounds of elements such as Fe, Al and Si. (Ions of those elements, which are released by leaching and weathering of volcanic rock, can form complexes with organic matter; in addition to an andisol’s ability to retain water, this can make for very fertile growing conditions.) Andisols in the US are, not surprisingly, concentrated in the Cascades and northern California – where we have large stratovolcanoes and an excellent supply of volcanic ash.