20 October 2009

GSA Update #2

Posted by Jessica Ball

The last few day shave been absolutely crammed for me. Sunday was taken up by the short course I attended, but yesterday was the first day I had time to attend talks, and I’ve forgotten how easy it is to go into talk overload. Still, I was thrilled by the wealth of volcanology-related sessions there are at this meeting; here are a few of the talks I managed to catch:

  • Can static magma decompression trigger an eruption? Evidence from Kilauea Volcano, Hawai’i by Mike Poland. Many eruptions are associated with inflation of a volcanic edifice as magma moves into its “internal plumbing”, but during the recent eruption at the Halema’uma’u crater at Kilauea’s summit, decompression and deflation were observed. One hypothesis to explain this suggests that decompression in the magma chamber releases gases that can clear old channels for magma movement.
  • Characteristics and models of cyclic activity at Fuego Volcano, Guatemala (2005-2007) derived from visual observations and seismic, acoustic and thermal measurements by John Lyons. Fuego is a basaltic Guatemalan volcano that experiences cycles of “flow” (lava flow with minor Strombolian), “chug” (violent Strombolian and lava fountaining) and “pop” (explosions without effusion) activity. The authors applied the collapsing magmatic “foam” model of Jaupart & Verniolle to explain these cycles: flow behavior represents constant effusion of small bubbles of gas with magma near the top of the conduit, chugging represents continuous release of large bubbles, and popping happens when bubbles are released but the magma free surface is some distance below the mouth of the summit conduit.
  • Field trips as a tool for recruitment, retention and education by our own Callan Bentley of NOVA Geoblog. Callan often leads geology field trips along the Billy Goat Trail in the Great Falls area of Maryland, and finds that they’re an important way of both stimulating the interest of his students and getting them excited about geology. I think my favorite quote was from one of the students he surveyed, who said that “Callan’s field trips are like crack – I’m just here to get my fix.” Having been on the Billy Goat Trail trip before, I totally agree.
  • Challenges to volcanic risk mitigation by John Ewert. There are physical, technical and social challenges involved in volcanic risk mitigation (volcanic risk is a combination of the chance of volcanic hazards occurring combined with the possible monetary, human, etc. consequences). Many of them have to do with how complicated volcanic behavior is, how difficult it is to forecast, and the importance of continual, timely hazard education and communication. It’s not an easy job – but it’s definitely important!

Monday was also the great alumni reception marathon, as well as the geobloggers meetup at the Tugboat Brewery. Seeing old friends was great, but getting to finally meet a whole new set of scientists was completely awesome. I’ll try and post some of my blurry photos later, but Callan was our “official” photographer, and he’ll have much better ones. It was a great turnout – at least fifteen people at one count, including some geo-tweeters. (I also think we created a new bar tradition while we were there – think Moe’s Southwestern Grill and you get the idea.) There was definitely a high level of geekery, especially when the Iphones started coming out. I’m glad to have finally meet everyone, and I hope we get to do this again at other GSAs!