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4 May 2019

One year

I’ve delayed writing about my involvement in last summer’s Kilauea eruption for a number of reasons. One is because I wanted to wait until the USGS has had a chance to publish the preliminaries of the eruption; others are more personal, involving my experience working with the communities affected and the people responding to the eruption. But now that the one-year anniversary of the start of the eruption has come …


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2 February 2018

Rehearsing for eruptions

In the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to help run several “tabletop” exercises with the USGS and our partners where we walk through a timeline of what might happen during a volcanic eruption, and ask participants to make decisions about how they would need to respond and work together. I find them both fascinating and exhausting.


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22 October 2016

Ísland: Floods

When you bring together volcanoes and ice – as many places in Iceland do – you get floods. Specifically, they’re called jökulhlaups, which literally means “glacier run” but in reality means a glacial outburst flood. Originally the term was used for subglacial outburst floods from Vatnajökull ice cap, which covers the Grímsvötn and Öræfajökull volcanoes, but it’s come to mean any large, abrupt release of water from under a glacier or from a lake at the glacier front.


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28 November 2012

Increased activity at Santiaguito

A quick note for today: It appears that activity at the Santiaguito lava dome complex in Guatemala has increased significantly, with collapses occurring at the lava flow on the southeastern flank of the Caliente dome. Plumes are visible on GOES satellite images and are reaching 5 km in height (plumes from ash-and-gas eruptions of Caliente are usually less than 1 km high).


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26 October 2012

October 25, 1902: Santa Maria Erupts!

Today is the 110th anniversary of the second-largest eruption of the twentieth century – and if you don’t normally read this blog, it’s a good bet you’ve never heard of it. I’ve written about it before, but never on the date of the event! The culprit? Volcan Santa Maria in Guatemala. In October of 1902, following several months of significant earthquakes, Santa Maria experienced a VEI 6 Plinian eruption that completely devastated the countryside for miles around (much of it was, as it is now, covered with coffee plantations and small farms).


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22 February 2012

“Magnificent column of smoke” (Accretionary Wedge #43 Entry)

My choice of favorite geologic illustration, for Accretionary Wedge # 43, comes from a book that geobloggers (and others) have written about in the past: Sir William Hamilton’s Campi Phlegraei, Observations on the Volcanoes of the Two Sicilies. I won’t repeat all the background about Hamilton, who was a British natural historian who observed eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in the 1760s and 1770s. Campi Phlegraei, a three-part work, contained wonderful descriptions of the volcanoes and eruptions of Naples and Sicily, including the 1779 eruption of Mount Vesuvius (discussed and illustrated in a supplement to the first two volumes).


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21 December 2011

Accretionary Wedge #41: Geology in progress

Ron Schott is hosting Accretionary Wedge #41, and he’s asking us to do a little reminiscing:

Right, then. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to relate the story of the most memorable or significant geological event that you’ve directly experienced.

What we seek for AccretionaryWedge #41 is an account of a geologic event that you experienced firsthand. It could be an earthquake, a landslide, a flood, a volcanic eruption, etc. (but don’t feel compelled to stick to the biggies – weathering, anyone?) – some geologic process that you were able to directly observe and experience.


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16 December 2011

AGU 2011: Days 4 & 5

As per the usual pattern of AGU blogging, I’ve been trying to get caught up with other things after returning from AGU, so naturally I’m only getting to writing about the meeting a week after it happened. I’d better finish this up at some point, so I’ll combine Thursday and Friday’s activities into one post (and then move on to posting photos from San Francisco, which has some fabulous geology that I finally got to check out in my spare time).


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20 October 2011

“Translating” descriptions of the 1902 eruption of Santa Maria

I’ve been going through some rather old papers for the background of a manuscript I’m working on, and I’ve been finding that it’s pretty fun to read about volcanic eruptions from the perspective of early twentieth-century geologists (and non-geologists). My field area in Guatemala wasn’t considered active until Volcan Santa Maria suddenly erupted in 1902, so most people who lived there weren’t really familiar with volcanic phenomena. There weren’t any geoscientists who directly observed the eruption , but they made it to the volcano pretty quickly afterward, and collected accounts from local people to supplement their notes.

When I read these accounts, the first time through I imagine what the writers were seeing – and then the second time through I translate the account into modern terminology. One paper that this was particularly useful for is an account of the eruption written by Gustav Eisen, a Swedish PhD in biology/zoology who was living in Guatemala. Dr. Eisen is very descriptive, but to be useful for my current research, his writing needs a little interpretation. Here are some of my favorite passages, and my “translations” of Eisen’s descriptions into current terminology.


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20 September 2011

The EPA, fireworks and volcanoes

So in my newsfeed today, an article popped up about Utah petitioning the EPA not to have smoke from July 4th fireworks included in their monitored air pollution (i.e., the amounts that will get you fined if they spike). The article went on to mention that the EPA grants exemptions for spikes in air pollution that result from “exceptional” events, which are defined as follows:

(i) Affects air quality; (ii) Is not reasonably controllable or preventable; (iii) Is an event caused by human activity that is unlikely to recur at a particular location or a natural event; and (iv) Is determined by EPA through the process established in these regulations to be an exceptional event.

These include natural disasters like storms, seismic activity, floods, wildfires and volcanic eruptions, as well as some allowances for air pollution blown in from elsewhere or resulting from terrorism or war.


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