Astonishing Volcanoes that Cause Death and Destruction

But experts are now attempting to harness the energy of volcanoes and hot springs, citing possibilities to supply alternative energy to thousands and even millions of homes. Other companies are exploiting volcanoes by providing tours to those bored with typical holidays with vacations and ‘volcano cruises’ to thrill seekers.

Located in the Hawaiian Islands, Kilauea is 1 of 5 shield volcanoes that together form the Island of Hawaii, and the most active and visited volcano in the world, spewing lava continuously since 1983.

In the early morning hours of March 19, 2008, Halema’uma’u experienced its first explosive event since 1924 and the first eruption in the Kilauea caldera since September 1982. A steam vent that had recently opened near the overlook area exploded, generating a magnitude 3.7 earthquake, and scattering rocks over a 75 acre area.

The explosion debris covered part of Crater Rim Drive and damaged Halema’uma’u overlook, but didn’t release any lava, which suggests to scientists that it was driven by hydrothermal or gas sources.

This explosion event followed a dangerous increase of sulfur dioxide gas levels from the Halema’uma’u crater which prompted closures of Crater Rim Drive between Kilauea Military Camp south/southeast to Chain of Craters Road, Crater Rim Trail from Kilauea Military Camp south/southeast to Chain of Craters Road, and all trails leading to Halema’uma’u crater.

Early in the morning of March 24, 2008, the white gas ejection changed to brown-gray ash, and lava particles were thrown from the vent, forming Pele’s Hair, Pele’s Tears, and 4-inch (10 centimeter) lava spatters around the vent. This is the first time fresh lava has been erupted in the crater since 1982.

Kilauea is the most recent of a series of volcanoes that have created the Hawaiian Archipelago, as the Pacific Plate has moved and still is over the Hawaii hotspot. The plate under Kilauea crosses over a hotspot of land which causes them to crash together and therefore erupt.

Kilauea is a very low, flat shield volcano — vastly different in profile from the high, sharply sloping peaks of stratovolcanoes like Mt. Fuji, Mount Hood, and Mount St. Helens.

It lies against the southeast flank of much larger Mauna Loa volcano. Its massive size and elevation of 13,677 feet (4,169 meters) is a stark contrast to Kilauea, which rises only 4,091 feet (1,247 meters) above sea level, and thus from the summit caldera appears as a broad shelf of uplands well beneath the long profile of occasionally snow-capped Mauna Loa, 15 miles (24 kilometers) distant.

Undersea Pillow Lava Hawaii.

An interesting phenomenon seen at Kilauea is “gas pistoning” — gas-driven rise and fall of the magma — caused by accumulation of gas beneath a column of lava, such as in Pu`u `O`o’s crater vents. As the accumulated gas rises, it pushes up the overlying lava (the “piston”). When the gas bubble reaches the surface, it bursts, sometimes as a forceful jet of fume and spatter, and the lava then drains back into the vent.

Magma erupts because of gas dissolved in it at depth. The gas forms bubbles or vesicles and tries to escape at the low pressures near the earth’s surface. The technical term for this bubble formation is “vesiculation.” Trapped in the magma, the bubbles expand and force the magma toward the surface.

If the cone and its surroundings are highly fractured, the magma may rise only partway in the vent’s throat. The gas escapes through the fractures before the magma expands enough to erupt in the crater. Blockages may occur intermittently at the point where the lava tube normally drains magma away from Pu`u `O`o. Blockages cause changes in pressurization, allowing the magma to reach the surface and spill onto the crater floor as lava.

The ponded lava rarely overtops the crater rim, draining back into its conduit. Drainback occurs due to the lava cooling and losing its gas to the atmosphere. This colder, denser lava forms a cap that stalls further vesiculation in the underlying magma column. Meanwhile, bubbles coalesce within the maturing magma column. As they grow in size they rise more rapidly, hollowing out the core of the column.

Kilauea Volcano Dramatic Eruption

Sidaorjo’s Man-Made Mud Volcano Lusi
For 2 years, a hole in the earth has been oozing enough mud to fill 50 Olympic size swimming pools daily, covering villages and factories roof deep in mud and forcing the evacuation of thousands in Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia.

The roof of a destroyed building, formerly one of the tallest in the village is seen rising
above the dried mud that now covers all traces of its former neighborhood, near the
volcano in Sidoarjo, East Java on May 27, 2008.

On the 2nd anniversary of Sidaorjo’s mud volcano eruption that displaced tens of thousands of villagers in central Indonesia, scientists claim to be almost certain it was caused by faulty drilling of a gas exploration well — not an earthquake as the gas company claimed.

“We are more certain than ever that the Lusi mud volcano is an unnatural disaster and was triggered by drilling.” said Richard Davies, lead author of a study published in early June in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Aerial view of houses flooded by hot mud in Porong, East Java province May 29, 2008.
An aerial view of the gas emission from the crater of the mud volcano in Porong,
East Java province May 29, 2008.

A villager collects bricks from his ruined village, flooded by mud flows.

On 28 May 2006, gas company PT Lapindo Brantas exploring for gas in Sidoarjo, in East Java, Indonesia, drilled a borehole. At 5am, a secondary stage of drilling began and the drill string went about 9,300 feet down, after which the first small eruption of water, steam and a small amount of gas occurred at a location just southwest of the well. Several more eruptions followed the next few days, and the flow of hot mud hasn’t stopped since.

Fourteen people have been killed and 30,000 have been evacuated. At least 12 villages, with more than 10,000 homes have been destroyed while schools, offices and factories have also been wiped out and a major impact on the wider marine and coastal environment is expected.

Villagers collect bricks from their ruined village May 29, 2008.
Victims of Indonesia’s “mud volcano” throw flower petals on the mud covered land
which used to be their village.

Satellite picture received from Ikonos Satellite Image on May 29, 2008 shows the
mud volcano and its surrounding area.

Picture taken from a helicopter shows maintenance work ongoing near the
caldera of the mud volcano.

Villager collects bricks from his ruined village May 29, 2008.

Brimstone Pit
What lives 1,800-feet undersea, spews molten rock and sounds like a rumbling tractor trailer? The erupting Brimstone Pit in the North Pacific, recently recorded by NOAA.

A giant, eruptive plume pours from the Brimstone Pit during a 2004 expedition to
NW Rota-1. Submarine Ring of Fire 2004 Exploration.

A submarine volcano called NW Rota-1 was detected during a 2003 NOAA survey of the Mariana Island arc in the northern Pacific Ocean not far from a gigantic undersea trench where one continent-sized piece of the Earth’s crust is grinding underneath another, and found to be hydrothermally active.

The basaltic to basaltic-andesite seamount rises to within 517 m of the sea surface SW of Esmeralda Bank, lying about 42 miles (64 kilometers) NW of Rota Island and about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Guam.

In 2004, a minor submarine eruption from the vent Brimstone Pit intermittently ejected a plume several hundred meters high containing ash, rock particles, and molten sulfur droplets that adhered to the surface of the remotely operated submersible vehicle. The active vent was funnel-shaped, about 65 feet (20 meters) wide and 40 feet (12 meters) deep.

Brimstone Pit Eruption

Glowing, red lava shoots out of the Brimstone Pit crater near the summit of NW Rota-1
volcano, Submarine Ring of Fire 2006 Exploration. Photo NOAA Vents Program

For 2 years now, a team of scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been doing what no one else has ever done — watching an underwater volcano up close.

This is the first time a video and audio of such an event has ever been recorded simultaneously which was released earlier this month.

Researchers dove to the Brimstone Pit, taking recordings from a submersible vehicle using an underwater microphone to capture the explosions.

Even at a depth of more than 1,800 feet below the surface, the classic signs of a volcano eruption were there — flowing lava and huge plumes of what looks like smoke. But that smoke is actually the rapid steam formation caused by the undersea interaction of magma and water. The most explosive bursts were 2 to 6 minutes long.

Antarctic Volcano
A powerful volcano under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that erupted around 325 BC remains active to this day. Scientists claim that the heat generated from the volcano creates melt-water beneath the ice sheet that lubricates the base and increases the flow towards the sea, accounting for some of the accelerated flow of ice towards the ocean.

BAS Twin Otter in flight during the aerial survey.

A layer of volcanic ash and glass shards frozen within an ice sheet in West Antarctica which extends across an area larger than Wales was identified in an article published in the journal Nature Geosciences by Hugh F. J. Corr and David G. Vaughan.

The volcanic eruption from beneath rated “severe” to “cataclysmic” on an international scale of volcanic force, punching a massive breach in the ice sheet and spitting out a plume about 8 miles (12,000 meters) into the sky. The subglacial volcano has a ‘volcanic explosion index’ of around 3 to 4.

“We believe this was the biggest eruption in Antarctica during the last 10,000 years.” Corr said.

Evidence for this comes from a British-American geophysical survey that used airborne ice-sounding radar to delve deep under the ice sheet to map the terrain beneath.

“This is the first time we have seen a volcano beneath the ice sheet punch a hole through the ice sheet.” Vaughan said.

Heat from a volcano could still be melting ice and contributing to the thinning and speeding up of the thinning Pine Island Glacier which passes nearby, but Vaughan doubted that it could be affecting other glaciers in West Antarctica, which have also thinned in recent years.

Mt Erebus which was previously the only active volcano in Antarctica.

The discovery is another vital piece of evidence that will help determine the future of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and refine predictions of future sea-level rise.

The volcano is located beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet in the Hudson Mountains. Volcanoes are an important component of the Antarctic region, forming in diverse tectonic settings, mainly as a result of mantle plumes acting on the stationary Antarctic plate.

The region also includes some of the world’s best examples of a long-lived continental margin arc (Antarctic Peninsula), a very young marginal basin (Bransfield Strait) and an oceanic island arc (South Sandwich Islands). Many extinct volcanoes are very well preserved and others are still active, such as Deception Island, Mount Erebus, and the South Sandwich Islands.

Volcanic eruptions were common during the past 25 million years, and coincided with the great period of climatic deterioration that resulted in the formation of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Chaiten Llaima Volcano
The 3,550 foot high Chaiten volcano, located 760 miles (1,220 kilometers) south of the capital Santiago, started erupting on May 2 2008 for the first time in 9,000 years, spewing ash, gas and blasting molten rock more than 12 miles into the sky as lightning bolts pierced the huge clouds of hot ash hovering ominously above its crater, causing the complete evacuation of 2 towns.

Chile’s National Emergency Office (ONEMI) said heavy ash kept shooting from the volcano in southern Chile as it generated small tremors. Heavy flooding hit the area around Chaiten as falling ash swelled rivers, overflowing their banks.

“There’s been additional volcanic activity that we’re really worried about” said regional governor Sergio Galilea.

Chilean armed forces watch the smoke rising from Chaiten volcano at Chaiten town,
May 4 2008.

Luis Lara, a government geologist, said he did not expect a catastrophic collapse of the volcano, but “the eruptive column could, and that is sufficient material to be displaced down its sides and into areas nearby.”

The government declared the town of Chaiten — only 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the erupting volcano — off-limits for 3 months and reported that about 90% of the town had been flooded by the Blanco and Raya Rivers.

Image captured by NASA’s Terra May 3 2008 shows a long cloud-like plume of smoke
and ash flowing southeast from the summit of the volcano across the Andes mountains,
across part of Argentina and then dissipating over the Atlantic ocean.

“The flooding has receded in terms of water. But there’s a lot of material left, more mud than water.” Galilea said.

There were no deaths, but thousands of people have been evacuated within a 30 mile (48 kilometer) radius, including the 4,500 residents of Chaiten.

Ash has contaminated water supplies and coated houses, vehicles and trees. Authorities have also moved thousands of head of cattle from the area.

Futaleufu has also been coated with up to 6 inches of ash. About 1,000 residents had crossed into neighboring Argentina, where some areas have also been showered with hot debris, treating some for breathing problems.

Chaiten Volcano Eruption

The column of ash above the volcano, kept aloft by the pressure of constant eruptions, rose as high as 20 miles (32 kilometers) early in the eruption but fell back to about 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) by mid-May.

Chile’s chain of some 2,000 volcanoes — 500 of them potentially active — is the world’s 2nd largest volcanic country on Earth after Indonesia. Experts have said about 20 are in danger of erupting at any time.

Volcanoes for Alternative Energy
Experts are now attempting to harness the energy of volcanoes and hot springs, citing possibilities to supply up to 25% of America’s power needs with alternative energy to thousands and even millions of homes.

Companies are being invited to lease the rights to explore geothermal resources beneath Mount Spurr — a snowcapped 11,070 foot stratovolcano in the Aleutian Volcanic Arc of Alaska — which most recently erupted in 1992 blanketing much of Anchorage with volcanic ash.

The state Division of Oil and Gas hopes the lease sale slated for August will be the first of many, and is considering to permit exploration of the 4,134 foot (1260 meter) Augustine Volcano, 171 miles (275 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage.

With soaring fuel costs, concerns over dependence on foreign oil and climate change have triggered a surge in geothermal projects. Experts say that America is just beginning to realize the ancient power source lying beneath dozens of states to assist in supply of the nation’s energy needs.

“High prices and climate change are definitely creating a renaissance in geothermal interest, particularly on a state and local level.” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). “There really is a tremendous amount going on right now.”

As well as Alaska, geothermal projects, which are eligible for tax benefits, are underway in most Western states and across the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida, Gawell said.

“It’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is possible. If we really want to go all out for it, we could easily achieve a substantial amount, 20, 25% of US energy needs within a few decades. We’re limited more by public policy than the resource — the resource is enormous.”

The Bureau of Land Management has just surveyed 11 western states and Alaska for “lands with high potential for renewable geothermal resources.” The study showed around 200 million acres of public land with geothermal potential, Mr Gawell said.

But he estimates 80% of geothermal systems remain undiscovered as they have no tell-tale surface feature such as a hot spring. “We’re still just finding the obvious stuff.”

Alaska — rich in oil and gas — sits on the Pacific Rim of Fire but despite “clear evidence of geothermal resources” the state had shelved its geothermal development in the 1970’s once they hit the major oil streaks.

The biggest challenge to harnessing underground power is working out how to access and tap heat buried deep under earth or rock.

Interest has partly been spurred by the Alaska’s successful geothermal venture at Chena Hot Springs, a resort near Fairbanks, which is completely powered by underground energy.

“The problem is it’s only being produced in a handful of states. It’s well known in those states but it’s unknown in others.” Gawell said.

Geothermal power is experiencing a resurgence in Europe, where the first geothermal steam power plant in Larderello, Italy, began operating in 1904.

The GEA estimates that the number of countries producing geothermal energy will more than double by 2010 to 46 countries.

Volcano Vacations
For those weary of boring cruises where you eat yourself into oblivion and stroll around tropical paradises, a cruise for those with lava running through their veins is now available.

Remote active volcanoes in Russia will be part of the itinerary for a cruise vacation departing from Australia on an epic 75-night journey around the Pacific Ocean.

A superliner will set to sail to the remote Russian port of Petropavlovsk, departing from Sydney on July 14th 2008, which will visit 29 ports.

“The rarely-visited port of Petropavlovsk will feature in the leg between San Francisco and Beijing. Volcanologists describe the icy-capped cone of Kronotsky near Petropavlovsk as the world’s most beautiful volcano.” Princess Cruises notes.

Kronotsky is a major stratovolcano of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia that stands 10,168 feet (3,100 meters) above the surrounding plain, located to the east of Kronotskoe Lake, considered to be the one of the most scenic volcanoes in Kamchatka.

It has a perfect cone shape with an ice capped summit — its crater completely filled with lava. It exhibits the classic radial drainage pattern, extending downward from its crater. On the lower parts of its slopes, there are a number of cinder cones.

The main crater has been completely destroyed. The cinder cones appear to have formed during lateral eruptions of the volcano on the southeast, southwest and north sides of the foot. It has been long considered extinct, but according to the local inhabitants of the area in November of 1922, black smoke erupted from its southern slope, as the volcano “hummed” and shot flames.

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