Volcanic Activity Threatens Families Again On Ambae Island In Vanuatu

Volcanic activity on Vanuatu’s Ambae Island has picked up again over the last few days, with fresh ash fall reported across the island’s west and south.

Communities in the western and southern parts of Ambae are suffering badly from thick periodic ash fall which threaten their health, animals and vegetation.

The entire island was evacuated late last year when the volcano at the island’s centre erupted, blanketing the island in ash, suffocating crops and contaminating water sources.

The only population returned to their homes when the eruption settled down after a month, but on Sunday night the volcano’s alert level was raised from level 2 to 3, a “state of minor eruption.”

The Geohazards Department’s Melinda Aru said the volcano was showing increased activity and an exclusion zone had been extended to three km around the crater lake.

“We’ve got a few reports coming from Ambae concerning ash fall on the west, southwest and northwest as of last week until Sunday. We still have reports from Ambae concerning ash fall.”

Melinda Aru said the chance of the eruption increasing to the level seen in October last year was highly unlikely.

Reports on the Vanuatu Daily Post website on Monday said that people may need to shelter livestock and water tanks as the Lombenben volcano continues to emit ash.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department still grades the Ambae volcano at major unrest stage.

Destruction caused by the ash fall in affected areas is described as literally similar to a cyclone wiping out trees and crops.

Its weight caused plants and crops in the gardens like banana, cassava and cabbages to collapse.

Destruction done by volcanic ash on people, plants and crops depend largely on its thickness. Though it may causes health problems to livestock and human such as skin irritation and eye problem, volcanic ash can make the soil fertile.

Responsible authorities have warned that everyone, particularly children should be protected from the volcano’s ash and poisonous gases that poses a health risk.

The Vanuatu Red Cross Society (RCS) said it was working to establish a sub-branch in west Ambae to support communities during disasters.

Madagascar Hit By Another Tropical Cyclone

Tropical Cyclone Eliakim has battered Madagascar with strong winds and torrential rain.

The storm made landfall on the peninsula of Masoala in northeastern Madagascar and tracked southwards along the coast.

Strong winds battered the island and torrential rain fell on already-saturated land, triggering landslides and flooding.

The cyclone comes less than two weeks after Dumazile grazed the east coast of the island nation.

Both storms hit Toamasina, Madagascar’s second largest city. Images on social media showed widespread flooding with roads and homes inundated.

According to local media, at least one person has been killed by Eliakim and many more have been injured.

The storm is now weakening as it moves southeast, away from Madagascar.

Unique Diamond Impurities Indicate Water Deep In Earth’s Mantle

A UNLV scientist has discovered the first direct evidence that fluid water pockets may exist as far as 500 miles deep into the Earth’s mantle.

Groundbreaking research by UNLV geoscientist Oliver Tschauner and colleagues found diamonds pushed up from the Earth’s interior had traces of unique crystallized water called Ice-VII.

The study, “Ice-VII inclusions in Diamonds: Evidence for aqueous fluid in Earth’s deep Mantle,” was published Thursday in the journal Science.

In the jewelry business, diamonds with impurities hold less value. But for Tschauner and other scientists, those impurities, known as inclusions have infinite value, as they may hold the key to understanding the inner workings of our planet.

For his study, Tschauner used diamonds found in China, the Republic of South Africa, and Botswana that surged up from inside Earth. “This shows that this is a global phenomenon,” the professor said.

Scientists theorize the diamonds used in the study, were born in the mantle under temperatures reaching more than 1,000-degrees Fahrenheit.

The mantle — which makes up more than 80 percent of the Earth’s volume — is made of silicate minerals containing iron, aluminum, and calcium among others.

And now we can add water to the list.

The discovery of Ice-VII in the diamonds is the first known natural occurrence of the aqueous fluid from the deep mantle. Ice-VII had been found in prior lab testing of materials under intense pressure. Tschauner also found that while under the confines of hardened diamonds found on the surface of the planet, Ice-VII is solid. But in the mantel, it is liquid.

“These discoveries are important in understanding that water-rich regions in the Earth’s interior can play a role in the global water budget and the movement of heat-generating radioactive elements,” Tschauner said.

This discovery can help scientists create new, more accurate models of what’s going on inside the Earth, specifically how and where heat is generated under the Earth’s crust.

In other words: “It’s another piece of the puzzle in understanding how our planet works,” Tschauner said.

Of course, as it often goes with discoveries, this one was found by accident, explained Tschauner.

“We were looking for carbon dioxide,” he said. “We’re still looking for it, actually,”

Suomi NPP Satellite Sees Tropical Cyclone Hola Over Vanuatu

On Mar. 8 at 0230 UTC (Mar. 7 at 9:30 p.m. EST) the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite showed the center of Hola was located southwest of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. The VIIRS image showed a well-rounded circulation center with bands of powerful thunderstorms wrapping into the center. The VIIRS image showed the northern and eastern quadrants of the storm extended over Vanuatu.

On March 8, warnings were in effect in Vanuatu and a pre-alert was posted for New Caledonia. In Vanuatu a tropical cyclone warning is in force for Shefa province. In New Caledonia the territory is on pre-alert, with the exception of Ouvéa, Maré and Lifou, which are on tropical cyclone alert 1. The pre-alert is expected to be upgraded to alert 2 within a day.

At 4 a.m. EST (0900 UTC) on March 8, Hola’s maximum sustained winds were near 109 mph (95 knots/175 kph). It was centered near 17.6 degrees south latitude and 165.4 degrees east longitude. That’s about 166 nautical miles west of Port Vila, Vanuatu. Hola was moving to the south-southwest at 4.6 mph (4 knots/7.4 kph).

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast calls for Hola to move to the south-southeast over the next few days. The storm will intensify to 115 knots east of New Caledonia. Hola is then expected to weaken and become extra-tropical on approach to the North Island of New Zealand.

Scientists Crack 70-Year-Old Mystery Of How Magnetic Waves Heat The Sun

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have led an international team to the ground-breaking discovery that magnetic waves crashing through the sun may be key to heating its atmosphere and propelling the solar wind.

The sun is the source of energy that sustains all life on Earth but much remains unknown about it. However, a group of researchers at Queen’s have now unlocked some mysteries in a research paper, which has been published in Nature Physics.

In 1942, Swedish physicist and engineer Hannes Alfvén predicted the existence of a new type of wave due to magnetism acting on a plasma, which led him to obtain the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1970. Since his prediction, Alfvén waves have been associated with a variety of sources, including nuclear reactors, the gas cloud that envelops comets, laboratory experiments, medical MRI imaging and in the atmosphere of our nearest star – the sun.

Scientists have suggested for many years that these waves may play an important role in maintaining the sun’s extremely high temperatures but until now had not been able to prove it.

Dr. David Jess from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University Belfast explains: “For a long time scientists across the globe have predicted that Alfvén waves travel upwards from the solar surface to break in the higher layers, releasing enormous amounts of energy in the form of heat. Over the last decade scientists have been able to prove that the waves exist but until now there was no direct evidence that they had the capability to convert their movement into heat.

“At Queen’s, we have now led a team to detect and pinpoint the heat produced by Alfvén waves in a sunspot. This theory was predicted some 75 years ago but we now have the proof for the very first time. Our research opens up a new window to understanding how this phenomenon could potentially work in other areas such as energy reactors and medical devices.”

The study used advanced high-resolution observations from the Dunn Solar Telescope in New Mexico (USA) alongside complementary observations from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, to analyse the strongest magnetic fields that appear in sunspots. These sunspots have intense fields similar to modern MRI machines in hospitals and are much bigger than our own planet.

Dr. Samuel Grant from Queen’s comments: “By breaking the sun’s light up into its constituent colours, our international team of researchers were able to examine the behaviour of certain elements from the periodic table within the sun’s atmosphere, including calcium and iron.

“Once these elements had been extracted, intense flashes of light were detected in the image sequences. These intense flashes had all the hallmarks of the Alfvén waves converting their energy into shock waves, in a similar way to a supersonic aircraft creating a boom as it exceeds the speed of sound. The shock waves then ripple through the surrounding plasma, producing extreme heat. Using supercomputers, we were able to analyse the data and show for the first time in history that the Alfvén waves were capable of increasing plasma temperatures violently above their calm background.”

Japanese Volcano Spews Ash, Lava In Strongest Eruption In Years

TOKYO -A volcano in southern Japan that appeared in a James Bond film had its biggest eruption in years Tuesday, shooting smoke and ash thousands of feet into the sky and grounding dozens of flights at a nearby airport, officials said. The Meteorological Agency said the Shinmoedake volcano on Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu erupted violently several times, and some lava was rising inside a crater.

“The mountain has been erupting for a while, but this is the strongest day yet,” an official at the Japanese Meteorological Agency told Reuters. “This will go on for a while.”

Public broadcaster NHK showed gray volcanic smoke billowing into the sky and orange lava rising to the mouth of the crater. The Meteorological Agency said ash and smoke shot up about 7,500 feet into the sky in the volcano’s biggest explosion since 2011.

In Kirishima city at the foot of the volcano, pedestrians wore surgical masks or covered their noses with hand towels, while others used umbrellas to protect from falling ash. Cars had layers of ash on their roofs.

There were no reports of injuries or damage from the eruptions. The agency said the volcanic activity is expected to continue and cautioned residents against the possibility of flying rocks and pyroclastic flows — superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, incinerating or vaporizing everything in their path.

The volcano, seen in the 1967 James Bond film “You Only Live Twice,” has had smaller eruptions since last week.

Entry to the 4,660-foot-high volcano was restricted. About 80 flights in and out of nearby Kagoshima airport were canceled.

Japan, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” has 110 active volcanoes and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

An eruption of Mount Ontake in 2014 killed about 60 people. In January, a surprise eruption of another volcano in central Japan killed a soldier during ski training and injured 11 others. Several other Japanese volcanoes have had smaller eruptions.

Modern Volcanism Tied To Events Occurring Soon After Earth’s Birth

Plumes of hot magma from the volcanic hotspot that formed Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean rise from an unusually primitive source deep beneath Earth’s surface, according to new work in Nature from Carnegie’s Bradley Peters, Richard Carlson, and Mary Horan along with James Day of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Réunion marks the present-day location of the hotspot that 66 million years ago erupted the Deccan Traps flood basalts, which cover most of India and may have contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Flood basalts and other hotspot lavas are thought to originate from different portions of Earth’s deep interior than most volcanoes at Earth’s surface and studying this material may help scientists understand our home planet’s evolution.

The heat from Earth’s formation process caused extensive melting of the planet, leading Earth to separate into two layers when the denser iron metal sank inward toward the center, creating the core and leaving the silicate-rich mantle floating above.

Over the subsequent 4.5 billion years of Earth’s evolution, deep portions of the mantle would rise upwards, melt, and then separate once again by density, creating Earth’s crust and changing the chemical composition of Earth’s interior in the process. As crust sinks back into Earth’s interior — a phenomenon that’s occurring today along the boundary of the Pacific Ocean — the slow motion of Earth’s mantle works to stir these materials, along with their distinct chemistry, back into the deep Earth.

But not all of the mantle is as well-blended as this process would indicate. Some older patches still exist — like powdery pockets in a poorly mixed bowl of cake batter. Analysis of the chemical compositions of Réunion Island volcanic rocks indicate that their source material is different from other, better-mixed parts of the modern mantle.

Using new isotope data, the research team revealed that Réunion lavas originate from regions of the mantle that were isolated from the broader, well-blended mantle. These isolated pockets were formed within the first ten percent of Earth’s history.

Isotopes are elements that have the same number of protons, but a different number of neutrons. Sometimes, the number of neutrons present in the nucleus make an isotope unstable; to gain stability, the isotope will release energetic particles in the process of radioactive decay. This process alters its number of protons and neutrons and transforms it into a different element. This new study harnesses this process to provide a fingerprint for the age and history of distinct mantle pockets.

Samarium-146 is one such unstable, or radioactive, isotope with a half-life of only 103 million years. It decays to the isotope neodymium-142. Although samarium-146 was present when Earth formed, it became extinct very early in Earth’s infancy, meaning neodymium-142 provides a good record of Earth’s earliest history, but no record of Earth from the period after all the samarium-146 transformed into neodymium-142. Differences in the abundances of neodymium-142 in comparison to other isotopes of neodymium could only have been generated by changes in the chemical composition of the mantle that occurred in the first 500 million years of Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history.

The ratio of neodymium-142 to neodymium-144 in Réunion volcanic rocks, together with the results of lab-based mimicry and modeling studies, indicate that despite billions of years of mantle mixing, Réunion plume magma likely originates from a preserved pocket of the mantle that experienced a compositional change caused by large-scale melting of Earth’s earliest mantle.

The team’s findings could also help explain the origin of dense regions right at the boundary of the core and mantle called large low shear velocity provinces (LLSVPs) and ultralow velocity zones (ULVZs), reflecting the unusually slow speed of seismic waves as they travel through these regions of the deep mantle. Such regions may be relics of early melting events.

“The mantle differentiation event preserved in these hotspot plumes can both teach us about early Earth geochemical processes and explain the mysterious seismic signatures created by these dense deep-mantle zones,” said lead author Peters.