Vanuatu Volcano Eruption Intensifies Covering Ambae Island In Ash And Smoke

The active volcano on Vanuatu’s Ambae island has once again begun spewing out ash and harmful smoke, and Vanuatu’s government is now looking into acquiring land to permanently resettle the island’s 13,000 residents.

The future of the people of Ambae has been under threat since late last year when eruptions from the Manaro volcano prompted an island-wide evacuation.

While residents were allowed to return to their homes after the volcano stabilised, ashfall has remained a problem and for the past three weeks the government has been in negotiations to relocate the worst affected villages in west Ambae.

Government spokesman Hilaire Bule said a shift in wind direction brought on by Tropical Cyclone Hola last month has dramatically increased the impact of the ashfall.

With the deluge of volcanic debris spreading across the island, the case for permanent relocation of the entire population has become stronger than ever.

The government is meeting with chiefs from the nearby islands of Maewo and Pentecost to discuss the possibility of acquiring land for resettlement.

Mr Bule said evacuation is not mandatory for Ambae residents, however that could change in coming weeks.

“If people want to leave the island it will depend entirely on the people of Ambae, but it is not compulsory,” he said.

Photos from Ambae showed villages and forests covered in a heavy layer of ash, food gardens destroyed and water sources polluted.

The humanitarian organisation Rotary International recently spent more than $450,000 upgrading the island’s hospital, and they have stepped in to help in the current crisis.

Chairman of Rotary District 9910 on Norfolk Island, Lindsay Ford, said against the backdrop of massive crop loss and contaminated water supplies, they have arranged for 400 refillable 20 litre fresh water containers to be dispatched to Ambae.

The extent of the ashfall has raised concerns about the health risk to residents, and Mr Ford said he had received reports of people dying.

“We’ve been notified that four people have died on the island in the last couple of days as a result of the volcano and the acid rain,” he said.

“There wouldn’t be any more edible crops on the island, the ash has affected all drinking water.”

Early-Morning Activity At El Popo Volcano

Popocatépetl began the day with a series of exhalations and tremors that lasted almost three hours, continuing the heightened activity seen over the previous 24 hours.

During that time the volcano, also known as El Popo, emitted 209 low-intensity exhalations of vapor, water and ash.

“The series of volcanic exhalations and tremors that started today at 5:23am concluded at 8:19am, with a total duration of 176 minutes,” said a report issued this morning by Cenapred, the National Disaster Prevention Center.

“The height of the volcanic cloud reached an average of one kilometer above the crater, and the winds spread it to the east-southeast.”

Along with the plume sighted this morning, fragments of incandescent rock were ejected from the crater starting last night, extending 500 meters around it.

After the continued exhalation, the volcano continued to emit gases through the morning, with the plume constantly drifting in the same direction.

The volcano alert for Popocatépetl, located in central Mexico, remains at yellow, phase two, but Cenapred has added the precaution of warning the public living nearby to stay away from it, as the constant emission of material presents a real danger.

Cenapred specialists forecast that low to intermediate explosive activity at the volcano will continue, and that light to moderate ash fall is to be expected in the closest towns and villages. Short-range pyroclastic and mud flows are also to be expected.

Satellite Data Used to Detect Magma Flow in Volcanoes

Using satellite imaging, Penn State researchers for the first time identified a major magma supply into a reservoir extending almost 2 miles from the crater of a volcano in Nicaragua.

This shows that volcanoes can be fed magma through nearby underground channels and could help explain how volcanoes can erupt seemingly without warning because the active center of the volcano exhibits little deformation activity. The findings are published today (March 28) in Geophysical Research Letters.

A team led by Christelle Wauthier, assistant professor of geosciences and the Institute for CyberScience, used satellite data to chart movement of the ground surrounding Masaya Volcano, an active volcano and popular tourist destination near millions of residents near Managua.

Using Interferometric Synthetic-Aperture Radar (InSAR), a technique that uses radar satellite remote-sensing images, the team found ground swelling of more than 3 inches in a large area north of the crater. They used comparative data taken at different points in time to determine increases in magma supply. That work was corroborated by independent gas measurements taken at the crater by another team. Charting ground inflation near volcanoes is one way to determine the likelihood of a future volcanic eruption. InSAR can measure changes of one-third of an inch in the topography of the Earth.

Kirsten Stephens, a doctoral student in geosciences at Penn State, said InSAR data helped the team spot an increase in magma supply whose extent and amplitude can be missed or underestimated by ground-based sensors like GPS.

“When you’re using the satellite data you’re actually looking at a wide area as opposed to a GPS station, which is one point of measurement on the Earth,” Stephens said. “With satellite data, we’re looking at hundreds by hundreds of kilometers of Earth. With this better spatial coverage, we were able to image this inflating ground movement related to this 2015 lava lake appearance, which no one had captured before.” Wauthier said this research changes how we should monitor volcanoes.

“This shows that you should monitor close to the active vent area but also farther away to get a broader picture of the magma processes,” Wauthier said. “This is clear evidence showing magma can be supplied in large quantities further away from the point of eruption.”

Wauthier suspects the magma pathways are related to a pre-existing caldera structure that was formed during the collapse of the volcano 2,500 years ago. Masaya — like Wyoming’s Yellowstone Caldera — is not conical shaped. Past magmatic activity caused the roof of a reservoir to fall out, creating a depression at the point of eruption. Weak zones could have been formed during this event and could currently serve as magma pathways, Wauthier said, but it will take more research to determine that.

“The offset magma supply has a lot of consequences interpreting volcanic unrest, because if you would have been looking at the active event only, you might have missed most of the inflation,” Wauthier said. “You might not have realized that there was a lot of magma accumulating below the ground.”

The last time Masaya had a massive eruption was in 1772, and a lava lake has often been visible at the summit since then. However, the volcano has been showing signs of activity, with its most recent explosive eruption — which lasted for about a week — occurring in 2012. The 1772 eruption spewed ash and molten lava more than 30 miles. Today, about 2 million people live within 12 miles of the volcano.

“The volcano has the potential to be very explosive and create very big eruptions,” Wauthier said. “That’s why we focused on this area. Because there are so many people living around there, we want to understand what’s going on at that volcano and where the magma reservoirs and pathways are. If magma supply is increasing significantly, it’s a sign the volcano could become more active.”

Stephens said the team is now working on a follow-up study using their massive amounts of remote sensing data sets provided by seven satellites, together with ground-based measurements acquired by Associate Professor of Geosciences Pete LaFemina, to model the temporal evolution of the magma supply in more detail.

“Through inversion modeling you can then get an estimate of the change in volume,” Stephens said. “You can get a rough estimate of how much magma was supplied into the system within that time.”

How Life Started On Earth: Sulfur Dioxide Builds Up, Volcanoes Blow

Clouds of sulfur dioxide billowing from erupting volcanoes may have kickstarted a chemical process that led to life on Earth more than four billion years ago, according to new research.

Earth contained little oxygen and was mainly filled with carbon dioxide, water vapor, and nitrogen billions of years ago. The planet was also in a volatile state from all the asteroid collisions that marked its birth and was devoid of life.

But 3.9 billion years ago, the earliest organisms began to emerge. A new model proposed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics pinpoints a chemical process that might have led to the formation of life.

A paper published in Astrobiology describes a scenario that begins with volcanoes belching large concentrations of sulfur dioxide. These gases would have been dissolved into the rivers and lakes to create sulfites and bisulfites, types of sulfidic anions – sulfur compounds containing extra electrons giving them a slight negative charge.

Over time, these sulfites and bisulfites accumulated, and may have aided the chemical reactions needed to convert molecules in the water into Ribonucleic acid (RNA), an essential ingredient for life.

Sukrit Ranjan, first author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, said: “Prior to this work, people had no idea what levels of sulfidic anions were present in natural waters on early Earth; now we know what they were. This fundamentally changes our knowledge of early Earth and has had direct impact on laboratory studies of the origin of life.”

It was previously shown that nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids – molecules needed to create proteins – can be created from hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, and ultraviolet light.

But it was unclear if the early conditions on Earth supported that process. “The origins-of-life field has traditionally been led by chemists, who try to figure out chemical pathways and see how nature might have operated to give us the origins of life,” Ranjan said.

“They do a really great job of that. What they don’t do, in as much detail is ask what were conditions on early Earth like before life? Could the scenarios they invoke have actually happened? They don’t know as much what the stage setting was.”

The new results show that the concentration of sulfidic anions produced from hydrogen sulfide was too low to spur on the chemical reactions needed to create the relevant biomolecules.

“We find that this mechanism could have supplied prebiotically relevant levels of [sulfur dioxide] derived anions, but not [hydrogen sulfide]-derived anions. Radiative transfer modelling suggests UV light would have remained abundant on the planet surface for all but the largest volcanic explosions,” the paper said.

The next stage of the experiment is to confirm if the sulfites and bisulfites in the early lakes and rivers from sulfur dioxide gas did lead to the creation of ribonucleotides, a class of molecules that make up RNA.

“In my view, the big next step is a prebiotically plausible synthesis of all 4 ribonucleotides (monomers of RNA) from the same precursors, under the same conditions. Right now, we have two of them, and almost the other two; taking the next step would be monumental,” Raman told The Register.

Chile Rraises Alert On Rumbling Chillan Volcano

SANTIAGO – Chile has raised the alert at the Nevados de Chillan ahead of a possible eruption at one of the most active volcanoes in Chile, after plumes of white smoke and registered tremors were reported by authorities.

The National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) issued an orange alert at the Nevados de Chillán Volcanic Complex, in the province of Ñuble.

Surrounded by dense forest and rivers, this volcanic complex, which comprises 17 craters, is located some 550 kilometers (300 miles) south of Santiago in the Bio Bio region of the Chilean Andes.

Since 2015, the alert level has remained at yellow — the second lowest of four levels — but since December, several eruptions of ash have suggested increased activity, prompting officials to raise the alert by one level, to orange.

On Friday, teams of police and experts from the state-run Sernageomin deployed to the site — which reaches an altitude of 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) — saw a huge column of white smoke rising from one of the craters.

Sernageomin also detected an unusual flow of lava in the crater which could spill over at any time, and data from 10 monitoring stations, which track the situation by the minute, registered some 4,000 tremors and around 800 explosions.

“The behavior has risen and if the tensions continue to rise, it is necessary to alert the population,” said Bío Bío mayor Jorge Ulloa.

Unable to determine exactly when an eruption is likely, experts are constantly monitoring the situation from the volcanic observatory in Temuco, a city in the southern Andes, some 600 kilometers south of Santiago.

Between 1861 and 2003, Chillan erupted around 10 times, with varying magnitudes on the Volcanic Explosivity Index.

The last recorded instance was in 1973, although the eruption caused no deaths or major damage.

Several ski resorts dot the slopes of Chillan, a popular tourist destination which boasts a clutch of luxury hotels. There are no major urban centers in the area.

Chile has about 90 active volcanoes.

This Volcano Erupted For 5 Years Straight, And The Photos Are Mesmerising

On 24 May 1969, a deep rumbling started within Kīlauea, the largest of the volcanoes comprising the island of Hawai’i.

Those were the first moments of the historical Mauna Ulu eruption – a spectacular outpour of lava that lasted for a total of 1,774 days, at the time becoming the longest Kīlauea eruption in at least two millennia.

Staff at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory had noted that the magma reservoir underneath the tip of the volcano had started to swell, but they still didn’t expect the magnificent activity that lasted well into the summer of 1974.

So huge was this eruption that the cooling lava created a whole new landscape on the side of Kīlauea, earning the name of “growing mountain”, or Mauna Ulu.

In 1969 alone, twelve huge lava fountains erupted at the site, and much of this activity has been captured for posterity in glorious photographs.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently reminded the world of the Mauna Ulu eruption with a throwback photo to one of the rarest types of a lava fountain you can possibly get.

Usually, lava just explodes all over the place without any rhyme or reason, making this beautiful, perfectly rounded dome fountain all the more special. (By the way, the foreground is not the ocean, as it might seem at first glance – it’s a landscape of cooled lava.)

Here’s another version of the photo, taken on 11 October 1969. The original tweet notes its height at roughly 20 metres (65 feet), but according to USGS records, at some point the fountain may have towered as high as 75 metres (246 feet):

Lava fountains, in all their blazing glory of raw exploding geology, can reach the dizzying heights of 500 metres, according to USGS.

They typically happen when lava shoots out of an isolated vent or a fissure in the volcano, or when water in a confined space gets inside a lava tube.

And, if you like this photo, Mauna Ulu certainly produced more incredible scenery.

On June 25 of the same year, a massive 220-metre (722-foot) fountain of lava shot up from the volcano:

On August 15, there was this little splatter of boiling hot rock, just 8 metres (26 feet) high but shaped rather like a searing mushroom cloud. At that point in the eruption, activity like this was almost constantly happening at Mauna Ulu:

One of the most spectacular events during the eruption were these 100-metre high ‘lava falls’ overflowing the ‘Alae Crater on Kīlauea, on August 5.

“For the two seasoned observers who witnessed this awe-inspiring event, nothing else matched it during the entire Mauna Ulu eruption,” USGS writes on their website.

Even after that stunning event, Kīlauea was far from done inspiring awe in its observers. Another massive lava fountain shot up in the air on October 20, and in this photo you can even see a geologist standing on a viewing platform about 800 metres (2,625 feet) away.

Despite the considerable distance, observers still had to hide behind a stone wall as the heat was so intense – sometimes dry grass right next to the platform would even catch fire.

Of course, Kīlauea is far from done. Only nine years later, the Pu’u ‘Ō’ō eruption began – and it is still active today, producing regular spectacles of lava explosions.

What’s particularly crazy is that’s not even the longest continually active volcano on our planet. According to Guinness World Records, this honour belongs to Mt Stromboli in Italy.

Kilauea Volcano: Rare Landspout Phenomenon Filmed Over Hawaiian Lava Flows

A rare phenomenon was caught on camera above Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano as it spewed out lava on Thursday.

Videographer Mick Kalber was flying aboard a helicopter belonging to tour operator Paradise Helicopters at sunrise when he spotted dramatic columns of steam rising hundreds of feet above an area of the volcano known as the East Rift Zone.

These tube-shaped formations are known as landspouts—mini tornadoes which, unlike normal tornadoes, are not associated with the rotating updraft (mesocyclone) of a thunderstorm, according to The Weather Network.

They are usually relatively weak and short-lived, lasting just a few minutes, and tend to spin slower than normal tornadoes, although they still pose a risk to people and property. They usually form from the ground up toward a cloud, (in contrast to normal tornadoes which form downwards from the cloud).

“We’ve seen that at the ocean, when a lot of lava goes in fast into the water, it creates that same phenomenon,” Kalber was quoted as saying by Global News. “It will swirl, and it will make this clockwise motion and it will sometimes spin off vortices, but we’ve never seen them over land before.”

Kalber, who has spent years documenting Kīlauea, thinks that intense wind, high humidity and heavy rainfall over the volcano’s lava flows created the perfect conditions for the rare landspouts to form. Rainwater from the heavy downpour likely seeped into cracks in the lava field, creating steam that then began swirling due to the climactic conditions.

And landspouts weren’t the only impressive sight Kalber spotted that morning. The helicopter crew also witnessed a rare pink rainbow, which they had never seen before.

A “pink rainbow, amazing land spouts and a veritable plethora of lava flows made for a spectacular lava overflight this morning,” Kalber wrote in a Vimeo post.

Kīlauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes with at least 34 eruptions to its name since 1952. There has been continuous volcanic activity in the East Rift Zone since 1983.