Large Volcanic Eruptions In Tropics Can Trigger El Niño Events

Explosive volcanic eruptions in the tropics can lead to El Niño events, those notorious warming periods in the Pacific Ocean with dramatic global impacts on the climate, according to a new study.

Enormous eruptions trigger El Niño events by pumping millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which form a sulfuric acid cloud, reflecting solar radiation and reducing the average global surface temperature, according to the study co-authored by Alan Robock, a distinguished professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

The study, published online today in Nature Communications, used sophisticated climate model simulations to show that El Niño tends to peak during the year after large volcanic eruptions like the one at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.

“We can’t predict volcanic eruptions, but when the next one happens, we’ll be able to do a much better job predicting the next several seasons, and before Pinatubo we really had no idea,” said Robock, who has a doctorate in meteorology. “All we need is one number — how much sulfur dioxide goes into the stratosphere — and you can measure it with satellites the day after an eruption.”

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is nature’s leading mode of periodic climate variability. It features sea surface temperature anomalies in the central and eastern Pacific. ENSO events (consisting of El Niño or La Niña, a cooling period) unfold every three to seven years and usually peak at the end of the calendar year, causing worldwide impacts on the climate by altering atmospheric circulation, the study notes.

Strong El Niño events and wind shear typically suppress the development of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says. But they can also lead to elevated sea levels and potentially damaging cold season nor’easters along the East Coast, among many other impacts.

Sea surface temperature data since 1882 document large El Niño-like patterns following four out of five big eruptions: Santa María (Guatemala) in October 1902, Mount Agung (Indonesia) in March 1963, El Chichón (Mexico) in April 1982 and Pinatubo in June 1991.

The study focused on the Mount Pinatubo eruption because it’s the largest and best-documented tropical one in the modern technology period. It ejected about 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide, Robock said.

Cooling in tropical Africa after volcanic eruptions weakens the West African monsoon, and drives westerly wind anomalies near the equator over the western Pacific, the study says. The anomalies are amplified by air-sea interactions in the Pacific, favoring an El Niño-like response.

Climate model simulations show that Pinatubo-like eruptions tend to shorten La Niñas, lengthen El Niños and lead to unusual warming during neutral periods, the study says.

If there’s a big volcanic eruption tomorrow, Robock said he could make predictions for seasonal temperatures, precipitation and the appearance of El Niño next winter.

“If you’re a farmer and you’re in a part of the world where El Niño or the lack of one determines how much rainfall you will get, you could make plans ahead of time for what crops to grow, based on the prediction for precipitation,” he said.

Vanuatu: Volcanic Eruption Forces At Least 6,000 People To Evacuate Ambae Island

The Manaro volcano has been active since 2005, but a recent increase in activity has raised fears of a major eruption.

The national government also approved a $2 million fund to provide food, shelter and water to those affected.

The volcano’s activity measure was raised to Level 4 for the first time over the weekend, which indicates a “moderate eruption” and is the second highest level in Vanuatu’s volcanic alert system.

“There’s ash, fire, stones and lava being thrown out from the mouth of the volcano,” Shadrack Welegtabit, the director of Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office, said.

He said it was difficult to say whether there will be a major eruption, and that those who have been evacuated will just have to sit and wait.

“With the seismic machine, we can measure what’s happening but we can’t really predict what the volcano will do next,” he said.

About 10,000 people live on the island, and those in the north and south are most vulnerable.

The Vanuatu Red Cross said those villagers have been moved to the eastern and western sides of the island.

“The priority now is shelter, water and food, and also looking at health,” said Augustine Garae, the organisation’s disaster management coordinator.

Evacuees struggling to get information

Georgia Tacey, the Vanuatu country director for non-governmental organisation Save the Children, said those affected are struggling without reliable information about the eruption.

“They’re incredibly distressed, there isn’t a great deal of mobile cell coverage over the island so [they] rely on word of mouth. Radio coverage is also very little,” she said.

Vanuatu’s Meteorology and Geohazards Department said in an alert that villagers within 6.5 kilometres of the volcano face the biggest risk from airborne rocks and volcanic gas.

The department warned that acid rain could damage crops across a broader area.

Ms Tacey said authorities have a contingency plan in place for if the volcanic activity increases.

“They would be looking at evacuating the entire island to nearby islands,” she said.

“Obviously no one wants that to happen because apart from that being incredibly distressing it would be logistically challenging and would displace people for a very long time.”

Vanuatu is considered one of the countries most prone to natural disasters, with a half-dozen active volcanoes as well as regular cyclones and earthquakes.

It sits on the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes and volcanoes are common.

Volcanic Eruption Fears Prompt 75,000 to Evacuate in Bali

Thousands of people have scattered to all corners of the Indonesian island of Bali, fleeing a possible eruption of volcanic Mount Agung.

The mountain, situated on the northeast section of the island, last erupted in 1963 killing about 1,100 people, and a dramatic increase seismic activity has officials worried it may be about to blow again.

“The latest analysis indicates that Mount Agung’s seismic energy is increasing and has the potential to erupt,” the National Vulcanology Center said in a statement to Reuters. “However, no one can predict exactly when there will be an eruption.”

Most people are choosing not to risk staying in the area. More than 75,000 have relocated to areas further away from the peak, and some have crossed to the neighboring island of Lombok, The Associated Press reports.

“Our staff are combing the area and urging everyone to evacuate,” said Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said at a news conference. “There are some who are staying behind because the volcano hasn’t erupted yet or because of religious beliefs.”

Thousands of evacuees are living in temporary shelters, sports centers, village halls and with relatives or friends, according to the AP. Some return to the danger zone, which extends up to 7.5 miles from the volcano, during the day to tend to livestock.

“There are many livestock in our village but nobody is taking care of them,” Nengah Satiya, who is one of several who volunteered to feed the pigs and chickens in his village, told the South China Morning Post. “We take turns going back to feed them.”

Others have given up on their livestock.

“We have already sold our cattle, because we thought it was better than leaving them there for nothing,” villager Wayan Merta, whose home is just 4 miles from the summit, told the AP. “My feeling is the mountain will erupt. But no one knows, we just pray.”

Meanwhile, in the evacuation centers, the government is distributing hundreds of thousands of face masks and thousands of mattresses and blankets, Nugroho told the AP.

“The biggest challenge is we can’t predict the number of evacuees,” Putu Widiada, head of the local disaster management agency in Klungkung district told Reuters. “If the number of evacuees exceeds our maximum capacity, we have asked that every public hall in the district be prepared to become evacuation camps.”

Officials have said there’s no immediate threat to tourists and a spokeswoman for the Sheraton Bali Kuta told The Australian that as of Monday, “travelers are still coming in. We haven’t had any postponement or cancellations.”

She went on to say that the hotel is advising guests to monitor information from local authorities and travel advisories, a significant eruption would force the closure of Bali’s international airport, stranding thousands.

(MORE: Eight Straight Hurricanes Have Formed in the Atlantic Basin, a First Since the Late 1800s)

Fearing just such an occurrence, some tourists had already decided to leave.

“It’s obviously an awful thing,” an Australian woman who identified herself as Miriam told the AP at Bali’s international airport. “We want to get out of here just to be safe.”

When the volcano last erupted in 1963, it hurled ash as high as 12 miles, according to volcanologists, and remained active for about a year. Lava traveled 4.7 miles and ash reached Jakarta about 620 miles away.

Vanuatu Prepares To Evacuate 5000 As Ambae Volcano Erupts

Authorities in Vanuatu were preparing to evacuate as many as 5000 people on Saturday, as a volcanic eruption on Ambae island continued to intensify.

The country’s Geohazards Department on Saturday raised its alert from level three to four, what it classified as a “moderate eruption state.”

The volcano is one of the most active in the world, but its activity has steadily increased in the past couple of weeks, said Esline Garaeviti, the manager of the Geohazards Department. On Saturday, that increased further, with the volcano belching ash across much of the 400sqkm island.

“In the early hours, around 3-4am, we noticed that the activity started to increase, followed by another eruptive phase,” said Ms Garaeviti. “So the ash plume from Ambae is still there now. The ash fall is expected all around the island.”

“The increased level of activity means increased area of risk,” she said. “There’s more risk exposed to people on the island, that’s why. It’s a moderate state of activity.”

Ms Garaeviti stressed that the state of the eruption was only moderate, but there was every chance it could increase. However, authorities on the island, which sits between Santo and Pentecost about halfway up the archipelago, were swinging into action on Saturday.

Shadrack Welegtabit, the director of the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office, said his officials weren’t taking chances, and were preparing to start evacuating half of the island’s 10,000 people from one side to the other.

“We are looking at moving people away from the south and north of the island, and moving them to the eastern and western part. We are working closely with the [Penama] Provincial Government on the ground arrangements,” said Mr Welegtabit.

“It will be a big operation. We are talking about roughly 5,000 people that we have to move,” he said. “Once all the ground arrangements is done in terms of preparing evacuation centres and stuff then we are looking at moving people. That is going to happen very soon.”

“There has been a lot of ash fall in recent weeks, but as of last night there was a small eruption and people could see fire for the first time on that volcano,” he said.

The last time there was a significant eruption on Ambae was in 2005, when a similar evacuation was carried out. It was as long as three months before people were able to return to their villages.

Both Ms Garaeviti and Mr Welegtabit said it was difficult to say whether the volcano’s activity would intensify or start to settle down in coming days, but that every precaution was being taken.

Indonesia: Bali Volcano Highest Alert Issued

Indonesia has issued its highest level alert for a volcano on Bali, warning that an eruption on the popular tourist island could be imminent.

About 10,000 people have already been evacuated, with officials urging people to stay at least nine kilometres (5.6 miles) away from Mount Agung.

Tremors have been reported, and there are indications that magma is rising to the surface, the officials say.

More than 1,000 people died when Mount Agung last erupted in 1963.

“There should be zero public activity within the specified radius in case there is an eruption,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency was quoted as saying by Reuters.
One villager, I Wayan Suwarjana, told the AFP news agency: “Tremors happen very often, so we are afraid and I have taken all my family members to the refugee shelter.”

Early on Saturday, officials said that increased seismic activity was ongoing, hours after the alert level was raised.

The latest report from Indonesia’s volcano observatory for aviation said the likelihood of an eruption appears to be increasing. But it added that eruptions cannot be predicted with perfect accuracy.

Bali’s international airport in Denpasar, which is used by millions of foreign tourists each year, is currently operating as normal, the officials say.

Australia’s department of foreign affairs has issued an advisory for the region, warning travellers that a possible eruption could severely disrupt air travel.

Predictions about the potential eruption are based on the one in 1963, which saw the volcano expel large amounts of debris and extensive lava flows.
It also involved a pyroclastic flow – a dangerous fast-moving hot cloud of gas, ash and volcanic matter.

Mount Agung, which is more than 3,000m above sea level, lies in the eastern part of Bali.

It is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia – an archipelago prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as it sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.

Naples’ Supervolcano Is Reaching ‘Dangerous’ Levels

Scientists have discovered a “hot zone” feeding a supervolcano near Naples in southern Italy, prompting fears it is nearing eruption.

Campi Flegrei, a volcanic caldera to the west of Naples, last erupted centuries ago and has been quiet since the 1980s, when the movement of magma into the volcano’s shallow chamber caused a series of small earthquakes.

Seismographic data from those tremors have now allowed scientists to pinpoint the source of the magma that entered Campi Flegrei’s chamber and caldera, the hot zone.

Analysis of this zone suggests the supervolcano is becoming more dangerous.

“One question that has puzzled scientists is where magma is located beneath the caldera, and our study provides the first evidence of a hot zone under the city of Pozzuoli that extends into the sea at a depth of 4 km,” said Dr Luca De Siena, who led the study at the University of Aberdeen.

“While this is the most probable location of a small batch of magma, it could also be the heated fluid-filled top of a wider magma chamber, located even deeper.”

His research suggests magma was blocked from rising to the surface in the 1980s by a 1-2km-deep rock formation, which forced it to release stress along a lateral route.

It is not yet clear what this means for the volcano’s future, but the relatively low amount of seismic activity in the area in the last three decades suggests pressure is building within the caldera.

“What this means in terms of the scale of any future eruption we cannot say, but there is no doubt that the volcano is becoming more dangerous,” Dr De Siena said.

An eruption will occur when the pressure of molten rock causes the ground to stretch to breaking point, which would be catastrophic for the 1.5 million people living in the Naples region.

“During the last 30 years the behaviour of the volcano has changed, with everything becoming hotter due to fluids permeating the entire caldera,” Dr De Siena explained.

“Whatever produced the activity under Pozzuoli in the 1980s has migrated somewhere else, so the danger doesn’t just lie in the same spot, it could now be much nearer to Naples which is more densely populated.”

Dr De Siena described Campi Flegrei, which translates as “burning fields”, as being like “a boiling pot of soup beneath the surface”.

The volcano’s most famous eruption, the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption, occurred around 39,000 years ago and spewed molten rock around 70km into the stratosphere.

This eruption was the largest Europe has seen in the last 200,000 years, and may have played a part in the extinction of the neanderthals.

UPDATE: Mexico Quake Fallout Has Been Personally Disturbing

As mentioned in yesterday’s article, an elementary school had collapsed as a result of the mag. 7.1 quake just south of Mexico City. It is hard for me to report on casualties related to any disaster, but when it comes to children, my emotions become a bit overwhelming. As many of you know, I have two young children, Alexa age 9 and Sophia age 5. Among my activities, I volunteer as a WatchDog at their elementary school (which I encourage every father to participate), giving me a great opportunity to enter-act with these bright beautiful children.

You might have guessed where I have been over the last several days last week… Yes, I got the call to venture off to Georgia dealing with that nasty Irma. Just got a call to head to Mexico, but this time my answer was ‘no’. We all have our limits and or, Achilles heel, mine is children. Perhaps I’m reacting to my own PTSD, or perhaps I’m just getting a bit older, or I just love my kids so much I would rather stay home with them and my wife being damn grateful we are all safe…for this time around.

As an aside, the Mexico City Emergency Management Team is well qualified, and it just so happened they were just completing ‘active scenario training’ at the time of this 7.1 quake.

More than 300 children were studying in their classrooms at Enrique Rébsamen primary school, in Mexico City’s southern Coapa district when the earth started violently shaking.

In an instant, concrete walls and ceilings in parts of the school came crashing down, crushing students as young as first-graders. Neighbors, relatives of the children and even a passing taxi driver rushed toward the giant plume of dust, prying away debris with their bare hands, desperately searching for any sign of life Tuesday afternoon. They worked through the night.

By Wednesday morning, rescuers had carried out at least 25 bodies, twenty-one of them were students with names like Daniela, Diana and Oscar. They were all believed to be 7 or 8 years old and were still dressed in their white and black school uniforms.

Those killed at the school were among at least 230 people who perished across five states in Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake. Dozens of buildings collapsed across central Mexico, including large office buildings and apartment towers in Mexico City.

Details of the girl located on Wednesday have not been given. Rescuers detected her after she moved her hand and a hose was lowered to supply her with water.

Civil Protection volunteer Enrique Gardia told the assembled crowd that a thermal scanner had detected several survivors trapped between slabs of concrete.

“They are alive! Alive!” he shouted. “Someone hit a wall several times in one place, and in another there was a response to light signals with a lamp,” he added.

One mother, standing nearby waiting for news of her seven-year-old daughter, told reporters: “No-one can possibly imagine the pain I’m in right now.”

At least 209 schools were affected by the quake, 15 of which have suffered severe damage.

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NOTE:I am sending money and supplies to some connections I have made in Mexico. If you can help in making those who have been directly affected, go to the bottom of this article and click on the donation banner.

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Popocatépetl Volcano Activity

The National Center for Disaster Prevention reported that, so far, there has not been an increase in the activity of the Popocatépetl volcano and remains at Alert Level ‘Advisory’ and Aviation code ‘Orange’.  The most recent report indicated the monitoring systems identified 256 low intensity exhalations, one explosion, as well as 15 volcano-tectonic earthquakes with magnitudes between 1.5 and 2.5.

During the night, no incandescence was noticed on the crater and since the morning of this Wednesday the volcano has been observed with a weak emission of water vapor and gas.

From dawn and up to the time of this report the volcano has been seen with a weak emission of steam and gas. NCDP emphasizes that people ‘Should Not’ go near the volcano, especially near the crater, due to the hazard caused by ballistic fragments.

The scenarios foreseen for this phase are:

Explosive activity of low to intermediate level – Ash fall in nearby towns – Possibility of short range pyroclastic flows and mudflows.

Special emphasis is placed on the following recommendations:

Continue the safety radius of 12 km, so staying in that area is not allowed – Keep the controlled traffic between Santiago Xalitzintla and San Pedro Nexapa through Paso de Cortés – Civil Protection authorities, keep your preventive procedures, in accordance with their operational plans – People, be alert to the official information disseminated.

In case of ashfall, address the following recommendations:

Cover nose and mouth with a wet handkerchief or face mask – Clean eyes and throat with pure water – Avoid contact lenses to reduce eye irritation – Close windows or cover them up, and stay indoors as much as possible.

Popocatepetl Volcano monitoring is performed continuously 24 hours a day. Any change in activity will be reported in due course.

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Bali’s Mt. Agung Volcano Threatens to Erupt

A marked increase in the number of earthquakes happening below Mount Agung volcano in eastern Bali, Indonesia, over the past few weeks has authorities keeping a close watch on the situation. Stopping just short of calling for evacuations, the latest alert issued by the national and local government agencies now forbids climbing of the mountain and orders evacuations within 7.5 km of the summit.

Although infrequent, eruptions of Mt Agung have been among the largest of the past 100 years of global volcanic activity. More than 1,000 people died during the last eruption in 1963.

Our ability to predict eruptions has improved dramatically since this last event, so we can hope such a death toll will not occur again.

Mt. Agung is one of many similar volcanoes in Indonesia and the Ring of Fire surrounding the Pacific and eastern Indian oceans. But during its sporadic eruptions, Agung has been one of the most prominent injectors of volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

This type of activity can have effects that are more widely felt than by just the population of Bali.

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Earthquakes on the Rise Near Yellowstone Supervolcano

Recent data from the University of Utah shows the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park has seen a spike in earthquakes. Miles underneath the park sits one of the world’s largest volcanoes, known as the Yellowstone super volcano.

According to FOX31’s sister station, there have been 1,200 earthquakes in the park since the beginning of June. Jamie Farrell, Research Professor of Seismology at the University of Utah, says this is a large swarm, but adds the activity is otherwise pretty normal for the volcanic area.

“We get a lot of calls as to whether people should cancel plans to go to Yellowstone and the answer is decisively no,” he said. “This is how volcanoes act, and it’s pretty normal.”

Researchers say that there are typically between 1,500 and 2,000 earthquakes a year in Yellowstone.

 

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Science Of Cycles Multi-Disaster Relief Initiative

Be a part of Science Of Cycles Multi-Disaster Relief Initiative. Lets come together and help those who need a helping hand. Notice I did not specify a hurricane name, why? Because there is more than Harvey and Irma heading our way. The banner is set up for you to be able to place any amount you wish.   Cheers, Mitch