Monday Musings

Does anyone else feel like this has been a rather quiet summer, volcano-wise? Maybe I've been too preoccupied by my move to Ohio, but I feel like beyond a few relatively minor events (Shiveluch comes to mind), the volcano news has been pretty slow compared to the spring of this year. Go figure.

The sulfur dioxide plume from the 2008 eruption of Kasatochi spreading over the northern Pacific Ocean.

Anyway, a few tidbits to tide us over:

  • Over eighteen years after the eruption, Mt. Pinatubo is still causing fatalities from the copious amounts of tephra deposited during the 1991 event. Five people died last week after mudflows near the vent of the volcano swept their jeeps away. They were part of a tourist group visiting the volcano and recent storms has swelled the rivers near the volcano. Blame is being thrown around by the local mayor and the Philippine Air Force, but the lesson here is that even when a volcano has been quiet for almost two decades, they are still hazardous places to visit.
  • Last summer at this time we were all excited about the unexpected eruption of Mt. Kasatochi in the Aleutians. That eruption was notable for the amount of sulfur dioxide released during the eruption and the devastation it wreaked upon the small island that the volcano calls home. The eruption wiped out most everything on the island (only animals and plants lived their permanently) and now a USGS/US Fish and Wildlife team will visit the island for the first time since the eruption to see how it is recovering. This is one of the few times that the colonization of an island after a major eruption can be directly observed.
  • For those of you looking for the volcanoes-and-society angle, the Guardian has a list of the top 10 volcano-related pieces of literature. I'm not entirely sure how it was compiled it and why but it does have the classics like Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Last Days of Pompeii. Anything you notice as conspicuously missing?

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Ah, the hazards of volcano tourism. I was in the region about 1 year after the eruption of Pinatubo; there was a vast dessert of gray sand (with a few dead tree trunks poking out of the sand). The sand seemed to have enough minerals needed by plants though; the people in the nearby villages had beautiful vegetables growing in the sand. I didn't have time to walk up to the crater though. There was a gorgeous crystal clear lake which wasn't on my map; the locals pointed out that it used to be a river which was dammed by the eruption. Sure enough you could see dead coconut trees, houses, and even TV antennae at the bottom of the lake. I saw something on the news a few years ago about plans to blast the side of the crater lake and drain it because it was likely to breach on its own; I have no idea if that work was done or if a giant reservoir is still threatening everyone downstream.

The guardian seems to be missing non-fiction books on volcanoes. Screw Pompeii, what about Tambora? Now there was a big bang. :)

By MadScientist (not verified) on 10 Aug 2009 #permalink

The Guardian is missing any info about volcanoes and climate cooling. Examples include Tambora, Krakatoa, Novarupta, & Pinatubo. But that would make fun of the cool kids. Al Gore and Michael Moore spring to mind. All the news that's fit to censor.

I think the Guardian article related to volcano-related fiction. I'd like to add a couple: First, 'The Angry Mountain' by Hammond Innes. Straightforward thriller by a well-known author in the genre, the climax uses the 1944 eruption of Vesuvius as a backdrop/plot device.
Second, 'The Sleeping Mountain' by John Harris, ties in political corruption in Italy with the eruption of fictional 'Mont' Amarea' (geographically located about the position of Stromboli!). Volcanology pretty well researched, although one descriptive passage is borrowed almost word-for-word from (I believe) one of Tazieff's books.
Volcano disaster novels are almost a genre in themselves, most of them dire. But I did quite like 'Fire Mountain' by Janet McCullen-Tanaka (these book titles do have a certain lack of originality) about a paroxysmal eruption of Rainier; author was working on hazard-management at Rainier when she wrote it, which gave the book a certain credibility.

How about Mary Renault's 1958 historical novel of ancient Greece, "The King Must Die"? It documented the destruction of the Minoan civilization by the eruption of Thera, as seen through the eyes of the Greek mythological hero, Theseus.

Kinda doubt it's volcanic ash, but we got a bit of an unusual AOD signature not too far from Shishaldin (code yellow). Not seeing a fire source for the smoke. NOAA Hazard Mapping System, Smoke and Fire imaging.

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