Friday Flotsam: Visit Pompeii from home, National Geographic and the weekly Volcano Watch from Hawai`i

Its already Friday!


Print of the Temple of Jupiter at Pompeii with a steaming Vesuvius in the background.

  • You can now wander down the streets of ancient Pompeii from the comfort of your own home or office. Google Streetview now cover the streets of the city wiped out by the 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius in Italy. Now, some of the articles on the Pompeii streetview give lipservice to the current threat of Vesuvius to the modern city of Naples, my favorite being:

    The authorities continually monitor Vesuvius these days, and estimate they'll be able to give adequate warning if it's ever in danger of erupting again.

    Nothing like a good and vague statement about all the monitoring and mitigation around Naples.

  • You might have noticed an announcement today that ScienceBlogs and National Geographic have now teamed up. Look for a lot more cross-pollination between the two - you can read all about it on Page 3.14.
  • I don't know about you, but I am getting awfully fond of Hawai`i 24/7's Volcano Watch series, brought to us by the scientists at HVO. This week's article talks about volcano awareness around Hawai`i. There was also some other Hawaiian volcano news this week as the federal government declared a disaster for areas affected by vog. The vog has severely challenged plant growers near Kilauea since the sulfur dioxide emissions have risen over the last few years. They will now be eligible for federal money/loans to help mitigate against the vog.

More like this

At least Google streetview of Pompeii won't be getting any complaints from the inhabitants about invasion of privacy :o)

Right at the tail end of an otherwise decent news article on Toba:

Although humans survived the event, researchers have detected increasing activity underneath a caldera at Yellowstone National Park, where some suspect another supervolcanic eruption will eventually take place. Though not expected to occur anytime soon, a Yellowstone eruption could coat half the United States in a layer of ash up to 3 feet (1 meter) deep.

Now if they'd have said "Though not expected to occur anytime soon, Yellowstone has in past eruptions coated half the US in a layer of ash averaging 3 feet in depth. " they'd have been accurate and frankly more menacing.

You guys are making me all sensitive to such things.

There is another caldera to watch: Long Valley. There is ash in Nebraska from the last major eruption there. In the mid '90s, it had just about everybodies attention because of the resurgent dome. There were thousands of quakes at the dome and it is right by Hwy 395. Right now it is quiet again and most of the quakes are south of the caldera and are not much to get excited about.

The Mammoth swarm had the USGS awake and there has been a swarm at Lassen also in an area just southwest of the mountain. At some time, any of the Cascades could go, too. It was just a few years ago they found the inflation at Sisters.

So we will see where the next one goes off and hope it doesn't happen in a heavily populated area. But that seems to be where they are. I think there will be more volcanoes that will erupt or start to get restless that haven't had historic eruptions such as Chaiten. Scarry thought, but facinating, too.

Any chance that these vogs in Hawaii might effect the readings of CO2 that have been being recorded for the last few decades atop the nearby volcano, is there?

I am not sure how close Mauna Loa is to Kilauea and Puu OO craters, but I suppose if the wind blew in the direction of Mauna Loa, it could affect the CO2 readings. However, the distance would be a factor as to how much it would affect the readings.

The crater in the Kilauea caldera is putting out about 800 tonnes of SO2/day and Puu OO is putting out about 700. I am not sure of the CO2. That is a lot of stuff and at one time, the crater in the caldera was putting out 2300.

I can see where the vog would really upset the growers over there because it is nasty stuff. At Lassen Park by the road is a fumerol that smells like rotten eggs.

Anyway, that is my idea and I am sure there are those of you who know a lot more.

At Masaya (Nicaragua) local farmers -coffee, mostly- have had a long-standing problem with SO2 emissions from the crater, sometimes sustained over a period of years. One proposed solution was to spread (or spray) lime..which is alkaline, and would in theory neutralise the acid. Chemically sound, but not proceeded with because, I believe, it was too expensive to treat a large area (anyone got a reference?)

According to the Coffee Blog (which was sadly discontinued last yr) they didnt get much damage around Kona from VOG as long as it rained regularly. The intermittant ash was better than fertilizer. I havent heard how the Kona harvest is this year.

What worries me about calderas is the possibility that the truly large ones wont give nearly the length or quality of warning that the smaller ones have gotten us accustomed to. Can we really be sure that Yellowstone hasnt already been giving us 100 years of warning?

I don't think Yellowstone will really give us much of a warning. And I don't believe we have a 100yr warning either. There is activity and we will be seeing that a lot. Any place that has that many gysers a very active area. It remains to be seen how much the north end of the lake will rise and, for the moment, it is not doing much.

BTW, I checked out how many quakes are at Mammoth earlier today and in the last week there were 27 quakes; all small and probably techtonic. It picked up in the last couple of days.

My big concern is that there will be a 6 or 6.5 quake under Yellowstone, the Park Rangers will discover to their horror the next morning that the lake has completely drained, and we'll get about 24 hours warning of an enormous eruption.
Highly unlikely, but still morbidly fascinating.

Wouldnt be the first time there has been a 6.5+ quake at yellowstone, however if you live like that Fitz, living in concern about a possible event then your not living to your potential, all you are doing is focussing on negatives.

I would put the possible eruption of yellowstone at Not in our lifetime, so relax and enjoy your life :)

As for quakes in Yellowstone, there was a major one in 1959 and my DH was just about half a mile from the slide in Hegben Canyon that took out the town. That quake was just out of West Yellowstone and was a 7+. I had been in the area with my family and we had just left Yellowstone before it happened. Yes, it was a major quake and it affected the geysers and Old Faithful has not been as faithful since. It is a bit harder to predict now, but they do a pretty good job of it. Also, I have been there a few years ago and there is another geyser in the area of Old Faithful that goes off at the same time. It was not doing that before. Also, Old Faithful doesn't go as high as it used to.

I don't worry about Yellowstone at all. It is a beautiful place and had recovered very well from the fires of 1988.
I am more concerned for SF than Yellowstone, but I am not worrying about it. I like to monitor what is happening because I like to see what is going on and I find it all facinating. I have felt a lot of quakes and they don't bother me much unless they do damage. There was one that woke me up at 5:30am once, I heard it, it moved up and down, and it put seven hairline cracks in the foundation of the house I was living in at the time. It was a 5+ south of Long Valley and it did some weird things. You could see how the side walk had shifted in a twisting motion and where the driveway came to the garage was offset. I had a rectangular bucket on the porch that shifted lengthwise to the direction the quake came from. We actually felt it more than those who were closest to the epicenter.

Do I worry about quakes? No!

I think we don't need to worry about something we have no control over and enjoy what we have and the beauty that is around us. If you live in the city, get out in the country once in a while. It really does a body good.

How does one mitigate against VOG? I can think of something like:

(1) set up VOG sensors
(2) set up chemical sprinklers to spray sodium bicarbonate/urea/ammonium chloride in proportion to the VOG

Aside from that, there's nothing to do but pack up and move. The volcano can put out a hell of a lot of SO2 over the years.

@Diane: Although there's no point worrying, monitoring is essential (especially in the case of volcanoes). At least for fairly low population areas evacuation can be effective. For a densely populated area like Napoli there is no doubt that the casualties will be very high if Vesuvius were to go whacky again. In the case of cities and earthquakes, Japan much more so than the US has buildings built to withstand quite severe shocks. Unfortunately, earthquakes give far less warning than volcanoes so at this point in time no one can claim to be able to evacuate before a major earthquake. Funny - a few months ago a friend of mine felt her first earthquake and was telling me about it "everything is shaking!". "It's just an earthquake" I said. "You seem awfully calm about it." she says. "Of course," I say, "I'm not the least bit threatened, the epicenter is nowhere near me".

By MadScientist (not verified) on 06 Dec 2009 #permalink


The SO2 emissions are at very low altitudes and the SO2 is quickly converted to sulfuric acid and drops out of the atmosphere. The CO2 measurements are made partway up Mauna Loa at the meteorological observatory (MLO), site location 3397m amsl. I doubt the SO2 ever gets there in measurable amounts (and it is very easy to measure). Even if it did, it wouldn't affect the CO2 measurements at all. Come to think of it, you would need very unusual meteorological conditions at Hawaii to bring the SO2 up to the MLO. The OMI in orbit might be able to detect the extent of the SO2 plume on its daylight passes so you can use OMI images to see if any significant amount of SO2 arrives at the MLO - well, that is assuming that someone processes the OMI data for SO2 rather than ozone.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 06 Dec 2009 #permalink

@doug: Perhaps I should have written the *current* SO2 emissions. Mauna Loa itself can erupt as well. I don't know anything more of that particular volcano so I can't comment on typical gases released when Mauna Loa erupts. Otherwise the greatest problem with VOG is with vents like Puu-O'o which are barely above sea level and typically vent SO2 many times a day, if not continuously.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 06 Dec 2009 #permalink

@MadScientist: I heartlily agree that these volcanoes need to be monitored. I did not mean to indicate that we did not need to. The eruption of Mt. St. Helens is a good example of being able to predict the eminence of disaster. The USGS did a pretty good job of that. Still there were lives lost and that is the sad part.

I check the sites for what is happening every day and I appreciate all the sensors out there that tell us something about what is happening. The more instruments we can get out there the better.

I just didn't want anybody to get scared about it. And we all probably get a little nervous when a quake happens and we feel it. I hope we don't get too complacent about it either.

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