Friday Flotsam: FOX News kills the dinosaur with coal, Hawaiian lava flows and Turrialba update

The weekend! No updates until next Tuesday - I'll be off to give a talk at Western Michigan University.

Coal-erupting volcanoes defeat the Permian dinosaurs ... according to FOX News.


  • You know that mainstream media (FOXNews) must have done something appalling when even I can't write about it thanks to my seething rage. I'll let Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous and Ralph at the Volcanism Blog sum up how FOX News tried to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs (hint 1: it happened before dinosaurs even existed. hint 2: volcanoes erupt coal now).
  • After you've read about that miscarriage of the press, why not calm down by watching a lava flow in Hawai`i. It usually makes me feel better.
  • In other news, Costa Rica scientists don't expect big things from Turrialba, even with the 100+ years since the last eruption. Apparently they have spotted a number of new explosion craters in the main summit area but weather conditions have made it difficult to observe the volcano. UPDATE 2:30PM 1/8/2010 - Here is the official report from OVSICORI:

    A visit to the field on Jan 6th shed light about what happened between
    the night of Monday 5th and early hours of Wednesday 6th. At least two
    vents (between 20 and 30m wide) opened along the inner walls of W
    crater, to eject an unestimated volume of preexistent fine particles.
    A narrow plume (8x40 km) of sediments moved SW up to 40 kms reaching a
    small portion of the populated Central Valley where most Costarricans
    live. Thickness of deposits vary from few mm (near the summit) to a
    fine sheet after some 15 km away from the volcano. Granulometry of
    particles vary from 1mm, in the proximal area to micras, in the distal

    No juvenile material was found in the described deposits, on the
    contrary its color, shape and general aspect coincide with the
    openings in the upper summit. Strong degassing accompanied of
    fractionated material is intermittently expelled from the new vents as
    we write this report. Although the tremor signal decreased, compared
    to two preceding days, energy is enough to produce columns of several
    hundreds of meters above the summit.

    Fortunately nobody was hurt during the initial explosions and most of
    settlers, 3 kms around the volcano, got evacuated. Damage to crops,
    machinery and infrastructure has not been assessed although it is
    believed that it may increase if emissions persist.

    Sounds like these events were driven by hot water and no new magma was erupted.
    It appears that minor ash made it as far as 12 km to the north of Turrialba, but 20 km to the south, no one noticed anything related to the eruption. You can also see a map of the farm animals in peril around the volcano here.

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I've been looking at the deformation link at the Kilauea site regularly for about 4 months now, seeing how the laver flows match the DI events. Up till I suppose about 10 days ago it;s all been pretty regular, with a DI event every 2 or three days, with POC line pretty much mirroring the UWE line a couple of hours later.

In the last 10 days or so, the pattern seems rather different.

Am I mistaken about this, and, if not, how is the change to be interpreted?

I ask as an entirely lay person, though with a long term interest in earth sciences.

David B

I am an "armchair" geology type, too. I haven't been watching the DI events, but I check the web cams on a daily basis. The latest ones are really cool. I do believe there are some changes that are going on with the eruption. The Halema`uma`u crater has a collapse pit in it now, that I am sure you are aware of, and it is much deeper than it was. The pit was only about 300'+ deep and now it is almost 1000'. The lava has been roiling and spattering, and things have changed there. The Waikupanaha ocean entry was stopped for a time and right now I don't know if it has resummed. With lava flowing from both Puu`O`O and Halema`uma`u, there are bound to be changes at some time. I still think Halema`uma`u will fountain at some point, especially if the TEB channel gets plugged for some reason. Of course, if it does, there will most likely be a breakout in another spot and Puu`O`O could do more than just fume. (Erik, it could be fuming because of all the drabble the media feeds us. Tehe!)

If the peramiters are changing, then something is afoot, I would think. Thanks for the info, David. I just might start monitoring the DI data myself. It could get interesting.

I've been wondering if the recent couple of days without lava in the tubes have led to a blockage or partial blockage,because, volcano nerd that I am, I've also started regularly looking at the goes west kilauea satellite updates.

And today there has been helluva lot of white up above the top of the pali, as far as I can tell.

David B

Kilauea has interested me for a while, well more mauna loa actually but she's gone er boring pmpl....

Joking aside, yes what wonderful changes, to have a lava source flowing and dropping into another in such close proximity might suggest two sources or more or even a very strong convection current further along the caldera.

For the tubes to be without lava for a while is mysterious and personally i'd like to see the lava well up a little before breaking out in another location. Maybe breaching the caldera as we see it.

With all the rockfalls, i think a blockage of some description is definately likely rather than a tube actually collapsing..

Every Volcano is straining for our attention since the introduction of the 'PLINY' Eriks fault for the increase in volcanic activity therefore....

By stephen tierney (not verified) on 08 Jan 2010 #permalink

Soufriere Hills wans to join the party as well. They had a eruption to 25,000 feet today and the ash plume is still visible as a shaped ash cloud around the island. I am thinking this might ahve been a partial dome colapse?

FVXX20 KNES 082241
DTG: 20100108/2241Z


PSN: N1642 W06210


SUMMIT ELEV: 3002 FT (915 M)

ADVISORY NR: 2010/036



OBS VA DTG: 08/2145Z

OBS VA CLD: SFC/FL250 N1656 W06159 - N1656 W06146
- N1625 W06153 - N1614 W06216 - N1628 W06216 -
N1643 W06207 - N1656 W06159 MOV E 5-10KT
SFC/FL150 N1717 W06253 - N1717 W06234 - N1628
W06217 - N1614 W06216 - N1626 W06329 - N1654
W06328 - N1717 W06253 MOV W 25-30KT SFC/FL100
N1752 W06559 - N1701 W06318 - N1651 W06329 -
N1704 W06607 - N1752 W06559 MOV W 20-25KT

FCST VA CLD +6HR: 09/0400Z SFC/FL250 N1649 W06135
- N1634 W06113 - N1548 W06147 - N1607 W06207 -
N1649 W06135 SFC/FL150 N1743 W06401 - N1714
W06232 - N1622 W06246 - N1646 W06417 - N1743

FCST VA CLD +12HR: 09/1000Z SFC/FL150 N1820
W06459 - N1738 W06344 - N1648 W06405 - N1720
W06527 - N1820 W06459 SFC/FL250 N1628 W06216 -
N1611 W06137 - N1528 W06159 - N1545 W06244 -
N1628 W06216

FCST VA CLD +18HR: 09/1600Z SFC/FL150 N1831
W06537 - N1745 W06407 - N1652 W06449 - N1731
W06609 - N1831 W06537 SFC/FL250 N1607 W06243 -
N1541 W06153 - N1502 W06228 - N1549 W06329 -
N1607 W06243



By Chance Metz (not verified) on 08 Jan 2010 #permalink

I am going to check the web cam tonight and see what it shows. It has been rather spectacular lately. I wish the would post more movies of the activity.

As for collapses, the perched channel that had the flows before the TEB collapsed and the channel is now rather deep. I can't remember what they said it was on the photo of it, but it was quite deep. A collapse could occur. It just depends on how deep the channel is in the first place. I think any area with a skylite is shallow enough to collapse. You never know what a lava tube will do. The collapse pit at the Halema`uma`u crater shows us that we don't always know how deep the flows are. I wish it would start fountaining at a safe distance so people can watch it. Kilauea Iki did that years ago and it was very spectacular.

BTW Stephen, I forgot a couple of volcanoes in the Bay Area that could do something if the conditions were right: MT Diablo and Mt. St. Helena. Not, not related to Mt. St. Helens. And there is Mt. Kenakti(sp?) at Clear Lake. CA has a lot of activity. After all, it is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. I still wouldn't want to live anywhere else. At least not right now. And the US is very cold right now in the mid-west. The south got it, too, and we had 14" of snow here a few weeks ago. Brrr!

I wonder which volcano is going to show itself next.

For some reason, I can't get to the site for Kilauea web cams. I will try later.

For everybody's interest, I checked on the Mammoth Mt. CO2 tree kill areas and there is more than one. The Horshoe Lake kill area produces 50-150 tons of CO2/day. That is just one of the areas on the mountain. The fluxuation is believed to be due to barimetric pressure changes. The area is very dangeous because there are some small collapes pits near trees and they advise people to not dig in the area and not let dogs dig, either. They warn people to not put their faces close to the ground. I think since this is just one volcano putting out that much CO2, how much are the others such as Mauna Loa and erupting volcanoes. A lot!

And this one is not even erupting at the time! Goes to show you the facts some choose to ignore or leave out on purpose.

I found this report on the MVO's website regarding the explosive event at Soufiere Hills today.

Explosion sends pyroclastic flows down Belham Valley
At 2:49 pm on Friday 8th January 2010 a large pyroclastic flow forming event occurred at Soufriere Hills volcano. A collapsing fountain of tephra, associated with ballistic fragments, was observed at the start of the event on the northeastern side of the volcano (very similar in character to those which occurred in Summer 1997). Large pyroclastic flows moved both to the northeast, down towards the old airport, to the northwest down Tyers Ghaut, and into the Belham Valley. These flows reached as far as approximately 300 m upstream of the Belham crossing. Pyroclastic flows also moved to the west towards Plymouth, although it is presently unclear whether they actually reached the sea. The event lasted about 11 minutes and seismicity returned to background levels rapidly. There was no precursory seismicity associated with the event. Only ashfall has been reported in inhabited areas on the northwestern side of the volcano.

By Chance Metz (not verified) on 08 Jan 2010 #permalink

Technically they may be right. Most of the dinosaurs drowned in the Flood. Some were upon the ark and mamanged to reporduce after they exited and became wild. Most of the rest were eventually wiped out by hunters (trophy hunters or food hunters) throughout the following centuries. Marco Polo reported seeing a Triceratops (that's not what he called it) when he visited China. Some skeptics claim he just saw elephants, but elephants are not brown and do not have three horns on their head.

By Piltdown man (not verified) on 08 Jan 2010 #permalink

Are somewhere like the Amazon rainforest. god knows what could be hiding in there we don't know about. of course this is all jsut fantsy right now,notihng has been proven yet but due to geographic isolation anything is possible.

By Chance Metz (not verified) on 08 Jan 2010 #permalink

From what I understand about Kilauea, the D/I events cause subtle changes in the plumbing. Deflation causes a slight contraction of the caldera and that is enough to cause a decrease in the amount of magma being supplied to Pu'u 'O'o and ultimately to the TEB shield and then on to the Pali and/or ocean entries.

To respond to Diane, in comment #8, Etna puts out roughly 20,000 (yes, twenty thousand) tons of CO2 per day (plus a few thousand tons of SO2 during quiescent periods, plus about 200,000 tons of water vapor). The CO2 and H2O are what drives Etna much more explosive than what one would expect from a basaltic volcano. It's actually what drives all explosive volcanism.
No comment on that FOX News "coal out of volcanoes" thing ...

Good to see fox news science reporting is maintaining the high standards of it's news and current affairs.

By passing by (not verified) on 08 Jan 2010 #permalink

I just came across this site giving information and photos regarding Kavachi volcano, in the Solomon islands ... it does not say when these photos were taken but I suppose recently (during the past couple of years). They show a small lava island (I'd guess a dome) growing and pyroclastic ejections, in part Surtseyan in part Strombolian. Quite unique, I had seen very few similar images of earlier eruptions of Kavachi, but these are really, really spectacular:

wow Boris, thanks for that link, they are really fantastic. Love the one of the guy in the water. Amazing how much (false) security a bit of water affords.

By bruce stout (not verified) on 09 Jan 2010 #permalink

Wow, Boris! I knew Etna produced a lot of CO2, but 20,000 tons a day?! Whew! And that is just one major volcano.

Thanks for the info and also the cool pictures of Kavachi. My DH and I just love to see what is going on. John Seach said in his report of the latest quake in the Solomons that Kavachi is right on the subduction area and has produced a number of islands. The quake was 40km from the volcano. If they have more close to it we can probably expect some activity.

BTW, as I was checking on Mammoth, some of the small quakes in the area were beneath the mountain itself. I just wonder what is going on there with so many. Most are under 1.0 mag. The lastest swarm is the second one I have seen so something is going on. One of the things they said is that there could be a large chamber of CO2 below the mountain and there is a crack in the area that is releasing some of the CO2. Anyway, I have been watching Long Valley for a long time; ever since they had ~2000 quakes/week in the resurgent dome area. That sure created a big party! I had to go over there and see the area. It is a very interesting place with a lot of things to see. There is one rock that is split and it is due to a fault. Right now I can't remember what they said about it, but you can walk through it and it is pretty neat. Lots of different domes and craters.

One of my favorite places in CA is Mt. Lassen. It is neat on top because there is several types of rock, mafic and otherwise. I wish I could have had time to explore up there. Oh well, at least I have been on top!

Funny thing...I read the academic paper quoted as a source by Faux News, and it doesn't say a thing about dinosaurs :o)
Or about coal-forming volcanoes. What it DOES say is that rapid weathering of Siberian Trap basalt might have produced silica-rich groundwater which precipitated fine-grained silica in the peat deposits which became the coal. Which is interesting -suggestive clues about acidic gases in the atmosphere at the PTB, for instance- (BTW they found euhedral zircons, Erik!) but not sexy enough for Fox, it seems.

Jeez, between Jinal last winter and Fox News now, us who are conservatives are getting a black eye...!

By damon hynes (not verified) on 09 Jan 2010 #permalink

I just stumbled across the main web page of Chile's Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), which I usually avoid (I bookmarked the reports page) - and found the links to a bunch of new web cams eyeing Llaima and Villarrica, which they've been citing in their recent reports. Just today (tonight in Chile) 10 January 2010, Villarrica shows a bright glow at its summit, marking the return of its little lava lake I suggest. Some recent unrest (plus a major snow avalanche) has been reported by POVI (
So here are the webcams (some do not work at this moment):
Llaima from Melipeuco
Llaima from Cherquenco
Llaima from Curacautin
Llaima Yarur webcam
Villarrica CVV webcam (that's currently the most spectacular image)
Villarrica from Llafenco
Villarrica from Pucon
Villarrica from Calafquen

I know I'm a little late in adding my comments but this particular article made a lot of sense to me and I enjoyed it. It was an absorbing article. I have become a frequent visitor to your blog since I came across your site a while back. I can't say that I agree with all you mentioned but it was definitely intriguing! I will return again soon.

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