Friday Flotsam: Plume images and a restless (?) North Korean volcano

This week went fast, didn't it?

The Baekdu caldera along the North Korean/Chinese border.

  • The NASA Earth Observatory have been giving us a steady diet of volcanic plumes over the last week, including PNG's Ulawun, Russia's Sarychev Peak (a very faint plume), both an ASTER and Terra image of the summit region at Kliuchevskoi and finally a mix of plume and clouds over PNG's Manam volcano.
  • I wanted to also mention a brief article I ran into on the Changbaishan/Baekdu caldera along the Chinese and North Korean border. Although short on specifics, this article mentions a number of interesting (and potentially odd/wrong) things: (1) Baekdu is showing signs of "becoming active" - this is the first I've heard of that, but the article does mention increased seismicity, inflation of 10 cm since 2002 and an increase in surface temperature; (2) the North Korean government is creating "comprehensive countermeasures" in case of an eruption - I have no idea what this means, it almost suggests they want to come up with ways to stop the eruption, which is ridiculous; (3) that the recent North Korean underground nuclear test might have had an effect on the magmatic system at Baekdu - and this strikes me as 100% pure speculation. The volcano has a caldera lake at the top, known to the Chinese as the "Lake of Heaven" and a Korean-speaking population living around the edifice. If Baekdu were to erupt, it would be a very large problem for North Korea's already teetering economy and government - the eruptions tends to be explosive with the last coming in 1903. However, Baekdu/Changbaishan did likely produce a VEI 7 eruption ~1000 A.D., meaning any activity at the volcano should be closely monitored (which could be difficult with its location on the Chinese-North Korean border).

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Hi Erik,

i just took a look on Google Earth at the Changbaishan/ Baekdu caldera.Its a monster,thats for sure. Could be another case for media speculation though?.

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink


Big smoke vent alongside the old lake on Thoro cam !

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

And there is at least one more "plume" to the right of that one !

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Umm,im not so sure now,sorry(Gets back under his rock...)

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Could Baekdu produce another minor eruption? Yeah, no question. Will it produce another monster eruption?

Not very likely.

'Comprehensive countermeasures' probably refers to evacuating the affected population, presuming there actually *are* emergency plans in place for an eruption response.

The North Koreans, true to form, have heavily deforested their side of the mountain, which has caused erosion and probably affords a more significant risk to the locals than danger from a large and aggressive eruption.

@Birgit, last thread, cool micrographs. I like the one with "7" on it, too. Another one I like a lot is the one that has all the holes in it filled with tiny "boulders".

I have a quick question for you. Did you have time to answer my questions on the thread where you posted your first pics? If you did, I missed it.

When I took EM, I liked the scanning EM the best. I had some fun with that one.

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

On the Thoro cam, I think I see a water fall to the right of Gig glacier. Can anyone confirm? It is a bit of a distance from it , but it sure looks like one. It could be just a ribbon of ice, but I think it is a water fall.

I have also noticed a different area of water coming into the river to the right also. Not much right now, but here is a channel there. Has it always been there and I just didn't see it, or is it a new feature?

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

OOPS! I was referring to the small ribbon to the right of Gig almost level with the spot of ice in the crevice, not the larger obvious water fall further to the right.

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Hi Diane,

Yes,I concur with you there.The water flow (stream or larger) from the right has been there for about two weeks.The waterfall I first spotted two or three days ago.

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Baekdu is in an odd location for a volcano..what's the explanation?

What does anyone make of the light at the back of the lake area on Thoro cam ? Just to the left of the main cleft/split.

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Great time for the Flir cam to still be down !

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

@ #12 I see it too, it's really weird? If it was lava would it not be more black and smouldering, rather than bright and fire like? Probably some simple explanation though? The picture quality doesnt help though, the constant refocusing of the camera really plays tricks with the eyes!
I'm no expert here, just an Eruptions blog addict watching/waiting for some new developments!

By Marginata (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

@15 Marginata,

Its been there pretty well all day.At first I thought that it was sunlight reflected off of a section of ice.Now im not so sure.The light is very poor now but the thing is that that area is pretty big in real life.

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

@#8-#10, #12, #15: Sorry, folks, I think you are seeing things that just aren't there.

The two white spots in the Thórólfsfell picture of the glacier are, as far as I can fathom, freshly-revealed, clean ice: a bit of the ice has collapsed there. I don't see any waterfalls, they would move, and there is no movement visible. (not counting steam, clouds, birds, cars and planes.)

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

@ Adrian
I havent been watching all day, but know exactly what you mean about the sunlight, it can really play tricks with the eye. The bright light is still visible though, even through the gloom and it must be quite big, given that cliff face is maybe a couple hundred feet high (maybe?). I also thought that there was a lot more water at the bottom of the glacier, but maybe that could be a trick of the light.
I'm totally intrigued does no one have any suggestions?

By marginata (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Gawd I hate getting distracted by wandering thoughts.

Baekdu is â75 miles from Nuke Test #2. Reportedly, this was stronger than test #1 about 3 years earlier... though no radionuclides were detected. This has led some (including me) to the possibility that it was a faked nuke. North Korea produces quite a bit of Ammonium Nitrate for use in farming. If you remember, there was a train disaster there a few years ago was most likely a batch of this stuff going up. In mining, explosive shots (ANFO) are fired in a sequence in order to direct the shock wave and get a better fracture of the rock. A side benefit is that this keeps the mining blasts from being mistaken as nuclear tests on the seismographs. Boring a hole and dumping one massive charge of ANFO down there it not something that I would count out... though there is no evidence that that happened. It's pure conjecture on my part.

Either way, the USGS measured whatever it was at about Mag 4.7

This leads me to the distraction.

On April 05, 2010, a mine disaster/explosion occurred in West Virginia. News debris from that event still pops up now and then. The high levels of noxious and explosive gases hampered rescue and recovery operations, and most recently the news spit out the hairball about there being a "crack" in the mine that was the likely source of gas. Okay... if they say so. One thing the "news" never elaborated on, or even mentioned was that on the day before the explosion, 09:19:14 UTC on April 04, there was a Mag 3.4 quake (38.599°N, 80.916°W) This is 58 miles from the mine incident.. and the (poorly constrained) depth was above the level that the miners were operating at.

I'm not saying that the quake caused the disaster, just that the equiv energy was about 125.9 tons of TNT, or 7,943 mJ. This is about 1/10th of Hiroshima blast. That was the amount of stress those coal seams and rocks were under... squeezing out the gas.

But.. that was not the distraction.

I did a Joule/mile comparison between the W VA mine and Quake, and the NK blast to Volcano distance. I'm not real sure about the energy dissipation of rock, but if you use a linear relationship, the volcano felt 68 times the energy that the mine felt from the VA Quake. If you use an R square relationship, it's 58 times the energy... pick whichever one you think is the best fit.

Either way, not a whole lot of energy got to the piping of the volcano.

Uhh, I commented on this here briefly. I also contacted and suggested to the Mine Owners that there may be more to the failure than meets the eye, in that the surficial quake (at near ground level) that occurred the day before had the potential to cause a fault rupture and discharge/vent gas into the mine at a much faster rate than could be removed, especially give the faulty ventilation system (for which the firm had been found in violation, several times).

I believe the cause of the quake (in a relatively low EQ probability setting) to be climate related, specifically, rainfall related. Of course, the company never responded.

Their loss, not mine.

Did the 'nuclear test' set off the volcano? I concur with your back-of-the-envelope estimates.


What is probable, is that climate is playing a role in disturbance in the northern latitudes.

For a potential answer, we need to look at a trends that has been evaluated quite a few times by many reputable research groups.

A paper that addresses some of the result variability appeared in the journal Nature on May 20.

Robust warming of the global upper ocean. There is a figure in that paper that we want for purposes of our discussion here.

Figure 2: OHCA curves (upper ocean-heat content anomalies), 1993-2010.…

Study this one carefully. Think about the patterns of activity in Iceland in the same time period.

I believe you have been party to our technical discussions on cause. I've discussed at length upper ocean heating and current transfer of that heat to air in the temperate coastal maritime environment of South Iceland, and its effect on glacier recession.

Our Eyjaf's glacier has been the most affected by glacier recession.

Now, the idea here is that this glacier thinning and outlet recession (very vivid photos have been posted here by others) has displaced many thouands of millions of tons of water from the icecap to the surrounding environment in the flood plains over a very short time period. It can and does exert a large force potential on a very dynamical force-couple and moment (horizontal plane pivot from the coastal land mass being sqeeeezed between expanding MAR relict limb and Reykjanes peninsula/WVZ interface) system that Eyjaf sits on, with respect to the SISZ and southern terminus of the EVZ/interplate region.

Thinning of the icecaps and rebound is one of several complex mechanisms in action here in the eruption of Eyjaf, and they have a common source.

Brought forward from earlier thread in the hopes that someone might be able to answer:

On the charts at

will the upper-limit on the chart (specifically the North chart) be adjusted if inflation increases beyond +20? After staring at it for so long, this is the first time I've noticed the reading this high.

Thanks in advance.

Also, FWIW I too thought the white on the right of the Thoro cam was a waterfall for the past few days.

By Princess Frito (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

There have been two deep earthquakes in this are over the past few months. Both of them where at the depth of +500km or more (I don't remember).

It might well be that this volcano is becoming active. But don't count on North Korea telling you that it is.

@Princess Frito

Yes, the scale will be adjusted when needed; on the same page there's the vertical movement plot that's +/-60 millimeters, which, I'm sure, started with a smaller scale.

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Thank you kindly Kultsi.

I did notice the different scale of +/-60 for the "Up" but (and my memory might be failing me) I don't ever remember seeing the upper limit of +20 for the North and East scales adjusted higher when readings got close to it but then I've never seen the top of the little black bars go beyond +20 until last night.

Thanks again for your response. I'll keep an eye on it :)

By Princess Frito (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

@Diane #8
"On the Thoro cam, I think I see a water fall to the right of Gig glacier. Can anyone confirm?"
I have noticed that too, earlier today, and now it's still quite visible.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Any comments on EQs and tremor plots under Eyjaf today?
Weel, guys, I must hit the bed now. Be back tomorrow!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

A last look at Thóro cam and I notice a tiny eruption at the crater ...

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Sorry. Looking better I can see these are cliffs behind the regular steaming that looked like lumps of tephra. Good night everyone!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Wow, just back from a trip to southern Calif and there is so much catch-up to do here. Juicy material, thanks all! Incidentally, my host there felt the two recent desert quakes as gentle swaying but felt none of the aftershocks. Having grown up on the west coast, I experienced many smaller quakes and several big ones, including the Northridge quake in CA (as a kid) and Nisqually in WA. I also rode out the 1996 quake in the Kingdome, right after Edgar's home run. All this quake talk has me checking my earthquake insurance policy (I do have one). Calling my agent Monday to update my insured value. It's too low. Back to catching up...

By Carla - Seattle (not verified) on 18 Jun 2010 #permalink

Sorry Diane, i must have missed your question on the earlier thread. Could you ask again, please?

@ JulesP[33]

Odd. Any connection to massive aquifer usage? I know that they have an issue with water availability in some areas.

Shift the water table in the right geological settings and you get sinkholes.

I know that some areas of China have had prolonged and severe drought conidtions over the last couple of years, especially mongolia, so your suggestion makes sense. They must have been tapping deep water reserves to keep irrigation and water supply going.

hi me again just looking at Greg on the Bp oil spill on the live link that not good.Been looking through North Altantic logbook live journal by Michaelix,Can Jonkulhlaup debris cause undersea landslipes if Katla erupted.What are the odds on this? and if so do the governments know bout this?As media only pointed out ash risks fallout and Tempature fall on the climate for a year or so,But no mention this.

Off topic, but would be very interested in people's thoughts:

"L'Aquila, June 3 - Experts who told L'Aquila city officials there was no risk of an earthquake six days before last year's catastrophic quake are under investigation for gross negligent manslaughter, prosecutors said Tuesday."…

The gist of it seems to be that because the experts said that a series of small quakes didn't necessarily mean that a large one was on the way, that they are culpable for the fact that many people did not leave their houses six days later when the big quake struck, and are thus responsible for the death of 300 people.

That seems like a stretch to me. I've read a little bit about how it's possible to map stress shifting through well understood fault systems, as in Turkey, but not that it's possible to predict the timing of a quake. For less well understood systems (and I don't know how well understood this faultline was) it must be pretty hard to be able to say what's coming.

Reminds me of volcano prediction, where some people seem to expect scientists to magically produce a date and time of eruption.

What I worry about - in addition to the future that these scientists face - is the chilling effect it might well have on research in EQ/volcano prediction in Italy.

@40 Hi Suw! It strikes me that that sort of 'it's their fault' thinking also goes along with the idea that someone could 'do something' about Eyja's ashfall...serious lack of general public basic scientific knowledge about their own surroundings. Some people ready to capitalize on the 'opportunity' provided. Schools should teach not only science 'mechanisms' but realistic views of our only-too-human ability to predict anything. We are able gain inklings but not necessarily hard-and-fast truths.

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 19 Jun 2010 #permalink

RE (#37): The last two eruptions in Katla following eruptions in Eyjafjallajökull was rather small as far as I know. ;)

"Probabilistic model for eruptions and associated flood events in the Katla caldera, Iceland"…

"Postglacial lava production in Iceland"

"Volcanic hazards in Iceland"…

i dont agree with any1 being charge for any natural event anywere in the world were human life has died we can not prevent or stop every think that can happen.If anythink maybe up scale the square radius to the earthquake area so includes a larger area going to have to go with the experts on this one and Suw comment prosecutors should drop this all together

Whats going on with the tremor plots? Increased activity overnite....

RE (#37): The last two eruptions in Katla following eruptions in Eyjafjallajökull was rather small. ;)

"Probabilistic model for eruptions and associated flood events in the Katla caldera, Iceland"

"Postglacial lava production in Iceland"

"Volcanic hazards in Iceland"

@ Adrian Thankx for the link I did compare and I realize that the activity we are seeing now is way down compared to before. I tend to watch the smaller daily changes right now and they are increasing almost a sine wave until todays activity which is the highest of late on the graph

@47 Renee,

Hi,yes,todays activity has been high and there has been a small rise in the number of Quakes in the vicinity.

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 19 Jun 2010 #permalink

@suw: local officials are seeking a legal scapegoat for blame. The hazard map is the tool they should have used, not simply checking views of geologists.

But more importantly, the level of damage sustained and loss of life reflect the degree of earthquake preparedness, especially in enforcement of building codes.

Historical seismicity 10-year map, USGS, for the quake.

Italy is one of the most earthquake prone nations in the world. The investigation is assinine and officials are making fools of themselves.

There is no shortage of geotechnical and civil engineering specialists who would back a counter-investigation, of civil authority culpability for failure to anticipate the eventuality of a damaging quake and lack of code enforcement to prevent loss of life and property damage, with aggravating factors in the underlying geology of the city that magnified risk disproportionately to the surrounding area.

From the wikipedia page:

'Earthquakes mark the history of L'Aquila, a city built on the bed of an ancient lake, providing a soil structure that *amplifies seismic waves*.

Second aggravating factor: \'According to firefighters and other rescuers, some concrete elements of the fallen buildings "seemed to have been made poorly, possibly with sand"'

Historical evidence of exceptional susceptibility:
The city was struck by earthquakes in 1315, 1349, 1452, 1501, 1646, 1703, and 1706. The earthquake of February 1703, which caused devastation across much of central Italy, largely destroyed the city and killed around 5,000 people.'

'The main earthquake was preceded by two smaller earthquakes the previous day.'

The crux of the issue is that small slip movements were hinting at accumulated stress that had not been relieved for hundreds of years in the complex fault system in this region.

It would be next to impossible to accurately forecast the date and time of fault rupture. Even if an accurate forecast were made, the nature of the sediment base is such that, even when people are out-of-doors, they may be subject to serious injury or death from falling debris, ground ruptures or landslides.

The geophysical community would be HAPPY to explain principles of liquifation physics and risk to local officials and prosecutors in terms even simpletons can comprehend.

The Italian experts under scrutiny need only reach out to their colleagues in Seattle for supportive testimony.

Birgit #34 I don't remember all of it, but here goes.

I was wondering what you coated the ash with to prevent charging. When I took EM, we were mostly using carbon arcs in the vacuum evaporator. I know things are way more advanced now than when I took the course to be a tech. We also used germanium and one other metal that I don't remember what it was. I also want to know if you were using secondary or another of the ways you can use to get the micrographs. When takeing EM we uses secondary and backscatter and we did some x-ray anaysis also. A friend of mine gave me a piece of metal for my rock & mineral collection and when I put it in the scope, it turned out to be strontium. That blew me away.

It has been a long time since I took EM and I never did get a job as a tech. I came close, but now I am glad in a way I didn't get one. The chemicals in the lab were not exactly what I needed to be around.

I have a funny story about what someone did at UC Berkely. There was a PhD person that wanted to look at a frog. He stuck the entire frog into the scanner and, well, you can imagine what happened then. What a mess that must have been!

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 19 Jun 2010 #permalink

The Cenapred webcam for Popo is showing steady steaming activity this morning.

@35, 36 - On the Chinese sinkholes: not drought, but heavy rains, in karst areas with a notable history of mining activity.

Refereence: The formation of sinkholes in karst mining areas in China and some methods of prevention. Zhou Wanfang Environmental Geology May 1997. Second paper in March 1999, same title, with Li Gongyu, Engineering Geology vol 52.

The three factors identified by the author(s) in the formation of China sinkholes in these metals and coal mining areas are: the presence of caves in karst formations, thin overlying soil strata (highly permeable substrate), and recent water activity (flooding, suction).

@MJKBK, we are probably not hearing about it because it isn't important enough yet to the media. It isn't a disaster, you see. And right now most of the media stuff is either on the gulf oil disaster or the World Cup. I think it is so stupid to charge people for something they had no hand in. Some people are just not thinking here. It is the blame game again and I doubt they will listen to anybody. I hope I am wrong about that, but Italy is what it is: Burlisconiland.

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 19 Jun 2010 #permalink

@ Greg[38]

A wider link that gets you access to all of the bot video feeds is:

My Fav are the Skandi Neptune ROVs. They provide a N: and E: coordinate set. It took a while to figure it out, but a friend and I puzzled over it and came to the conclusion that it reads in feet. The equator (according to Google Earth) is ROUGHLY 10419719.52 feet from the site. The site position was derived from a planning chart overlaid on Google Earth and the actual position is only as good as my eye/hand coordination. However, it was good enough to show that the N: value is probably reference to the Equator. The E: coordinate was more tricky. Underwater navigation is usually accomplished by setting up an acoustic array that is geo-referenced by the controlling unit. Best I could figure, this was somewhere around 92° West Longitude. This makes sense, since that cuts roughly though the middle of active oil field region of the GOM. It still adds a lot of ambiguity for the casual observer when trying to figure out where the Bots are at on the seafloor.

With patience comes rewards. I caught one of Skandi Neptune's ROV's in the handling bay on the ship being hosed down and looked at. At that moment in time, showed Skandi Neptune at 28.738770° -88.368900°. Bingo. A second fix that logically fit with a previous ROV/Skandi Neptune observation. The coordinates from Marinetraffic are the ones that come in via an automatic system that the ship's nav system broadcasts.

So.. with that, and working out the coordinates using an Earth Radius of 20855487.84 feet... (converted from Wikipedia) I was able to put this chart together:


Indeed, we're thinking of a more direct approach: frontal assault.

Additional perspective of the issues is warranted here.

Excellent seismic perspective, in a recent article with risk evaluation: 2009 L'Aquila Earthquake (Central Italy): an InSAR source mechanism and implications for seismic hazard.

A tiny fraction of the existing structures in Italy meet Eurozone requirements for earthquake proofing. Italy does not require retrofitting of existing structures to code, even when modification permits for structural upgrades are made. There are issues of substantial cost and legal requirements to meet 'code' in new versus updating existing structures.

Low-cost, innovative partial-retrofit measures that afford baseline protection from seismic shock are needed, in Italy and elsewhere.

'After a reassessment of this complex geology three years ago, LâAquilaâs seismic danger was upgraded from moderate to severe'.

Not quite enough time to upgrade building code and make structural modifications to newer buildings, but more than enough evidence that *ample* expert warming* was given of heightened seismic risk to LâAquila before the earthquake.

There is also recent evidence that the risk of another moderate rupture in historic building settings (very old cities) in adjacent fault systems remains significant and is therefore of substantial concern.

It is more than possible to turn the accusatory tables on prosecutors and serve the public at the same time, by highlighting these results and emphasizing 'geotechnical lessons learned' with 'further risk-reduction needed, now, now, now!'.

L'Aquila anniversary highlights need for better buildings. May 6, 2010.

INGV has not been sitting on their backsides, but working hard on better risk communication tools. Touche!

Are short-term evacuations warranted? Case of the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. (2010) Geophysical Res Lett 37: L06306, doi:10.1029/2009GL042352

'Earthquakes cluster strongly in space and time, leading to periods of increased seismic hazard. During such seismic crises, seismologists typically convey their knowledge of earthquake clustering based on past experience, basic statistics and âgut feeling.â However, this information is often not quantitative nor reproducible and difficult for decision-makers to digest. We define a novel interdisciplinary approach that combines probabilistic seismic hazard and risk assessment with cost-benefit analysis to allow objective risk-based decision-making.'

Strong foreshock signal preceding the L'Aquila (Italy) earthquake of April 6, 2009. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 19â24, 2010

Foreshock seismic signal series from October 2008 to the time of rupture may be useful as a risk diagnostic tool.


A group of collaborators (Russian-Austrian-Italian) have investigated VLF precusors to this rupture and demonstrated a diagnostic tool for forecasting earthquakes. This is not exactly new science with approximately a decade of previous publications in print (and we introduced the concept here by showing HAARP Rio signal match against Icelandic miniquake swarm energy intensity), but maybe useful to INGV in the future if it can be used, with the foreshock series and advanced communication tools, to refine elevated occurrence risk windows.

The problem is that quake prognostication is difficult if you have a bunch of lawyers standing around ready to whack you with a lawsuit if you even try to hazard a guess. I'd much rather hear that something is up with a fault line from a Geologist rather than a tarot card reader.

If the Geologist is wrong, he looses reputation. If the tarot card reader is wrong, they make an excuse and another prediction.

#51 Diane
Nothing. I used a FEI Phenom
and fortunately the samples did not really get charged too much which is probably due to the chemistry of the ash itself. When you look at the ash under a normal mikroscope you can easily see that there are very different particles. They look like what Erik showed us in an earlier thread. In some of the samples i would say, 50% is volcanic glass but the ash seems to be magnetic and it is not easy to spread it out thin enough to get good pictures. WHen i do SEM images on pollen or insects, i often have a problem with the charging of the samples.
The SEM, i used, belongs to a Museum, the Ars Electronica Center in Linz Austria We have different Labs there ( RoboLab robots etc FabLab fabrication lab with a lasercutter and a 3D printer, BrainLab with a visucam where you can have a photo of your retina taken and email it home and a BioLab where we are cloning plants or do gene sequencing in workshops with our visitors. ) When i did the SEMs i did them with the vistors watching me and deciding onto which particle we should take a closer look. I did study pharmacy, so i have been working in chemical labratories but i am no tech but an Infotrainer, a person who does guided tours. The museum is trying, what we call an open lab situation, so visitors can get to see things which are normally not accessible to them or shown in tv shows like CSI.
Sorry that was completely OT

Oh and something else. In case someone here has ash from other volcanoes and would like scanning electron images done on it. Just send a sample ( very little is necesary for a SEM) We could compare it with the ash from Eyjafjalla.

@ Birgit [60]

I went back digging though the posts in the other thread to try and find the link to the images, could you please repost them?

OT: Rigzone posted a somewhat glitzy article about a heavy vessel (27,270 metric tonnes) that will be joining the spill effort. "the sheer mass of this unique vessel means it is perfectly suited to handle this type of large clean up."

It sounded impressive, I just had to get look at a picture of this vessel, the "Mighty Servant 3." The first one I found did not instill confidence.

It seems the thing sank itself about 4 years ago and has since been recovered and repaired.

Sorry for the OT... this thing keeps nagging at me.

Erik, I ran across the Korea Times article when it was six hours old and posted the salient information here plus a link to the (then) only publicly available paper on it, concerning inflation prior to c2002. Since you were preoccupied with end-of-term work at the time, you are forgiven for not paying due attention. ;) ;)

By Henrik, Swe (not verified) on 19 Jun 2010 #permalink

Looks like the obstruction higher up on Gigjökull has given up and the warm water is now flowing much farther - and is apparently dammed again.

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

@Kultsi 64 Good morning - I think that the dark area is vegetation - it never reflects, and in the afternoon you can see little silver streams cutting through it- but the lowest part of the glacier has had its face washed of a lot of ash, yesterday afternoon it looked almost shiny.

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

@Kultsi - on re-reading, I think you must have been able to see the glacier higher up this morning - It has been cloudy since I have seen it, so I don't know what you were looking at earlier- sorry - but I think if there had been a break in the ice wall, the force of the water would have carried all the way down?

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

@Birdseye (#65-66) - I was looking at steam emissions at the upper slope of the glacier. I haven't seen any increased water flow from the glacier and that's why I think it's dammed up there somewhere.

The rain has, indeed, washed the glacier face and the collapses here and there show almost pristine ice faces shining in white.

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

A glacier flood has started in the glacier river Skaftár, they flood is called Skaftárhaup and they happen regularly. Last flood there was in the year 2008. Follow this type of flooding there are usually a large spikes of harmonic tremor coming from the volcano area where flood comes from. This year won't be any different. In rare cases there might even be a eruption there.

Icelandic news on this flood. (Translate with Google at your own risk!)

On SEM, clearing up more misconceptions.

This Eyjaf ash is clearly HIGHLY conductive and carries quite a surface charge. We had several discussions on this interesting aspect, from the perspective of chemical composition but also a proposed charging mechanism and observation of retention of charge/recharging at distance.

Our sample is also known to be enriched in higher atomic number atoms, so the two conditions necessary to run the sample as is rather than coated, are met. Hence, no need to coat the ash sample. The ash samples could be mixed with epoxy and thin-sectioned to yield additional information on particle size and composition. This technique was demonstrated and used for analysis of Mt Redoubt ash from the 1989 eruption.

On to Lurking's comment.

Mighty Servant 3 was completely rebuilt after salvage recovery. Very common operation, although the ship type is unique. See:

Q: Why are they using one of the largest semi-submersible heavy-lift vessels in the world at the Deepwater Horizons oil recovery site?

A: They have to lift something very, very heavy. Like maybe the 450-ton blowout-preventer.

Q: Why might they be lifting the BOP? We thought it was there to put pressure on the wellhead to slow down the leak rate?

A: Conditions down below are a little more complex than we thought.

If you want to worry about what is happening in the Mexican Gulf, read this.

In the US Congressional hearings with BP corporate heads earlier this week, a question was asked about the integrity of the casing below the seabed floor. The response was frank but foggy: they didn't know the condition of the wellhead casing because they weren't able to test it and can't see into the well to examine it.

What we do know is that BP has given up trying to plug the flow of oil and appears to have reversed course, possibly to relieve pressure on the thin and poorly consolidated seabed floor around the wellhead.

If this layer caves in and BOP falls over, the rupture will be...a worst case scenario. Since the BOP doesn't rest on the seabed, it's being held up by the pipe and casing. The pipe is thin and apparently, the BOP is starting to list.

So, you would want to bring in heavy lifting gear, I suppose, to support it while you figure out what you're going to do next.

Remember, all of the facts aren't known and The Drum Beat reader report is 'knowledgeable conjecture'.

@Birgit #59 thanks for the info. I had not idea there was even such a scope out there. Things have progressed so far from when I took EM. It was not an easy course. It took me four years to do a supposedly two year course of study. I have a two year degree and certificate as an EM/SEM tech. Used both scanning and transmission scopes. Ancient ones at that. The college now has an entire building dedicated to EM study instead of just a lab. I want to get in there and see what they have some day. I know they now have a microprobe which does a better job of xray analysis. One of the things I had to do was a quantitative analysis of Hexel hip joint material. Now that was 30 years ago so I know hip replacement parts are far different now.

BTW, I also had to be able to describe what the electron beam was doing when it was going down the column of the scopes. The ones we were using make the one you are using look like a simple OLM. :-)

Sounds like you work in a neat enviornment. I do know where I can get some ash from areas in CA so I will be sending you a sample when I can get to the area. Right now it is most likely under snow and the road is closed.

Sorry for the OT for the rest of you, but when it comes to microscopes, I get going. LOL One of my dreams was to be able to use an electron microscope and I was able to do it so I am happy. I would love to have one of those things you use, Birgit. I used to say I would like to have a trailer with "Have scope, will travel" on the side. LOL

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink


The article seems to want to piggyback on the hype of the GOM event. Let's compare the two.

From the article:

'The government's national oil spill detection and response agency (Nosdra) says that between 1976 and 1996 alone, more than 2.4m barrels contaminated the environment.'

At 60,000 bbl/day the GOM event far outpaces that. 2.4 million barrels over a 20 year period (7305 days) is about 274 barrels/day. The GOM event passed 2.4 million barrels back around the 1st of June... and that took about 40 days.

On a lighter side... Crude oil averages a carbon content of about 85%. Living tissue averages a carbon content of about 18.5%.

At a flow rate of 60,000 bbl/day (2.5 million gallons/day) and at an average mass of 25 tons (short) for a Sauropod (Brontosaurus)... that's about 72 Sauropods per minute coming out of that hole... 4321 dinosaurs/day.

Sort of adds weight to that abiotic oil idea.


Thanks for that link. Lengthy read but worth the trouble. It also explains this screen cap from 3 June 2010... it's an inclinometer affixed to the BOP:

Lunatic press seems to be of the opinion that the "sinkhole" will expose millions of gallons of water to "400°," flash to steam and cause a tsunami wiping out the Gulf Coast. All I can say is "so?" At 1000 psi the boiling point of water is 285°C (545°F) and the hydrostatic pressure at the BOP is what? 2226 psi? Good luck with that scenario.

No, the more plausible horror story is the opening up of the borehole to the ocean. I can find nothing factually wrong with the information in that article. I think that scenario is what's been eating at me. The stressful part of it is that there isn't a [expletive deleted] thing that I can do about it... let alone any body else.


@ lurking. Way back when I was in college, one of my professors was a founder of the zero population growth group. I remember asking him how he could keep working given what we knew then about the not-so-great-future. He said "You grieve, and then you fight on". My condolences.

By parclair NoCal USA (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

@Kultsi, Askola, FI

Thank you for the SEM link.

Any one know how they (the 'not us' people) determine what the clasts are composed of?

Good evening everyone!
Someone look at Hvólsvóllür cam. I think there's a plume rising above the clouds... (Toggle full screen mode)

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

#72: Thank you for the comparison. My point is that whilst the GOM is bad, people are taking action. Nigeria has lived with oil pollution since 1976 caused by Exxon and Shell (amongst others) but it is still happening and little action has been taken against them. That is wrong.

@stigger [76]

I agree that it's wrong, but technically... what their corrupt government arranges with the oil companies is between them and their government. The Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio reportedly named their Burning River Pale Ale after the Cuyahoga River. It seems to have a habit of catching on fire... some estimates place it at 13 different fires since 1868. I don't expect the people of Nigeria to come over here and fix it for us or to do anything about it. When I was growing up in Central MS, there were areas of marsh that bubbled up ... "stuff" with the consistency of rubber. Again, I didn't expect some other country to come rescue me.

Bad? Yes, I do agree with that. But again, a corrupt government allows it to happen unfettered.

Back to Passerby. Later in that thread there is a set of two images that show what appear to be puffs of oil from the seafloor. Based on that Bot coord transformation thing I figured out (which could be wrong), it maps to a position 40 feet from the LMRP.

Lurking, I suppose my primary concern at the moment would be the consequences of applying dispersant directly into the spill flow at depth.

This is A Very Bad Idea for several reasons, the foremost being that the nonsolubilized plume components ('heavy ends', large polycyclic compounds) are will hover at low oxygen, low light levels and eventually sink.

This would explain the formation of the odd, murky subsurface plumes. The solubilized stuff is forming thin-film 'oil-sheen' surface plumes that will continue to thin fully disperse and biodegrade with wave-mixing action in the weeks-to-months ahead.

No such luck for the heavy residuals. The oil plage will slowly sink to the bottom, covering vast areas of the cold anoxic depths with a stiffly amorphous sludgy mass.

Out of sight, out of mind is the game being played here.

I went back to The Oil Drum website to look for telltale comments from BP that may indicate the corporate engineers knew they were facing bad news.

May 29th summary post:

'He (Suttles) noted that their inability to stop the well âscares everybodyâ but is reasonably confident (no success percentage estimates) that this (Lower Marine Riser Package) will collect the majority of the oil and gas.

Because they do not know the flow path of the oil below the seabed, it is difficult to estimate what is actually going on in terms of oil path below the BOP. Thus they are, again, trying something that has never been done before, but expect, based on the RIT, that it will work.'

'On being asked about the cleanup of the dispersed oil â he pointed out that the reason that the dispersant was used was to break the oil into small droplets. These are small enough to be consumed by the microbes in the sea, and thus there is no plan to do other than let nature take its course. For the oil on the surface, they are getting better at spotting oil pools and sending skimmers to deal with them. '

Huh? The BBC News website has a map graphic series showing the progression of the oil plume. Last two frames look they are reversed - bit confusing, since the LMRP would be gaining in recovery efficiency with 'tune-up' over time.


Humor is where you find it.

While doing my best to dig up data on the amount of spume that is lofted at various wind speeds, all I could find (so far) is information on the enthalpy issues... heat transfer to and from the low lying strata of hurricanes. In these papers, the idea of surface tension came up, having a heavy influence on spume formation. With that thought, I began following lines of info on surface tension modifiers... surfactants came up. Surfactants are commonly used in dispersive agents. How this will affect storm formation/efficiency is beyond me. I'm just a data monkey rooting around in what I can find, playing with the dots.

But I also revisited the Wiki page on Corexit, the dispersion agent being used by BP. Both varieties have unspecified sulfonic acid salts, but now the Wiki page has been updated to state:

"An organic sulfonic acid salt is a synthetic chemical detergent, that acts as a surfactant to emulsify oil and allow its dispersion into water. The identity of the sulfonic acid salt used in both forms of Corexit was disclosed to the EPA in June 2010, as dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate."

And looking that up I find:

" anionic surfactant and a common ingredient in consumer products, especially laxatives of the stool softener type."

Um... how appropriate.

AOT structure:

Too big to fit in enzyme binding sites (fortunately), because it has 'steric inhibition' written all over it, from a structure-activity standpoint. Sure enough, early biochemical studies show protein degradation (trypsin degradation of casein milk fats, for example) is blocked by AOT irreversibly.

Toxicity chitchat

We want section 2.2.5 Special Studies, and 2.2.6 Laxative Effects.

The section on pulmonary edema indicates that the surfactant altered the air-water cell membrane at aveolar-vascular interface (probably affecting ion channel and porin water channel function).

May explain the respiratory distress reported by cleanup workers, although it could have arisen from hydrocarbon fumes, too. Do not think it was the ethyl glycol monomer, because the AOT surfactant concentration was much higher than the stabilizer (predominantly nephrotoxic effects for the former) in the Corexit formulation.

*Real* interesting to find it reported in bile, as AOT was reportedly efficiently metabolized in rat liver.

I know you meant your entry to be humorous, but the toxic info turned out to be kinda interesting. Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I studied surfactant-enhanced bioremediation of oil components.

Anionic surfactants, at the concentrations needed to efficiently disperse and solublize waxy alkanes and highlyh insoluble polycyclic hydrocarbons, were not kind to naturally occurring oil degraders in fresh- and saltwater treatment systems.

#69 Passersby, I have deliberately been trying to avoid the goings on in the Gulf of Mexico because the environmental, social and financial disaster that this has turned into is causing pain that I don't want to expose myself to unless I can do something about it; which I can't. I decided to read your link to the however as the grandstanding politicians, and the apparently less than open oil companies are becoming unavoidable on the news here.

I think that there is a need to explore these hydrocarbon bearing areas,as I see no sign that the move to a post oil world is going to be a quick one. It can also be expected that activities which are really pushing the envelope are going to run into difficulties from time to time. However to find that these operations were being subject to "cost savings" on a well which was apparently in serious difficulties is just ludicrous and negates any sympathy I had for BP at the hands of the US politicians.

The local press in Aberdeen "Oil capital of Europe" is staying very quiet on the subject, and while the US, Brazil, and Norway have all halted progress on deep drilling meantime, the UK government is still gung-ho about prospective deepwater drilling in the Shetland Basin.

I could go on, but this is more than enough for a rant.


"I know you meant your entry to be humorous, but the toxic info turned out to be kinda interesting."

Agreed. The humor is a dry one. It's a sort of "laugh or else cry" ifelse statement.


I'm not too happy with Oildrum. Lots of load this load that stuff going on in the browser. That or it's the four simultaneous Oil-Cam-Bots I have running.

I think I'm going nuts.

Mt Hood creaking again....worth keeping a note of

Beautiful view on the thoro cam now.
(22.25 Icelandis time)

If you perused The Oil Drum, you must have come across two 'must read' posts:

Waiting for the Millennium, Parts I and II.

Read them if you want to be *really, really* depressed.

@ Steve
Yes it is isn't it.
There is a long way to go before we see an eruption, if there is one.... but you never know.

By Dasnowskier (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

Questions for Hekla

Hekla over recent time has erupted every 10 years or so. Are there any signs that it will erupt soon again, or did it not give much seimic warnings last time?

Last time there was a small pyroclastic flow. What is the significance of this.

@90: See Eruption history, on the wiki-webpage on Hekla regarding the most recent reports of magma chamber pressure. Hekla is said not to give much notice of an impending eruption. On the meaning of finding evidence of a pyroclastic flow in the last eruption, see

I now what a pyroclastic flow is, question is is it changing?

You didn't read the text, did you?

'Up until this eruption, it had always been assumed *that Hekla was incapable of producing the most dangerous of volcanic phenomena, the pyroclastic flow*.

----> This will call for a reappraisal of volcanic eruptions of the basic rock type, which up to now were generally thought not to produce large pyroclastic flows.

----> It will also require that the public and curious spectators who always rush to the scene at the start of a new outbreak, be kept much further away from the volcanic activity than was thought necessary during previous outbreaks.

How can you tell if anything is changing if it has only occurred once?

Ok, I don't usually read wikipedia anyone can write that :P

Well if it's occured once, maybe the system is changing?

Aww, come on Wikipedia is fine as long at you verify the info. It's good as a quick reference, especially if the sources are cited.

If you move to the political info, caveat emptor applies.

@Nick #90 and following. The pyroclastic flow at Hekla in 2000 was probably not the only one ever recorded at this volcano - there was nearly certainly one at the start of the 1947 eruption and again, during the first few minutes of the 1980 eruption. My bet is that these pyroclastic flows are generated by explosive interaction of magma (or rapidly flowing lava) and thick snow and ice, because such things have been observed at a number of other volcanoes such as Etna, Llaima, Kliuchevskoi and Pavlof. Possibly some small pyroclastic flows were generated earlier this year at Eyjafjallajökull during its first basaltic eruptive phase, when lava cascaded over snow-covered cliffs.

By the way, I am convinced that pretty much every volcano is capable of producing pyroclastic flows. At Etna we know of eight or nine cases in the past 30 years where small pyroclastic flows were produced, some by the collapse of an eruptive column, some by interaction of lava with snow or wet rocks, and one by the collapse of a sort of a lava dome. Kilauea is known to have produced dilute pyroclastic flows (base surges) most recently during an explosive eruption in about 1790. So I would refrain from saying that a volcano is incapable of producing pyroclastic flows ... maybe we should rather speak in terms of a volcano being unlikely to produce major pyroclastic flows unless there are significant changes in its plumbing system (as at Etna, where large pyroclastic flows occurred about 15,000 years ago when its magma was more evolved and gas-rich).

he he I was just kidding about Wikipedia. Thanks for the info guys :)

Nice little article on the 2000 Hekla eruption that explains the mechanics of the initial phase that resulted in pyroclastic flows: column collapse following early explosive eruption, a function of magma water and silicic acid content, and probably tightly related to repose duration (result of previous publications evaluating older, plinian eruptions at Hekla - a familiar theme of theolitic primordial crust reworking and mixing, but with a twist - feedforward strain from the SISZ).

If one wants to know the hints of pending eruption at Hekla, look for:

sudden jump in thermal and SO2 emissions in air and groundwater are useful for fine-tuning eruption probability to a 1-2 day window; larger eruption window probability can be deduced from a drop in geothermal and hot springs elevation and in the nearby lake level and correlations with warm, dry seasons during the same time period (1-2 years in advance of a central fissure eruption).

SISZ activity is, as on the Tjornes Transform Fault system, associated with a sudden jump in deep fissure pore pressure from liquid injection at depth. Look for a similarity in general timing in the pressurization of the magma reservoir under Hekla.

Hekla dances to a different piper than the EVZ.

Lovely and insightful paper, crafted by a talented group of Iceland's finest, on the subject of the Hekla eruption of 1980-81, open access on the 'Net. Read it.

The millennium eruption of Hekla in February 2000. (2007, Karl Gronvold and friends)

The Hekla Eruption of 1980-81.

Hybrid magma generation preceding Plinian silicic eruptions at Hekla, Iceland. (2007)

Seismic activity related to the 2000 eruption of the Hekla volcano, Iceland. (2005, Pall Einarsson and friends)

Steam plume visible on Múla and Thoro cams.
Another EQ near Eyjaföll:
Saturday 26.06.201018:51:4663.741-19.5511.1 km2.790.017.9 km NNW of Básar

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 26 Jun 2010 #permalink


Not as much activity as last night.Btw,you're on the wrong thread.Everybody else seems to be on the Mystery Volcano Thread.

By Adrian,Dorset, UK (not verified) on 26 Jun 2010 #permalink

What youre saying is totally true. I know that everybody should say the same factor, but I just believe that you place it inside a way that everyone can comprehend. I also adore the images you put in here. They match so well with what youre attempting to say.

I know you meant your entry to be humorous, but the toxic info turned out to be kinda interesting. Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I studied surfactant-enhanced bioremediation of oil component

It will also require that the public and curious spectators who always rush to the scene at the start of a new outbreak, be kept much further away from the volcanic activity than was thought necessary during previous outbreaks