Archive | Volcanoes

Japan Volcano Forces over 1,000 Evacuations

A newly active Japan volcano has prompted officials to evacuate over 1,000 people living on the country’s southern island, news sources reported Monday.

Shinmoedake, a 4,662-foot peak in the Kirishima range on the southern Japan island of Kyushu, erupted last Thursday after 52 years of dormancy. Smoke plumes rose over 6,500 feet, and local residents were evacuated as a precaution. No injuries were reported.

On Monday, the volcano was still expelling a magnificent ash-cloud, coating local vegetable farms and disrupting airline flights, Reuters reports.

Authorities issued an evacuation advisory a 11:50 p.m. on Sunday (1450 GMT). About 1,100 residents in the town of Takaharu fled to evacuation centers, although many chose to remain in their homes.

According to The Associated Press, experts said a dome of lava was swelling inside the volcano. It is still unclear whether the dome will grow enough to spill over the crest and send searing lava down the mountainsides.

It has been nearly 300 years since Shinmoedake has been this active, Reuters reported Monday.

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Mount Etna Briefly Erupts, No One Injured

Mount Etna, Sicily’s active volcano, stirred to life Wednesday, sending lava down its slopes and creating an ash cloud that forced the closure of a nearby airport.

Scientists at the Italian Institute of Vulcanology said the rumbles began Tuesday night and culminated Wednesday morning, when lava spilled down the mountain’s eastern rim. No one was injured.

The volcano emitted ash, obscuring the skies above Catania and forcing the overnight closure of Fontanarossa airport, The Associated Press reported.

The airport was reopened early Thursday. The volcano was only exhibiting weak activity by that time.

Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Its last major eruption was in 1992.

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'Ring of Fire' Volcano Locations Explained

OXFORD, England, Oct. 14 (UPI) — British researchers say they’ve solved the mystery of why volcanoes on the Pacific “ring of fire” are confined to bands of only some tens of miles wide.

Scientists at Oxford University say most of the molten rock that comes out of the explosive volcanoes is rich in water, but paradoxically they lie in narrow regions in Earth’s mantle where water-free melting of rock can take place, ScienceDaily.com reported Thursday.

“It has been recognized for almost 50 years that the volcanic arcs form where one oceanic plate sinks beneath another,” Professor Philip England of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences said, “but while many models of this process have been put forward, none has been able to explain the location, and narrowness, of the volcanic arcs.”

Ring of Fire eruptions are extremely violent because the molten rock contains a high proportion of water, which, as superheated steam, powers for the explosive eruptions.

This water comes from the plates descending beneath the volcanoes and lowers the melting point of rocks in the mantle.

“Most previous explanations for the origins of volcanoes suggested that this kind of ‘wet’ melting is responsible for getting a volcano started,” researchers Richard Katz said.

Wet melting occurs over very broad regions of the mantle, inconsistent with the narrowness of the volcanic chains.

Using a mathematical model of heat movement where two plates collide, the Oxford team found the narrowness of the pattern can only be explained if the volcanoes are above narrow regions in which mantle melts in the absence of water.

Researchers say they believe melt rising from this region blazes a trail for more water-rich magma to follow all the way to the surface where it erupts to form volcanoes.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Astronomers Seeking Space Volcanoes

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 7 (UPI) — U.S. scientists studying planets outside the solar system say they think they could spot volcanoes on the distant worlds by their atmospheric signature.

Although astronomers are at least a decade away from being able to capture images of the surface of an exoplanet, they have been able to detect the atmospheres of gas giants dubbed “hot Jupiters,” and any volcanic gases detected in those atmospheres could tell researchers something about the underlying surface, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said Tuesday.

“You would need something truly earthshaking, an eruption that dumped a lot of gases into the atmosphere,” Smithsonian astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger said. “Using the James Webb Space Telescope, we could spot an eruption 10 to 100 times the size of Pinatubo for the closest stars.”

The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines spewed about 17 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, the layer of air 6 miles to 30 miles above Earth’s surface.

Sulfur dioxide from a very large, explosive eruption is potentially measurable because a lot is produced and it is slow to wash out of the atmosphere, Kaltenegger said.

“Our first sniffs of volcanoes from an alien Earth might be pretty rank!” Kaltenegger said. “Seeing a volcanic eruption on an exoplanet will show us similarities or differences among rocky worlds.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Oddly Shaped Mars Crater a Cosmic Puzzle

PARIS, Aug. 27 (UPI) — An elongated crater on Mars is a mystery, say European scientists scrambling for an explanation of its odd shape.

Named Orcus Patera, the enigmatic elliptical depression lies near Mars’s equator, in the eastern hemisphere of the planet. Located between the volcanoes Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons, how it was formed remains a mystery, a European Space Agency release said Friday.

The term ‘patera’ is used for deep, complex or irregularly shaped volcanic craters, but despite its name and its location near known volcanoes, the actual origin of Orcus Patera is still unknown, scientists say.

The well-defined depression is about 230 miles long by 87 miles wide. It has a rim that rises up to 6,000 feet above the surrounding plains, while the floor of the depression lies about 1,500 feet below the surroundings.

Some researches say it may be a large and originally round impact crater, subsequently deformed by compression forces. Or it could have formed by the erosion of two or more closely aligned impact craters.

However, most scientists say the most likely explanation is that it was made in an oblique impact, when a small meteor or other object struck the Mars surface at a very shallow angle of less than 5 degrees.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Martian 'mud' Volcanoes Eyed for Life

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (UPI) — Researchers say if life existed on Mars, the best place to look today is a region rich in what they say were mud volcanoes spewing sediment from underground.

An area of the planet’s northern plains called Acidalia Planita contains thousands of the circular mounds, formed from ancient sediment that might contain evidence of possible past or present life, Astrobiology magazine reports.

“If there was life on Mars, it probably developed in a fluid-rich environment,” Dorothy Oehler of the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center said.

“Mud volcanoes themselves are an indicator of a fluid-rich subsurface, and they bring up material from relatively deep parts of the subsurface that we might not have a chance to see otherwise,” she said.

She and her colleagues estimate there may be as many as 40,000 mud volcanoes in the Acidalia region.

Scientists first observed the mounds in Acidalia using imagery obtained from the Viking mission in the late 1970s.

U.S. researcher Kenneth Tanaka was one of the first to suggest they were mud volcanoes.

“I also thought that these features, which also occur elsewhere in the northern plains of Mars, were good places to search for signs of life,” Tanaka, a scientist at the Astrogeology Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey, said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Satellite Images of Earth a Hot Commodity

WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) — Satellite images of Earth, once the domain of spy satellites, are entering the commercial arena in a “new kind of space race,” U.S. observers say.

Two U.S. companies, DigitalGlobe in Colorado and GeoEye in Virginia, are feeding an ever-growing appetite for views of what’s happening around the world, USA Today reported Thursday.

“It is a new kind of space race,” says DigitalGlobe CEO Jill Smith. “We are looking at ways to make space images as ubiquitous as possible.”

“We are hiring like crazy,” says GeoEye CEO Matthew O’Connell. “This is a great time to be in the space-imaging business.”

The companies are finding eager customers in government planners and private developers for the images provided by their satellites, direct descendants of U.S. spy satellites.

Essentially telescopes in orbit, the satellites orbit from pole to pole every hour and a half, passing over every point on the Earth every three days, capturing images requested by customers.

DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 orbits 480 miles up and provides images with a resolution no smaller than a half-meter (about 19.5 inches), a legal limit imposed by the federal government. At that resolution, the company says, a lawn chair would be visible from 480 miles up.

From views of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and volcanoes to Google Earth and Google Maps, space images now define our era, says space historian Margaret Weitekamp of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington.

“We have expectations of connection and information that didn’t exist a decade ago because of this,” Weitekamp says.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Ancient Asphalt Domes Found off California

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., April 26 (UPI) — U.S.-led scientists say they’ve found asphalt domes 700 feet deep in the Pacific off California that are unlike any other underwater features known to exist.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, University of California-Santa Barbara and UC-Davis researchers said the group of football-field-sized asphalt domes was apparently formed about 35,000 years ago when a series of undersea volcanoes deposited massive flows of petroleum 10 miles offshore from Santa Barbara.

“It was an amazing experience, driving along … and all of a sudden, this mountain is staring you in the face,” said Christopher Reddy, director of WHOI’s Coastal Ocean Institute and one of the study’s senior authors. He described the discovery of the domes using the deep submersible vehicle Alvin. Moreover, the dome was teeming with undersea life. “It was essentially an oasis,” said Reddy, “almost like an artificial reef.”

University of California-Santa Barbara Assistant Professor David Valentine, the study’s lead author, said the largest dome is about the size of two football fields side-by-side and as tall as a six-story building.

The study, which included scientists from University of Sydney and the University of Rhode Island, appears in the early online issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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NASA: Venus May Be Geologically Alive

PASADENA, Calif., April 8 (UPI) — NASA says its scientists have, for the first time, detected clear signs of recent lava flows on Venus that suggest the planet is geologically alive.

Sue Smrekar, a scientist at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said the observations reveal volcanoes on Venus appeared to erupt between a few hundred years to 2.5 million years ago. That, she said, would make Venus one of the few worlds in our solar system that has been volcanically active within the last 3 million years.

Scientists said the evidence comes from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express that has been orbiting the planet since 2006 and from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft that orbited Venus from 1990 to 1994.

The researchers said relatively young lava flows have been identified by the way they emit infrared radiation and it is those observations, among other data, that suggest Venus is still capable of volcanic eruptions.

“The geological history of Venus has long been a mystery,” said Smrekar, lead author of a paper describing the study. “Previous spacecraft gave us hints of volcanic activity, but we didn’t know how long ago that occurred. Now we have strong evidence right at the surface for recent eruptions.”

The research is reported in the journal Science.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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More Dinosaur Extinction Evidence Offered

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., March 9 (UPI) — A U.S. scientist says he’s found more evidence an asteroid that crashed into the Earth 65 million years ago ended the age of the dinosaurs.

Purdue University Professor Jay Melosh refutes recent alternative hypotheses to the dinosaur extinction.

Melosh is among a panel of 41 experts from Europe, the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan that evaluated new core samples from ocean and land sites.

“We find that alternative hypotheses are inadequate to explain the abrupt mass extinction and that the Chicxulub impact hypothesis has grown stronger than ever,” Melosh said. “The impact hypothesis has been widely accepted by the scientific community, but there has still been some debate, and we continue to examine the evidence.”

About 20 years ago an impact crater more than 125 miles wide was discovered in Yucatan, Mexico, and is thought to have caused the mass extinction 65 million years ago. However, some scientists suggest that event occurred 300,000 years earlier and could not have been the cause. Those scientists suggest active volcanoes led to global cooling and acid rainfall that killed the dinosaurs.

The new findings are reported in the journal Science.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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