Monday, May 23, 2011

May 18 in retrospective

....literally. There is not really much I can't tell you about Mount St. Helens that is new or phenomenal. But if you do wanna check out what our little huffer and puffer is up to these days....check out the web cam...

Sexy, huh? OK, if it's dark outside, like now, or cloudy, you won't see much. But it is kinda fun.

Anyway, that is all for now. I hafta say I've had a long day and had not been prioritizing this blog. I will try to find a fascinating subject for the next post. But just so I am clear on a subject that has come about lately: THE END OF DAYS IS NOT IMMINENT. If anyone tells you they know when that happens, invite them to play a hand of poker with you. You will win.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pseudo Tsunami Response

So hopefully, if you are reading this blog, and you are not GeoGal or myself, you have crawled out from under your andesite rock and know an 8.9 EQ has rocked Japan, caused a massive tsunami, and another tsunami in Hawai'i and along the Pacific Coast of the US.

Now that you've dusted yourself off, you might think, if you are of the inclination, that this is the End of Days or that the Earth's umbilical cord is unraveling or some other nonsense.

But really, when we start taking a look around, is that funding for research into tsunamis and other natural hazards is being cut. Not making it up. See here:

and here:,b=facebook

Despite the fact that some of the grammar in the Huffington article is incorrect, its content (note correct use of "its") is valid.

So what are we to do? Geologists and anthropologists drink a lot of beer. We could cry in it until the real End of Days. (Or is it after all? Things do seem to be going you=know-where-in-a-handbasket).

As it turns out, with proper funding, communities can accomplish a lot with funding, as a noteworthy OPB broadcast points out:

(OK apparently they have not uploaded the full transcript yet. DID NPR FUNDING GET CUT ALREADY?)

Oh, yah, and enjoy that while you can, because the same people proposing to cut research for the National Weather Service/Tsunami Warning Center also want to do away with public radio! I'd say I'll go on strike, but apparently that won't work anymore, they just cut MORE benefits, or cut your salary in half, or blame teachers for the poor educational system without providing them a LIVING WAGE...

Oh but wait. This blog is about GEOLOGICAL events and hazards, and PEOPLE too, but enh, apparently those are disposable anyway.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand: yes, we can do a lot within our own communities. But places like Japan and Chile have good disaster response. Bearing in mind there is almost always be loss of life in these catastrophic events, we must realize that things could be MUCH worse off. MUCH worse. The Indian Ocean tsunami was not that long ago...we have a quick mind to forget.

So all in all, my point today is, stand up for what you believe in. Go to city council meetings. Form a hazard awareness program at your campus. FUND NPR and encourage your congresspeople to do so as well. Because if you don't, we may as well roll over and give up, and there isn't enough beer in the world for us to cry into.

Friday, February 25, 2011

EQ NZ style

Looking at what is called a catastrophe in Christchurch--and being a trained catastrophe analyst, it is truly amazing to me how resilient humans truly are:

As usual, I am struck by the need for help post-disaster, and cannot help but wonder if anything preventative could have been done. The earthquake in Haiti was far "worse": as far as death toll and overall recovery efforts have proved. But if even our developed nations suffer catastrophic impacts, maybe we should truly start looking at how our "development" might create the pathways for destruction. In Chile, where a lot of energy and government funding is put into building infrastructure, recent similar events have not caused nearly the same catastrophic results:

Food for thought. NZ might be a great place for groundbreaking catastrophe research. No pun intended.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

from Volcano Mistress Number 2

Thanks, Liz, for the groovy MSH update! I always love hearing from my favorite volcano.

I need to get a new camera so I can post cool pictures like Liz on this site. For the moment, I'd like to make a note of how this blog got started, and why, we, as Volcano Goddesses (ok, maybe just Volcano Chicks, I don't want to incur the wrath of Pele), are here. I can at least speak for myself, at present.

To me, volcanoes represent the entire spectrum of death and rebirth that is a part of our entire existence on this planet. Plus, let's face it, hot magma and plates banging together below the surface of the earth is just sexy. And hot. Most literally.

Also volcanoes may have been where life first began in this world. As evidenced by this article:

Also, as an anthropologist and disaster analyst, I am very intrigued on how humans interact with volcanoes. Disaster is a HUMAN-created event. I will say this again, in a more scientific way: Disaster is ANTHROPOGENIC. Volcanoes erupt. They do not wake up one morning and decide to destroy a village. WE, as HUMANS, are in the path of an event. It then becomes a disaster. Take a look at Nevado del Ruiz. This wasn't even a very large eruption, but the resulting mudflows took all of the town of Armero. The occupants could have been led to safety if the warnings of the scientists had been adhered to, or even conveyed.

OK, so what does that have to with the price of tea in China? Well, our activities as humans are leading to more natural hazards: ineffective city planning and communications (Armero), icecaps melting and creating flood conditions (if you don't agree climate change is real that is another subject, I will try to stick to volcanoes here), building on landfills, building dams upstream from communities, and the list goes on and on. Let's just say as a catastrophe analyst I've looked at my fair share of buildings wondering whether or not they were worth insuring against "natural" hazards.

So, that's a little of my soapbox time. Basically, I think we should let volcanoes do what they do, and try to stay out of the way. Volcanoes do incredible things over the long term: make land more available for agriculture by refreshing topsoil mineral content, provide us insight into what is happening INSIDE our earth, produce unique artifacts for trade (obsidian), create new seafloor (daily!) and help create ozone. Additionally, here in the Pacific Northwest, we owe much of our rainforest to the volcanoes, which trap moisture to the west of the Cascades, making it rain A LOT.

Volcanoes remind us that as strong as we are, ultimately everything is temporary, and there are some things that are out of human control. To me, literally, I am reminded I am not in charge. I can breathe easy. The planet will still do what it does, as long as we don't blow it to pieces ourselves.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mt St Helens Seismic Swarm

 Mt St Helens from Windy Ridge (Photo by Liz Van Boskirk)
A swarm, consisting of small magnitude events, 
has been observed over the month of January 
2011. They range from a little over 4km in 
depth to sea level, and the epicenters occur 
on the crater to 9km NNW of the crater.
The last seven days: 
From The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network 
at the University of Washington. 


List of Earthquakes for the month of January: 
yy/mm/dd hh:mm:ss   deg.   deg.    km   Ml
11/01/03 18:53:44  46.19N 122.18W   2.5-0.6  AB
11/01/03 20:32:48  46.19N 122.18W   2.5 0.2  AA
11/01/08 08:32:09  46.19N 122.18W   3.6-0.7  AB
11/01/08 15:09:52  46.19N 122.19W   4.4-1.1  AC
11/01/08 15:10:24  46.19N 122.19W   2.1 0.2  AA
11/01/10 16:38:15  46.19N 122.18W   2.1 0.3  AB
11/01/12 09:41:30  46.20N 122.17W   3.4-0.3  AC
11/01/13 00:37:57  46.19N 122.19W   1.1-0.8  AC
11/01/13 03:46:31  46.19N 122.18W   3.6-0.2  AB
11/01/15 19:24:45  46.19N 122.17W   0.0 1.2  AA
11/01/18 06:41:50  46.19N 122.18W   3.1-0.4  AB
11/01/18 23:33:36  46.20N 122.19W   2.9 0.4  AA
11/01/21 22:58:35  46.19N 122.17W   3.5-0.9  AB
11/01/22 20:53:42  46.19N 122.18W   3.0-1.2  AB
11/01/23 06:31:31  46.19N 122.19W   2.3 0.6  BA
11/01/25 07:21:48  46.19N 122.17W   6.4-0.4  AD
11/01/25 22:07:24  46.20N 122.16W   4.5-0.5  AD
11/01/25 23:41:20  46.19N 122.19W   2.3 1.9  AA
11/01/26 15:33:10  46.19N 122.18W   2.8-0.3  AA
11/01/27 09:56:34  46.21N 122.19W   5.0-1.1  AB
11/01/27 13:27:00  46.19N 122.18W   4.1-0.1  AA
11/01/27 13:38:44  46.19N 122.18W   4.3-0.9  AA
11/01/29 02:01:29  46.19N 122.17W   6.5 0.6  AC
11/01/31 17:40:45  46.20N 122.18W   2.5 0.8  AA
11/01/31 17:48:05  46.20N 122.18W   3.5-0.5  AA
11/01/31 20:05:28  46.19N 122.18W   1.7 1.1  AA

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Sorry, this won't be about personal research or experience. This is just a transcript from a recent NPR broadcast. It provides substantive evidence that volcanoes are cool, and that women who study them are totally bada$$. First, here is some cool stuff from Kayla's blog, on

P.S. Love Science Friday.


Up next, ending the year at the end of the Earth, or the bottom, if you prefer. Live on the line with us is a scientist who is atop one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Mount Erebus, located in Antarctica, right near the main American research station, McMurdo.

Kayla Iacovino is a Ph.D student at Cambridge. She's studying vulcanology and petrology, and she's been sharing her experiences at Mount Erebus on her blog, right there at If you want to see some fantastic panoramic pictures she's been sending, please surf over to our website at

Happy New Year to you, Kayla.

Ms. KAYLA IACOVINO (Student, University of Cambridge): Happy New Year to you.

FLATOW: It's already New Year's there, isn't it?

Ms. IACOVINO: It is, yes. I'm talking to you from the future.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Tell us what you're - you're up at Mount Erebus, and you can look down into the volcano.

Ms. IACOVINO: That's right, yeah. It's just a short Skidoo trip up to the side of the crater and then just a short walk up to the crater rim. And what's great about Mount Erebus, it's one of the only three volcanoes in the world with an active lava lake.

So it means that we can literally stand on the crater rim and see right into the top of the magma conduit, which means we can take some direct measurements that you can't do at most other volcanoes.

FLATOW: And I remember from being in Antarctica, down there in 1979, many years ago, every day you would see a puff of steam or smoke coming out of that volcano. It's really very active, as you say.

Ms. IACOVINO: Yeah, that's right. And one of the things that makes it so appealing to researchers is that it is active. But it's diffusive, and so it's letting off these puffs of steam that you see all the time, which makes it less dangerous, relatively, as far as volcanoes.

FLATOW: It's letting off steam, so to speak.

Ms. IACOVINO: Yeah, exactly. So it's not building up this pressure that can cause huge explosions.

FLATOW: And what do you expect to learn from your studies at the volcano?

Ms. IACOVINO: Well, there's a whole group of us studying all different kinds of aspects of the volcano. Many of us are taking, like I said, direct measurements (technical difficulties) gas emissions, the heat flux in the volcano.

But what I'm studying is the stuff that you actually can't see, which is the stuff, the magma that's several kilometers below the surface. So what I hope to learn is how things like CO2 and H2O and sulfur interact with these magmas very deep in the earth and what happens between there and the surface.

So - and I can do experiments in the lab at home. I can create a model for how these things will also interact with the magma, and then we can learn about how volcanoes (unintelligible) gases such as CO2. And also how they will explode, whether they'll be very violent eruptions or effusive eruptions.

FLATOW: Kayla, if there was a danger of that exploding, could you get out of the way in time?

Ms. LACOVINO: Well, it does do something called - there were volcanic bombs sometimes, which are basically giant slugs of magma. It's been somewhat inactive this year, but it has had a couple of bomb-throwing eruptions. And what you do when that happens is literally - if you hear a boom, you literally stop, look up, and you know, make sure you're aware. And in case any of the bombs do make it out of the crater, then you can step out of the way. But that's about as dangerous as it gets, and it has happened. But no one has been hurt here so far.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. And how long will you stay up there in - you're living in sort of a tent situation?

Ms. LACOVINO: Yeah. We have a camp with tents, but we also have a permanent structure called the Lower Erebus Hut. So we have, you know, a stove, and it's heated, and we also have Internet in there as well. So we're pretty well-connected in the hut.

FLATOW: And you'll be...

Ms. LACOVINO: I'm here...

FLATOW: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Ms. LACOVINO: I'll be here for, you know, just a few more days, actually. We're coming up to the end of the season here in Erebus.

FLATOW: And I'll bet it's a lifetime experience.

Ms. LACOVINO: Well, it's been absolute (technical difficulty)...

FLATOW: I think we lost her. Did we lose you, Kayla? I think we - well, we had a connection longer than I had hoped for. I mean, we were talking to Kayla Lacovino at Mount Erebus, which is this giant volcano. It's like 12,000, 14,000 feet up in Antarctica, and a satellite phones. So it was longer than I had hoped that we'd have a connection, so I want to thank Kayla.

She has - she's a PhD student at Cambridge University, and she sent back some incredible photos of her work at SCIENCE FRIDAY's blog at, panoramic views of looking down into the lava. You can see the red lava and all kinds of stuff. So if you want a treat in seeing what she's been sending back to us, surf over to our website. It's