The Atlantic Hurricane season ends this week, and it seems to have fallen short of earlier dire predictions. The 2005 season, with Hurricanes Rita and Katrina was far above normal, leading to some hasty predictions of intense storms to come. The last two seasons were much closer to normal, showing just how much random fluctuation there can be in a dynamic system like weather.
Oh? You weren’t concerned? Never mind.
Apparently, last week the Minor Planet Center was just about to release an emergency warning that a large, extra-terrestrial body was just about to pass a hair’s breadth from the earth – it should have skimmed by about 3,500 miles away. That’s creepily close, when we’re dealing with space.
Fortunately (for our stress centers, I guess) a clever Russian scientist actually took the time to look at the nearly earth-bound mass, and to track its trajectory, and realized that it was, in fact, the European, comet-chasing probe, Rosetta. Rosetta is about the size of a utility van (with wings), and we are quite safe from it.
So, thanks to one plucky Russian astronomer, the world is safe again. You all still have a pretty good chance of getting hit by cars tomorrow, though, or by dead birds falling from the sky. Or of choking on something you thought would be harmless, like pudding.
While Indonesians have been warned for weeks about an imminent eruption of Mount Kelud, a different volcano in the South Pacific nation has erupted. Here’s a link to a National Geographic photo from a few weeks ago when Anak Krakatua was starting to get cooking. An offspring volcano of the infamous Krakatua, the younger volcano erupted on Thursday, sending up a tower of black rock and ash hundreds of feet into the sky. The black sand on the volcano’s non-active side is so hot that people can only walk on it briefly. In the meantime, the threat level for Mt. Kelud has been reduced, and people who had been evacuated from its vicinity are now able to return home. But it’s further evidence that some hot things are brewing in the “The Ring of Fire,” that circles the Pacific Ocean. Science Museum of Minnesota visitors can learn more about that by viewing the currently playing Omnifilm “Ring of Fire.” The chain of islands that make up Indonesia have about 70 active volcanoes right now.
Just last week I had a very concerned visitor here at the museum asking about how soon the volcanic activity around Yellowstone is going to erupt again. In geologic time, it’s due to be real soon. In our human understanding time, it’s probably nothing we need to be overly concerned about.
But new data show that something is brewing up in the Yellowstone region. The volcanic crater left in Yellowstone after its last eruption has been rising in elevation about three inches a year for the last three years, report researchers from the University of Utah.
That growth could be the result of molten rock accumulating and growing underneath the crater. But researchers say there are no signs of an imminent eruption coming.
In fact, many similar volcanic craters around the world regularly rise and fall from such molten activity for decades for centuries before eruptions.
Historically, Yellowstone has been the site of huge volcanic eruptions 2 million, 1.3 million and 642,000 years ago. All of those eruptions were more devastating than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington in 1980.
Of course, all of that heat and energy trapped beneath Yellowstone help to fuel the geysers that some of the key attractions of the national park that’s primarily in northwestern Wyoming.
I’ve talked with some park rangers who’ve said that the next time Yellowstone blows, we’ll notice the impacts here in Minnesota, even in a significant drop of sunlight getting through ash-filled skies. What do you think? Is a Yellowstone eruption something we need to be freaking out about?
Over half a million people are being evacuated from areas near several huge wildfires burning in southern California right now. It is amazing to look at the images of this area from NASA's Aqua satellite.
Double click to zoom in
This image comes from NASA's MODIS Rapid Response website. This site is always a good place to check for a bird's eye view on large scale natural disasters.
Despite warnings by officials in Indonesia of a possible eruption soon by Mount Kelud, thousands of people living within the six-mile danger zone of the volcano are staying put.
The imminent eruption warning was issued on Tuesday following weeks of monitoring tremors and temperatures in the southeast Asia volcano.
Some villagers had evacuated at first, but are returning to their homes complaining that there isn’t enough food at the emergency shelters that were set up to handle the evacuees.
The warning is calling for people to stay at least six miles away from Mt. Kelud. It last erupted in 1990, with about a dozen people perishing. An eruption in 1919 killed about 5,000 people.
Volcano experts credit modern warning systems for helping keep the death tolls much lower, as long as people living in the affected area evacuate. Historians say that an eruption at the same volcano in the 16th century took an estimated 10,000 lives.
It’s the first time researchers have been able to get geological samples from so far down in an active earthquake area and should give new insights into how faults and earthquakes actually work.
The big surprise was the significant amounts of the mineral serpentine that were found. It’s a soft mineral the geologists think plays a substantial role in the creation of earthquakes.
Some members of the research team describe the finds as the geologic equal to moon rocks. And they’re a hot property with hundreds of requests now coming in from universities and researchers wanting to get their hands, and eyes, on these specimens.
The collection process has extracted about a ton of rock. The samples are 135-foot-long cylinders that have a four-inch diameter and were bored out near Parkfield, Calif. That’s a region of the San Andreas Fault where earthquakes are common, but not too severe. Along with the serpentine, the samples also include large amounts of shale and sandstone.
Jabal at-Tair, a small island formed entirely by a volcano was thought to be dormant until yesterday. But following several days of small earthquakes it erupted last night, September 30th at 7pm spewing lava and ash into the air at great heights.
Sadly it appears that several soldiers based on the island have died in the eruption although the number of people hurt is not immediately clear.
The volcanism that created the island is the result of two continental plates, Africa and Arabia, rifting apart from each other with the Arabian Plate (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and more) moving away to the northeast. While this rifting is pretty old, beginning about 540 million years ago, the Red Sea only started to form about 55 million years ago. The Red Sea is widening at a rate of about .6 inches a year which accounts for the volcanic activity that we see there now.
More on the Red Sea's geologic history.
Today, two years since Hurricane Katrina roared into New Orleans, the New York Times is featuring an interactive with videos (tagged to locations) about life in the city since the storm. Definitely worth a look.