Stories tagged ash


The Icelandic Meteorological Office announced Saturday May 21 at 2:00 pm CDT the eruption of the volcano Grímsvötn in Iceland (N64,24, W0172) following a short period of tremor. This is Iceland’s largest volcano. The eruption started under ice but spewed a plume up to 65,000 feet. Grímsvötn is a well monitored volcano. It last erupted in October 2004 and lasted about a week.

This eruption was larger than last year’s Eyjafjallajokull eruption, but will likely have less impact on air traffic. While Keflavik, the Iceland’s larges airport, was shut down, the ash plume from Grímsvötn is currently drifting east and north away from Europe.

Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers are set up across the globe to monitor volcanic ash and issue warnings as appropriate. These centers make use of satellite observations to monitor the eruptions and the movement of the ash cloud. Below is a link to a satellite animation of the eruption. This is a European satellite and the time between images is about 15 minutes.

Eyjafjallajökull isn't the only volcano to rock our modern world. Thirty years ago today Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington State, making it one of the most spectacular and devastating volcanoes in the history of the United States. For those of us who were not alive or old enough to remember the event, here is a haunting description of the explosion from

"On May 18th, 1980, thirty years ago today, at 8:32 a.m., the ground shook beneath Mount St. Helens in Washington state as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck, setting off one of the largest landslides in recorded history - the entire north slope of the volcano slid away. As the land moved, it exposed the superheated core of the volcano setting off gigantic explosions and eruptions of steam, ash and rock debris. The blast was heard hundreds of miles away, the pressure wave flattened entire forests, the heat melted glaciers and set off destructive mudflows, and 57 people lost their lives. The erupting ash column shot up 80,000 feet into the atmosphere for over 10 hours, depositing ash across Eastern Washington and 10 other states."

And for everyone, here are some fabulous photos to commemorate the event.


Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash BorerCourtesy USDA
Driving around Saint Paul recently I’ve seen purple boxes hanging from trees, and I wondered what the heck they were. My wife helped me connect the dots between the purple boxes and the emerald ash borer (see ARTiFactor’s article for more info on the emerald ash borer). The Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota DNR is hanging the purple boxes to track and monitor the bugs.

We use a similar system in the museum. There are bug traps placed all over the museum that are not intended to eliminate bugs, but more to trap some so we know if bugs are in a certain areas of the museum and what kind of bugs they are.

The mailbox-sized trap’s color and smell attract the bugs and allow for tracking. The boxes will be removed this fall. Bark has also been removed from two dozen unhealthy trees in order to trap and track the pests. These trees will be cut down this fall as well.

The emerald ash borer is very difficult to detect. If you have an ash tree in your yard you can check for infestation by watching for die-back in the upper third of the tree, heavy activity by woodpeckers, D-shaped holes in the bark and S-shaped grooves under the bark. If you are a Saint Paul resident and notice these signs you are encouraged to call the forestry office at (651) 632-5129 if the tree is on public property and (651) 201-6684 if the tree is on private property.

I have also seen a massive number of billboards and heard radio ads from tree care companies promising treatment and protection from the pests. However, forestry experts indicate that there is no proven method for eradicating them.

The City of Saint Paul is preparing presentations for local district councils on what the City’s next step and what steps they can take to help. Several Saint Paul neighborhoods are potentially going to be especially hard hit as ash trees were popular with developers in post World War II neighborhood developments.

Updated information on the emerald ash borer for Saint Paul, Minnesota residents.


Use local firewood: Transporting firewood endangers ash trees
Use local firewood: Transporting firewood endangers ash treesCourtesy RoguePoet

Will ash trees follow the fate of elm trees?

About 30 years ago my neighbor's kid won a college scholarship for his sketch of the dead elm trees in front of my house marked with big red X's. Now I fear for the the giant ash trees across the street in Como Park.

Apparently the emerald ash borer beetle (EAB) has been damaging our ash trees for years. The EAB were officially discovered in St. Paul's Hampdem Park mid May, 2009.

Minnesota has the second highest number of ash trees in the nation after Maine. Many of them were planted to replace trees lost to Dutch elm disease a generation ago.


Where can I find information about the emerald ash borer?

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) website has excellent information. Another, multinational website with the lastest information about EAB is I also recommend the University of Minnesota Extension website page which answers questions about ash trees and emerald ash borer beetles.

Frequently asked questions are below (click on them to get answers)


What is Saint Paul doing for its ash trees?

Park director Mike Hahm says Parks and Recreation will do everything we can to protect our tree canopy. Saint Paul has been preparing for this for some time. For over 5 years, we have been increasing the diversity of the tree species in Saint Paul and have not replaced or replanted Ash trees. A Pioneer Press article titled Protecting ash trees could cost St. Paul $2.8 million annually explains:

"Hahm plans to start a campaign of removing affected ash trees at a rate of 3,000 a year and replacing them with other trees the following spring. In St. Paul's St. Anthony neighborhood, 67 trees already have been cut down. Hahm said he plans to apply immediately for nearly $2.8 million in state and federal money to fight the infestation."

This link will take you to the St Paul website page on emerald ash borer info.


Newly erupted: This view of Mt. Redoubt is looking south as the volcano begins to erupt and send an ash cloud into the sky.
Newly erupted: This view of Mt. Redoubt is looking south as the volcano begins to erupt and send an ash cloud into the sky.Courtesy Alaska Volcano Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey
It's been giving off warning signs for nearly two months now, but Mt. Redoubt in Alaska has erupted five times in the past days, sending an ash cloud nine miles high into the sky.

Here's the full Associated Press news account of the eruption.

Volcano eruptions are always interesting to those interested in science, but I'm guessing there will be even more discussion about the topic now as the federal government's volcano monitoring program was criticized as a "pork project" by Republicans in the aftermath of President Obama's recent budget proposal. And Buzz readers weighed in on that on this discussion thread.

Mt. Redoubt is about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage in a sparsely populated section of Alaska (but then again, isn't most of Alaska sparsely populated?). Prevailing winds are blowing most of the ash away from Anchorage, but people in the coastal city are feeling some of the impacts of the blast.

Also, the eruption has altered air traffic patterns in the area as ash suspended in the air can cause problems to passing planes.