Philippines Eyes Turning Volcano Villages To ‘No Man’s Land’

The Philippine defense chief has recommended that villages in a danger zone around erupting Mount Mayon be turned into a permanent “no man’s land” to avoid evacuating thousands of residents each time the country’s most active volcano explodes.

President Rodrigo Duterte expressed support for the recommendation of his defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, during a meeting Monday with officials dealing with the two-week eruption of Mayon. But he said the government may have to expropriate land from private owners and added that such a move could spark “a social problem again.”

Mayon has been belching red-hot lava fountains, huge columns of ash and molten rocks into the sky and plunging communities into darkness with falling ash in northeastern Albay province, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila. More than 80,000 villagers have fled to dozens of schools turned into emergency shelters, where a lack of toilets and other problems with congestion have emerged.

The proposal is complicated given that thousands of impoverished villagers have settled through the years in a government-declared 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) permanent danger zone around Mayon, where they have survived on farming for generations.

As Mayon grew more restive this month, authorities expanded the danger zone to cover more communities and forced thousands more to swarm into dozens of emergency school shelters. Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara told the president and other officials that his provincial disaster funds were running low.

Albay officials declared the entire province of more than 1.3 million people under a state of calamity two weeks ago to allow faster releases of disaster funds. Duterte ordered the provision of additional funds to deal with the latest crisis he has faced.

“There is actually a permanent danger zone. Why don’t we declare that as a no man’s land so that no people will go there anymore because each time Mayon’s eruption ends residents go back until the next explosion comes,” Lorenzana said. “We will have always this problem of evacuation.”

A national park in Mayon’s shadow could be expanded around the base of the 8,070-foot (2,460-meter) volcano where trees could grow partly as a buffer to stop volcanic floodwater and mudflows from devastating nearby towns and cities, Lorenzana said.

“The first thing that we have to find out is what would be the solution for people who are there tilling the land which they own and is titled in their name,” Duterte said.

While thousands have evacuated areas around the volcano, villagers have sneaked back in to check on their homes, farms and animals, and police and army troops have struggled to turn back tourists who want a closer view of Mayon.

Mayon, which is famous for its near-perfect cone, has erupted about 50 times in the last 500 years. In 2013, an ash eruption killed five climbers who had ventured near the summit despite warnings.

The Philippines has about 22 active volcanoes. The explosion of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 was one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds.

Deadly Mudflows Threaten Residents Near Erupting Philippine Volcano

Millions of tonnes of ash and rock from an erupting Philippine volcano could bury nearby communities due to heavy rain, authorities said Saturday, as tens of thousands flee over fears of a deadly explosion.

The official Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) issued the warning as heavy rains lashed the area surrounding the Mayon volcano, which has been emitting flaming lava and giant clouds of superheated ash for the past week.

Rainwater could combine with the volcanic ash and rock to form deadly, fast-moving mudflows—called “lahars”—that could sweep away entire settlements, it said.

“The important thing is to move out in case of heavy rains… this is a precautionary measure,” Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum told AFP.

The institute earlier said that 25 million cubic metres (about 883 million cubic feet) of ash and other volcanic material had recently been emitted by Mayon, settling on its slopes and elsewhere nearby.

It warned that this could result in lahars flowing into waterways, and called on officials to move residents near rivers to higher ground.

An explosion of the 2,460-metre (8,070-foot) Mayon in August 2006 did not directly kill anyone but four months later, a typhoon unleashed an avalanche of volcanic mud from its slopes that claimed 1,000 lives.

Phivolcs said Mayon had emitted fountains of lava on Friday but bad weather was preventing observation of the volcano’s activity on Saturday.

Cement swept away

Residents living by a river in Daraga town in Albay province expressed fear of a repeat of the 2006 incident.

“We are worried that lahar will flow again. We cannot sleep soundly at night. We sleep like chickens, waking up at the slightest rumble of the volcano,” Virginia Tuscano, 47, told AFP as rain poured outside her home.

“Back in 2006 the lahar flow was so powerful it was like waves sweeping away even homes made of cement.”

The mother-of-three said she had packed her bags and was ready to leave her home.

Observers saw a shroud of steam covering the entire mountain as heavy rain met the hot lava and volcanic material on Mayon’s slopes.

Steam could also be seen rising from the volcano’s crater as rainwater entered its interior.

Volcanic mudflows are a perennial problem during and after volcanic eruptions in the Philippines, which sits on the “Ring of Fire”—islands in the Pacific that were formed by volcanic activity.

The government has already evacuated more than 84,000 people from a “danger zone” stretching as far as nine kilometres (six miles) around Mayon over fears of a possible deadly eruption.

Provincial disaster relief head Cedric Daep said he expects the number of people evacuated to increase as residents flee from areas threatened by lahar.

Mixed blessing

However, the rains were also washing away the thick, choking carpet of ash that has covered many communities in the shadow of Mayon in the past week, Daep said.

“The rains also washed away the ashes on grasslands. That means that cattle could now feed on the grasses which they could not do in the past days,” he added.

Mayon, located about 330 kilometres (205 miles) southeast of the capital Manila, is the most active of the country’s 22 volcanoes—and one of the deadliest.

Four foreign tourists and their local tour guide were killed when it last erupted in May 2013.

In 1814, more than 1,200 people were killed when lava flows buried the nearby town of Cagsawa.

Astronomical Trifesta Happening On Jan 31

A cosmic event not seen in 36 years—a rare “super blood blue moon”—may be glimpsed January 31 in parts of western North America, Asia, the Middle East, Russia and Australia.

The event is causing a buzz because it combines three unusual lunar events—an extra big super moon, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse.

“It’s an astronomical trifecta,” said Kelly Beatty, a senior editor at Sky and Telescope magazine.

A blue moon refers to the second full moon in a month. Typically, a blue moon happens every two years and eight months.

This full moon is also the third in a series of “supermoons,” which happen when the moon is closest to Earth in its orbit.

This point, called the perigee, makes the moon appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter.

During the eclipse, the moon will glide into Earth’s shadow, gradually turning the white disk of light to orange or red.

“That red light you see is sunlight that has skimmed and bent through Earth’s atmosphere and continued on through space to the moon,” said Alan MacRobert of Sky and Telescope magazine.

“In other words, it’s from all the sunrises and sunsets that ring the world at the moment.”

The alignment of the sun, moon and Earth will last one hour and 16 minutes, visible before dawn across the western United States and Canada.

Those in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand should look for it in the evening, as the moon rises.

Unlike a solar eclipse, this lunar eclipse can be safely viewed without protective eyewear.

How rare?

“We’ve had a lot of supermoons and we’ve had lunar eclipses, but it’s rare that it also happens to be a blue moon,” said Jason Aufdenberg, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s campus in Daytona Beach, Florida.

“All three of these cycles lining up is what makes this unusual,” he added.

“It’s just a wonder to behold.”

According to Sky and Telescope magazine, “the last time a complete lunar cover-up took place on the second full moon of the month was December 30, 1982, at least as reckoned by local time in Europe, Africa, and western Asia—locations where the event could be seen.”

That event also occurred at the moon’s orbital perigee, making it an extra bright supermoon.

Aufdenberg said that by his calculations, the last time a supermoon, blue moon and total lunar eclipse all together were visible from the eastern United States was on May 31, 1844.

According to Sky and Telescope, the last blue moon total lunar eclipse visible from North America happened on March 31, 1866.

“But on that date the moon was near apogee, its most distant point from Earth,” it said.

Lunar eclipses during a supermoon happen rather regularly. The last one was in September 2015.

Lunar eclipses occur at least twice a year.

Supermoons can happen four to six times a year.

The next supermoon lunar eclipse visible throughout all of the United States will be January 21, 2019—though that one will not be a blue moon.

Primordial Oceans Had Oxygen 250 Million Years Before The Atmosphere

Research by a University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) graduate student Mojtaba Fakhraee and Associate Professor Sergei Katsev has pushed a major milestone in the evolution of Earth’s environment back by about 250 million years. While oxygen is believed to have first accumulated in Earth’s atmosphere around 2.45 billion years ago, new research shows that oceans contained plentiful oxygen long before that time, providing energy-rich habitat for early life. The results of the two UMD scientists and their co-author Sean Crowe from the University of British Columbia have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

“When tiny bacteria in the ocean began producing oxygen, it was a major turning point and changed the chemistry of the Earth,” explained Katsev. “Our work pinpoints the time when the ocean began accumulating oxygen at levels that would substantially change the ocean’s chemistry and it’s about 250 million years earlier than what we knew for the atmosphere. That is about the length of time from the first appearance of dinosaurs till today.”

The results are important, according to the authors, because they deepen our understanding of conditions on Earth when all life consisted of single-cell microbes and their metabolisms that we know today were only just emerging.

“This helps us theorize not only about early life on Earth but also about the signatures of life that we might find on other planets,” said Fakhraee.

The study conclusions are the result of creating a detailed computer model of chemical reactions that took place in the ocean’s sediments. Researchers focused on the cycle of sulfur and simulated the patterns in which three different isotopes of sulfur could combine in ancient sedimentary rocks. By comparing the model results to a large amount of data from ancient rocks and seawater, they were able to determine how sulfur and oxygen levels were linked and constrained the concentrations of oxygen and sulfate in ancient seawater.

“We’re trying to reconstruct the functioning of early life and early environments,” said Katsev. “No one was really looking at how the isotopic signals that were being generated in the atmosphere and the ocean were being transformed in the sediment. But all that we can observe now is what has been preserved as rocks, and the isotopic patterns could have been modified in the process.”

Much of this research builds on the past work of the team members, and the modeling results help put together some of the observations that seemed contradictory. “We’ve resolved some puzzles in the historical timeline and contradictions that existed in the sulfur isotope records,” said Fakhraee.

Earth’s Core And Mantle Separated In A Disorderly Fashion

Plumes of hot rock surging upward from the Earth’s mantle at volcanic hotspots contain evidence that the Earth’s formative years may have been even more chaotic than previously thought, according to new work from a team of Carnegie and Smithsonian scientists published in Nature.

It is well understood that Earth formed from the accretion of matter surrounding the young Sun. Eventually the planet grew to such a size that denser iron metal sank inward, to form the beginnings of the Earth’s core, leaving the silicate-rich mantle floating above.

But new work from a team led by Carnegie’s Yingwei Fei and Carnegie and the Smithsonian’s Colin Jackson argues that this mantle and core separation was not such an orderly process.

“Our findings suggest that as the core was extracted from the mantle, the mantle never fully mixed,” Jackson explained. “This is surprising because core formation happened in the immediate wake of large impacts from other early Solar System objects that Earth experienced during its growth, similar to the giant impact event that later formed the Moon. Before now, it was widely thought that these very energetic impacts would have completely stirred the mantle, mixing all of its components into a uniform state.”

The smoking gun that led the team to their hypothesis comes from unique and ancient tungsten and xenon isotopic signatures found at volcanic hotspots, such as Hawaii. Although it was believed that these plumes originated from the mantle’s deepest regions, the origin of these unique isotopic signatures has been debated. The team believes that the answer lies in the chemical behavior of iodine, the parent element of xenon, at very high pressure.

Isotopes are versions of elements with the same number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons. Radioactive isotope of elements, such as iodine-129, are unstable. To gain stability, iodine-129 decays into xenon-129. Therefore, the xenon isotopic signatures in plume mantle samples are directly related to iodine’s behavior during the period of core-mantle separation.

Using diamond anvil cells to recreate the extreme conditions under which Earth’s core separated from its mantle, Jackson, Fei, and their colleagues — Carnegie’s Neil Bennett and Zhixue Du and Smithsonian’s Elizabeth Cottrell — determined how iodine was partitioning between metallic core and silicate mantle. They also demonstrated that if the nascent core separated from the deepest regions of the mantle while it was still growing, then these pockets of the mantle would possess the chemistry needed to explain the unique tungsten and xenon isotopic signatures, provided these pockets remained unmixed with the rest of the mantle all the way up through the present day.

According to Bennett: “The key behavior we identified was that iodine starts to dissolve into the core under very high pressures and temperatures. At these extreme conditions, iodine and hafnium, which decay radioactively to xenon and tungsten, display opposing preferences for core-forming metal. This behavior would lead to the same unique isotopic signatures now associated with hotspots.”

Calculations from the team also predict that the tungsten and xenon isotopic signatures should be associated with dense pockets of the mantle.

“Like chocolate chips in cookie batter, these dense pockets of the mantle would be very difficult stir back in, and this may be a crucial aspect to the retention of their ancient tungsten and xenon isotopic signatures to the modern day,” Jackson explained.

“Even more exciting is that there is increasing geophysical evidence that there actually are dense regions of mantle, resting just above the core — called ultralow velocity zones and large low shear velocity provinces. This work ties together these observations,” Fei added. “The methodology developed here also opens new opportunities for directly studying the deep Earth processes.”

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Strong 6.6 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Southwest of Africa

A earthquake with magnitude 6.6 (ml/mb) was detected on Sunday, Southwest of Africa (0 miles). The earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 km (6 miles). Exact time and date of earthquake 28/01/18 / 2018-01-28 16:03:03 / January 28, 2018 @ 4:03 pm UTC/GMT.

A tsunami warning has not been issued (Does not indicate if a tsunami actually did or will exist). Exact location of event, longitude 9.6447 East, latitude -53.0501 South, depth = 10 km.

The temblor was picked up at 17:03:03 / 5:03 pm (local time epicenter).

BREAKING NEWS: Ring of Fire Lights Up Concerning Geologists

There has been a significant up-tick in earthquake and volcanic activity. This in-itself is not overly concerning, however the locations of this seismic cycle may hit heavily populated areas. This cycles chain of events began on January 23rd with the 7.9 magnitude which hit south of Kodiak, Alaska. Since that event a series of aftershocks ranging from 3.0 to 5.6 mag. with a count of over 270.

As you can see from the map above, several earthquakes have occurred in the last seven days along the ‘ring of fire’. The “ring of fire” is made up of fault lines, subduction zones, volcanoes (active and dormant), and submarine (ocean bottom) rift’s or fissures.

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck near Ferndale, Calif. about 100 miles off the coast of Northern California on January 25th, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake occurred along the Mendocino fracture zone which runs westward from a triple junction with the San Andreas Fault and the Cascadia Subduction Zone to the southern end of the Gorda Ridge.

The quake comes hours after a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck the Trabuco Canyon area. That quake struck at 2:09 a.m. about 8.1 miles northeast of Trabuco Canyon and 14.9 miles south-southwest of Riverside.

Volcanoes Erupt

More than 75,000 people have fled their homes in the extended nine kilometer seeking shelter at evacuation camps on January 25th about half a day after Mount Mayon erupted multiples times overnight. Philippines officials have allocated about $100,000 to the disaster effort, but warned if the eruption continue into mid-February, then food, medical and water supplies may be depleted. Reuters reported that the ashfall diverted flights.

January 25th also saw the eruption of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, 100 miles northwest of Tokyo, which killed one soldier in an avalanche and injured a dozen at a ski resort. Mount Kusatsu-Shirane is a 7,000 foot volcano located about 120 miles north of Tokyo.

It erupted around 10 a.m. local time, triggering avalanches that trapped about a dozen skiers, including six members of Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force. All were rescued, according to Reuters, but one soldier died later. The Washington Post reported four others were injured by falling debris.

Jakarta, Indonesia was rocked on Jan. 25th when a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the southern coast of the island of Java, injuring eight school children and damaging more than 100 buildings including dozens in the capital Jakarta.

Indonesia’s Metro TV showed patients being evacuated from a hospital in the capital while other footage showed petrified locals pointing up at skyscrapers in the capital shortly after the quake struck.


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