Researchers Find New Way to Estimate Magma Beneath Yellowstone Supervolcano

Researchers at Washington State University and the University of Idaho have found a new way to estimate how fast magma is recharging beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano. While their findings offer no help in predicting if the volcano will erupt, they can now get a better understanding of a key factor – a pool of basalt magma recharging the system – in how it works.

“It is the coal in the furnace that’s heating things up,” said Peter Larson, a professor in the Washington State University School of the Environment. “It’s heating up the boiler. The boiler is what explodes. This tells us what is heating the boiler.”

Some 640,000 years have passed since the volcano’s last major eruption. But it can be “super,” having produced one of the largest known blasts on Earth and spewing more than 2,000 times as much ash as Mount St. Helens did in 1980.

A major element in the volcano’s power is the explosive, silica-rich rhyolite that break’s through the Earth’s crust during an eruption. Larson and his colleagues focused on the plume of basalt magma heating the rhyolite from below.

“This gives us an idea of how much magma is recharging the volcano every year,” said Larson, whose findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Geosphere.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the researchers “spiked” several hot springs in Yellowstone National Park with deuterium, a stable hydrogen isotope. The researchers used the length of time needed for deuterium concentrations to return to background levels and the temperature of the hot springs to calculate the amount of water and heat flowing out of the springs. Using deuterium for estimating heat flow is safe for the environment and has no visual impact to distract from the park visitors’ experience.

The team found that previous studies underestimated the amount of water coursing through the springs and the amount of heat leaving the springs. The data also allowed the team to estimate the amount of magma entering the supervolcano from the mantle.

The study also has implications for geothermal energy, helping inform how heat is transported to the Earth’s surface from molten rock.

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BREAKING NEWS: Guatemala’s Volcano Of Fire Emits Another Hot Sediment Flow

Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire released a flow of burning sediment and rock Saturday, causing authorities to order new preventative evacuations almost a week after the initial eruption left at least 110 people dead and about 200 missing.

Guatemala’s seismology and vulcanology institute said the new lahar—a flow of mud, debris, water and pyroclastic material—was fed by rains and tore down trees as it swept through ravines and gullies.

Later Saturday, a rise in the Panaleon river caused by the new outflow led authorities to evacuate 72 people from the community of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa.

Institute director Eddy Sanchez said the risks from the Volcano of Fire are not over even though its activity has been decreasing. He said the last time it erupted it took two and a half weeks for the volcano to return to normal.

Official search efforts for the missing were suspended for the third straight day Saturday amid dangerous conditions. But in places like San Miguel Los Lotes families and volunteers continued the search.

More than 4,000 people remained in shelters after last Sunday’s eruption, where aid has begun arriving along with complaints about how it is being distributed.

Authorities in Guatemalan have already launched an investigation into the official response to the crises.

In Guatemala City, meanwhile, about 1,000 people blew whistles and carried torches and banners in a protest against the official handling of the tragedy.

Tropical Storm Aletta May Become the First Hurricane of 2018; Second Eastern Pacific Storm Likely to Form This Weekend

Tropical Storm Aletta is expected to become the first hurricane of the 2018 Eastern Pacific hurricane season, and another area off the Mexican coast could become the second named storm next week.

Aletta is just over 400 miles off the Mexican coast and well south of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

Infrared satellite imagery indicates that showers and thundershowers are become better located near Aletta’s center of circulation.

Given that, Aletta is expected to strengthen to the season’s first hurricane either Thursday or Friday.

Fortunately, a dome of high pressure aloft over northern Mexico will steer Aletta away from the Mexican coast on a general west-northwest track into early next week.

To the east of Aletta, another area of low pressure, a tropical wave, is given high odds by the NHC to develop into at least a tropical depression this weekend south of the Mexican Riviera.

If it eventually becomes a tropical storm, it would earn the name Bud.

It’s too soon to determine whether this second system will eventually pose a direct threat to parts of the Mexican Pacific coast next week.

For now, interests along the Mexican coast from Acapulco to Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos should monitor the progress of this second system into next week.

At least some peripheral impacts are possible near the coast from each system, even if the centers of both systems remain offshore.

Some outer rainbands could push ashore, at times, through next week, possibly triggering local flash flooding if they persist in any area for a few hours at a time.

High surf will be generated, propagating first to the southern Mexican coast, then pushing northward toward the Baja Peninsula, including Los Cabos. Breaking waves and rip currents will be a threat along those beaches into at next week.

The average date when the first named storm forms in the Eastern Pacific Basin is June 10, according to NHC data from 1971 to 2009.

Guatemala Volcano: Dozens Die as Fuego Volcano Erupts

Guatemala’s most violent volcanic eruption in more than a century has killed at least 25 people.

Another 46 people are missing, the country’s disaster agency says. Villages on the slopes of Fuego volcano were buried in volcanic ash, mud and rocks as the volcano erupted for 16 and a half hours on Sunday.

Pyroclastic flows, which are fast-moving mixtures of very hot gas and volcanic matter, rushed down the mountainside and engulfed villages.

President Jimmy Morales has declared three days of national mourning. A further pyroclastic flow on Monday sparked alarm.

The official death toll is 25 but volunteer firefighters say they have found another five bodies, according to local media.

A powerful earthquake has also hit the Guatemalan coast, though there are no reports of damage so far.

What has happened?
Fuego, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the capital Guatemala City, spewed rock, gas and ash into the sky. Fast-moving flows hit villages, killing people inside their homes.

Sergio Cabañas, head of the country’s National Disaster Management Agency (Conred), said the town of El Rodeo had been “buried”.

Other towns affected include Alotenango and San Miguel Los Lotes. Rescuers are still trying to reach a number of villages and the death toll is expected to rise.

Temporary shelters have been set up for about 3,000 residents who have been evacuated. Efrain Gonzalez, who fled El Rodeo with his  wife and one-year-old daughter, said he had had to leave behind his two older children, aged four and ten, trapped in the family home.

Local resident Ricardo Reyes was forced to abandon his home: “The only thing we could do was run with my family and we left our possessions in the house. Now that all the danger has passed, I came to see how our house was – everything is a disaster.”

A total of about 1.7 million people have been affected in four regions. The country’s main airport has now reopened. Officials have advised people to wear masks as protection against falling ash.

How exceptional was the eruption?
Fuego is one of Latin America’s most active volcanoes. A major eruption devastated nearby farms in 1974, but no deaths were recorded.

Another eruption in February this year sent ash 1.7km (1.1 mile) into the sky. Sunday’s event was on a much greater scale.

This eruption is Guatemala’s deadliest such event since 1902, when an eruption of the Santa Maria volcano killed thousands of people.

Guatemala’s national institute of volcanology, Insivumeh, told people to keep away from the affected ravines as there is a possibility of “a reactivation”.

The institute also warned of the possibility of lahars – when water mixes with volcanic deposits forming a destructive debris flow – which could affect villages and hamlets to the south, south-west and south-east.

‘Vog’ From Kilauea Volcano Blankets Marshall Islands, 3700km Away

Haze from the Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii blanketed the Marshall Islands 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles) away on Sunday, as officials warned it would continue moving west.

The haze, a phenomenon known as “vog” or volcanic smog, is spreading across Micronesia, the US National Weather Service based in Guam said.

The volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is now in its fourth week of eruptions.

Meteorologists advised residents on the Marshall Islands with respiratory problems to stay indoors while airlines and shipping companies were warned to be aware of “lower visibilities”.

The Guam weather office said haze produced by Kilauea would spread westward and reach Kosrae, Pohnpei and possibly Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia over the next few days.

Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano and one of five on Hawaii’s Big Island.

It started erupting on 3 May, prompting about 2,000 people to flee from their mountainside homes.

Scientists believe the volcanic activity may be a precursor to a major eruption similar to the one that shook the island in the mid-1920s.

First Seismic Evidence For Mantle Exhumation At An Ultraslow-Spreading Center

A mountain range with a total length of 65,000 kilometers runs through all the oceans. It marks the boundaries of tectonic plates. Through the gap between the plates material from the Earth’s interior emerges, forming new seafloor, building up the submarine mountains and spreading the plates apart. Very often, these mid-ocean ridges are described as a huge, elongated volcano. But this image is only partly correct, because the material forming the new seafloor is not always magmatic. At some spreading centres material from the Earth’s mantle reaches the surface without being melted. The proportion of seabed formed this has been previously unknown.

Scientists from the Universities of Kiel (Germany), Austin (Texas, USA) and Durham (Great Britain) have now published data in the international journal Nature Geoscience that, for the first time, allow a detailed estimation on how much seafloor is formed by mantle material without magmatic processes. “This phenomenon occurs especially where the seabed spreads at paces of less than two centimeters per year,” explains Prof. Dr. Ingo Grevemeyer from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, lead author of the study.

One of these zones is located in the Cayman Trough south of the island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean. In 2015, the researchers used the German research vessel METEOR to investigate the seafloor seismically, i.e. by using sound waves. Sound signals sent through different rocks or sediment layers, are being reflected and refracted in different ways by each layer. Rock, which has been melted and solidified on the seabed, has a different signature in the seismic signal than rock from the Earth’s mantle, which has not been melted.

But scientists had a problem so far: The contact with the seawater changes the mantle rocks. “After this process called serpentinisation mantle rocks are barely distinguishable from magmatic rocks in seismic data,” says Professor Grevemeyer. Until now, mantle rock on the seabed could only be detected by taking samples directly from the seafloor and analyzing them in the laboratory. “But that way you only get information about a tiny spot. A large-scale or even in-depth information on the composition of the seabed cannot be achieved,” says Grevemeyer.

However, during the expedition in 2015, the team not only used the energy of ordinary sound waves — it also detected so-called shear waves, which occur only in solid materials. They could be recorded very clearly thanks to a clever selection of measuring points.

From the ratio of the speed of both types of waves, the scientists were able to differentiate mantle material from magmatic material. “So we could prove for the first time with seismic methods that up to 25 percent of the young ocean floor is not magmatic at the ultra-slow spreading centre in the Cayman trough,” says Ingo Grevemeyer.

Since there are similar spreading centres in other regions, such as the Arctic or Indian Ocean, these results are of great importance for the general idea about the global composition of the seabed. “This is relevant, if we want to create global models on the interactions between seabed and seawater or on processes of plate tectonics,” summarizes Professor Grevemeyer.

New Theory Finds ‘Traffic Jams’ In Jet Stream Cause Abnormal Weather Patterns

The sky sometimes has its limits, according to new research from two University of Chicago atmospheric scientists.

A study published May 24 in Science offers an explanation for a mysterious and sometimes deadly weather pattern in which the jet stream, the global air currents that circle the Earth, stalls out over a region. Much like highways, the jet stream has a capacity, researchers said, and when it’s exceeded, blockages form that are remarkably similar to traffic jams — and climate forecasters can use the same math to model them both.

The deadly 2003 European heat wave, California’s 2014 drought and the swing of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that surprised forecasters — all of these were caused by a weather phenomenon known as “blocking,” in which the jet stream meanders, stopping weather systems from moving eastward. Scientists have known about it for decades, almost as long as they’ve known about the jet stream — first discovered by pioneering University of Chicago meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby, in fact — but no one had a good explanation for why it happens.

“Blocking is notoriously difficult to forecast, in large part because there was no compelling theory about when it forms and why,” said study coauthor Noboru Nakamura, a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences.

Nakamura and then-graduate student Clare S.Y. Huang were studying the jet stream, trying to determine a clear set of measurements for blocking in order to better analyze the phenomenon. One of their new metrics was a term that measured the jet stream’s meander. Looking over the math, Nakamura realized that the equation was nearly identical to one devised decades ago by transportation engineers trying to describe traffic jams.

“It turns out the jet stream has a capacity for ‘weather traffic,’ just as highway has traffic capacity, and when it is exceeded, blocking manifests as congestion,” said Huang.

Much like car traffic, movement slows when multiple highways converge and the speed of the jet stream is reduced due to topography such as mountains or coasts.

The result is a simple theory that not only reproduces blocking, but predicts it, said Nakamura, who called making the cross-disciplinary connection “one of the most unexpected, but enlightening moments in my research career — truly a gift from God.”

The explanation may not immediately improve short-term weather forecasting, the researchers said, but it will certainly help predict long-term patterns, including which areas may see more drought or floods.

Their initial results suggest that while climate change probably increases blocking by running the jet stream closer to its capacity, there will be regional differences: for example, the Pacific Ocean may actually see a decrease in blocking over the decades.

“It’s very difficult to forecast anything until you understand why it’s happening, so this mechanistic model should be extremely helpful,” Nakamura said.

And the model, unlike most modern climate science, is computationally simple: “This equation captures the essence with a much less complicated system,” Huang said.