Saturday, March 16, 2013

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For March 16, 2013 - Updates On Etna, Tolbachik, Karkar, Dukono, Ambrym, Popocatépetl, Fuego, Galeras, Nevado del Ruiz, Reventador, Tungurahua, Sabancaya And Colima!

March 16, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Lava fountain seen on the Montagnola webcam.

Etna volcano (Sicily): The next paroxysm of the new southeast crater (March 15) Typical for Etna's paroxysms, activity has ended quickly after reaching an impressive climax with lava fountains around and perhaps even above 1 km in height.

Corresponding thermal image.

The eruption still increases, the wind has turned to the north and the webcams on Montagnola are now getting into the ash plume.

Lava fountains from Etna's New SE crater.

(March 16)  The 8th paroxysm from the New SE crater is occurring at the moment, with lava fountains from the saddle and summit vent of the crater reaching a kilometer in height. A tall ash column has started to rise and drifts eastwards.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): (March 15) Tremor from Tolbachik remains high, although a bit lower today according to KVERT's daily update, and the eruption continues with lava effusion from the now single vent on the southern fissure.

No significant changes were reported for any of the other volcanoes in Kamchatka: Moderate seismicity accompany dome building at both Sheveluch and Kizimen volcanoes. Seismic activity remains weak at Bezymianny, which also has an active dome and at Kliuchevskoi, where mild strombolian activity might still be going on in the summit crater... [read more]

Karkar (Northeast of New Guinea): (March 15) A larger explosive eruption from Karkar produced an ash plume rising to 28,000 ft (8.5 km). The plume is rapidly drifting NW.

SO2 plume from Dukono (NOAA).

Dukono (Halmahera): (March 15) A SO2 plume is visible on today's NOAA satellite data, suggesting a phase of elevated activity at the remote volcano.

Ambrym (Vanuatu): (March 15) SO2 emissions remain high.

Current seismic signal from Popocatépetl.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): The rate of emissions has dropped back to less than one per hour. Tremor has dropped as well, but two probably shallow volcanic quakes show up on the recent seismogram.

Fuego (Guatemala): The rhythm of explosions remains similar. A total of 15 weak to moderate events with ash plumes rising 400-900 m were mentioned in INSIVUMEH's latest report for the period 14-15 March.

Galeras (Colombia): (March 15) Activity has remained more or less unchanged, with occasional weak ash emissions and degassing observed at the crater. A magnitude 3.1 earthquake located 5.6 km WNW of the crater was recorded yesterday at 06:12:38 local time. In the past week, there were 2 seismic swarms with a total of 260 weak quakes on 11 and 12 March.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): (March 15) During the last few days, INGEOMINAS has been recording weak continuous tremor of low energy and observed increased gas emissions, which produced a plume reaching up to about 1.5 km above the crater. The increased SO2 emission is also visible on NOAA's satellite images.

Earthquakes associated with rock fracturing (caused by intruding magma at depth) remain in the same area as before, to the northeastern sector of Arenas crater, and to a lesser extent under the crater itself at depths between 2 and 6 km.

Current seismic signal from Reventador (CONE station, IG).

Reventador (Ecuador): (March 15) Activity fluctuates between relatively calm phases and strong ash emissions. In the evening of 13 March, a steam and ash column was seen rising 3 km above the crater.

Current seismic signal from Tungurahua (retu station, IG).

Tungurahua (Ecuador): Activity remains high, but has become more discontinuous. In its report from yesterday evening, IG reports ash falls and an explosion with an eruption column reaching 4 km yesterday around 14:24. During the night 14-15 March, rumblings of varied intensity were heard, and weak incandescence at the crater could be seen as well as some glowing ejecta. Ash fall occurred on in the sector Choglontús in the afternoon of 14 March.

(March 15) Yesterday, IG the volcano showed an almost continuous emission of gas and various amounts of ash whose average height was 500 m. Individual explosions, sometimes accompanied by loud cannon-shot noises, produced eruption columns rising up to 3 km, mainly yesterday afternoon. At night, explosions increased again and incandescent blocks were seen ejected to up to 500 m below the crater rim.

Sabancaya volcano (Peru): 400-500 earthquakes per day, increased degassing (March 15) Peru's Geological Mining and Metallurgical Institute INGEMMET and the Geophysical Institute of the National University of San Agustin Arequipa IGUNSA informed in a press release about the recently increased volcanic activity of Sabancaya: From February 24 to March 6, 2013, the volcano's fumaroles produced a gas column rising 400 to 1000 meters above the crater. No ash emissions have been observed so far. The report also mentions that since February 28, there has been an average number of 400 to 500 earthquakes per day, mostly volcano-tectonic quakes related to rock fracturing in return probably related to intruding magma at depth. The temperature of the hot spring La Calera has remained stable compared to previous years' values. Ingemmet has set up an observation camp 12 kilometers from the volcano to conduct close visual, seismic, geodetic and chemical monitoring of the volcano ans report any significant changes.

Colima volcano (Mexico): increasing activity and risk of pyroclastic flows Activity at the volcano continues to increase. The new lava dome in the summit crater has apparently grown enough that incandescent lava could soon start descending into the Lumbre canyon on the western flank and produce pyroclastic flows, scientists from the university of Colima have warned.

Current seismic recording from Colima volcano (Soma station, Univ. Colima).
Current seismic recording from Colima volcano (Soma station, Univ. Colima).

In a similar way, the Cordobán and Monte Grande canyons in southwestern and southern flanks are at increased risk, and Civil Protection has advised the population to avoid these valleys. The increase in activity is also visible on the latest seismogram, showing tremor pulses and more frequent and stronger explosion & rockfall signals.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for March 16, 2013

Photo of the Day:

Tolbachik volcano eruption in 2012-13. (Photo: Alexander Lobashevsky)

- Volcano Discovery.

MASS FISH/ANIMAL DIE-OFF IN ASIA: 8,354 Dead Pigs Found In The Huangpu River, Shanghai, China; Large Number Of Dead Fish Found In Haikou, China; Large Fish kill In A Moat In Xian, China; 800 Chickens Die Of Bird Flu In Madhepura, India?!

March 16, 2013 - ASIA - The number of dead pigs found in a river that provides drinking water to Shanghai, China, has risen to 8,354, after local authorities retrieved a further 809 carcasses on Friday.

8,354 Dead Pigs Found In The Huangpu River, Shanghai, China.
The Shanghai municipal government has repeatedly assured the city's 23 million residents that tap water remains safe. However, locals remain worried about water contamination from the swollen and rotting carcasses in the Huangpu river.

The dead pigs are believed to be come from farms upstream in the Jiaxing area in neighbouring Zhejiang province. A surge in pig dumping has followed police campaigns against the sale of pork products made from diseased pigs. Chinese state media said one Jiaxing pig farmer had admitted to pig dumping and was under investigation. - Guardian.

WATCH: Over 8,000 dead pigs found in Shanghai.

Large Number Of Dead Fish Found In Haikou, China.
Haikou Red Lake City is now a large number of dead fish. Initially considered to be due to high salinity. Southern Metropolis Daily, March 13 (trainee reporter party toward the peak) Recently, Haikou City, Red Lake continues to fish death. Haikou Red City Lake Park Management Ltd, who said that the joint investigation after a number of departments, initially considered water salinity is too high.

Reasons of dead fish, the morning of the 12th, the reporter interviewed the the Haikou the Red Lake City Park Management Limited director of Li Baoping. Lizhu Ren introduced in order to improve the water quality of the Red Lake City, the government injected water from Nandu Red Lake, close to the sea due to Nandu intake point, coupled Recently dry weather, precipitation rarely lead to the Red Lake water salinity the amount is too high, resulting in a large number of dead fish. Lizhu Ren also said that the If you stop Nandu water into the Red Lake, will lead to the Red Lake into stagnant water, the same is not conducive to the growth of ecological protection and fish in the Red Lake, therefore, relevant government departments are currently considering how to solve this problems. - Eastday. [Translated]

Large Fish kill In A Moat In Xian, China.
A lot of people to call our program reflects these days the morning to the Ring Xiyuan exercise, found a lot of dead fish floating in the moat. And this moat stench. In the end how it happened, we went to see.

Morning ten o'clock, reporters rushed to the southwest corner of the city walls, and northward along the Central West, moat breeze blowing, sparkling, the scenery is very charming. Too unpleasant, the reporters every paragraph can be found floating on the river with a lot of waving white belly of the dead fish, and most of the dead fish only so long index finger.

Xi'an public: "quite a pity, I think these two days to die so much, very unfortunate."

Xi'an public: "This morning fishing, died yesterday more very."

Reporter: "About how many?"

Xi'an public: "more is this (river) above floated a layer."

The nearby masses told reporters, like the phenomenon of the death of a large area of ​​the fish is not the day for two days. Reporter, a staff member responsible for the the moat river cleanup work also rushed to the scene to clean up the river of dead fish.

Xi'an moat staff: "To dry a few people live it, I'm busy Sha Yangzi."

Xi'an public: "that floated on the white, I thought that is what it came closer is the fish is very regrettable, may be contaminated, do not know how it happened."

Moat these days why frequent large area of ​​dead fish, who claimed the right to life of these fish? Is it really like the public to guess, the problem of pollution?

Reporter: "We just have to contact the staff of the Management Committee of Xi'an city wall, the staff told us that this dead fish, because of the the Huancheng the Xiyuan entire renovation project, resulting from the drawdown of the south to the north, making the fish lead to death from lack of oxygen. staff also told us that the whole project may be continued until May, that is, during this period, which one of the moat will continue for a day of dead fish in the interview, we are also heard many people say, so many dead fish every day, I feel very sorry, this this, we also hope that the relevant part to take effective measures to avoid the recurrence of a large number of fish deaths." - CN West. [Translated]

WATCH: Large fish kill in Xian.

800 Chickens Die Of Bird Flu In Madhepura, India.
The scary Bird Flu contagion has taken Madhepura district within its sweep where more than 800 chickens have perished during the last four days. The avian 'flu viral' was first noticed at Madheli and Jirwa panchayats under Shankerpur block in the district where chickens perished after dozing off and excreting green faeces in some of poultry farms.

A poultry firm owner Mohammad Tahir is extremely dejected as over 500 chicken of his poultry farm had perished. The panchayat officials promptly swung into action and dumped the chickens which perished during the last few days. - Times of India.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: 7.8 Earthquake ‘Exercise’ To Hit Los Angeles County Next Thursday As Scientists Declare That Earthquake Early-Warning System's Future Is In Doubt And That Earthquakes Are Not Enough Warning For Some Volcanic Eruptions!

March 16, 2013 - UNITED STATES - They say we are getting closer to predicting the actual time when earthquakes will actually take place.

Here in Los Angeles County on thing is for sure, sometime in the future a large shaker will strike and millions of people will be effected.

7.8 Earthquake ‘Exercise’ To Hit Los Angeles County Next Thursday.
In continuing the on-going efforts in preparing the “big one,” Los Angeles County Operational Area (LACOA) and its partners including the 88 cities, 137 unincorporated area communities, 200-plus school and special districts will be holding a “disaster training exercise” on Thursday, March 21 from 9 to 3 p.m.

Los Angeles County get’s ready for “the big one.”

The Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is hosting a “functional exercise” at the Los Angeles County Emergency Operations Center (CEOC) that is located at 1275 N. Eastern Avenue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In a press statement on Friday afternoon, it was explained that “this year’s functional exercise will feature the California Integrated Seismic Network’s Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration System and the participation of 53 City emergency operations centers, American Red Cross, Emergency Network Los Angeles, Southern California Edison and County departments (Chief Executive Office, Community & Senior Services, Coroner, Fire, Health, Human Resources, Internal Services, Mental Health, Public Health, Public Social Services, Public Works and Sheriff).”

“These departments and organizations will be communicating and coordinating various types of resource and commodity requests by utilizing the Operational Area Response and Recovery System in response to a simulated magnitude 7.8 earthquake that impact the entire LACOA,” a media spokesperson said.

English: Map of Los Angeles County, California – with adjacent Counties indicated. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A functional exercise is a training event that is designed to test and evaluate selected emergency functions and the interaction of various levels of government, response organizations, volunteer groups, and industry in a simulated environment. This type of exercise usually involves key decision makers, the local emergency operations center and representatives from response and support organizations. Field response units are not normally activated and deployed during a functional exercise.

For more information on how to prepare for disasters, please go to OEM website at and Emergency Survival Program website at - LCN.

Earthquakes Are Not Enough Warning For Some Volcanic Eruptions.
Fountaining volcano, Hawaii.

It may not always be possible to predict volcanic eruptions through rising numbers of earthquakes, say scientists. Using earthquakes to warn of eruptions well before they occur is necessary in case safety measures and evacuations need be put into place.

Before many eruptions the rising pressure of magma causes the ground to deform and fracture - resulting in earthquakes. So, changes in the number or pattern of seismic activity around a volcano can often be a signal that it could be about to erupt.

But scientists have now shown this might not always be the case, and using earthquakes alone to signal eruptions may not give us enough warning. Previous studies had suggested that, on average, earthquake activity at Kilauea, a Hawaiian volcano, increased for around two weeks leading up to an eruption. But new research has found this trend is not as clear- cut as scientists first thought and earthquakes may only provide a clear warning for one type of eruption.

Dr Andrew Bell, from the University of Edinburgh, and Dr Chris Kilburn, from University College London, used data collected by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory since 1959 to test this accepted trend against what they were actually seeing at Kilauea.

The study, published in the Bulletin of Volcanology, shows that increases in earthquake activity can occur at different times in the lead up to different types of eruption. Earthquake activity can increase several weeks before an eruption, but only before eruptions caused by the magma chamber becoming over pressurised.

But eruptions caused by rocks slipping on the volcano's flanks are also common, and these show an increase in earthquake activity merely hours before they occur. 'We've shown that increased earthquake activity at Kilauea is not enough on its own to predict an eruption in the short-term,' explains Bell.

'Where the earthquakes give a long warning period, it's more applicable to a wider volcanic setting, particularly volcanoes that have not erupted for long periods of time' continues Bell. 'At Kilauea the more common type of eruption has an extremely short warning period. But for a small subset of its eruptions it shows increased activity for a while leading up to an event. We can use this to help forecast eruptions at volcanoes we have less information for.'

Since more earthquakes often occur during periods of volcanic unrest, understanding how and where they occur can be crucial to predicting an eruption before it occurs. Being able to quantify the earthquake trends at Kilauea may help scientists to forecast eruptions at volcanoes with a more limited record of behaviour, like Mount Etna in Sicily. 'Kilauea is an excellent place to study these pre-eruptive processes as there's a long history with multiple eruptions from 1959 to 1983. All of this data is recorded at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory so it's a great resource,' Bell says.

Often the data set from other volcanoes is very small and there are very few well monitored eruptions. 'Using data from Kilauea as a way of seeing trends at these volcanoes is a bit of a trade-off. At Kilauea flank instability plays a bigger role than for other volcanoes, but we have a longer record to play with.'

Bell and Kilburn found that the previously reported trend was dependent on the quality of data – a key issue when dealing with any earthquake data catalogue that has been collected over a long period of time.

'Over time the sensitivity of equipment has improved and so in later years many more of the smaller earthquakes will be recorded compared to previous years. This means modelling trends is often extremely difficult as data quality changes,' explains Bell. 'Effectively in prior studies these data quality issues were not accounted for, and there was a degree of double counting data, so they saw an increase in seismic activity before eruptions even when there wasn't one.'

Although the direct implications for how volcanologists will be able to use this information to forecast other eruptions are still unclear, the team is now working on real time testing of forecast models during eruptions to see how well different factors predict these volcanic events. - Planet Earth Online.

Earthquake Early-Warning System's Future In Doubt.

Supporters of California's quake early warning system hope this week's success will prompt state officials to help fund completion of the network. The system currently is being funded as a pilot program, largely by private donations as a temporary project.

Scientists and some lawmakers have called for the state to pay to make the system permanent. Backers want the state to spend $80 million to install and upgrade thousands of the sensors across California. If they can get the money, seismologists said the system could be operational in two years.

Without the funding, the future of the system is unclear. Monday's 4.7 temblor in Anza marked a big advance for the system. The quake struck in the desert town of Anza, about 35 miles south of Palm Springs, and hundreds of sensors embedded in the ground immediately sent an alert to seismologists at Caltech in Pasadena. They had 30 seconds' warning before the quake was felt there.

"It was right," said Kate Hutton, a Caltech seismologist. "I sat really still to see if I could feel it and it worked." The system has been in place for more than a year. But Monday's quake offered a rare opportunity to actually see — and feel — whether it worked. The sensors have warned scientists of numerous quakes, but the vast majority were either too small to feel or too far away to be felt in the Los Angeles area. For example, the sensors gave an early warning of several magnitude 5 quakes last year in Imperial County, but the temblors hit too far away for them to be felt in L.A.

The Anza quake was different.

Even though it measured only magnitude 4.7, its location on solid granite made the shaking stronger and more widespread. People reported to the U.S. Geological Survey that they felt it as far away as Arizona and Central California. At Caltech, computer screens flashed with a 30-second countdown to when the shaking would hit Pasadena. Sure enough, it came on time.

Hutton and others declared the test a success, with some caveats.

The system initially overestimated the quake's magnitude, saying it was 5.2. But USGS seismologist Susan Hough was not overly concerned about the error. She noted the main job of the system is to alert people to a coming quake, not to gets its magnitude precisely right. The Anza quake caused an unusually intense amount of shaking, Hough added, so the warning system accurately captured that.

Backers say an early warning would give utilities time to shut down, trains a chance to slow so they don't derail and workers a chance to move away from hazardous materials or precarious positions. Warnings would be sent to the public through text messages, emails and other special alerts.

Similar systems are already operating in Japan, Mexico and Taiwan. Two years ago, Japan's program alerted about 50 million residents ahead of the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake. The warning program's reliability hinges on where sensors are placed. They need to be near active fault zones. The Anza quake hit in a seismically active area where scientists have embedded many sensors.

Scientists have long believed a major quake could erupt in the desert and mountain regions north and east of L.A. because the San Andreas fault and other faults run along there. The Monday quake was along the San Jacinto fault zone. Hough and others warned the system would be effective only for quakes some distance from the urban center of L.A.

The warning system works when sensors in the ground detect the first signs of earth movement, known as P waves, that travel at the speed of sound. The more damaging shaking, called the S waves, lag behind at a slower speed. The greater the distance from the epicenter, the more time population centers would have to prepare. The system would provide little to no warning for a quake at the center of the city.

"It's physics," Hough said. "We have an earthquake like Northridge … those early warnings would not have helped in those places that were damaged." Earlier this year, scientists showed off the system using a simulation of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. A person in Pasadena, 40 miles away, would have about 18 seconds to prepare if an alert were issued. - LA Times.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Stench Of Death - Tens Of Thousands Of Fish Found Dead In Hunter River, New South Wales, Australia?!

March 16, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - A HUGE deluge of putrid floodwater run-off has sparked the largest fish kill on record in the Hunter.

Tens of thousands of fish and marine life have been killed after dead or ‘‘blackwater’’ flooded the lower reaches of the Hunter, Williams and Paterson rivers.

Dead stingrays on near the high tide mark at Sandgate Boat ramp on the Hunter River.
Picture: Darren Pateman

The water has created a pungent odour throughout the Hunter that is expected to take weeks to dissipate.

The filthy water, caused by dead and rotting vegetation, strips oxygen levels from the rivers and releases tannins that turn the water black.

The environmental disaster is expected to kill all fish and marine life in the affected area downstream from Morpeth and Irrawang.

Environment Minister Robyn Parker last night ordered additional testing to determine the cause of the fish kill.

Hundreds of pelicans feeding on dead fish. Picture: Darren Pateman.

Dead fish wash down the Hunter river after flooding. Picture: Darren Pateman.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Primary Industries said yesterday the first dead fish were located at Hexham on Saturday.

She said it could take months for the rivers to recover and fish stocks to re-enter the estuary from the coast.

The chief environmental regulator for the Environment Protection Authority, Mark Gifford, said the problem was caused by water levels in the Williams, Paterson and Hunter rivers peaking at the same time, increasing the duration of the flooding.

Mr Gifford said that as the floods moved over low-lying areas surrounding the rivers, they picked up large quantities of organic matter, including decaying vegetation, leaves, dirt and sand.

This process stripped oxygen from the surrounding water.

Dead fish wash down the Hunter river after flooding. Picture: Darren Pateman.

‘‘EPA tests for dissolved oxygen levels taken at various points on Monday all clearly showed that the fish were impacted by low oxygen levels,’’ Mr Gifford said.

Professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology in Sydney David Booth confirmed the large numbers of dead eels and catfish suggested that anoxia (a lack of oxygen), possibly caused by significant amounts of sediment-laden run-off, may have contributed to the fish kill.

‘‘Those fish are pretty tough species, they are usually the last fish to go,’’ he said. ‘‘The fact that eels have been coming up to the surface gasping for air suggests anoxia. You can imagine that fish gills don’t work very well when they are all clogged up.’’

Record numbers of pelicans, about 450, flocked to Kooragang Dykes yesterday to feast on the dead fish.

Liz Crawford, of the Hunter Bird Observers Club, said records indicated there were only 35pelicans at the dykes this time last year. The largest number recorded last year was 192in April.

Hunter New England Health has issued a warning to residents not to drink or swim in the rivers.

Hexham-based commercial fisherman Jason Hewitt said the mass kill was a ‘‘complete disaster’’ for the 26prawn trawlers and 10netters and crabbers who worked the rivers.

SUFFOCATED: A dead fish near the Stockton bridge yesterday. Pictures: Peter Stoop.

Mr Hewitt said everything from eels and stingrays to prawns and catfish were dead.

‘‘We want further investigation to find out exactly what has happened here, we don’t believe this is only due to lack of oxygen ... We’ve been watching prawns crawling out of the water and dying along with everything else.’’

Opposition environment spokesman Luke Foley said he was concerned that the government was unable to manage waterways such as the Hunter River.

Greens environment spokeswoman Cate Faehrmann said the government needed to rule out the possibility that upstream discharges of saline mine water had not contributed to the fish kill, and the EPA should release all the water monitoring data.

Environment Minister Robyn Parker said she had been advised that the saline mine water had not contributed to the fish kill.

Similar large-scale kills have occurred in the Macleay, Richmond and Clarence rivers in 2001 and 2008.

According to the Department of Primary Industries, water quality readings taken this week downstream of Morpeth measured between 0.1 and 0.2milligrams of gas per litre of water, indicating it was almost devoid of oxygen. - The Herald.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Major Signs Of Unrest - Alaska's Ever-Sizzling Cleveland Volcano Releases Ash Plume!

March 16, 2013 - ALASKA - Who needs TV in Alaska when you've got Mount Cleveland to watch? The ever-simmering volcano in the Aleutian Islands has once again let out an ash plume just one month after last being upgraded after satellite imagery indicated increased temperatures in the peak.

NASA's Earth Observatory released a photo Friday showing a small ash cloud emanating from Cleveland and a field of ash staining the volcano's winter-white summit. The volcano rests on an unhabited island about 45 miles west of the community of Nikolski.

A NASA satellite captured a small cloud of ash puffing from the top of Cleveland volcano on March 14, 2013.
NASA photo.

Cleveland had been listed under "advisory" status by the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) on Wednesday, meaning that it was showing signs of unrest beyond normal background levels, but no imminent indications of eruption.

Satellite imagery on a clear day Wednesday suggested no unusual activity at the volcano. In the most recent weekly report for Cleveland, observers said that temperatures in the dome had returned to normal in late February, prompting a downgrade from the "watch" status the volcano had been under.

"Anomalous surface temperatures prevalent in late January through mid-February declined, and the last thermal anomaly observed in satellite imagery was reported on February 26," researchers said, before downgrading the volcano to its current status.

Chris Waythomas, a geologist with the AVO, said that Thursday's ash burp was nothing alarming, or even out of the ordinary, for Cleveland.

"If you were to look at the summit of some other pretty constantly active volcanoes ... they’d look very similar," Waythomas said.

He said that the peak of Cleveland is typically pretty warm, and almost always snow-free, whether from the heat or from wind in the weather-weary Aleutians blowing across the summit.

Cleveland has no real-time monitoring due to its remoteness, so scientists rely on distant seismic equipment and satellite imagery -- the latter of which is only really helpful on days when it's not cloudy.

"We’ve been keeping a pretty close eye on it -- or as close as we can -- and satellite data indicates the lava dome in the crater hasn’t changed at all," Waythomas said. He said that the internal heat of the volcano can cause steam, and some ash to burst out of the peak on a regular basis, though it doesn't rise much beyond a couple of hundred feet.

Such activity is not classified as an eruptive event. The last real activity from Cleveland came in November of last year, when it spat an ash cloud to between 18,000 and 22,000 feet in a single event.

It was downgraded again a little more than a week later. In the last year, Cleveland has seen numerous changes in status as it continues to gurgle on its remote island home. - Alaska Dispatch.

Mount Cleveland is a tall, symmetrical stratovolcano composed of alternating layers of hardened lava, solidified volcanic ash, and rocks thrown out by earlier eruptions. The volcano occupies the western half of Chuginadak Island—an island shaped like a giant dumbbell in the east-central Aleutian Islands.

Cleveland is one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian Islands, but in early March 2013, authorities lowered the volcano’s alert level to Advisory, meaning volcanic activity had decreased, but it would continue to be monitored closely for potential renewed activity.

On March 14, 2013, clouds cleared enough to allow the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite an unobstructed view of Mount Cleveland. Ash stained the snow around the summit, and the volcano sent a small plume skyward, but activity was minimal compared to the eruptive activity photographed by astronauts several years earlier. - Earth Observatory.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: New Zealand Suffering From Biggest Drought In 30 Years - Farmers Slaughtering Animals In Mass Due To Lack Of Food; 1 Billion In Lost Export Earnings!

March 16, 2013 - NEW ZEALAND - Dairy farmer John Rose has sent more than 100 of his cows to the slaughterhouse over recent weeks as a severe drought browned pastures in New Zealand's normally verdant North Island.

He had to thin his herd so the remaining 550 cows have enough to eat, and he's supplementing their diet with ground palm kernel as the grass in his fields withers.

In this photo taken on March 11, 2013, farmer Peter Brown walks on the dry ground at his dairy farm near Ohinewai, New Zealand. A drought in New Zealand’s North Island is costing farmers millions of dollars each day and is beginning to take a toll on the country’s economy. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Brett Phibbs)

"We try and make sure they've got water and shade during the day and do the best we can for them," he said. "It's very hard to remember when the last rainfall was."

The drought is costing farmers millions of dollars each day and is beginning to take a toll on New Zealand's economy. On Friday, the government officially declared its most widespread drought in at least 30 years.

Parts of the North Island are drier than they've been in 70 years and some scientists say the unusual weather could be a harbinger of climate change. There has been little significant rainfall in the northern and eastern parts of the country since October.

Still, some are finding the dry, sun soaked days a boon. Vintners call the conditions perfect. And city dwellers are reveling in eating lunch outdoors or spending evenings at the beach in a Southern Hemisphere summer that never seems to end.

Farmers estimate the drought has so far cost them about 1 billion New Zealand dollars ($820 million) in lost export earnings with the damage rising daily as they reduce their herds, which in turn reduces milk production.

Farming, and dairy cows in particular, drives the economy in the island nation of 4.5 million and the drought is expected to shave about a percentage point off economic growth.

New Zealand's last significant drought was five years ago and also cost farmers billions of dollars.

Bruce Wills, president of farming association Federated Farmers, said North Island slaughterhouses are processing about 40 percent more cows and sheep this year as farmers reduce their herds. The increased numbers and lighter weight of the animals has resulted in plummeting prices, he said.

North Island farmers are also sending stock to the South Island, which hasn't been so affected. Wills said farmers have sent 1.5 million lambs and other stock on ferries to the South Island to graze or be slaughtered there.

"One of the challenges with a drought is that the impact can go on for a number of years," he said. "We'll have a lower lambing percentage next year because there hasn't been enough feed this year," he said of the impact on animal fertility.

The official government designation of a drought provides farmers some financial relief through increased government funding of rural groups and tax breaks. Farmers facing serious financial hardship will also be eligible to apply for temporary unemployment benefits.

"It's a very serious problem," said lawmaker David Shearer. "It's obviously affecting farmers, but the other part is it's also going to flow through to our rural communities — the retail shops and the businesses."

Bill English, the country's finance minister, said that despite the economic difficulties caused by the drought, he believes the government can still maintain its goal of returning the national budget to surplus by the year beginning July 2014. The country was sent into the red after the 2008 global financial crisis.

James Renwick, a climate scientist at Victoria University of Wellington, said New Zealanders should expect more summers like the current one due to global warming. He said the dry subtropical weather that helps forms deserts in places like Africa and Australia is expanding toward the world's poles.

He said the risk of drought in New Zealand will keep increasing and water resources will become more stretched. He said that in certain places, dairy cows, with their reliance on abundant water, may not be as viable in years to come but that other more drought-resistant crops and species could replace them.

"We may need to change our approach to farming," Renwick said. "Whatever the climate is, there's always something you can do."

Like, perhaps, growing grapes.

"The weather for us is stunningly good," said Philip Gregan, the chief executive of New Zealand Wine, an association representing grape growers and winemakers. "We're getting warm, dry, cooler nights. It's the perfect recipe for fully ripe fruit with fabulous flavors."

Gregan said winemakers across the country are expecting an excellent vintage as the annual grape harvest begins.

New Zealand's sauvignon blanc is well-regarded internationally, but the industry remains small when compared to farming. Winemaking accounts for about 1.2 billion New Zealand dollars ($1 billion) in exports while farming accounts for about 25 billion New Zealand dollars ($20.6 billion).

The sunny weather in the capital city Wellington has been drawing thousands of tourists and office workers to the waterfront.

Simon Edmonds, who owns the waterfront cafe Tuatua, said late summer business is up 30 to 40 percent over the same time last year. But, he said, locals seem to have become so accustomed to sunny days this year that they're not arriving in the same numbers as they did on fine days in previous years.

"People can't go out and buy lunch every single day," he said.

Some relief may come with rain in the forecast on Sunday — although one dousing won't be nearly enough to undo the drought.

For Rose, the dairy farmer, the end of the golden weather can't come quick enough. - NBC News.