Wednesday, March 20, 2013

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For March 20, 2013 - Updates On El Hierro, Kizimen, Shiveluch, Tolbachik, Sakurajima, Manam, Batu Tara, Paluweh, Lokon-Empung, White Island, Long Valley, Popocatépetl, Pacaya, Fuego And Telica!

March 20, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Seismic signal from El Hierro 19 Mar (IGN).

El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): Activity has dropped progressively during yesterday and has been almost zero today. This probably means that the intrusion (or whatever caused the quakes) has already stopped, and formed just another couple of basaltic dikes deep (16-20 km) under the island.

Kizimen (Kamchatka): KVERT reports no changes: moderate seismic activity, continuing lava dome growth at the summit, visible incandescence, hot avalanches on the western and eastern flanks, and strong gas-steam activity.

MODIS hot spot at the summit of Sheveluch.

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): The growth of the lava dome continues, accompanied by moderate seismic activity, and is visible as a large hot spot on MODIS satellite data.

Thermal hot spots corresponding to Tolbachik's recent lava flows.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): No changes were reported by KVERT about the ongoing eruption: tremor accompanying the lava flow effusion and strong degassing remains strong. A big thermal anomaly on satellite images corresponds to the fresh lava flow field.

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): After some days with less explosions, activity has once again picked up with no less than 6 explosions during the past 24 hours. The largest produced an ash plume rising to 3 km altitude.

Manam (Papua New Guinea): An important SO2 plume was detected on today's satellite image, suggesting a phase of increased lava emission. No ash plume have been alerted of (so far).

Batu Tara (Sunda Islands, Indonesia): An larger explosion again produced an ash plume rising to approx. 10,000 ft (3 km) altitude and drifting 60 nautical miles northwest today.

Paluweh (off Flores Island, Indonesia): The lava dome continues to grow and produce avalanches and explosions. Another ash plume was seen rising to about 3 km altitude (10,000 ft) and drifting 40 nautical miles to the northwest today.

Lokon-Empung (North Sulawesi, Indonesia): Mount Lokon in Tomohon City, North Sulawesi, erupted again at around 7:57 a.m., local time, on Wednesday, sending a plume of ash 2,000 meters into the sky from its Tompaluan crater.  “There was an increase in volcanic tremors which culminated in an eruption,” said Farid Ruskanda Bina, head of Mount Lokon and Mount Mahawu observation post at the Bandung Geology Agency’s volcanology and geological disaster mitigation center (PVMBG), in Kakaskasen, Tomohon, on Wednesday, as quoted by Antara news agency. 

Warno, an official at the observation post, added that the increases in Mount Lokon’s volcanic tremors was actually not too significant.  Currently, the agency’s PVMBG is still maintaining Mount Lokon’s volcanic activity status at “alert” (level 3) although the frequency of the volcano’s eruptions has continued to decline. Previously, Mount Lokon erupted two to three times a week.  The eruption on Wednesday morning shocked local residents living around Mount Lokon as it was accompanied by loud bangs. People left their homes and crowded the Tomohon-Manado main road as well as roads in Kinilow sub-district in Kinilow Satu, Kakaskasen, to witness the eruption.  Mount Lokon has been active since July 2011. Its volcanic activity status was once raised to “awas” or level 4, until it was lowered to its current level, said Farid.  He said Mount Lokon's most recent eruption before it erupted again this morning was on March 10.

Current seismic signal from White Island (GeoNet).

White Island (New Zealand): Continuous volcanic tremor mixed with frequent earthquakes remains high, suggesting strong degassing and perhaps minor phreatic activity. In addition, a magnitude 3.5 quake occurred yesterday at 16:33 local time 10 km east of White Island... [read more]
Depth vs time of quakes at the Long Valley caldera (CA).

Long Valley (California)
: Small earthquakes continue to occur clustered near the SW margin of the caldera and Mammoth Mountain. The earthquake are tiny to small (less than magnitude 2) and show nothing usual going on.

Explosion from Popocatépetl yesterday night.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity increased yesterday. CENAPRED reported 95 small to moderate gas-steam-sometimes ash emissions, a 5 times steep increase compared to the previous day. Some explosions ejected incandescent material to up to 500 m distance from the crater, and created ash plumes rising up to about 1 km drifting east.

This morning's seismogram from Pacaya (PCG station, INSIVUMEH).

Pacaya (Guatemala): The volcano continues to wake up progressively and "shows symptoms typical of generating new explosions and opening a new effusive vent for a lava flow" (INSIVUMEH) in the near future.

In the last 48 hours, there have been a series of small explosions within the active crater, and constant degassing sustaining a white-gray plume reaching between 2700-2800 m above sea level and drifting south. Fine ash of fragmented rock is contained in this plume, suggesting that magma rising within the volcanic edifice is breaking its way upwards.

SO2 plume from Fuego (NOAA).

Fuego (Guatemala): The volcano has once again entered a (brief?) phase of stronger effusive and explosive activity. The Activity has increased since yesterday 14h20 local time, INSIVUMEH reports. A new lava flow has started to descend from the summit crater towards the Ceniza drainage and has reached a length of 1300 m.

Weather conditions did not allow direct observations, but it seems that associated explosions and/or possibly pyroclastic flows (which often are triggered by collapses of Fuego's steep lava flows) have created an ash plume rising to 5 km altitude. So far, however, no evidence of actual pyroclastic flows have been found, although they could (and likely will) happen any time... [read more]
Map of recent quakes near Telica volcano.

Telica (Nicaragua): The seismic swarm has intensified a bit. Some of the quakes are now listed by INETER on their earthquake list. The largest is apparently a magnitude 2 earthquake at 1.2 km depth a few km to the east of the summit.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for March 20, 2013

SOURCES: Volcano Discovery | The Jakarta Post.

EXTREME MONUMENTAL WEATHER: Drought Ravaged Lake Michigan At Lowest Level Ever Recorded!

March 20, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Lake Michigan is at its lowest level ever recorded and according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, it all depends on climate.

A rare cloudless satellite view of the entire Great Lakes region, April 24, 2000,
with the names of the lakes added. © Wikipedia.

The alliance says the biggest factors that regulate the level of the highly-prized resource is rainfall and evaporation.

Last year we experienced severe drought conditions here in the Midwest and other parts of the country and with hot temperatures came even more evaporation.

What we can expect, says the alliance, is the trend toward more extremes in lake levels and storms.

The alliance said the amount of fresh water we take from Lake Michigan for drinking and other purposes is minimal compared to how rainfall and evaporation regulate the level of the lake. - WGN.

WATCH: Lake levels dropping due to drought, evaporation, says group.

Two of the Great Lakes have hit their lowest water levels ever recorded, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday, capping more than a decade of below-normal rain and snowfall and higher temperatures that boost evaporation.  Measurements taken last month show Lake Huron and Lake Michigan have reached their lowest ebb since record keeping began in 1918, and the lakes could set additional records over the next few months, the corps said. The lakes were 29 inches below their long-term average and had declined 17 inches since January 2012.  The other Great Lakes — Superior, Erie and Ontario — were also well below average. 

"We're in an extreme situation," said Keith Kompoltowicz, watershed hydrology chief for the corps district office in Detroit. 
The low water has caused heavy economic losses by forcing cargo ships to carry lighter loads, leaving boat docks high and dry, and damaging fish-spawning areas. And vegetation has sprung up in newly exposed shoreline bottomlands, a turnoff for hotel customers who prefer sandy beaches.  The corps' report came as shippers pleaded with Congress for more money to dredge ever-shallower harbors and channels. Shippers are taxed to support a harbor maintenance fund, but only about half of the revenue is spent on dredging. The remainder is diverted to the treasury for other purposes. Legislation to change that policy is pending before Congress.  "Plunging water levels are beyond anyone's control, but the dredging crisis is man-made," said James Weakley, president of the Cleveland-based Lake Carriers' Association.  Kompoltowicz said the Army corps might reconsider a long-debated proposal to place structures in a river to reduce the flow of water away from Lakes Huron and Lake Michigan, which are connected.  Scientists say lake levels are cyclical and controlled mostly by nature. They began a steep decline in the late 1990s and have usually lagged well below their historical averages since then.  But studies have shown that Huron and Michigan fell by 10 to 16 inches because of dredging over the years to deepen the navigational channel in the St. Clair River, most recently in the 1960s.

Dredging of the river, which is on the south end of Lake Huron, accelerated the flow of water southward from the two lakes toward Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.  Groups representing shoreline property owners, primarily in Lake Huron's Georgian Bay, have demanded action to slow the Lake Huron and Michigan outflow to make up for losses that resulted from dredging, which they contend are even greater than officials have acknowledged.  Although the Army corps produced a list of water-slowing options in 1972, including miniature dams and sills that resemble speed bumps along the river bottom, nothing was done because the lakes were in a period of above-average levels that lasted nearly three decades, Kompoltowicz said.  The corps has congressional authorization to take action but would need money for an updated study as a first step, he said.

The Detroit office is considering a funding request, but it would have to compete with other projects nationwide and couldn't get into the budget before 2015.  "It's no guarantee that we're going to get it, especially in this budget climate," Kompoltowicz said. "But there are serious impacts to navigation and shoreline property owners from this extreme event. It's time to revisit this."  Scientists and engineers convened by the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency that deals with shared waterways, issued reports in 2009 and last year that did not endorse trying to regulate the Great Lakes by placing structures at choke points such as the St. Clair River. The commission has conducted public hearings and will issue a statement in about a month, spokesman John Nevin said.  Roger Gauthier, a retired staff hydrologist with the Army corps, said a series of "speed bumps" could be put in the river at a reasonable cost within a few years. Without such measures, he warned, "it would take years of consistent rain" to return Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to normal. - Yahoo.

WATCH: Great Lakes reach record low.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: American Northeast Walloped By Up To 16 Inches Of Spring Snow - Major Travel Disruptions, Numerous Auto Accidents!

March 20, 2013 - UNITED STATES - New Englanders were preparing for another messy day of snow as they welcomed spring's unseasonable arrival.

Forecasts called for as much as 16 inches of snow in parts of northern New England through Wednesday morning, bringing slippery road conditions. Snow was expected to taper off in other locations.

"It's the real deal — the heavy, wet snow," said National Weather Service forecaster John Cannon in Gray, Maine. "Travel will be treacherous into the early morning hours."

Snow and sleet blasted the Northeast on Tuesday, where some places received over a foot of snow. Classes were canceled in some districts in Massachusetts, Connecticut and upstate New York, adding a few more snow days to the calendar.

Snow also socked other parts of the northern U.S., with as much as 2 feet forecast in parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Icy roads caused numerous auto accidents. In Marlborough, Mass., the Harlem Globetrotters' bus collided with a car on Interstate 290, but no one was hurt and the bus was able to drive away, the state police said. No citations were issued.

WATCH: The last day of winter leaves with a wallop as New England wrestles with heavy snow, and storms bring heavy rain, winds and power outages to parts of the South. Chris Clackum reports.

There was nothing unusual about a snowstorm in the Northeast this late in the season, when it can still get plenty cold.

"They don't happen all the time, but it's not, you know, unheard of," said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.

Nina Walker, of Woburn in suburban Boston, said she had to shovel about 8 inches of snow off her driveway before driving to Boston's South Station to take a train to New York.

As a lifelong New Englander, she takes the snow in stride, but draws the line at storms after March 31.

"Once I hear the word 'April,' I am really offended when I hear the word 'snow,'" she said. "So this is OK today, but a couple of weeks from now, it had better not happen." - NBC News.

WATCH: The first day of spring may be right around the corner, but a big snow storm has brought a wintery chill to the Northeast. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up In America - Massive Sinkhole Swallows Pond In Backyard Of California Home!

March 20, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A couple in California awoke on Sunday to find that a huge sinkhole had swallowed the pond in their backyard.

 "This looks like the moon," said Korb, pointing at a sinkhole that caused a pond to drain onto his property
© Michael "Domi" Domalaog/KCRA

Terror: The sinkhole, which the homeowner described as looking like it was 'on the moon'
© Michael "Domi" Domalaog/KCRA

Homeowner Mark Korb, who lives at the property with his wife, said that the hole had drained the pond behind his Newcastle home in just five hours. Previously it had taken seven days to empty the same volume of water.

A sinkhole is a hole that opens up suddenly in the ground. They mostly occur because of erosion, underground water that gathers naturally or due to man-made activities.

Gone! Mark Korb shows a news reporter the sinkhole that swallowed the pond behind his home in Newcastle, California
© Michael "Domi" Domalaog/KCRA

Powerful: Mr Korb shows another pond at his rural property which previously took seven days to empty the same volume of water that the sinkhole achieved in five hours
© Michael "Domi" Domalaog/KCRA

Mr Korb told KCRA that the crater 'looks like the moon' on his rural property which is situated close to Dutch Ravine.

Last month, a man died after a 20ft sinkhole opened beneath his family home in Florida.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania are the states most affected by sinkholes.

Memorial: Jeff Bush died last month after a 20ft sinkhole opened up beneath his home in Florida which had to be later demolished
© Michael "Domi" Domalaog/KCRA

While they often occur from natural causes, sinkholes can be man-made and caused by human activity.

Groundwater pumping and construction are the most likely culprits. They can also occur when water drainage systems are changed. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: Newcastle couple wakes to find sinkhole in yard.

RATTLE & HUM: Mysterious Tremors - Residents Across Southern New Jersey Rattled By "Unusual" Loud Booms And Shaking!

March 20, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Just after 3 o'clock Tuesday afternoon residents in Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland counties say they felt multiple earthquake-like tremors that rattled their homes and offices.

Absecon resident, Kay Stadlmeir, said, "I don't think it would be an earthquake, but what could it be? It's just really odd." Somers Point resident, Bob Mower, explained, "There was a rattling of my windows and I felt the house shake just a little bit - it was unusual." Stadlmeir told NBC40, "It has to be something really big to be witnessed in such a widespread area of South Jersey."

The reports vary from region to region.

Atlantic county emergency management officials confirmed with the U.S. Geological Survey that it was not an earthquake. The next thought was that military training or an aircraft flying by might have caused the shakes.

Both the 177th Fighter Wing in Egg Harbor Township and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst confirmed none of their aircrafts were in the area at that time.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is still working to confirm whether or not any ground training was happening at the time, although it is unlikely that would cause such a widespread shake.

Stadlmeir said, "I really don't think it's a sonic boom because, you know as I said before, I've experienced them before and this is nothing like that." Mower told NBC40, "That was real unusual. I almost wondered if I was dreaming on that one."

After initial reports of the shakes came in, NBC40 put the word out on Facebook to see who else felt it. Immediately we received hundreds of responses from all over South Jersey.

Concerned Egg Harbor Township resident, Oliana Collado, said, "I just think it's weird because some people didn't feel it and it's like in random spots, and it's very spread out. Yeah it was scary, but I'm just glad it wasn't worse than what it was."

When we reached out to New Jersey State Police Headquarters, we were told that our call marked the first time they had heard about possible tremors and they were unable to tell us anything further.

NBC40 will continue to investigate the cause of these mysterious tremors. - NBC 40.

WATCH: Tremors a mystery in South Jersey.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 19 Miners Saved After Earthquake Traps Them Deep Underground In Poland!

March 20, 2013 - POLAND - Nineteen miners were pulled alive and well from a copper mine in southern Poland on Wednesday after a small earthquake trapped them almost 2,000 feet below the surface late Tuesday.

It took seven hours to tunnel through collapsed rock to reach the miners, who were working at the Rudna copper mine in southern Poland when a small tremor trapped them there at 10:09 p.m. local time (5:09 p.m. ET) on Tuesday.

  Families react to the news Wednesday that 19 miners were rescued after a small earthquake trapped them some 2,000 feet below the surface at the Rudna copper mine in southern Poland. Agencja Gazeta / Reuters

Two were treated for minor injuries, while the others, shaken up and covered with grime after a grueling night, were on their way home.

Families of the miners, who gathered near the site, cheered when the mine's operator, KGHM, announced that all 19 were alive and were slowly being taken out through a hole dug by the rescuers.

  KGHM Polkowice-Sieroszowice copper ore mine is seen in Polkowice in this July 29, 2011, file photo. Nineteen miners were trapped there Tuesday night after an earthquake caused a collapse. All were saved. Kacper Pempel / Reuters, file

"This was the biggest accident in KGHM history," chief executive Herbert Wirth told Reuters. "Never in our history has it happened that 19 miners were trapped with no contact."

The Rudna mine is about 250 miles southwest of the Polish capital, Warsaw.

After the quake on Tuesday, workers on the surface lost contact for several hours with the trapped miners because communication lines into the shafts had been severed.

USGS earthquake intensity map.

The mine is in the Silesia region, near Poland's borders with Germany and the Czech Republic. It has been in operation since 1974. State-controlled KGHM is Europe's second-biggest copper producer.

Poland has large numbers of mines, mostly in the heavily industrialized Silesia region. In 2006, a gas explosion at a coal mine in the region killed 23 miners. - NBC News.

WATCH: Miners rescued after being trapped by quake.