4 Most Active Volcanoes in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

4 Most Active Volcanoes in the World

There are approximately 1,500 active volcanoes around the world today. When volcanoes erupt, they can cause immense damage, destroying towns, forcing massive relocation’s, and even grounding planes. While some volcanoes lie dormant for decades, others are more active. Here are four of the world’s most active volcanoes.

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Stromboli, Italy

Stromboli, Italy

Credit: AZ68/iStock

Located in the south of Italy among the Aeolian Islands, Stromboli is one of the most popular volcanoes for tourists to visit. Beautiful beaches and incredible vegetation surround it. Stromboli has been erupting almost non-stop since the 1930s and was fairly active for 2,000 years before that. Its fiery eruptions mean that it glows for miles in the night, which has led it to be nicknamed “the lighthouse of the Mediterranean.” Stromboli’s eruptions are generally small but frequent, with streams of lava spewing from its summit approximately every 20 minutes. This style of eruption is so distinct to Stromboli that scientists refer to any other volcano with small, frequent eruptions as “Strombolian.”

Stromboli is also unique in that ancient records all indicate that it has been active for as long as people have been able to keep track of it — this volcano has never lied dormant. Fortunately, it rarely erupts in any sort of catastrophic explosion. Only three times in the past 100 years has Stromboli caused human fatalities or property damage: once in 1919, once in 1930, and, most recently, in 2003. Otherwise, this volcano is relatively safe despite its steady stream of activity.

Of course, as with any natural phenomena like this, Stromboli does still pose a risk. One of its most significant hazards is the Sciara del Fuoco, or Stream of Fire — this large scar stretches along the northwest edge of the volcano. If it collapses, it could cause tsunamis and dangerous clouds of volcanic material to erupt into the air.

Piton de la Fournaise, France

Piton de la Fournaise, France

Credit: Avanius/Shutterstock

Piton de la Fournaise is located on France’s island of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean. It erupts approximately once every nine months. Although it is in a state of nearly constant eruption, these eruptions are generally small and harmless. Piton de la Fournaise’s activity tends to consist of one explosion of lava, followed by a slow, steady lava stream down the mountain. While this could pose significant problems in populated areas, the lands around this volcano are mostly uninhabited due to its constant activity. This means that the eruptions cause little to no damage when they do occur.

Scientists closely monitor Piton de la Fournaise in the Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory. These scientists can predict eruptions several weeks before they happen, which gives them plenty of time to warn hikers, close the paths, and provide emergency instructions to anyone staying nearby. When no eruptions are expected, the volcano is open for people to hike and sightsee, and plenty of tourists visit — The La Réunion islands are a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This volcano has only had two catastrophic eruptions in the past 50 years. The first occurred in 1977 when an unusually strong lava flow made it to a populated area and caused severe damage to the village of Piton Sainte-Rose. The second was 30 years later, in 2007 — a considerable eruption released dangerous clouds of sulfur and sent a strong stream of lava down the mountain, destroying the island’s main road.

Mount Etna, Italy

Mount Etna, Italy

Credit: SalvoV/iStock

The second most active volcano on earth, Mount Etna is in the south of Italy, near Sicily. Locally known as “Mongibello,” or “Beautiful Mountain,” this enormous volcano currently stands over 10,000 feet high, although this is subject to change — its frequent eruptions often cause Mount Etna to grow as lava solidifies along the top of the mountain. This volcano is the tallest in Italy.

Although Mount Etna’s eruptions rarely cause any damage, disruptions do still happen. In July of 2019, a particularly ashy eruption forced authorities to close two airports in Catania, Sicily. One flight had to be diverted, and several more could not take off. There was also once an attempt to divert a flow of lava that was threatening Catania. This attempt, which occurred in 1992, was called “Operation Volcano Buster.” It involved United States Marines working with the Italian government to take explosives and blast a large hole on the side of the volcano. They then dropped concrete into the hole in an attempt to slow down the lava. Unfortunately, they were ultimately unsuccessful.

However, Mount Etna is mostly harmless and is even good for Sicily’s economy. The fertile soil it creates ensures that residents do very well agriculturally. The volcano also brings in quite a bit of money from tourism, as visitors to the island flock to see it.

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Mount Kilauea, United States

Mount Kilauea, United States

Credit: Ishigaki Taira/Shutterstock

Mount Kilauea is currently the most active volcano in the world. It is on the island of Hawai’i, also known as The Big Island — the southernmost Hawaiian island. This unique volcano is in the middle of the longest eruption ever recorded, which began back in 1983. This eruption has produced lava covering over 100 square miles of land and has expanded the coastline of the island.

Mount Kilauea is so active that it has become part of Hawaii’s traditional Polynesian legends. According to these legends, Mount Kilauea is home to the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, Pele. Pele is both a destroyer and a creator — while the eruptions cause damage, the solidified lava creates new land and fertilizes the existing soil.

Kilauea is a UNESCO World Heritage property, part of a national park, and can be visited by tourists. Although sections of the park are closed due to recent eruptions, visitors can stop at the Kilauea Visitor Center to see what’s open, learn about hiking routes, and sign up for activities. But make sure you don’t take any lava rocks with you; this is considered disrespectful to Pele, and locals strongly discourage it.

Mysterious Mineral from Earth’s Mantle Discovered in South African Diamond

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

Mysterious Mineral from Earth’s Mantle Discovered in South African Diamond

Diamond

(Image: © Bjoern Wylezich/Shutterstock)

A single grain of rock lodged in a diamond contains a never-before-found mineral.

And that newfound substance could reveal unusual chemical reactions unfolding in the depths of the mantle, the layer of Earth that lies between the planet’s crust and outer core.

Scientists unearthed the mineral from a volcanic site in South Africa known as the Koffiefontein pipe. Shining diamonds speckle the dark, igneous rock that lines the pipe, and the diamonds themselves contain tiny bits of other minerals from hundreds of miles beneath Earth’s surface. Within one of these sparkling stones, scientists found a dark green, opaque mineral that they estimated was forged about 105 miles (170 kilometers) underground.

They named the newfound mineral “goldschmidtite” in honor of acclaimed geochemist Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, according to the study, published Sept. 1 in the journal American Mineralogist.

A newfound mineral, called goldschmidtite, was extracted from a South African diamond.

(Image credit: Nicole Meyer/University of Alberta)

The entire mantle is about 1,802 miles (2,900 km) thick, according to National Geographic, which makes the layer’s lowermost regions difficult for scientists to study. The intense pressure and heat in the upper mantle transform humble carbon deposits into sparkling diamonds; the rocks trap other mantle minerals in their structures and can be pushed to the planet surface by underground volcanic eruptions. By analyzing mineral inclusions in the diamonds, scientists can take a peek at chemical processes that occur far beneath the crust.

Related Photos: The World’s 6 Most Famous Rocks

The study authors noted that, for a mantle mineral, goldschmidtite has a peculiar chemical composition.

“Goldschmidtite has high concentrations of niobium, potassium and the rare-earth elements lanthanum and cerium, whereas the rest of the mantle is dominated by other elements, such as magnesium and iron,” study co-author Nicole Meyer, a doctoral student at the University of Alberta in Canada, said in a statement. Potassium and niobium make up most of the mineral, meaning the relatively rare elements were brought together and concentrated to form the unusual substance, despite other nearby elements being more abundant, she said.

“Goldschmidtite is highly unusual for an inclusion captured by diamond and gives us a snapshot of fluid processes that affect the deep roots of continents during diamond formation,” mantle geochemist Graham Pearson, Meyer’s co-supervisor, said in the statement. The odd mineral now lies in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Meyer told Live Science in an email.

Originally published on Live Science.

10 Things You Never Knew About the Pacific Ocean

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

10 Things You Never Knew About the Pacific Ocean

As a source of oxygen and food, a means of climate regulation and transportation, and the supporter of one of the world’s biggest economies, it’s safe to say that oceans are our livelihood. With all the oceans do for us, it may be surprising to learn that humans have only discovered about 5% of what lies beneath. With so much left uncovered, it’s clear there’s a lot more to explore.

While we wait for the remaining 95% of the oceans to be discovered, let’s delve deeper into the biggest and baddest of them all — the Pacific Ocean. Here are 10 things you might not know about the Pacific Ocean.

It’s the Biggest Ocean in the World

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We just said that, but it deserves to be stated again for the record. The Pacific Ocean spans from California to China, covering an incredible 60 million square miles. Let’s put that size into perspective; if you accumulated all the world’s landmasses together, the Pacific Ocean would still be bigger.

It’s Also the Deepest Ocean in the World

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Just as impressive as its size is the Pacific Ocean’s depth. The deepest point was found in 2010 in the Mariana Trench, an impossibly deep channel that bottoms out at just over 36,070 feet (roughly 7 miles deep). And just to put that into perspective, Mount Everest could be placed in the trench and still be covered by about a mile of water.

It Was Named for Its Pleasant Demeanor

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Despite its vast size and depth, the Pacific Ocean is also known, at times, for its peaceful waters. In fact, it was these characteristics that inspired Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to name the ocean“Pacific” — meaning “calm” or “peaceful” — as he sailed through a serene patch of water in 1520.

It’s a Force of Nature

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With its sprawling size and warm waters, the Pacific Ocean is the breeding ground for some of the strongest hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons our planet has ever seen. Not only that, the Pacific Basin (aka The Ring of Fire) is a hub of seismic activity. The majority of earthquakes and volcanic activity take place along these tectonic plates.

It’s the Home of the Blob

Credit: Irina Markova/Shutterstock

Global warming is a growing problem, but do you know specifically how climate change has hurt our greatest ocean? There are many telltale signs, but perhaps the most shocking was the Blob, a mass of warm water that had harmful effects on the Pacific between 2014 to 2016. Residing in the Pacific Northwest, the Blob claimed responsibility for the death of hundreds of sea creatures. Many fear the Blob is a sign of what’s to come if humans don’t do their part to combat climate change.

It’s an Island Paradise

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The Pacific Ocean encompasses roughly 25,000 islands, most of which are south of the equator. That’s more than all the other islands in all the other bodies of water in the world combined. That’s good news for all you traveling beach bums out there — it means there’s no shortage of tropical destinations to choose from!

It’s a Goldmine and a Dumping Ground

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The Pacific Ocean houses both treasure and tragedy. Australia, Japan, Panama, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea all harvest pearls from the Pacific. On the contrary, the largest man-made dump in the world — dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — also exists in the Pacific Ocean. Located halfway between California and Hawaii, this pile of rubbish is twice the size of Texas and is mostly made up of microplastics and old fishing gear.

It Keeps Ancient Secrets

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Exploring underwater cities may seem like something better suited for a science fiction movie. However, there have been some real-life discoveries of past civilizations that now lie beneath the surface of our oceans. The most intriguing of these sites is in the Pacific Ocean. The underwater pyramids of Yonaguni Jima have scholars baffled and divers totally awe-struck. Some believe the ruins were once part of Mu,the legendary lost continent swallowed by the Pacific Ocean thousands of years ago.

It’s a Satellite Cemetery

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Point Nemo is widely acknowledged as the most remote place on earth. Located smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and 1,450 nautical miles from any landmass, many nations deorbit their satellites and old spacecrafts over this point. The space junk plummets into a watery grave, never to be seen or heard from again.

It’s Shrinking

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As big, beautiful and mighty as it is, the Pacific Ocean is actually shrinking. As North America moves away from Europe, the size of the Atlantic Ocean slowly increases while the size of the Pacific decreases. The change is small — the Pacific Ocean loses approximately one inch per year.

What causes a volcano eruption?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

What causes a volcano eruption?

Throughout the course of Earth’s history, there have been some pretty major geological events. From the Ice Age to earthquakes that helped to reshape the land, the Earth has been no stranger to major land events. Another aspect of geological events is volcanic eruptions. Whether we’re talking about Mount Vesuvius destroying Pompeii or the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state, volcanoes can be dangerous when they’re active. But why do volcanoes form, and what causes them to erupt?

A geology crash course

Credit: adventtr / iStock

Before we explain how volcanoes erupt, it’s time to get a simplified geology lesson. Earth is composed of four main layers: the crust, mantle, outer core, and the inner core. For the purpose of explaining volcanic activity, the crust and mantle are the two most important layers. We live on the Earth’s crust, and in comparison to the other layers, it is incredibly thin with a maximum depth of five miles. The continents and plates exist on this layer.

The mantle is the thickest Earth layer at 1,800 miles deep. Because the mantle is so dense, temperatures can vary widely in this layer. Close to the crust, the temperature reaches “only” 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, but closer to the core, that temperature can soar to 4,000 degrees! However, the mantle isn’t static. Even though it’s made of rock, the mantle moves slowly. Geologists believe this is because of convection currents that cause the hotter materials to rise within this layer and displace cooler rock that sinks to the bottom. As the mantle moves, so do the plates on the Earth’s crust.

So, what is a volcano anyway?

Credit: guenterg / iStock

The short answer is that a volcano is a vent in the earth’s crust that can occur above or below water. In the Earth’s mantle, molten rock or magma is constantly moving. Because the magma is lighter than the surrounding solid rock, it rises towards the Earth’s surface. When magma reaches a vent in the crust, this superheated material escapes and creates a volcano.

However, it’s important to note that volcanoes are not unique to the Earth. They have been found on other planets and moons. While Venus and Mars both have extinct volcanoes all over their surface, the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune are all home to active volcanoes.

Magma versus lava

Credit: Vershinin-M / iStock

You already know that magma is just melted or molten rock. So, what about lava? Lava is literally magma that has escaped the Earth’s surface.

Types of volcanic eruptions

Credit: Kalistratova / iStockPhoto

While explosive volcanoes get the most news attention, a volcanic eruption can also be a calm or steady stream of escaping magma. The explosiveness of an eruption is entirely dependent on the magma’s texture. Runny, thinner magma allows for the gases within it to easily escape, creating lava flows rather than eruptions. A perfect example of this type of volcanic eruption is in Hawaii. These eruptions don’t usually pose physical danger because the lava escapes slowly enough for people to easily avoid it.

In contrast, thick or sticky magma doesn’t allow for gas to easily escape. This means that pressure continues to build within magma tubes until it becomes unsustainable and an explosion occurs at a vent. These types of eruptions are the most dangerous because of the blast clouds known as tephra. Tephra is magma that is released into the air and falls as ash and other particles. Explosive volcanoes can trigger mudflows, destroy communities, and damage surrounding ecosystems.

Active, dormant, or extinct?

Credit: Lukas Bischoff / iStockPhoto

Now you know what a volcano is and what causes them. But there are a few different classifications for them: active, dormant, and extinct. The biggest difference between these categories is their activity and when activity was last recorded.

  • An active volcano has had activity within the last 10,000 years or since the      last Ice Age. Technically, an active volcano could be in the process of erupting or be dormant.
  • An erupting volcano is—obviously—one that is in the process of experiencing volcanic activity and is actively releasing lava.
  • A dormant volcano is classified as active but isn’t currently erupting. These types of volcanoes have the potential to erupt within the next 10,000 years.
  • An extinct volcano is one that hasn’t recorded an eruption in at least 10,000    years with no predictions of potential activity within the next 10,000 years. However, this classification can be misleading as events have been recorded from volcanoes that were considered extinct.

Volcanoes are complex geological events that are dependent upon a number of factors that we couldn’t fully cover in this article. But even if you’re not a geologist, Oregon State University’s Volcano World website is a great tool for gaining understanding of the mechanisms behind volcanoes and their worldwide frequency.

What causes a volcano eruption?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL GENIUS)

 

What causes a volcano eruption?

Throughout the course of Earth’s history, there have been some pretty major geological events. From the Ice Age to earthquakes that helped to reshape the land, the Earth has been no stranger to major land events. Another aspect of geological events is volcanic eruptions. Whether we’re talking about Mount Vesuvius destroying Pompeii or the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state, volcanoes can be dangerous when they’re active. But why do volcanoes form, and what causes them to erupt?

A geology crash course

Credit: adventtr / iStock

Before we explain how volcanoes erupt, it’s time to get a simplified geology lesson. Earth is composed of four main layers: the crust, mantle, outer core, and the inner core. For the purpose of explaining volcanic activity, the crust and mantle are the two most important layers. We live on the Earth’s crust, and in comparison to the other layers, it is incredibly thin with a maximum depth of five miles. The continents and plates exist on this layer.

The mantle is the thickest Earth layer at 1,800 miles deep. Because the mantle is so dense, temperatures can vary widely in this layer. Close to the crust, the temperature reaches “only” 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, but closer to the core, that temperature can soar to 4,000 degrees! However, the mantle isn’t static. Even though it’s made of rock, the mantle moves slowly. Geologists believe this is because of convection currents that cause the hotter materials to rise within this layer and displace cooler rock that sinks to the bottom. As the mantle moves, so do the plates on the Earth’s crust.

So, what is a volcano anyway?

Credit: guenterg / iStock

The short answer is that a volcano is a vent in the earth’s crust that can occur above or below water. In the Earth’s mantle, molten rock or magma is constantly moving. Because the magma is lighter than the surrounding solid rock, it rises towards the Earth’s surface. When magma reaches a vent in the crust, this superheated material escapes and creates a volcano.

However, it’s important to note that volcanoes are not unique to the Earth. They have been found on other planets and moons. While Venus and Mars both have extinct volcanoes all over their surface, the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune are all home to active volcanoes.

Magma versus lava

Credit: Vershinin-M / iStock

You already know that magma is just melted or molten rock. So, what about lava? Lava is literally magma that has escaped the Earth’s surface.

Types of volcanic eruptions

Credit: Kalistratova / iStockPhoto

While explosive volcanoes get the most news attention, a volcanic eruption can also be a calm or steady stream of escaping magma. The explosiveness of an eruption is entirely dependent on the magma’s texture. Runny, thinner magma allows for the gases within it to easily escape, creating lava flows rather than eruptions. A perfect example of this type of volcanic eruption is in Hawaii. These eruptions don’t usually pose physical danger because the lava escapes slowly enough for people to easily avoid it.

In contrast, thick or sticky magma doesn’t allow for gas to easily escape. This means that pressure continues to build within magma tubes until it becomes unsustainable and an explosion occurs at a vent. These types of eruptions are the most dangerous because of the blast clouds known as tephra. Tephra is magma that is released into the air and falls as ash and other particles. Explosive volcanoes can trigger mudflows, destroy communities, and damage surrounding ecosystems.

Active, dormant, or extinct?

Credit: Lukas Bischoff / iStockPhoto

Now you know what a volcano is and what causes them. But there are a few different classifications for them: active, dormant, and extinct. The biggest difference between these categories is their activity and when activity was last recorded.

  • An active volcano has had activity within the last 10,000 years or since the      last Ice Age. Technically, an active volcano could be in the process of erupting or be dormant.
  • An erupting volcano is—obviously—one that is in the process of experiencing volcanic activity and is actively releasing lava.
  • A dormant volcano is classified as active but isn’t currently erupting. These types of volcanoes have the potential to erupt within the next 10,000 years.
  • An extinct volcano is one that hasn’t recorded an eruption in at least 10,000    years with no predictions of potential activity within the next 10,000 years. However, this classification can be misleading as events have been recorded from volcanoes that were considered extinct.

Volcanoes are complex geological events that are dependent upon a number of factors that we couldn’t fully cover in this article. But even if you’re not a geologist, Oregon State University’s Volcano World website is a great tool for gaining understanding of the mechanisms behind volcanoes and their worldwide frequency.

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCIENCE MAGAZINE)

 

An 72-meter ice core drilled in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes,  storms, and human pollution.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he’s got an answer: “536.” Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record “a failure of bread from the years 536–539.” Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.

Historians have long known that the middle of the sixth century was a dark hour in what used to be called the Dark Ages, but the source of the mysterious clouds has long been a puzzle. Now, an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier by a team led by McCormick and glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of The University of Maine (UM) in Orono has fingered a culprit. At a workshop at Harvard this week, the team reported that a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536. Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547. The repeated blows, followed by plague, plunged Europe into economic stagnation that lasted until 640, when another signal in the ice—a spike in airborne lead—marks a resurgence of silver mining, as the team reports in Antiquity this week.

To Kyle Harper, provost and a medieval and Roman historian at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, the detailed log of natural disasters and human pollution frozen into the ice “give us a new kind of record for understanding the concatenation of human and natural causes that led to the fall of the Roman Empire—and the earliest stirrings of this new medieval economy.”

Slivers from a Swiss ice core held chemical clues to natural and human made events.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Ever since tree ring studies in the 1990s suggested the summers around the year 540 were unusually cold, researchers have hunted for the cause. Three years ago polar ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica yielded a clue. When a volcano erupts, it spews sulfur, bismuth, and other substances high into the atmosphere, where they form an aerosol veil that reflects the sun’s light back into space, cooling the planet. By matching the ice record of these chemical traces with tree ring records of climate, a team led by Michael Sigl, now of the University of Bern, found that nearly every unusually cold summer over the past 2500 years was preceded by a volcanic eruption. A massive eruption—perhaps in North America, the team suggested—stood out in late 535 or early 536; another followed in 540. Sigl’s team concluded that the double blow explained the prolonged dark and cold.

Mayewski and his interdisciplinary team decided to look for the same eruptions in an ice core drilled in 2013 in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps. The 72-meter-long core entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes, Saharan dust storms, and human activities smack in the center of Europe. The team deciphered this record using a new ultra–high-resolution method, in which a laser carves 120-micron slivers of ice, representing just a few days or weeks of snowfall, along the length of the core. Each of the samples—some 50,000 from each meter of the core—is analyzed for about a dozen elements. The approach enabled the team to pinpoint storms, volcanic eruptions, and lead pollution down to the month or even less, going back 2000 years, says UM volcanologist Andrei Kurbatov.

Darkest hours and then a dawn

A high-resolution ice core record combined with historical texts chronicles the impact of natural disasters on European society.

530530550640650660540540550560570580590600610620630640650660536Icelandic volcano erupts, dimming the sun for 18months, records say. Summer temperatures drop by1.5°C to 2.5°C.536–545 Coldest decade on record in 2000 years. Crops fail in Ireland, Scandinavia, Mesopotamia, and China.540–541 Second volcanic eruption. Summer temperatures drop again by 1.4°C–2.7°C in Europe.541–543 The “Justinian” bubonic plague spreads through the Mediterranean, killing 35%–55% of the population and speeding the collapse of the eastern Roman Empire.640 After declining in the mid-500s, a surge in atmospheric lead signals an increase in silver mining because of economic recovery.660A second lead peak reflects silver mining, probably at Melle, France, tied to a switch from gold to silver for coins and the beginnings of the medieval economy.
(GRAPHIC) A. CUADRA/SCIENCE; (DATA) C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL.ANTIQUITY 2018; M. SIGL ET AL., NATURE 2015; M. MCCORMICK

In ice from the spring of 536, UM graduate student Laura Hartman found two microscopic particles of volcanic glass. By bombarding the shards with x-rays to determine their chemical fingerprint, she and Kurbatov found that they closely matched glass particles found earlier in lakes and peat bogs in Europe and in a Greenland ice core. Those particles in turn resembled volcanic rocks from Iceland. The chemical similarities convince geoscientist David Lowe of The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, who says the particles in the Swiss ice core likely came from the same Icelandic volcano. But Sigl says more evidence is needed to convince him that the eruption was in Iceland rather than North America.

Either way, the winds and weather systems in 536 must have been just right to guide the eruption plume southeast across Europe and, later, into Asia, casting a chilly pall as the volcanic fog “rolled through,” Kurbatov says. The next step is to try to find more particles from this volcano in lakes in Europe and Iceland, in order to confirm its location in Iceland and tease out why it was so devastating.

A century later, after several more eruptions, the ice record signals better news: the lead spike in 640. Silver was smelted from lead ore, so the lead is a sign that the precious metal was in demand in an economy rebounding from the blow a century before, says archaeologist Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. A second lead peak, in 660, marks a major infusion of silver into the emergent medieval economy. It suggests gold had become scarce as trade increased, forcing a shift to silver as the monetary standard, Loveluck and his colleagues write in Antiquity. “It shows the rise of the merchant class for the first time,” he says.

Still later, the ice is a window into another dark period. Lead vanished from the air during the Black Death from 1349 to 1353, revealing an economy that had again ground to a halt. “We’ve entered a new era with this ability to integrate ultra–high-resolution environmental records with similarly high resolution historical records,” Loveluck says. “It’s a real game changer.”

New Earth Found?

New Earth Found?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

Habitable planet found outside solar system

SCIENTISTS on Wednesday announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest our Sun, opening up the glittering prospect of a habitable world that may one day be explored by robots.

Named Proxima b, the planet is in a “temperate” zone compatible with the presence of liquid water — a key ingredient for life.

The findings, based on data collected over 16 years, were reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

“We have finally succeeded in showing that a small-mass planet, most likely rocky, is orbiting the star closest to our solar system,” said co-author Julien Morin, an astrophysicist at the University of Montpellier in southern France.

“Proxima b would probably be the first exoplanet visited by a probe made by humans,” he said.

An exoplanet is any planet outside our Solar System.

Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University London, described the find as the “experience of a lifetime.”

Working with European Southern Observatory telescopes in the north Chilean desert, his team used the so-called Doppler method to detect Proxima b and describe its properties.

The professional star-gazers spent 60 consecutive days earlier this year looking for signs of gravitational pull on its host star, Proxima Centauri.

Regular shifts in the star’s light spectrum — repeating every 11.2 days — gave a tantalising clue.

They revealed that the star alternately moved towards and away from our Solar System at the pace of a leisurely stroll, about five kilometers per hour.

Goldilocks zone

After cross-checking an inconclusive 2000-2014 dataset and eliminating other possible causes, the researchers determined that the tug of an orbiting planet was responsible for this tiny to-and-fro.

“Statistically, there is no doubt,” Anglada-Escude told journalists in a briefing.

“We have found a planet around Proxima Centauri.”

Proxima b is a mere four light years from the Solar System, meaning that it is essentially in our back yard on the scale of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

It has a mass around 1.3 times that of Earth, and orbits about seven million kilometers from its star.

A planet so near to our Sun — 21 times closer than Earth — would be an unlivable white-hot ball of fire.

But Proxima Centauri is a so-called red dwarf, meaning a star that burns at a lower temperature.

As a result, the newly discovered planet is in a “Goldilocks” sweet spot: neither so hot that water evaporates, nor so cold that it freezes solid.

But liquid water is not the only essential ingredient for the emergence of life.

An atmosphere is also required, and on that score the researchers are still in the dark. It all depends, they say, on how Proxima b evolved as a planet.

“You can come up with formation scenarios that end up with and Earth-like atmosphere, a Venus-like atmosphere” — 96 percent carbon dioxide — “or no atmosphere at all,” said co-author Ansgar Reiners, an expert on “cold” stars at the University of Goettingen’s Institute of Astrophysics in Germany.

Computer models suggest the planet’s temperature, with an atmosphere, could be “in the range of minus 30 Celsius on the dark side, and 30C on the light side,” Reiners said.

Like the Moon in relation to Earth, Proxima b is “tidally locked,” with one face always exposed to its star and the other perpetually in shadow.

Emerging life forms would also have to cope with ultraviolet and X-rays bombarding Proxima b 100 times more intensely than on Earth.

Search for life

An atmosphere would help deflect these rays, as would a strong magnetic field.

But even high doses of radiation do not preclude life, especially if we think outside the box, scientists say.

“We have to be very open-minded as to what we call ‘life’,” Jean Schneider, an expert on exoplanets at the Observatoire de Paris, said.

Last year, NASA unveiled Kepler 452b, a planet about 60 percent larger than Earth that could have active volcanoes, oceans, sunshine like ours, and a year lasting 385 days.

But at a distance of 1,400 light-years, humankind would have little hope of reaching this Earth-twin any time soon.

By comparison, Proxima b is a stone’s throw away, though still too far away for humans to visit with present-generation chemical rockets.

“This is a dream for astronomers if we think about follow up observations,” said Reiners.

Highest aviation alert level issued after Alaskan volcano erupts

(I PULLED THIS ARTICLE FROM TV CHANNEL 3 AND CNN)

Highest aviation alert level issued after Alaskan volcano erupts

A volcanic eruption Sunday prompted the temporary raising of the highest aviation alert, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) said Sunday.

The event, which took place on Alaska’s Bogoslof Island, part of the Aleutian island chain, caused the issuance of a code “red” aviation alert, which was subsequently downgraded to “orange.”

The cloud from the eruption reached at least 35,000 ft., and possibly as high as 45,000 ft., the Observatory said.

“We actually went to color code red this afternoon because of numerous lightning detections and increased seismic signals,” Jeffrey Freymueller of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks tells CNN.

“Lightning in the Aleutians is mostly due to volcanic plumes, as the meteorological conditions for lightning are not common,” Freymueller said.

“The combination of lightning and seismic data allowed us to go to red within about half an hour of the start of the eruption.”

The eruption lasted for about 50 minutes, the AVO said.

Flight path concern

The volcano sits under the flight path of many flights from Asia to North America and its ash cloud could adversely affect aircraft. “Ash and aircraft do not mix, as volcanic ash is abrasive, melts at jet engine temperatures, and can cause engine failure,” according to the United States Geological Survey.

Aircraft are often instructed to fly around or over ash clouds, although in some circumstances air traffic has been grounded due to the hazards from airborne ash. In 2010 the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland caused the cancellation of flights around Europe for six days.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week said that flights were being rerouted around a similar ash cloud when the volcano previously erupted, according to CNN partner CBC.

‘Heightened state of unrest’

An image taken by AVO scientists around 14 minutes after the start of the eruption, from nearby Unalaska Island, showed a large white-gray mushroom cloud form over the site. Ash fallout was occurring to the west of the site, according to AVO.

Bogoslof volcano remains at a heightened state of unrest and in an unpredictable condition,” according to a report issued by the Observatory, which added that “additional explosions producing high-altitude volcanic clouds could occur at any time.”

It warns that continuing low-level activity could “pose a hazard in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.”

Previous volcanic activity earlier in 2017 “significantly changed the shape and coastline of the island” and the land mass tripled in size between early 2015 and January of this year.

There have been eight documented eruption events at Bogoslof, the most recent one in 1992. Previous eruption events have lasted weeks to months, according to the AVO. This current eruption sequence started in December, 2016.

New Earth Found?

New Earth Found?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

Habitable planet found outside solar system

SCIENTISTS on Wednesday announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest our Sun, opening up the glittering prospect of a habitable world that may one day be explored by robots.

Named Proxima b, the planet is in a “temperate” zone compatible with the presence of liquid water — a key ingredient for life.

The findings, based on data collected over 16 years, were reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

“We have finally succeeded in showing that a small-mass planet, most likely rocky, is orbiting the star closest to our solar system,” said co-author Julien Morin, an astrophysicist at the University of Montpellier in southern France.

“Proxima b would probably be the first exoplanet visited by a probe made by humans,” he said.

An exoplanet is any planet outside our Solar System.

Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University London, described the find as the “experience of a lifetime.”

Working with European Southern Observatory telescopes in the north Chilean desert, his team used the so-called Doppler method to detect Proxima b and describe its properties.

The professional star-gazers spent 60 consecutive days earlier this year looking for signs of gravitational pull on its host star, Proxima Centauri.

Regular shifts in the star’s light spectrum — repeating every 11.2 days — gave a tantalising clue.

They revealed that the star alternately moved towards and away from our Solar System at the pace of a leisurely stroll, about five kilometers per hour.

Goldilocks zone

After cross-checking an inconclusive 2000-2014 dataset and eliminating other possible causes, the researchers determined that the tug of an orbiting planet was responsible for this tiny to-and-fro.

“Statistically, there is no doubt,” Anglada-Escude told journalists in a briefing.

“We have found a planet around Proxima Centauri.”

Proxima b is a mere four light years from the Solar System, meaning that it is essentially in our back yard on the scale of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

It has a mass around 1.3 times that of Earth, and orbits about seven million kilometers from its star.

A planet so near to our Sun — 21 times closer than Earth — would be an unlivable white-hot ball of fire.

But Proxima Centauri is a so-called red dwarf, meaning a star that burns at a lower temperature.

As a result, the newly discovered planet is in a “Goldilocks” sweet spot: neither so hot that water evaporates, nor so cold that it freezes solid.

But liquid water is not the only essential ingredient for the emergence of life.

An atmosphere is also required, and on that score the researchers are still in the dark. It all depends, they say, on how Proxima b evolved as a planet.

“You can come up with formation scenarios that end up with and Earth-like atmosphere, a Venus-like atmosphere” — 96 percent carbon dioxide — “or no atmosphere at all,” said co-author Ansgar Reiners, an expert on “cold” stars at the University of Goettingen’s Institute of Astrophysics in Germany.

Computer models suggest the planet’s temperature, with an atmosphere, could be “in the range of minus 30 Celsius on the dark side, and 30C on the light side,” Reiners said.

Like the Moon in relation to Earth, Proxima b is “tidally locked,” with one face always exposed to its star and the other perpetually in shadow.

Emerging life forms would also have to cope with ultraviolet and X-rays bombarding Proxima b 100 times more intensely than on Earth.

Search for life

An atmosphere would help deflect these rays, as would a strong magnetic field.

But even high doses of radiation do not preclude life, especially if we think outside the box, scientists say.

“We have to be very open-minded as to what we call ‘life’,” Jean Schneider, an expert on exoplanets at the Observatoire de Paris, said.

Last year, NASA unveiled Kepler 452b, a planet about 60 percent larger than Earth that could have active volcanoes, oceans, sunshine like ours, and a year lasting 385 days.

But at a distance of 1,400 light-years, humankind would have little hope of reaching this Earth-twin any time soon.

By comparison, Proxima b is a stone’s throw away, though still too far away for humans to visit with present-generation chemical rockets.

“This is a dream for astronomers if we think about follow up observations,” said Reiners.