Volcano Watch and Educational Resources

Interested in volcanoes? The staff at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals are fascinated not only by volcanoes but the geology of them as well. We’ve put together a collection of online resources to help you learn more about active and inactive volcanoes.

United States Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program

Mount St. Helens Eruption - credit Simple English Wikipedia.The United States Geological Survey features a Volcano Hazards Program website with an interactive map displaying volcanoes worldwide and their active status, from dormant to high red level warnings. You will also find the latest news on volcanoes, especially those in North America and the United States. Recent reports and photographs of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii are fascinating as the lava moves down roads and into agricultural areas on the big island of Hawaii.

You will find Webcams, educational information on US volcanoes, Podcasts and Videos, Elevated Volcanic Activity Updates, Monitoring data, and an amazing Photoglossary with photographs and definitions of volcanic terms.

For the locals living in and around the Rice Museum, the Cascades Volcano Observatory keeps us informed as to activity in the Cascade Mountains from Washington to Northern California. They reported in February on a new study that designates the at-risk areas of Washington State and Oregon.

Washington State lahar-hazard zones contain an estimated 191,555 residents, 108,719 employees at 8,807 businesses, 433 public venues that attract visitors, and 354 dependent-care facilities with individuals who will need assistance to evacuate during an emergency. Mount Rainier lahar-hazard zones contain the highest percentage of assets, followed by Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams. Residential populations within lahar-prone areas increased between 1990 and 2010, mainly in the Mount Rainier lahar-hazard zone, with some communities doubling and tripling their at-risk population. Many of these new residents may be unaware of the lahar threat.

See the Simplified Hazard Maps for the Cascade Volcano area for fascinating details on the Volcano Hazard Zones. Continue reading

15,000 Year Old Agate Knife Found in Oregon

Orange Agate from Rimrock Draw Rockshelter Excavation - Bureau of Land Management Oregon held in hand.OPB Radio reported on the amazing archaeological discover of a knife carved from agate currently estimated from 15,000 years ago in Eastern Oregon, evidence of what could be the oldest human occupation west of the Rocky Mountains, shaking up many theories on North American human history.

Carved from clear orange agate, the stone knife has been described as a Swiss Army Knife of its day with a serrated point edge like a saw and a steep, flaked edge used to carve wood and scrape hides and cut meat from the bones of prey. Blood found on the stone has been tested and found to be Bison antiques, an ancient ancestor of the modern bison or buffalo in North America. Continue reading

Villarrica Volcano Eruption

Chile’s Villarrica volcano erupted recently with dramatic lightning strikes and lava shooting into the night sky causing approximately 3,000 people to evacuate the area, and others to rush to study the dramatic volcanic eruption. The eruption is predicted to last several days and possibly several weeks.

Villarrica is one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in Chile among more than 2,000 volcanoes in the Andes cordillera. About 90 volcanoes remain active.

Villarrica, Pucón, Cile  (AP Photo/Aton Chile)

Considered one of the most active volcanoes in the Andean Mountains, natives call the volcano Rucapillán which means “House of the Spirit.” Continue reading

Volcano in Iceland Stops Air Traffic

National Geographic answers the question, “Why Iceland’s volcanoes have vexed humans for centuries?”

Witze says that Iceland’s volcanoes have affected human communities for more than a thousand years and that Bárđarbunga is responsible for the largest eruption anywhere on Earth in the last 10,000 years.

Some of the most famous ones in the last couple of decades have been Surtsey, a brand-new island that rose from the waves off the southern coast in 1963, and Heimaey, another island where in 1973 an eruption began in the middle of the night, in the middle of a town.

But if you go further back in time you can find much more devastating examples. In the year 1104, the volcano Hekla covered more than half the island with pumice. And in 1783, Laki erupted for eight months, pouring out the biggest lava flow in recorded history. Laki also emitted more than 100 million tons of sulfur dioxide, which drifted over Europe to form a choking fog that damaged crops and changed the climate for years.

Iceland has approximately 30 volcanoes, and Bárđarbunga, the largest volcano in that part of the planet, is threatening to erupt. Air traffic over the area is currently suspended.

The Iceland Meteorological Office features a live webcam of the glacier covered volcano.

We recently covered volcanoes and the havoc they cause in our story on the Mt. St. Helens Volcano.

Rare Film Footage of Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Eruption

Last year, rare footage of a documentary on Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption from the late 1980s was shared on YouTube.

The documentary shows old photographs from before the eruption dating back to the 1950s, exploring the campgrounds, parks, lakes, and forested areas, now changed forever by the destructive forces of the volcano erupting in 1980. Mount St. Helens formed 275,000 years ago.

March 27, 1980, the volcano erupted, closing the Gifford Pinchot National Park, and bringing thousand of scientists and forest service experts to the mountain to document every moment of this monumental event. May 18, 1980, the volcano exploded at 8:32am, killing 57 people, and destroying 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railroad, and 185 miles of highway. For over nine hours, the plume of ash rose approximately 16 miles above sea level, moving eastward at about 60 miles per hour, reaching Idaho by noon, and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, by the next day. A debris avalanche triggered by the explosion and earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, releasing 24 megatons of thermal energy. It reduced the mountains summit from 9,677 to 8,365 feet, leaving a one mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater, becoming one of the most deadliest and economically destructive volcanic events in the history of the United States.

Mt. St. Helens eruption was classified as a VEI 5 event, the only significant such event to happen in the contiguous 48 United States since the 1915 eruption of Lassen Peak in California. Before 1980, the last eruption of St. Helens was 130 years ago. Continue reading