Volcanoes Erupting All Over The World: Is Something Happening To The Earth’s Core?


Within the last few months, there has been a lot of talk regarding volcanic eruptions, whether it was regarding volcanoes that have recently erupted or those that are expected to erupt in the near future. Just last week, one of the most powerful volcanoes found within Europe erupted for the second time in the last year.

Volcanic eruptions occur when magmas rise through the cracks and weak points in the Earth’s crust. As the pressure builds below the surface, once an opening releases the pressure due to a plate movement, the magma explodes, causing a volcanic eruption. However, with so much volcanic activity taking place throughout the world, we must question why the Earth is releasing so much magma. What exactly is taking place beneath Earth’s crust that would suddenly cause this much activity?

Despite the fact that Mount Etna may have been one of the only eruptions to make headlines, the fact is, that volcanic eruptions are presently taking place all over the world. Volcano Discovery, a website which reports on volcanic activity throughout the world shows 35 volcanos that are currently erupting or have recently erupted.

Included in those that have recently erupted, or that are currently active, is the Barren Islandvolcano located in India. In 1991, the volcano erupted for the first time in over 150 years, and since then, it has erupted intermittently.

Iceland is also experiencing an increase in volcanic activity. Four of Iceland’s volcanos are now showing increased amounts of activity, that would indicate the likelihood of yet another eruption. Included in those are Katla , which is now experiencing more activity than it has seen in over four decades. Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist stated that “Katla has been unrestful since this autumn.”

The others that are showing more activity are Hekla, Grímsvötn and Bárðarbunga.

Mexico’s Colima volcano has also recently erupted in February. The massive 12,500-feet volcano in Tuxpan, western Mexico has experienced an increase in eruptive activity since last October. The volcano itself is located just 30 kilometers away from a residential area that has a population of around 300,000 people.

To top the list, Ethiopia’s “gateway to hell” has also seen a surge in activity within the past few months. While this particular volcano has been active for over 100 years, it recently began baffling scientists after a variety of cracks were detected on the surface of the volcano. On top of that, its lava lakes have begun to overflow, which in turn has caused it to begin oozing red-hot magma.

And to put it into perspective, take a look at the following graphs depicting activity which occurred in the previous century compared to our current activity.

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Obviously, this massive increase in volcanic activity is not just taking place within one region. Even Campi Flegrei, a super volcano in Italy, appears to be preparing for a massive eruption. If it does, millions of people could die, and a countless number of others would be left in devastation. For whatever reason, something strange and mysterious is taking place beneath the ground we walk on.

 Has Mother Earth decided to enact some sort of self-defense mode in response to our constant exploitation of her resources? While scientists have been searching for an explanation behind the upsurge in volcanic activity, some have theorized that the increase is a normal response to Earth’s natural shift. Others, however, believe that it could have something to do with other forms of climate change as well. As it stands, we can only speculate as to what could be causing this massive shift beneath Earth’s crust. But as scientists continue to research volcanos and their activity charted over time, perhaps they will be able to better understand what is causing our planet to violently react.

Volcanoes may have caused the Moon’s poles to wander, according to ancient ice deposits


Cross section of the moon showing current polar axis (blue arrow), hydrogen deposits axis (green arrow) and volcanic activity

Illustration of the moon showing current polar axis (blue arrow), hydrogen deposits axis (green arrow) and volcanic activity.

Ice deposits that formed in craters on opposite sides of the Moon three billion years ago indicate it may have once spun on a different axis.

Volcanic activity in the Moon’s interior billions of years ago may have moved the lunar poles to their present position, according to a team of scientists from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

They said their calculations, published in the journal Nature, open the way to better understand how water reached the inner solar system.

Lead author Dr Matthew Siegler said the Moon’s axis had moved about six degrees to the rotation we see today.

“It takes a huge change in the mass of the Moon to do that — something like a giant crater or volcano forming,” Dr Siegler said.

He said the team was able to source the change in rotation to the centre of the Procellarum region — the black part of the face of the moon — which is also the centre of nearly all of the volcanism on the Moon.

“By looking at how much the pole moved, we are able to see how this region, which is about 30 per cent of the Moon, and the interior of the Moon evolved,” Dr Siegler said.

Because the Procellarum region was most geologically active early in the Moon’s history, Dr Siegler said it was likely the change in spin axis, known as polar wander, occurred billions of years ago.

Hydrogen deposits evidence of ‘palaeopoles’

The team used modelling to determine what changes in density needed to happen in the Moon’s interior to cause a six-degree movement in the satellite’s orientation.

While analysing lunar hydrogen data from the Moon from almost a decade ago, Dr Siegler’s team noticed that each lunar pole had a hydrogen deposit that was slightly displaced from the true north and south poles.

Maps of lunar hydrogen as measured by Lunar ProspectorThese hydrogen deposits were directly opposite each other, so that a line drawn from one to the other would pass through the centre of the Moon — and were located equal distances from their respective poles, but in opposite directions.

This suggested these deposits were evidence of “paleopoles” and that the Moon’s spin axis had shifted to its current alignment.

A window on the solar system’s water

Dr Siegler said because the hydrogen was most concentrated in the Moon’s extreme cold regions, it was believed to be water.

“It is really cold in the shadowed craters near the lunar poles, most areas never get above minus 170 degrees Cesius,” Dr Siegler said.

“At these temperatures water ice acts like any other rock — it doesn’t melt or evaporate — so it can stick around forever.

“The ice we are observing, or at least most of it, had to have arrived before the spin axis changed. That likely happened around three billion years ago.

“That means that the moon can provide a record on how water reached the inner solar system, which is generally accepted to have started dry.”

He said future missions sampling the ice might be able to determine whether the water came from comets and asteroids, or from volcanoes on the moon itself.

NASA already had plans for a lunar rover mission in the 2020s that would drill for ice to one-metre depth, however bringing ice samples back was still in the distance.

“The hope is always that new findings like this might influence NASA’s plans,” Dr Siegler said.

NASA robot can explore extraterrestrial volcanoes


The US space agency has developed a robot that is enabling researchers to put together a 3D map of a fissure — a crack that erupts magma — that is now inactive on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

The research has implications for extraterrestrial volcanoes.

On both Earth and Mars, fissures are the most common physical features from which magma erupts.

“This is probably also true for the previously active volcanoes on the moon, Mercury, Enceladus and Europa, although the mechanism of volcanic eruption — whether past or present — on these other planetary bodies is unknown,” said Carolyn Parcheta, postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who worked with the robot called VolcanoBot 1 in Hawaii in May 2014.

While VolcanoBot 1 was tested at Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, a lighter, smaller VolcanoBot 2 will be tested this year.

Ms. Parcheta and her co-advisor Aaron Parness, robotics researcher at JPL, are developing robots that can get into crevices where humans would not be able to go, gaining new insights about these wondrous geological features.

“We do not know exactly how volcanoes erupt. We have models but they are all very, very simplified. This project aims to help make those models more realistic,” Ms. Parcheta noted.

VolcanoBot 1 was able to descend to depths of 82 feet in two locations on the fissure, although it could have gone deeper with a longer tether, as the bottom was not reached on either descent.

“In order to eventually understand how to predict eruptions and conduct hazard assessments, we need to understand how the magma is coming out of the ground. This is the first time we have been able to measure it directly, from the inside, to centimetre-scale accuracy,” Ms. Parcheta pointed out.

The team plans to test VolcanoBot 2 at Kilauea in early March this year.

 

Etna hoops it up.


Volcanologists have witnessed dramatic rings of steam and gas being blown out of volcanic vents on the side of mighty Mount Etna in Sicily.

Etna is the tallest and most active volcano in Europe, situated where the European and African geological plates are colliding.

 

Dr Jug Alean and Dr Marco Fulle have been investigating Etna’s growing level of activity and in February they saw the ejection of several spectacular hoops from the Bocca Nuova region of the mountain.

“This wonderful specimen gently drifted overhead and past the Sun which was tinted orange by aerosols in the smoke,” Dr Alean told BBC News Online.

It is difficult to gauge the size of what the scientists are calling “steam rings”. They drift across the blue sky with no points of reference. However, the volcanologists estimate the hoops to be about 200m across and up to 1000m above the ground.

Stable shape

Smoke rings have been seen at volcanoes before but never in such detail. This time, there was hardly any ash on Etna and the gas billowing from vents had a high steam content. It is for this reason that Drs Alean and Fulle are using the term “steam rings”.

 

Looking like the hoops produced by smokers, the hoops can hang in the air for many minutes. Etna’s rings have been seen to last as long as 10 minutes.

How they are formed is a mystery that these pictures may help solve.

Dr Jurg Alean speculates: “They could be formed by rapid gas pulses emitted by narrow vents into the atmosphere. The physics seems somewhat complicated and I am trying to establish if there are sound scientific theories about them.”

Drs Alean and Fulle keep a close eye on Etna, running a private seismic monitoring station as well as maintaining a photographic record of changes on the mountain. Their website, stromboli.net, contains some of the most dramatic volcano pictures ever taken.

Source: BBC science.