‘Relatively Simple Plumbing’ — for a Volcano!

May 2, 2015

Dali-31-giants-la-jolla-jewelryFog-bound and chilly this early Saturday on California’s north coast, now in the depths of the weekend.
As posted here before, I’ve come to prefer week days since retirement — Saturday and Sunday seems to now only attract hooligans, and nefarious layabouts.

And speaking of the coast, and more directly, underwater  300 miles west of Cannon Beach, off the coast of Oregon, just a bit over 400 miles due north of where I sit on my ass, fuming about the weekend — a volcano appears to be erupting, Axial Seamount or Axial Volcano, and rumblings have been going on in the vicinity for more than a week.
Via TechTimes this morning: ‘Over the past five months, eight seismometers recorded hundreds of small earthquakes — a signal that magma is shifting toward the surface.’

And scientists ‘confirmed‘ no threat to coastal towns.

(Illustration: Salvado Dali’s ‘Enferno Chant 31 – The Giants,’ found here).

A somewhat ardent-follower of the news cycle, I haven’t heard of this happening until this morning — there have been earthquake swarms reported in the Lakeview area of north Oregon, but other than that, and certainly no volcanoes.
Apparently, the event has been active awhile, reportedly on April 24, nearly 8,000 earthquakes. — from OregonLive yesterday:

An eruption is not a threat to coastal residents, researchers say, because the earthquakes are small, mostly magnitude 1 or 2, and the seafloor movements are relatively gradual, so they won’t cause a tsunami.
The volcanic activity has no relationship to the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which scientists watch closely for signs of a much larger and more destructive earthquake.
To Bill Chadwick, an Oregon State University geologist, the eruption at Axial Seamount was not a surprise.
He had predicted it would happen this year.
He predicted the previous eruption, in 2011, too.

Land volcanoes have thicker crusts and are influenced by large earthquakes and other nearby volcanoes, among other things, so predictions are more difficult, Chadwick said.
“Axial Seamount is a pure example, if you will,” he said.
“It has relatively simple plumbing.”
Chadwick and other scientists watch the signals at Axial Seamount in real-time via a cable laid out on the seafloor.
The cable is part of the Ocean Observatories Initiative funded by the National Science Foundation.
The instruments that sent back the volcano’s measurements were installed only last summer, said Chadwick, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
He is also affiliated with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.
“Volcanoes like this have very fluid magma that is supplied from below, seemingly continuously,” Chadwick said.
“It’s like a balloon filling with air. The seafloor actually rises — that’s what we’re measuring.”

There’s more info with graphics at at io9.

The real frightful aspect of this event is in the implication — as the world warms, shit happens.
From Newsweek last Wednesday:

The untold — and terrifying — story behind the earthquake that devastated Nepal last Saturday morning begins with something that sounds quite benign.
It’s the ebb and flow of rainwater in the great river deltas of India and Bangladesh, and the pressure that puts on the grinding plates that make up the surface of the planet.
Recently discovered, that causal factor is seen by a growing body of scientists as further proof that climate change can affect the underlying structure of the Earth.
Because of this understanding, a series of life-threatening “extreme geological events” — earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis — is predicted by a group of eminent geologists and geophysicists including University College London’s Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards.
“Climate change may play a critical role in triggering certain faults in certain places where they could kill a hell of a lot of people,” says Professor McGuire.
Some of his colleagues suspect the process may already have started.


What can we do?
McGuire thinks there’s little, other than mapping the “coiled spring” that is the world’s seismic faults with an eye to where climate and sea-level change may trigger events.
Then, you can only prepare people for the earth’s grumblings, from California to the Canary Islands to Nepal.
“There are geological systems all around the planet with unstable volcanoes that are susceptible: when it comes to risk, I’m afraid there’s a very, very long list.”

Rock and roll, but sounds shamefully like a high-pitched, girlish scream…

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