Taxonomy term

volcanic eruption

Volcanism triggered end-Triassic extinction

The end-Triassic mass extinction exterminated up to three-quarters of all species on land and in the oceans 201 million years ago. This die-off opened up ecological niches and allowed for, among other changes, dinosaurs to diversify and spread across terrestrial ecosystems during the rest of the Mesozoic. Volcanism has long been implicated in the extinction, but whether it had a major impact on the planet at the time has remained unclear. In new research, scientists observed elevated mercury concentrations in extinction-aged rocks from around the world. Because volcanism is the main nonanthropogenic source of mercury in the environment, the findings suggest that volcanic activity was likely the main extinction trigger at the end of the Triassic.

21 Sep 2017

Glass shards reveal a fiery history in Ethiopia

Chains of volcanoes and a lava lake pepper the landscape of the Afar Triangle in northeastern Ethiopia, where eruptions and earthquakes are byproducts of the rifting that is literally ripping Africa apart, but recent eruptions have been docile. Now, scientists studying ash deposits from the last 40,000 years are showing that dangerous, explosive eruptions present an ongoing hazard, striking the region every 1,000 years on average.

18 Sep 2017

Earthquakes make volcanoes more — and less — gassy

Triggering of volcanic emissions by earthquakes has been observed since antiquity. The Roman naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder proposed the link as early as A.D. 77, and in “The Voyage of the Beagle,” Charles Darwin wrote about inland eruptions in Chile closely following an offshore earthquake in 1835. More recent statistical studies show that after large earthquakes, volcanic activity around the world increases. But the lack of robust monitoring equipment at most volcanoes has made it hard to quantify the relationship. In a new study, scientists demonstrate how satellites can be used to track changes in sulfur dioxide emissions from volcanoes after seismic events, offering a potential way to study the often elusive link between seismicity and volcanism.

25 Aug 2017

New global volcanic emissions map debuts

Volcanoes may not always be erupting ash or lava, but that doesn’t mean they’re not venting other materials. Many, in fact, continuously spew gases like carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the air. In a new study, volcanologists compiled data tracking such releases, collected by NASA’s Aura satellite, into the first global map of volcanic sulfur dioxide emissions.

13 Jul 2017

Geologic Column: Volcanoes: Awesome and dangerous

Volcanoes and volcanic eruptions are a marvel of nature, but a beautiful visage can mask significant danger.
03 Jul 2017

Geomedia: Mixed media: Geo-art collaboration shifts perspectives on earth materials

“Arts and Sciences.” The phrase is familiar to students and faculty on most campuses, often serving as the moniker of colleges or other curricular subdivisions within universities. While the pairing suggests a joint enterprise of some sort between the two fields, it might more aptly be termed, “Arts or Sciences,” as curricula rarely encompass both.

23 Jun 2017

The mackerel year: Tambora changed how New England fished

The 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Tambora Volcano led to a 1- to 1.5-degree-Celsius drop in the average global temperature, prompting 1816 to be called the “year without a summer.” New research analyzes weather data and historical records from New England to explain why, in the northeast U.S., 1816 was also called the “mackerel year.” As eruption-induced extreme weather triggered food scarcity in some areas, including a reduction in alewife numbers along the U.S. Atlantic coast, fishermen in the Gulf of Maine turned to mackerel fisheries farther offshore that had been neglected while more easily fished coastal and freshwater species were available.

06 Jun 2017

Benchmarks: June 1977: First Excavations at Nebraska's Ashfall Fossil Beds

In the spring of 1971, paleontologist Mike Voorhies was mapping rock exposures on a farm in northeastern Nebraska when he wandered into a small ravine that recent heavy rains had swept clean of debris. High on the gully wall, a change in the color of the rock caught his eye, so he decided to scramble up and take a closer look.

31 May 2017

Timing of famed "Millennium Eruption" pinpointed

Changbaishan Volcano in northeastern China, on the border with North Korea (where it’s known as Mount Paektu), is steeped in superstition, having produced devastating eruptions several times in recorded history. Legends that a massive eruption in the 10th century led to the downfall of a regional empire have now been refuted, however, thanks to a new analysis of a fossilized tree killed by the eruption that dates the eruption to after the kingdom fell.

25 May 2017

How often should we expect volcanic ash clouds over Europe?

In 2010, an ash cloud from an eruption at Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano led to the most disruptive shutdown of North Atlantic and European airspace in aviation history. Given the high level of activity of Iceland’s more than two dozen active volcanoes, how often are such events to be expected? A new study comparing volcanic ash records over the last 1,000 years suggests that fallout over Europe may be more common than previously anticipated.

17 May 2017