Taxonomy term

volcanic eruption

Benchmarks: May 8, 1902: The deadly eruption of Mount Pelée

At the turn of the 20th century, the town of St. Pierre was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean.” Nestled into the northwest coast of the French island of Martinique, it boasted a bustling harbor where ships hauled away precious loads of sugar and rum, and it had usurped the official capital — Fort-de-France — as the colony’s cultural center. But St. Pierre had a problem: it lay in the shadow of a massive volcano.

08 May 2015

A front-row seat at a fire-and-ice show

Many of the world’s volcanoes are high enough and cold enough to sport seasonal snow, and some even boast year-round glaciers. But what happens when those volcanoes erupt and molten lava hits snow and ice? Observing such extreme interactions of hot and cold is often dangerous in the field, but a slow-moving basaltic eruption in Russia in 2012 provided the right conditions to give scientists a close-up view on one fire-meets-ice display.

13 Apr 2015

Chaitén's vigorous volcanic history revealed

When the Chaitén volcano erupted in southern Chile on May 2, 2008, the explosive event took local residents — and geologists — by surprise: Previous studies concluded that the mountain had been quiet for more than 10,000 years. Now, a detailed look at sediments preserved in a nearby lake reveals a much more active history for Chaitén, a finding that may impact the proposed rebuilding of the ash-filled town.

29 Mar 2015

Modeling a big mess from Yellowstone

In the event of another super-eruption at Yellowstone National Park, few places in the U.S. would be ash-free, according to a new modeling study. The northern Rocky Mountains would be blanketed in meters of ash, and millimeters would be deposited as far away as New York City, Miami and Los Angeles.

15 Jan 2015

Kilauea eruptions could shift from mild to wild

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is famously effusive: Low-viscosity lava oozes out of the main caldera and two active rift zones along the southern shore of the Big Island. But scientists suspect that Kilauea’s eruptions haven’t always been so mild, and a new study is providing further evidence supporting that notion. In the past 2,500 years, at least two cycles of explosive eruptions lasting several centuries each have rocked the island. The switch from effusive back to explosive is likely to occur again, scientists say, but probably not anytime soon.

14 Oct 2014

Shallow crust magma with a dash of salt and peperite

Magma and salt are not often paired on the menu of geology. But, occasionally, the two do mix — with surprising results. Researchers explored these interactions in a new study, the first to examine how magma emplacement occurs in salt formations.

02 Oct 2014

Santiaguito Volcano's clockwork behavior provides an exceptional laboratory

If Earth breathes, Santiaguito Volcano in the Western Highlands of Guatemala could be its mouth. Roughly every half hour, like volcanic clockwork, Santiaguito’s active Caliente lava dome expands, filling with gas from depressurizing magma below. Then it exhales, often explosively, and deflates. Over the course of a day, you could almost keep time by it.

28 Sep 2014

New model predicts pumice drift patterns

In July 2012, the Havre volcano in the remote southwestern Pacific erupted, creating a raft of pumice that covered more than 400 square kilometers of ocean. Despite the raft’s massive size, the event went unreported for three weeks, until a passenger aboard a New Zealand-bound plane noticed the floating mass from above.

22 Aug 2014

Pompeii-like eruption fossilized dinosaurs in death poses

In A.D. 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted in Italy, burying the town of Pompeii and entombing its citizens in ash, which preserved their death poses for thousands of years. In northern China, a similar fate seems to have befallen dinosaurs, mammals and early birds. A new study, published in Nature Communications, sheds light on the preservation history of the Jehol Biota — an ancient ecosystem dating to between 130 million and 120 million years ago.

20 Jul 2014

Shifting winds blow away Taupo's 'Ultraplinian' title

The eruption of New Zealand’s Taupo volcano about 1,800 years ago is the stuff of legends. With an ash plume estimated to have reached an astounding height of 50 kilometers — substantially higher than any other known eruption — Taupo was once thought to justify its own volcanic explosivity category: Ultraplinian. But new research looking at the effects of changing wind patterns on the eruptive deposits left by Taupo may lead scientists to downgrade the event to Plinian, effectively making the term Ultraplinian obsolete.

01 Jul 2014