Prelude to Krakatau. II

In part I, we discussed the geology and current state of Krakatau. Now it is time to look at events before the Big Eruption. Was it hiding in the shadows, or did it make its intentions clear to all? History For centuries before its destruction, Krakatau was a familiar landmark. At least some of the…

Prelude to Krakatau. I

All eruptions have history. Volcanoes may sometimes appear to erupt out of the blue; the mountain may not even have been recognized as a volcano, before blowing up. But the unexpectedness stems from our lack of knowledge. In the case of monogenetic volcanoes, which only erupt once, the volcanologist will recognize from the cones in…

536: apocalypse

The legend of the horsemen of the apocalypse goes back to the first century AD. It is a gripping image, which has transcended cultures. The best-known of the horsemen is Death, riding an ashen-coloured horse. This is the only one given a name in the original. One horseman, riding a black horse, brings famine, making…

A wide-angle shot of the Laacher See caldera during a thunderstorm. © Gijs de Reijke

Unrest at Laacher See: is it us or the volcano?’

[Guest article by Gijs de Reijke.] Well, the big word is out. The results of a study (‘Deep low-frequency earthquakes reveal ongoing magmatic recharge beneath Laacher See Volcano (Eifel, Germany)’, Hensch et al.) have been published on the 7th of January, pointing out the presence of magmatic movement beneath the East Eifel Volcanic Field, Germany.…

Ancient foundations: the earth of the bible. Part II: Volcanics in the fertile crescent

In Part I, the five main faults in the region around the Levant were discussed: the Red Sea spreading ridge and its associated triple point, the Dead Sea transform fault, the Zagros suture, the Anatolian strike-slip fault (actually two near parallel faults), and the Aegean subduction zone. Every type of fault that is known occurs…

When Pinatubo turned the tide

The sea is our fascination. We go out of our ways to find it, and it is where we go for holidays, spending our time lying on the beach. Close to half the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast. For those who live here, there is a good living to be had,…

Lurking in the swamp: the Florida volcano

Florida is known for many things. It is home to VC’s stalwart, Geolurking. It has beach life, of the teenage variety. It has Disneyland, of the toddler-of-any-age variety. It has launched space missions to the outermost planets and put men (but not women) on the Moon. It attracts retirees from all over the US and…

History of Öræfajökull

Iceland has ice. Glaciers cover 10% of its landscape, including its highest volcanoes. Of its frequent eruptors, only Hekla is (almost) ice free. Katla, Bardarbunga, and Grimsvötn, which together account for the large majority of eruptions, are all hidden underneath ice sheets, which gives problems studying the volcanoes themselves. But a more serious issue is…

Krakatoa skies: when the Sun turned blue

Just after 4pm, the phones started ringing at the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill. Caller after caller reported seeing the sun. The date was September 27, 1950, and the place was Edinburgh, Scotland. Seeing the sun in Scotland can be a bit of a rarity, but even the Scots knew that the sun should not…

Vesuvius in retrospect

Is this the most famous volcano in the world? The shape is instantly recognisable: the twin peaks give the appearance of an unintended gap where something has been removed. Naples of course has the reputation that anything that is not securely fixed down can quickly and involuntarily change owner, so perhaps a missing bit of…