Activity at Hekla and The Dead Zone

While we are waiting for Öraefajökull to drop a Christmas present and Grimsvötn to hatch an Easter egg, we instead might get a gift from Hekla. And at the horizon suddenly, a far darker bird looms. So, once more we must ask and answer the age-old volcanic question; what gives in Iceland? Hekla Many people…

Sun storm: the Carrington event

Lights of the North! As in eons ago, Not in vain from your home do ye over us glow! William Ross Wallace (1819–1881) Jan 25, 880 AD, was a remarkable night. The Arabian historian Ibn Abi Zar wrote about it more than 400 years later, from the ancient city of Fez, northeast of the Atlas…

Signs and portents of Iceland – Revisited

When I planned to write this article about the current states of Iceland I only wanted to write about Katla and Öraefajökull. But, as things turned out a third volcano got my attention. In the end this article will be about how hard it can be for a layman to see what is important and…

The fall of Surtsey

In the previous post, we read about the birth of Surtsey. It was a famous eruption, which taught us how quickly and unexpectedly new land can form. We have since seen similar eruptions elsewhere as well. Nishinoshima is a small and isolated Japanese island, 1000 kilometers south of Tokyo. An eruption started just off its…

The air we breath: the sulfur smell of volcanoes

“The sun became dark and its darkness lasted for one and a half years… Each day it shone for about four hours and still this light was only a feeble shadow… the fruits did not ripen and the wine tasted like sour grapes.” Michael the Syrian, about a 6th century eruption It smells. Sulfur is…

Dawn over Ceres: the lonely volcano

Ceres is different. It was the first asteroid to be discovered and is by some distance the largest. Ceres contains a quarter of all the mass on the entire asteroid belt. (That sounds more impressive than it is: the mass is just over 1% of that of the Moon.) But it does not look like…

Hawaii and the story of the Pacific Ocean

The expanse of water seems to go on forever. The Pacific ocean covers a third of the Earth surface, more than all the continents combined. The east-west width between Indonesia and Colombia is almost 20,000 km. There is 700 million cubic kilometer of water down there! 45 different countries own part of it. The averaged…

Kelimutu: the magic of colour

There is more to Flores. The island is spectacular in any case. The Portuguese explorers called it Cabo de Flores (Cape of Flowers) because of the red-flowered flame trees, dotted between the palm trees of the north coast. The landscape is varied, from low-land savannah to volcanic rain forest. It is not as wet here as…

Dawn over Ceres: the journey

There used to be a missing planet. It had long been realized that there was an empty gap in the Solar System, between Mars and Jupiter. The two were just too far apart. The distribution of the planets was described well by a relation proposed by Johann Titius and Johann Bode, and this relation predicted…

Lava rocks!

What’s in a name. Would lava by any other name smell as sweet? Perhaps that is not the right question: lava is many things, but sweet-smelling it is not. It smells like a rose bush that was doused in some evil sulphurous pesticide and then put on fire. This rose also constantly explodes with a…