The rise and fall of Anak Krakatau

It was the largest volcanic eruption since the start of the world-wide web. The invention of telegraphy in the 1850’s had made long distance connections instantaneous. It changed the world. Newspapers were the most obvious beneficiaries, being able to bring gossip news from far away places. And in this landscape, Krakatau exploded. 36,000 people died…

The Kazbek disaster: a cryoclastic debris flow

What makes a volcano dangerous? Clearly, the severity of any eruption plays a role. So does the presence of people nearby. But it is not always the best known volcanoes that are the most dangerous. Tseax is hardly world-renowned, but it caused a major volcanic disaster in Canada. And sometimes a volcano can be dangerous…

El Chichon

  Each century its own. The 19th century was owned by Krakatoa and Tambora. (The mystery volcano of 1808/09 should probably be added to make it a list of three, but it is hard to credit the unknown.) The 20th century was the century of Pinatubo (1991) and Mount St Helens (1980). There were other…

The eruptive past of Indonesia

Gunug Agung has had impressive eruptions in the past week. So far, in spite of the publicity, the event has remained relatively minor. We do not know whether these are the initial rumblings and in the next weeks and months there will be far larger explosions, or that this suffices to relieve the pressure inside…

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: a blast from the past

Note: For a blog post on Mount Agung, see http://big-volcanic.com/agung-volcano-nearing-an-eruption-here-is-what-to-expect-from-the-bali-volcano/ This is a repost, originally written in 2015. Small edits have been made, and some new (old) images added. It is one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in history. The loudest explosions ever recorded, dust spreading worldwide affecting sunsets for years, and it occured…

In the eye of the storm

We live in scary times. As I write this, one hurricane has left destruction in the Caribbean and is bearing down on Florida. A second hurricane is scheduled to clean up what the first one left standing for some of the worst affected islands. Paradise can come to a devastating halt – and was it…

The winter of Huaynaputina

The mountain isn’t there. In its place, an explorer will find a double crater in the ground, several kilometers across, with thick ash on one side and an open side into a majestic river valley on the other. The debris is evidence of a violent past but it gives little hint of what was there…

Life’s end: mass extinctions

Volcanoes affect life. That is as true for volcanoholics as it is for other life forms. As Bjarki pointed out, the puffins on Bogoslof are not going to be impressed, when returning to their nesting holes to find them all gone, blown up to bits or filled with ash and lava. They will be affected…

Volcanohistology: when eruptions make a difference

Volcanoes are frightening. They can dramatically alter the local landscape, and change people’s live – normally for the worse. The best place to be is far away. But large eruptions can have wider impacts. The ash can cover regions a continent away, and sulphate aerosols can spread at high altitude around the world. The sulphate…