The mystery eruption of Tor Zawar

Lava flows come in all sizes. The Reykjanes eruption produced flows of several kilometers length. Other volcanoes can do ten times that length, although we do not have a lot of recent experience with such long flows. Flood basalts can do hundreds of kilometers, and volcanoes on Venus manage thousands of kilometers – helped by the fact that the lava barely cools under its hothouse conditions. On the other hand, some flows only manage a few hundred meters. And one lava flow is known for being the shortest in living memory: it had a length of only 8 meters. There is a story here.


It all happened in a mountainous region of Pakistan. The country is a fractured one. It lies on one of the boundaries between the Eurasian and the Indian plate, and carries collateral damage from the collision of the two. Pakistan borders India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. (Not all the borders are well defined.) The eastern parts of the country are the fertile delta of the Indus river, among the major rivers of the world, and the origin of the name ‘India’. East of the Indus the land is dry and bare: this is the Thar desert which extends into India. In the far north is the final flourish of the Himalayas, where the gorge of the Indus defines its westernmost extend. The Himalayas took the brunt of the India-Asia collision: it is the crumple zone of a continent. The western half of Pakistan is very different, with long curved mountain chains along the edge of the Indian plate.

source: ezilon.con

Pakistan’s mountains are impressive, and that is on a world-class scale. There are over 100 peaks above 7 km, including the famous but nameless – and deadly – K2. (If you wonder why the second highest mountain in the world has no name: it is in effect invisible from any inhabited location, so lacks a local name. The term ‘K2’ means it is the second peak in the Karakorum range, from a survey done from a great distance at a time when the true height was not known. For lack of an alternative, the name stuck.) (If you wish to climb it, be aware that the death rate among its climbers is a staggering 25%. Nanga Parbat is almost as bad, at 22%.) All of these 7-k’s are in the north, in the Himalayas, the Karakoram (along the northern border of Pakistan, where K2 is located) and the Hindu Kush (which is mostly in Afghanistan but extends into northwestern Pakistan).

Many more, but lower, mountain ranges occupy the west of the country. The map below shows the names and location of the various ranges. Heights vary from 1 to 5 kilometers. The curved chains of the Sulaiman range give spectacular satellite images. They form a fold belt at the edge of the Indus delta; the peculiar shape is related to some rotation of the Indian plate in its collision with Asia. Everything here is India’s fault.

Fairy Meadows near one of the base camp sites of the Nanga Parbat

It is a wonderful land with spectacular scenery of mountains, lakes, valleys, desert; the British Backpacker Society describes it as “mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination”. Without its reputation of insecurity, this would be high on the list for geo-tourism. There are consequences of the beauty, of course. This land has major fault lines, and earthquakes are frequent and sometimes large. Mountains cause isolation and the people are not only diverse, they are culturally fractured as well. But what a land.

Gilangur mountains

Sulaiman mountains

Among all the natural wonders, there is one notable lack. Sadly, Pakistan does not have volcanoes. This is not entirely true: there are some mud volcanoes, if that is your thing. There is an extinct, pleistocene volcano in the south, near Iran: Koh-e-Sultan. It is located in the Chagai arc and was active perhaps 2 million years ago. Near it, Neza-e-Sultan is an old magma pipe which sticks out of the ground. It takes a long time to erode volcanoes down to their conduit. This clearly is old. Various reports claim that eruptions here have been dated to as recent as 90,000 years ago. But that claim comes from an unpublished PhD thesis and we can consider it as ‘unconfirmed’ – or we may assume that it is unpublished for a reason. This volcano looks millions of years old. And ever since it went extinct, Pakistan has had to live with only mud volcanoes.

Neza-e-Sultan (Source: Wikipedia)

But this volcanic deficiency suddenly came to an end. It happened in January 2010. Pakistan lacks volcanoes no longer. Or does it?

Tor Zawar

Tor Zawar

Tor Zawar is a steep mountain side some 40 km northeast of the city of Quetta. A major earthquake (M6) had hit the region two years earlier, in October 2008. A small earthquake was reported in the region on 27 January 2010. Following this, reports began to emerge of smoke emerging from the ground and black, molten rock reaching the surface. This was surprising, as the region had never been seen as volcanically active. The black melt was highly viscous and it remained within meters of the eruption site. The volume that was erupted amounted to no more than 10m3. But it cannot be denied that molten rock coming up to the surface, however minor, is by definition volcanic. It beat the mud volcanoes hands down. Scientists began the arduous journey to the dry, mountainous region. They arrived a few days after the event. The district governor got there first, the day after the event: he confirmed that the eruption had begun with ‘chemical gasses’ (a bit more specific would have been nice -another report mentions methane) followed by the ejection of a molten rock, 1 meter wide.

Source: Kerr et al. 2010

This was a unique event. There had never been an eruption in the area, and in fact there was no volcano within hundreds of kilometers. No one would have predicted an eruption here. But there is in fact a volcanic legacy in the region, albeit a very ancient one.

Once, this was within the Tethys ocean. India’s venture into Asia was part of the closure of the Tethys, some 50 million years ago. (It was not the first, nor the last, terrain to make the jump. A series of microcontinents and volcanic islands had done the same, arriving ahead of India.) In this particular region, the rocks date from the Jurassic to the Eocene (the time of India’s arrival). They are mainly sedimentary, sand and debris deposited in the Tethys ocean. But in the late Cretaceous, 70-74 million years ago and ahead of India’s arrival at the shores of Asia, there was a period of basaltic volcanism with submarine pillow lavas and tuff. The remains of these volcanic rocks, interspersed with sediment (sandstone and mudstone) are now found on land, in the region of Tor Zawar. At the surface there is a thin band of volcanic rock stretching east to west over a length of 10km and a width of 1-2 km. Satellite images show the band of dark rock well. It is called the Bibai volcanics and lies between two thrust faults, the Bibai and Gogai thrusts. Tor Zawar is at the southern rim of this band, and this where the eruption took place. Further north, the mountains show sills, attributed to the same ancient volcanic event. They consist of dolerite, typical for solidified basaltic dikes and sills. The Bibai volcanics may have been a local intrusion but it occurred over a wider region than just the thin band now at the surface. Was this related to the eruption? It would be a record long lead time!

The molten rock

The locals reported that emission of black, molten material started along with tremors occurred on the night of 27 January 2010. Steam was continuously emitted from six fissures, and rock fragments were too hot to handle with bare hands. Heat was still rising from the site during the 3 days of observation.

The eruption had caused a series of fissures. But in keeping with the size of the eruption, these were only meter size! Six fissures were reported by the locals. The longest was measured at 1.33 meters and the shortest was a mere 30 centimeters. The width varied from 15 to 50 cm. The lava came from the two largest fissures, and had crept along the surface along a distance of 8 meters, in a flow that was 2 meters wide and 15 cm thick before it solidified. Presumably this followed the orientation of the fissures. In the centre it had formed small concentric circles. Here, a small scoria cone had formed: small meaning 60 cm tall! This was truly a non-Jesperian event: a miniature volcano. But in this country void of volcanoes, no one minded. You have to start somewhere, and for the local newspapers this was plenty.

It was plenty for the locals as well. People came to this isolated region, including the local governor and the scientists. Stories were told. Not all were equally believable: the one about fire and flames on top of the mountain overlooked the fact that this did not happen on the top of the mountain but near the bottom. People wanted a souvenir, and thus much of the rock quickly disappeared in the hands of the local people.

A trench was dug to find the origin of the lava, a few days after the eruption. The vent was found to be a tube only 5 cm wide, going down 1 meter. At this depth it connected to a cone-shaped cavity some 60 cm wide. a shiny, black, fine coating on the walls made it look like an oven. Even at this time the sides of the cavity were still too hot to touch. Bushes caught fire when placed close to the vent: temperatures were estimated to be up to 300 C.

Nothing remains. Whilst the rock was carried off by the locals, the cone was removed by the scientists. It now appears to be in a museum, an unusual place for an entire volcanic cone. I tried to find the exact location of the eruption on satellite images but even with a photo of the location at hand no remnant could be recognized, except possible a whitish spot. Pakistan had its volcano only for a few days.

The circle marks the approximate location of the eruption

A close-up. Nothing remains – unless the white spot is it

Two rocks from the minute scoria cone made it to the laboratory in Cardiff, and were analyzed there. The composition of one was andesitic-basaltic and the other was trachy-basalt with a bit lower SiO. Based on other elements both rocks were deemed to derive from an alkaline basalt, in spite of the andesitic affinity. The composition was similar but not identical to those of the some of the sills and the Bibai volcanics. But it seemed unlikely that a magma chamber would have lain undisturbed for 70 million years!

The eruption site was close to an electricity pylon, and the cable reportedly had snapped, apparently in the earthquake. ‘Close’ meant a distance of some 7 meters. But this could not have caused the melt. The cable had been overhead, not buried, and any melt from its short-circuit would have been on the surface. In fact, there are cases known where a broken electricity cable melted surface rocks. But at Tor Zawar the molten rock had definitely come from below. Also, the basaltic composition of the analyzed stone would have required a very high melt fraction of the surface rocks, much higher than expected from a short-circuit. So that suggestion did not work.

The problem remained that the two analyzed rocks had different compositions. The suggestion was made that the more evolved rock could have had some sand melted into the rock. That pointed at crustal contamination. Subtracting that, the compositions could be fitted with an origin 60 km deep, with a very low melt fraction of 1%. The Bibai thrust fault could have allowed the melt to come to the surface, perhaps after the 2008 earthquake. But in this collision zone, 60 km deep is still within the lithosphere, and there is no indication of excess heat. But if magma had indeed managed to travel up from so deep, then further small eruptions could well be possible.

That was a prediction made in August 2010, when this first analysis was written up. It turned out to be well-timed. In January 2011, a second eruption was found, 300 meters north of the previous one. This was even smaller (and so immediately took over the record for the smallest volcanic eruption even recorded). But it was so small (3 m3, less than half of the 2010 eruption) that it had not in fact been recorded. The exact date of this eruption is therefore not known: the ejecta were discovered in January but could have been made months earlier. It was extraordinary to think that after 70 million years of dormancy, the region would re-activate with two such miniature eruptions within one year!

Pylonic magma

This was in fact so extraordinary as to be considered utterly implausible. There had to be another explanation. As far as we know, volcanic eruptions arise from melt from geothermal heat at depth. The magma then rises because molten rock is less dense than solid rock. How could this be different in Pakistan?

Problems with the original interpretation were spotted. The lithosphere here is the Indian craton; the thrust faults are near the surface, but do not go anywhere near the depth of 60 km that had been suggested. The deep origin of the magma seemed unlikely.

The second eruption in 2011 provided the all important clue. For it too was next to an electricity pylon, in fact one on the same line. But the main electricity cable was not damaged – in fact it was now discovered that reports that the line had broken on the first eruption were wrong. Whatever had happened had involved the pylons but not the electricity cable.

In the 2011 eruption, basaltic melt was found in two places: at the base of the pylon, and at the base of one of the support cables of the pylon. Going back to the 2010 event, it was found that photographs showed that the hole that had been dug around the conduit also had a supporting cable going into it. The authors of the original paper had not known this because they had not been at the site: they had just been send the two rocks and descriptions. A lack of local knowledge, and possibly some inaccurate information, had obscured the facts.

From Kassi et al. 2012

So if it wasn’t geothermal heat and if it wasn’t the electricity cable, what had happened? The earthquake had likely been a red herring: earthquakes this small size (M3.9) are frequent in the region, none have ever produced magma, and the 2011 event did not relate to an earthquake. There is one other source of energy available, and although it does not normally produce magma, it was the only likely candidate. The magma was a fulgurite.

Lightning lava

The word fulgurite comes from latin: it describes fossil lightning. (Fulgur means lightning.) It may not be obvious how lightning can fossilize, but this can happen when lightning hits the ground. The bolt can travel into it and fuse sand or other substance along its path. The fused material forms the fulgurite fossil. In some cases the fused tubes can reach meters deep.

The suggestion was made that at Tor Zawar, the lightning had struck the pylon and traveled through the metal structure and support cable into the ground. Rather than most of the energy being used near the surface, the metal structure channeled the bolt towards the foundations or the mounting point: all the energy was deposited there. And that was a considerable energy. An average lightning bolt carries around 3 giga-Joule, while the strongest can carry 100 times more. Temperatures along the path of a lightning bolt can reach 30,000 C (although that is in the atmosphere, not the solid ground).

Melting 10m3 of basaltic rock requires around 25 GJ. This was the approximate volume of the 2010 eruption. So it can have been caused by a strong lightning bolt if all the energy was transferred underground, with no way of escape other than into the rock.

Fulgurite fused rock remains where it forms, along the path of the lightning strike. It does not form flowing lava. But in this case, all the melt happened 1 meter below the ground and the molten rock reacted as any magma would do: look for an escape, upward. Hence the fissures and hence the lava flow.

So why did the analysis of the rocks point at an origin 60 km underground, rather than the 1 meter where it really formed? The pylons were mounted on outcroppings of the ancient volcanic rocks, on the edge of the Bibai belt. The rocks that were melted were those volcanic rocks (perhaps with some added cement), and the lava that came out was the old solidified pillow lava, remelted by lightning. When the extruded lava was analyzed, it correctly found that it had come from 60 km depth. But that had happened not in 2010, but 70 million years earlier. This lava was originally produced at the bottom of a long vanished ocean; it predated the arrival of India by 20 million years. Even the Deccan traps were still in the future, and dinosaurs were still roaming the earth. The scientists got it spot on – just with a minor deviation on the date.

We know that volcanic eruptions can induce lightning. The dust column attracts lightning like flames attract moths. But now we have learned from Tor Zawar that lightning can also induce a volcanic eruption. Who would have thought.

the volcano that wasn’t?

But was this a volcano? If we stick with the definition that a volcano is where molten rock from below reached the surface, then this is a volcano. If we require the magma to be produced deep underground by geothermal heat (something not normally specifically listed), then it isn’t. We may also think of volcanoes to erupt repeatedly, but there are many volcanoes that only erupt once. So call this a volcano if you want. Let Pakistan have its first eruption since the Pleistocene.

Albert, March 2023

The eruption cone of Tor Zawar. The only volcano in the world to be kept in a museum


Eruption of basaltic magma at Tor Zawar, Balochistan, Pakistan on 27 January 2010: geochemical and petrological constraints on petrogenesis: A. Kerr et al. Mineralogical Magazine, December 2010, Vol. 74(6), pp. 1027–1036

Comments on the eruption of basaltic magma at Tor Zawar, Balochistan, Pakistan on 27 January 2010, with a discussion of the geochemical and petrological constraints on its petrogenesis : A. Kassi et al. Mineralogical Magazine, June 2012, Vol. 76(3), pp. 717–723

Occurrences of rock-fulgurites associated with steel pylons of the overhead electric tr erhead electric transmission line at T ansmission line at Tor Zawar or Zawar, Ziarat District at District and Jang Tor Ghar, Muslim Bagh, Pakistan: A. Kassi et al. Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences, 2013, Volume 22 Article 5

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 37, no. 3 (March 2012)

158 thoughts on “The mystery eruption of Tor Zawar

  1. The smallest actual eruption I know of is the 1980 Kilauea eruption at 3 m³.

    • Kilauea have produced alot of these stuff along small fissures in 2007 it did in fathers day dyke svarm where many small blue spatter cones was found in the Ohia rainforest around Puu Oo its also same year during the massive 2007 eruption that feed Waikuphainaha

    • The problem with claiming a record is that someone may trump it.. This eruption isn’t even listed in Kilauea’s eruptions, other than as an intrusion followed by a magma drainage

      • It is actually, the eruption was only discovered well after, but it is confirmed and is mapped. There is a data page of all the lava flows of Kilauea from 1790 to 1982, giving google earth KML downloads. One exists for 1980. It can be found here:

        The eruption was on the northeast side of Mauna Ulu, but it is basically a few meters wide lava pad on a crack.

        There is also spatter of an unknown but recent age found around a crack in the Koae fault zone south if the summit of Kilauea in 2011. It probably formed in 1832 or 1840, it is at least ypunger than 1790 and fits an early 18th century date best. There is not even any lava flow from this, it was just a dike that was exposed at the surface and spattered in a crack. But lava did escape, so it counts as an eruption. If it was in 1840 though, it was a part of that years eruption, which was anything but small, so there is a bit of uncertainty here.

  2. Thank you Albert, very good stuff and quite small compared to the ionian eruptions Im writing about

    • Pakistan is indeed a spectacular country, many of its landscapes coud be fit into a fantasy film

    • With a gigiantic electric arc element, 10 s kilometers long and 100 s of meters thick ( and somewhow if you had enough power to power it ) you coud probaly produce a real volcano, with having that thing deep in the crust to produce an active magma chamber, but this is reserved for Sci – Fi

      • Would be easier to just run a nuclear meltdown underground, those already produce a form of lava 🙂

        Nuclear meltdowns involve sustained gigawatts of power, and energy densities that are about 3 orders of magnitude larger than the chemical reactions that power combustion and batteries. 1 kg of uranium 235 has almost 150 TJ of energy, stoichiometric petrol and oxygen has 13.7 MJ, and lithium in the same setup has about 22 MJ. Which is 0.000022 TJ if my math is correct… 🙂
        Natural uranium is under 1% U235 though, reactors use about 5%, weapons are double digits but never given exact numbers anywhere for obvious reasons.

        So just induce a fission reaction in some lightly enriched uranium, lightly so that the reaction doesnt get hot enough to evaporate something which is an explosion if it is in a confined space…

        Even still to make 1 km3 of melt would require many tons of uranium and that is assuming no loss of heat before eruption which is not going to happen. But it should be possible. I think U238 can be induced to fission by its other isotope but not by itself, so doing this in an ore deposit might turn it into a radioactive lava lake 🙂

        The other option, technically more straightforward and more environmentally benign but also just a physically enormous task, would be to make a 1 km tall pile of thermite and light it. Although, like above, having that much energy would likely cause an explosion. But if not then you have a huge volume of 2000+C liquid, if it was mixed with sand and MgO before then you have instant lava 🙂 but then making a 1 km tall pile of powder might be impossible and it would probably autoignite rather easily, first thunderstorm…

        • Your math seems correct.. I wouldn’t do the melting through an explosion. That just wastes energy pulverizing the rock. Direct heat via electricity or radioactivity is much better. I had considered adding radioactivity to the ways of making an artificial volcano (the molten of Chernobyl comes to mind) but decided that most volcanoes are already heated by radioactives – after all, uranium decays is a significant part (>50%) of the internal heat budget of the Earth.

  3. I suppose that it wasn’t always that boring there frome a volcanophile’s perspective.
    As we can see near all oceanic subduction zones (New Zealand, the islands north of NZ, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Kamtschatka, the Aleutian Belt, Middle and South America, so roughly the Ring of Fire) there is lots of volcanism where an ocean is being subducted, and Tethys was a huge ocean.

    We, the human race, just came to late to watch the fire works there. I suppose they are all hidden deep under the Himalayas, and after closure there was nothing to cause volcanism as there don’t seem to be any mantle plumes under Asia – so far.

    Unfortunately we cannot see very much of the deep past under a mountain range this size. Besides there might not be that much research due to obvious reasons.
    In China though there seems to be some intraplate volcanism which might be related in some way to the fact that China once consisted of two island structures.

  4. Btw, I wouldn’t call it a “crumple zone” as it is more complex – and as you yourself stated numerous times, subduction is probably the motor. So, scientists found all kind of material in the Himalayas, even on top, from one or several old ocean floors.
    It is therefore tempting to think that India would have never travelled north without the subduction of Tethys. Another interesting thought might be to imagine the subduction zone as a deep zone like around the Marianas or Tonga as India travelled quite fast, geologically seen.
    There might be some crumble on top of that trifle though.

    • There was certainly subduction involved. But the final collision was continent vs continent, leaving no room for subduction. The subduction zone must have been overrun at this time. There are remnants of oceanic arcs in northern Pakistan, from island chains that collided before the arrival of India itself. The closing of the Tethys was a complex process. And yes, it would have involved volcanism.

  5. This is amazing. We could possibly induce volcanism, given a sufficient electrical source.

    I wonder if there will be some volcanism in Pakistan’s future though, given the subduction around the Makran trench.

    • There are volcanoes, two are in neighbouring Iran, one in Pakistan (yellow stars, fig. 4). The article says that the subduction zone is special. The volcanoes are further inland (500 km) than usual, and the subduction rate is very slow, shallow angle.

      Considering Oman and its rich history of Tethys I wonder whether this small piece of ocean is a rest of Tethys subducting before the Arabian Plate collides.

      • The yellow star in Pakistan is the Sultan volcano, mentioned in the post. It has long been extinct

        • Disagreed.
          This is an invitation to mind-wandering, incited by Andy. The thing next to Quetta and the other three are one a concave line parallel to the mountain range.

          Although the last activity occurred during the Pleistocene (probably a large eruption), volcanism began earlier. The youngest date, obtained from K-Ar dating of pumice, is 90,000 ± 10,000 years.

          The chain is considered dormant !! or extinct (you never know).

          • The post mentions that the 90,000 year date should be ignored. It comes from an unpublished thesis and cannot be checked.

        • “Although Koh-i-Sultan is considered dormant or extinct, ongoing fumarolic activity has been recorded.”
          Therefore I would place my bet on dormant.

          • It has hot springs with sulphur enrichment and some fountaining. Fumaroles are not listed in the literature, as far as I could find (they are mentioned in wikipedia). So you may call it dormant, but the hot springs are not particularly hot: around 30C. The below is from a 2009 study

          • It is an exciting setting with oceanic crust from the Cretacious, so a very old subduction zone and possibly the last trace of Tethys.
            In the hardly accessible area there might be some interesting fossils then.
            I think the earthquakes can be a problem and cause tsunamis.

            Indeed – I googled it – Ammonites:

          • Last trace of the Tethys is the Mediterranean south of Crete 🙂

          • It is basically the dame, Chad. It was cut off:

            “Throughout the Oligocene and Miocene, significant changes in the paleogeography of the northern Arabian Peninsula were driven by the Eurasia-Arabia collision along the Bitlis–Zagros thrust zone and the subsequent uplift and sub-aerial exposure of an extensive area, resulting in the disconnection of the Mediterranean basin from the Mesopotamian basin (Indian Ocean).”
            “The Oligo–Miocene closure of the Tethys Ocean and evolution of the proto-Mediterranean Sea”

          • Corr: The same
            Then this was also part of it and probably cut off during closure of the Bitlis-Zagros Thrust Zone:

            It seems to contain at least one table mount like Eratosthenes, mentioned by Héctor’s in a comment-section before this one – looks like one at least –

            Side note: One whale fossil was allegedly damaged by two cars driven by Belgian diplomats who, of course, deny it.

            One big ocean arm there, followed by desert, truly fascinating.

      • I don’t mean in a ‘play God’ kind of way, but if we were saying mining a dwarf planet or an asteroid for minerals and we needed to bring some to the surface…you get the idea.

        • I doubt that will work very well. Eruptions are driven by buoyancy, and buoyancy requires rather more gravity than those pipsqueak astronomical objects typically have.

          So, limited to big moons and planets, and therefore to the bottoms of significant gravity wells.

  6. (mode lol=on) It seems to me that this has already happened in Iceland (geothermal drilling) and that it could happen in North Korea (atomic test). (mod lol =off).
    Thank you Albert for this article.

  7. The neighbour, Albert:
    “The field is in the Central Iranian volcanic belt, a mountain range with summits exceeding 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) of altitude. In this belt, volcanic activity commenced during the Cretaceous as submarine volcanism. A peak of activity occurred during the Eocene, afterwards andesitic-dacitic stratovolcanoes were formed during the Pliocene-Pleistocene.”

    I assume the neighbour is – albeit poor among some other issues – much more developped in all fields of science. So, a belt, which goes on in the east and was once an island arc. This setting is extremely interesting as it shows 1. what might have gone on between India and Eurasia before the collision, 2. how Indonesia might end up 100 million years from now.

  8. Truely a non jesperian, non ionian event for soure

    • 🙂
      No. Jesper, only Earth, a truly fascinating place.
      First I considered this piece by Albert boring. However it is not boring at all. The area is a true testimony of the closure of the Tethys Ocean, and Oman’s rocks have stories to tell.

    • just one word rings happiness now

      Loki Patera

      : )

      Thats a lava lake freaking quite alot bigger than Vatnajökull

  9. Can”t even call it a VEI 0, VEI -1 is more appropriate. Perhaps I could induce my own hyper eruption with such methods….

      • I am sorry Tora Zawar but I like volcanoes that erupt big! We can still be friends though

  10. Key passage: “When the extruded lava was analyzed, it correctly found that it had come from 60 km depth. But that had happened not in 2010, but 70 million years earlier. This lava was originally produced at the bottom of a long vanished ocean; it predated the arrival of India by 20 million years.”

    Great piece after all. The volcano that might not have been is interesting for technology. This is interesting though for friends of subduction and swimming plates.
    I consider the “long vanished” ocean still present in one small place between Iran/Baluchistan and Oman (besides the Levant Basin, Chad) and still subducting, demonstrating the end of a long process before the Arabian Peninsula will join the continental mass.

  11. First I thought that in this continental context the magma can only be Rhyolite, but maybe Basalt can better survive that long time in small quantities. During 70 million years the magma must have been metamorphed somehow.

    • There is actually a lot of basalt in continental areas. Most intra-plate continental volcanoes are dominated by basaltic magmas and their more alkaline equivalents, basanite and tephrite. Al Haruj, for example, a volcanic field in the Sahara Desert, which is possibly the largest continental volcano at 4800 km3, seems to be 100% basalt. Of course, the magma storage of Al Haruj is probably quite deep. Continental volcanic arcs, instead, are dominated by magma compositions ranging from basaltic andesite to dacite, with rhyolite being a rare type of magma.

      • On the photo the lava reminds to a dome structure. Maybe the lava didn’t flow but was pushed out in nearly solid state.

    • Ha! I was four hours late (and a dollar short) posting my response up above. That Oklo reactor is super cool.

  12. Thanks Albert! Fascinating. I’ll never look at electricity pylons on the Borrowdale volcanics in the same way again. Avoid during thunderstorms!

  13. So Bezymianny just had another moderate explosion, apparently with ash to 10KM. I think overall the activity of this volcano has been fairly impressive the past couple years, and especially considering all the activity after its large VEI 5 in the 1950’s.

    Been digging into it a bit, don’t think I realized Bezymianny was considered extinct prior to the 50’s. GVP has its most recent eruption prior to that as 950CE, so a thousand years of repose is quite long it seems for this system.

    I guess my question is more or less does Bezymianny still pose a risk of a repeat larger VEI5 or potentially more type of event in the near future? The 1950’s event, while large, seems rather small given the enormous repose though of course I don’t know how much magma was supplied in that thousand year interval or how much stale magma rests under the volcano.

    It just seems like the frequent activity since suggests a reawakening that could lead to another climax of sorts, whether soon or in the next several decades.

    Is this incorrect or? Just curious. Interesting volcano.

    • Or is the frequent activity doing the opposite and relieving any leftover pressure in the system following the 1950’s event?

      Just wondering if any of you have any insight on this system.

      • That whole area is a very powerful volcabic field for being in an arc setting. Actually, I think for a given area only the Big Island is more productive on land, if it was a single central volcano then it would almost certainly be the biggest land volcano.

        But all of them are mostly basaltic. Bezymianny is actually a bit weird, because none of it is basaltic, its magma might fall under basaltic andesite but it is probably dacite or andesite with mafic crystals, not actual basalt magma. My take is that the deep source might feed the stratovolcanoes differently, some get fluid magma, like the lavas of Tolbachik, which are often as fluid as Hawaiian lavas, but others get magma that has time to evolve on the way up, Klyuchevskoi has a bit more stivky lava that gives it the strombolian character, and Bezymianny is that last bit. That has evolved much more and is left in the crust a long time. Perhaps its setting in the center of the Klyuchevskaya group is directly related to this.

        If you think if it, then Kilaueas ERZ is a good view, only sideways. Up at the summit and near Mauna Ulu, lava is fresh and very hot, with often basically no crystals. Further east magma stored gets left aline in the ruft, so eruptions can be more evolved (in a very relative sense anyway). Eruptions in the lowest section can, as we found out in 2018, be entirely out of character for Hawaii, andesite lava, possibly even trending towards dacite, and crystal rich strombolian basalt, can erupt early on in eruptions down there, even though it is the same volcano with lava as fluid as warm honey at the summit. It is related to how activve the area is, evolved magma gets left alone. In this comparison Bezymianny is like the stuff erupted at fissure 17, fed by a powerful source but most of the magma goes elsewhere before it gets that far.

        Bezymianny is in between the two most active members, Klyuchevskoi which erupts basically every year, and Tolbachik which erupts a few times a century but with massive lava flows when it does. Bezymianny is stuck between, starved. It does seem to be quite big, with lava domes over a wider area than just the crater of its 1956 collapse, an eruption up to a high VEI 5 to a low VEI 6 might be possible but then mafic subduction volcanoes can do this too (Hunga Tonga), so seems not an especially big risk in particular. Really, with one big exception Kamchatka doesnt have a lot of calderas, only Karymsky and Kurile Lake, although those were both massive. Its a land of giants but not giant eruptions.

        • “Its a land of giants but not giant eruptions.”
          Very different on the Eastern side if one thinks of Churchill, Novarupta, Katmai or Aniakchak.
          So, looking at subduction angles and speed, there is a huge difference. Must faster (six to eight times) and steeper reaching also twice the depth of Kamtschatka.
          Besides there is slab gap near the Wrangell volcanic field.

          The Pacific Plate subducts more vigorously in the Northwest than in Kamtschatka.
          Whether this explains the higher volcanic activity with many more calderas is up to Albert, in case he sees this entry. I would say there is a connection.

      • Bezymianny is the typical crystal rich andesite stratovolcano, similar in composition and eruption style to Saint Helens, Hokkaido Koma-ga-take, Sheveluch, Augustine, and such. Usually they just effuse lava slowly, which makes a dome and keeps collapsing downslope. Sheveluch is like this, almost continuously effusing crystal rich andesite domes. Bezymianny instead, I don’t think has done much effusion in the past 20 years or more. Instead, Bezymianny seems to have taken a liking to just blowing up spectacularly every one or two years. These explosions seem short but powerful, with pyroclastic flows reaching several kilometres from the vent. Some of them last less than an hour in duration. It is a rare behaviour. I’m not sure there are any other volcanoes erupting like this right now.

        The long-term activity of the Kliuchevskoy Group is basaltic-andesite lava flow dominated though. The largest volcano in the group, by far, is Ushovsky. Kliuchevskoy, Kamen and Bezymianny are comparatively “small” cones built up on the flanks of this giant. Ushovsky seems to be made up largely of huge, long-lived (years?), effusive eruptions that make shield-like structures. Tolbachik has continued this flank style of volcanism and, by now, it might be the second most voluminous volcano in the group. Kliuchevskoy, instead, prefers to erupt from the top, but also does lava flows from the flanks sometimes.

      • “Probably, a new block of lava is squeezed out on the lava dome of the volcano, this is accompanied by the collapse of avalanches,” KVERT said, adding that an explosive volcanic eruption is possible with the production of ash column up to 15 km (50 000 feet) above sea level, the formation of pyroclastic flows and the spread of an ash cloud hundreds of kilometers from the volcano during next several days.”

        It seems like KVERT is expecting Bezymianny to go into one of its spectacular paroxysmal explosive events.

      • This is how one of Bezymianny’s explosions looks like:

        • Concerning pyroclastic flows I just came upon this:
          “Cataclysmic eruptions from the Bennett Lake Volcanic Complex were from vents along arcuate fracture systems that ejected out about 850 km3 (200 cu mi) of glowing avalanches of pyroclastic rock called pyroclastic flows.”
          That is 850 times Mount St. Helens.

          So Q1 (if you feel like answering or have the time):
          Could it be that volcanoes in general have become smaller?

          Q2: Would you object when I state that this must have added to the slow demise of the American dinosaurs and possibly also the dinosaurs worldwide which had already started before Chicxulub?

          Found this by reading about a classical island arc, The Coast Range Arc, caused by the subducting Kula-Plate (about 80 ma to 48 ma).

          • An island arc is comparable to Indonesia. The indicated volume is 34 times the volume of Krakatoa.

        • Toba and Yellowstone are far larger caldera complexes than the Bennett Lake Volcanic Complex.

          Bennet Lake Volcanic Complex: 19 km by 30 km
          Toba: 32 km by 98 km
          Yellowstone: 50 km by 120 km

          • Toba, yes. Right. Toba is comparable.
            Sometimes reading about the past makes me shrink the time in the past. A few million years? Peanuts.
            So it still happens, but rarely.

            My second question is also answered as Toba caused a bottleneck in human development.

          • That supposed Toba bottleneck is strongly disputed. There is no real evidence that our limited diversity is related to Toba. It is generally attributed to the migration across the Arabian peninsula

          • Good piece of work indicating that dinosaurs had been in decline for about 24 million years, so the KT (KPg)-event only put down the rest of them, an already diminished community:
            “Our results would strongly indicate that dinosaurs, on average, were not replenishing their numbers faster than they were going extinct, and the appearance that taxic diversity remains stable through time most likely arose because of heterogeneous speciation dynamics.”

            This is terrible for people who love the big bang killing of all dinosaurs. It indicates that dinosaurs might have died out in the long run possibly due to the opening of continents, massive volcanism, a different climate, different plants and food and above all, a different air pressure.

          • This remains an open question, with contradictory results, both regarding a decline and when this decline would have started. There is room to pick the preferred one! In my opinion, a decline is not the same as a worldwide extinction of the entire family, both on land and on sea. It can indicate a vulnerability which a catastrophe can make use of. The most common cause of a reduction in species is a lack of fossils: fossilization is rare and limited to a few environments, may not give a good view of what was actually present. By looking at places with good fossils from some era, it is almost certain that later eras will show less because the site is not optimised to those. A 10-million year window is pretty short. A second cause is a change in environment. We know that the Deccan traps happened just before the impact, which might explain a few million years decline.



          • I have looked at this probably more than most people who arent paleontologists 🙂 at least as much as I look at Hawaii up until a couple years ago. Dinosaurs were not going extinct before the impact, some groups were absent from the northern hemisphere at the end of the Cretaceous, and this has for some reason been seen as a case that diversity was declining. Sauropods for example, went extinct in North America about 90 million years ago, replaced by hadrosaurs of similar dimensions as well as a great diversity of ceratopsians, which were all basically the same animal with variable headgear. Carnosaurs (‘allosaurs’ in some text) went extinct at the same time, and tyrannosaurs became rapidly larger to fill the void. But in fact this is very local, because sauropods were abundant in all of Gondwana, and tyrannosaurs were absent. Although that last one is not clear, megaraptorans might be related to tyrannosaurs, or they might be lightly built carnosaurs, the former is more widely accepted but some individual genera favor the latter model. And then in the last million years of the Cretaceous sauropods did return to North America, in the form of Alamosaurus, whic hwas possibly the biggest of them all full stop. Right up to the very end, these giants would have seen the impact itself…

            Basically, it is quite likely that dinosaurs as a whole would be a different group in the present of an alternative timeline than the animals we know of in the fossil record, many groups would have gone extinct. But there is no way that the total anihilation they experienced in our timeline would have happened without the impact, at the very least there would be a great variety of small theropods outside of birds that would have been fine, and realistically probably any dinosaur that was not particularly sensitive to change. The whole dinosaurs goign extinct anyway is a flawed relic of the days we believed them to be dumb big lizards* that were failures of evolution, its a meme that needs to die.

            *A lot of lizards are actually very smart 🙂

          • There is no real evidence that our limited diversity is related to Toba. It is generally attributed to the migration across the Arabian peninsula

            Isn’t there another obvious suspect? To wit, our rather unfortunate penchant for perpetrating genocidal pogroms against foreign, but close-cousin, tribes from time to time. Low diversity is entirely to be expected if the Cro-Nazis, armed with superior sticks and stones to their opponents, won World War 0 …

        • Right as Chad says, dinosaurs where very highly evolved animals, they had excellent eyesight, many where probably very intelligent, perhaps on a near human scale ( big rexes and raptors ) and many where warm blooded. Many carnivores where likley completely self aware like Crows are today, having a life experience very similar to a human, with tougths and joy and social life… far far far from the stone dumb lizards that the victorians tought they where

          • I am wondering whether some survived and evolved into else in remote surroundings. Thinking of the Giant Comodo Waran and some creatures on the Galápagos Islands. Also the Archosaur (Crocodile) which is supposed to have been around for 150 my, survived.

            It is interesting in this context that by far the most fossils have been found in both Americas. Chixculub was good for instant fossilization in mud.
            It doesn’t necessarily mean that there were fewer of them on other continents, but rather that the flash flood was highest around Chixculub.

            It is possible though that there were brillant conditions for them near the Midwestern Seaway on both sides and also south of the Hudson Seaway. There might have been enough seafood and also ideal breeding conditions.

            When the South American plant-eating species died out around 90 ma, there was probably a volcanic reason and changing climate condition. The area around Aconcagua contained a “shallow” marine basin and was volcanically very active during the time and later. That basin probably offered ideal conditions for them from the Triassic on. They liked to breed around geothermal ponds – fossilized eggs were found in those areas. And there was always volcanism in the area (subduction of Nazca Plate).

            I don’t agree completely, Chad as you know because of Gerta Keller’s work about Foraminifera. Volcanism might be the main reason for a decline, and the paper I linked up there describes the decline precisely. It is just not that spectacular. But every species has a bell curve of origin, radiation and extinction, just the size differs.

            Besides it is not precisely known how deep the water was at Chixculub which makes a difference.

          • A NASA paper speaks of 50%. That is a blow, but means also that the Asteroid didn’t kill every creature and species.
            On the other hand the Permian extinction had a death toll of over 90%. So, scientists are looking for an asteroid here. This NASA paper mentions one matching the period near Australia.


            Whether an asteroid impact can kill nearly all marine life in the ocean and on the shelves when it comes in so far south is another question. An asteroid impact in the middle of Greenland, further to the middle then would be quite hard to find, the same goes for some oceanic LIP. An asteroid impact hidden under a structure like the Ontong Java Plateau would be hidden from discovery.

            So there will always be those open questions.
            Last but not least disease shouldn’t be forgotten as a contributing factor, viruses. There are rarely any fossilized well preserved rests of organs.
            Nice mystery after all. Never boring.

          • Brillant, Albert.

            And now you replace it with Deccan Traps, a bit smaller though, higher sealevels and a smaller extinction of 50-75% “only”, depending on sources.

            And Chixculub would be the final blow, esp.for the big ones, especialla in both Americas.

          • An impact could not just happen to get buried by something like the Ontong Java Plateau; it might be that any dangerously-large impact in deep ocean will get buried by such a thing, because the crust is so thin there and it will punch right through. The asthenosphere decompression-melts and comes pouring up out of the wound until it has scabbed over, and the crater is concealed beneath a deep-ocean LIP.

            Chicxulub left a crater we could easily find because it came down on continental crust, albeit under shallow water, and not on oceanic crust. Had it been a few hundred km north or east of where it was, there might have been a Gulf of Mexico Magmatic Province or a South Caribbean Igneous Massif instead of a recognizable crater.

            The surest sign of a large enough impact won’t necessarily be a crater, then, but impact spherules, which should show up in diverse locations around the entire globe. Such have been found for Chicxulub, of course, along with the notorious iridium dust layer. Impactors without much iridium (e.g. comets) might not leave the latter tell-tale, but there should be spherules. Even a hypothetical pure-ice comet would melt and eject a goodly amount of Earth’s own crustal silicates from the impact site to produce spherules in the ejecta.

          • B.Bound,
            I was talking about an impact crater 251 ma. The OJP is younger, around 122 ma and would have come afterwards. If there were impact sites where the submarine LIP are before those LIP were created you wouldn’t see them.

        • Those other animals are not descended from dinosaurs as group But from their close reptilian relatives. Galapagos lizard fauna is quite recent evolved since the pliocene from land castaways.
          Birds are so far the only known descendents of the dinosaurs

          Chicxulub is souch a violent event it woud not have mattered much at all If it hit the deepest subduction graveyard trench that existed in KT
          11 to 12 km deep water is maybe smaller than the asteorid is wide or about as large

          • I think you might forget evolution and early common ancestors besides remote retreats. And size might matter here. I only know what an 80 kg Leonberger has to have for food. So the big ones had to go, lack of food.

            I have the impression that it was locally dramatic, perfectly demonstrated by Robert de Palma’s findings, but not the only reason. And that the impact is being blown up for sensational reasons. A giant impact would not leave anybody alive or maybe just up to ten percent.
            But sensationalism makes me wary.

            And the way scientists, mostly male, dealt with Gerta Keller, is disgusting and doesn’t belong to today’s mindset, at least not in the western world. I won’t name the main protagonist.

          • The only archosaurs today are birds and crocodiles. And, technically turtles, which are not archosaurs but are still archosauromorphs. But genetics doesnt leave any room for unknown dinosaurs hiding in the mix, all birds are descended from a few species that diverged within the last 80 million years and mostly after the K/Pg. I have thought about other dinosaurs surviving at least briefly, as in maybe to the end if the Eocene or so, but if any dinosaur that wasnt a bird survived it would be obvious, because such an animal would have an immediate head start over anything else. But we have great fossil material of that furst million years, and it shows extremely rapid growth in body size of mammals, there was a bear sized carnivore called Ankalagon only 3 mya after the K/Pg in North America. And birds got big fast too, like Gastornis, if there was a non-avian theropod it would have very likely done this too.

            I have seen a project spec evolution, of pre-glaciated Antarctica being a refuge for some non avian dinosaurs although it us still including the K/Pg and everything else as normal, and obviously still does away with living examples, the project ending in the Miocene. The non avian dinosaurs were evolved exclusively out of the small ‘hypsilophodont’ dinosaurs that were found in Australia in the Cretaceous, small and already cold adapted, the rest of the world was exactly as is in our timeline. But I cant find if this project still exists.

            In a way there is actually precedent. In the P/T, there is a few surprising animals that took the main event in their stride only to disappear a couple million years later with no remnant. Lystrosaurus is the vest example. The predatory therocephalian Moschorhinus is another, a rare example of an apex predator doing this. In the Triassic, there are large archosaur footprints found over both sides of the boundary, which have very tentatively been identified to Smok (yes actual name), a bipedal archosaur found at the Polish village of Lisowice with the footprints. Smok might be a theropod or a pseudosuchian (crocodile line) that is convergent to them, without finding its feet this can not be conclusively determined. It survived into the early Jurassic if these footprints are belonging to it, which is significant as all pseudosuchians except the crocodile lineage went extinct at the Triassic boundary otherwise.
            There are many of these survivor cases among reptiles at the K/Pg but nothing in dinosaurs or anything else endothermic. The only endothermic animals to survive the K/Pg at large body size were Lamniform sharks, not really comparable to land animals.


        • If Chicxulub ejected a few
          10 s of 1000 s
          ( 40 000 km3 ) of ejecta then thats enough enough for a global catastrophe

          If you have that much materials Reentering the atmosphere its becomes like trillions of mini shooting stars in the sky heating up the entire atmosphere

          You gets a firestorm and the KT geological deposits left suggest massive disturbances in the enviroment including a Severe impact winter

          Even comet fragments as small as the Titanic ( Jupiter 2009 impact ) woud cause huge mayhem on Earth

          I think KT was a Comet they travel so much faster making more dangerous impact effects than Asteorids do

          If its fast enough a supprisingly small object can do massive damage

          • – killed nearby life and caused a huge tsunami is important. Fossilized nearby life very well.

            Might have landed on a shelf. Mexico was under water, probably all of Middle America. Is on the North-American Plate, a seemingly stable part. A few hundred kilometres further south it probably wouldn’t have been found. Imagine that.

            Killed many creatures by drowning, land- and mud slides and also Storregga-like slides on the ocean floor. That’s one chapter.

            What it might have done in China, Siberia or Antarctica is quite another chapter.

            By blowing it up it escapes other viewpoints in science.

          • You may be more impressed by the fact it hit the edge of the Tethys ocean..

            The fact that sea dwelling dinosaurs also went extinct tells a lot. The difference between them and crocodiles (or turtles) is the length of time they could go without breathing. It was the air in the hours after the impact that killed them. The mystery is that birds survived. But they can fly .. it may suggest that some regions far far away were less impacted, but not continental so only the flyers coukd spread from there.

          • Right. It hit in Tethys. And Europe was partially under water. A classic fossil for Europe is therefore the Mososaur they found in Maastricht.

            But nobody knows pecisely whether the Mososaurs died from the blast (sharks didn’t) or from tsunamis and slides and changed ocean temperature and environment. And nobody knows how fast.

            Only one thing is sure: The dinosaurs found in Hell Creek by Robert de Palma (also the fish specimens) died fast. For the rest of the world there is not that much evidence. Some of the rest of the world though like Africa was pretty close to the Deccan Traps.

          • Interesting point about breathing. There’s another point though: Crocodiles and snakes can go for a while without eating in case they have had a full meal before. I believe that an eight ton Tyrannosaurus didn’t have this capacity.

            And one more point: Dinosaurs – it is believed – didn’t dig in their eggs. They were lying around. Snakes might hide their eggs, and Crocodiles might hide them under water with lots of prepped food.
            Also small rodents tend to collect food.

            So, the offspring might be the key. All eggs lying around must have burst.

            They give it 65 to 66 my. That’s telling. Let’s say some survived (away from America), but were sterile from radiation and had nothing to eat, and the eggs were gone.

            Mankind might be going down (declining sperm quality). That would be a slim bell curve. Wouldn’t fit on one piece of paper with the bell curve of the saurs 😉

            We have that the beasts don’t have: Cynicism.

          • The plesiosaurus (around at the KT extinction) had live young, not eggs

          • Well. The plesiosaurus and the pliosaurus are supposed to have died out at the beginning of the Late Cretacius. One of the discussed culprits: A feeding machine with razor blades in his mouth named Mososaurus.

            Maybe Jupiter was just getting sick of them feeding machines.

            So there was good and bad in Thetys. There was Mososaur, closely related to snakes.

          • Pliosaurs went extinct 90 million years ago, but other plesiosaurs were around at the end. Also, not all short necked plesiosaurs were pliosaurs, and some early pliosaurs had long necks 🙂 the suze of the head was related to how large the prey size was, and plesiosaurs evolved into apex predators more than once.

            Mosasaurs at least initially seemed to prefer open water in shallow seas, like the western interior seaway, hence the great abundance of fossils. But Maastrichtian mosasaurs probably were much less restricted. , and very similar fossils are found worldwide so the larger genera probably had cosmopolitan distribution, not unlike Orcas really. They also seem to have been rather agressive animals, Tylosaurus had a snout that was very strongly reinforced and toothless at the tip, it was probably used to ram into prey at high speed. Given these things were 11 meters long and probably going on 8-10 tons it is quite a terrifying creature. Mosasaurus was also about 11 meters, but probably almost twice as heavy, very solid animal. It was basically a reptilian shark, very unlike the snakey sea serpents of old depictions. It is worth noting though, a smaller Mosasaurus fossil has a shattered ribcage and was believed to have been killed by a Tylosaurus or similar animal, in the ocean ‘apex predator’ is only a rough guide not an absolute title…

            Also, in case it becomes relevant, all the marine reptiles, except for turtles in both cases, were endothermic and fully vivaparous. Even the thalattosuchian ‘sea crocs were vivaparous, actually the only archosaurs to ever achieve this. Shows how important the trait is to marine life. Even sea snakes today are usually live bearing where terrestrial Elapids usually lay eggs. Sea snakes are still ectothermic though.

            Mosasaurs were also found not to be close to monitor lizards, surprisingly, but are very close to snakes, more so than to any ither group of squamates. So possibly early examples had basic venom although it is very unlikely the larger ones did (or needed it, for that matter)

          • Chad you should write a dinosaur article…

            I love these diversions into Chicxulub and dinosaurs, I really would love more articles probing such topics (when volcanic times are slow).

  14. If memory serves, Godwin-Austen, the sur-name of a celebrated surveyor of the region, is associated with K2. However, its more familiar moniker is far more in keeping with its reputation. A mountaineer’s mountain which IMHO makes Everest pale in comparison.

  15. “The magma was a fulgurite.”

    Yay !! I thought might be such a couple of paragraphs prior to the ‘disclose’…

    Been a while, but I remember HV feed to local ‘sub-station’ producing a ‘slow burn’ following a spectacular thunderstorm. We’re on a sandstone ridge, lacking old basalt to re-purpose but, IIRC, repair crew had to wait for the cable’s trench-fill aggregate and ravaged bedrock to cool from ‘glowing glob’ before smashing it to cullet…
    Per Dune’s Curse, “May Thy Blade Chip and Shatter.”

    • I did tell you a few paragraphs before, by calling it ‘pylonic magma’..

  16. Chiles-Cerro Negro’s new swarm has started with an interesting and somewhat confusing bang. By the end of the month, CCN will have produced over 70,000 earthquakes surpassing the peak quake number of last year’s swarm. with a new daily record of 10k, surpassing all of the swarms before. Despite the big numbers, there aren’t as many M2s or 3s as the previous swarm and it’s relatively low energy. Even more interesting is the swarm’s eccentricity, producing 10k daily quakes down to 500 quakes in a couple of weeks before ramping back up to 2500 daily quakes.
    This is the volcano’s 4th significant swarm after almost 10 years of ever-fluctuating unrest. What’s causing this 1? The first swarm was the magma intrusion, the second swarm was the result of the chamber pressurizing, the third swarm was caused by a significant volume of buoyant magma rising from 30km to 3 below the surface. What’s causing this 4th swarm? Thoughts?

      • The 2013/2015 swarm had more earthquakes as a whole but it peaked at 8k contrasted with this swarms 10k. That swarm took a while to ramp as well. There’s also been another shift in the deformation since Feb 28. I am thinking that the plug or whatever else is keeping the magma from surfacing is starting to weaken.

        • Could be.
          Thank you for the details. Interesting volcano(es).

    • What do we know about the instrumentation in the area? If they have added new seismometers, there might be an improvement in the ability to detect smaller earthquakes, resulting in a higher count.

      • They added some temporary seismographs during the last swarm but I don’t know if they’re still active, but looking the past data from the current seismographs, they both have a comparable intensity.

      • Good to show Carl that is a python fanatic..

        Nope giant pytons are not good pets leathal to small childern and adults as well If they are very large snakes

        • Carl recommended that I go up to Tambora, and I declined right away as Reticulated Python has a habitat there. I am more in the Steven Spielberg/Indy-league.

      • I also finds pythons insanely odd and insanely primitive, quite strange animals

        • You grab them by the head and gets a strong hold and others move away the huge body and the hissing firehydrant can be re – located

        • So, if you are realistic you wouldn’t have liked to live back then, even with a possibly nice setting as Mososaurus was even worse with those blades as teeth.
          So they went (nearly) extinct, and the mammal developped.

          I think we are not used to the thought that that big goes down, and that small survives. We as a species were always afraid of big animals and learned to kill them in the past or tame them and breed them if possible. The thought that like a top predator goes down without an enemy is strange to us, and that is part of the mystery surrounding the dinosaurs.

          Even the SA plant-eaters would have killed us with their tails if afraid or in frenzy. Did they leave anything valuable behind aside from the mystery and miracles to decrypt for science? I don’t know. Maybe their dung made the blossoming plants come up or fed them. That would indeed be something.
          Imagine that dung. Probably five times larger than the same thing from elephants.
          Tethys was nice, maybe. Many guyots and coral reefs, subduction and island arcs, beautiful volcanoes. But the biological life at the time was kind of odd. And the Tethys after the KT-event might have been a sad place for a while.
          When we came, Tethys was tiny, mostly subducted. Tethys belonged to the dinosaurs most of the time. It survived the creatures, but became extinct as well. The Farallon plate went down with them and possibly created the Caribbian LIP. That might have added to their decline together with an anoxic event.
          They also might have suffered from the destruction of Pangea. Their hunting grounds had become smaller. Then the currents were different. Everything must have changed.
          It is fun though that science lets us go back there and imagine that world.
          It’s just not romantic, nor is it romantic today. What is romantic is the fact that we can see colours, snow, and blue ocean and geothermal pools. That is utterly nice, and also that we have painters and paint.

          • I would give anything for a visual glimpse of the world circa 70 million years ago, I honestly can’t think of anything more romantic than imagining a world completely alien to our own, yet that is our own. All the strange beings that were but are no longer, the continents re-arranged like a child playing with Legos; I can’t get enough. It’s rather unfortunate to be constrained by the procession of time, because there’s quite a lot of things that ‘were’ on this earth that I’d quite like to see.

          • Ryan, you should watch Prehistoric Planet. its a very new and very up to date documentary series that is presented in the style of Planet Earth. And as if it couldnt be better it is voiced over by David Attenborough 🙂
            It is Walking with Dinosaurs made in 2022, but better.

            And there is a season two coming out this year 🙂

  17. This might interest you, Chad:
    That’s the guy that Michael J. Everhart has dug out and preserved who has written the book “Oceans of Kansas” and also has a website which he himself considers getting oldish after 20 years.

    This tylosaurus was found with a plesiosaurus in the area of his stomach, so between the ribs.

    • btw, I once read somewhere it be related to the python, so possibly no venom.

      • Mosasaurs are equally related to all snakes, they share a common ancestor, pythons evolved from the same common ancestor as other snakes that had vy then already split iff from the one going to mosasaurs.
        Also pythons are apparently secondarily non-venomous. Venom exists in lots of squamates and probably appeared once in a common ancestor, of which snakes are one descendant of whatever that was. And it was one animal, because venom compounds in all the lizards tested were too consistent to be down to coincidental convergent evolution. Toxicofera hypothesis 🙂

        • Interesting. Some source for that?
          My guess: Mososaurus not venomous. Too large and sharp teeth, no enemies. Most venomous snakes need the venom.

          • Yes I would be very surprised if any larger mosasaurs had venom, unless it was a useless relic of their ancestry.

            Toxicofera is a proposed clade of squamates that includes snakes, anguimorphs (monitor lizards and kin) and iguanians (iguanas, dragons), and are united by being venomous, at least at the very broadest sense as only a few of these animals have any specific venomous attributes. The Mosasaurs had a common ancestor with snakes, so are part of thsi group. The actual position of snakes within Squamata is uncertain though, they used to be grouped with varanids but now that seems unlikely. So Mosasaurs were not just swimming komodo dragons exactly, but a different sort of lizard.

            Hope you dont mind Wikipedia but it gives a good description 🙂

          • Don’t mind, needs to be read with some scepticism, but is altogether decent and with links.

            I think that venomous snakes in Latin America are pretty, just like frogs there, but the inland-Taipan in Australia seems to be enormously ugly. And one of the most venomous snakes in the world.

          • I would not say the Taipan is ugly, more that seeing it triggers an immediate fight or flight response. Which, given it is the most venomous land snake is appropriate, there is a reason one of the other names for these snakes is literally ‘fear snake’. All Australian snakes are technically this venomous though, all are part of the same group, the Hydrophiinae, which evolved extremely fast acting venom, they are much more venomous than other Elapids found in the rest of the world.

            Notice, that the Hydrophiinae are typified by the genus Hydrophis, the largest genus of sea snakes. Australian Elapids are terrestrial sea snakes 🙂

          • Correction, the other name for Taipans is ‘fierce snake’. Which if you say quickly with an Australian accent does sound a bit like ‘fear snake’, meaning is equally appropriate in both cases.

            None of the australian snakes are actually very dangerous though. That is not because the hazard is not present, in the rare case of an encounter they are extremly dangerous, but they are rarely encountered in the first place and most people here dont put themselves in positions to get bitten. Even before antivenom was available deaths were ver yrare. Dogs are more at risk as they run off and attack/ play with the snakes and get bitten in the process.
            The snake responsible for the most fatalities is the saw scale viper, which is found in India and surroundings. Really, probably just about every venomous snake that can produce enough of its venom to kill someone and is present in Africa or India, is more dangerous than any of the Australian snakes.

  18. Hi Albert since radiation proofing exist titanium and water Ice are good blockers and other materias as well, Do you think an IO rover is realistic?

    Hopes Nasa can someday get a lander there
    Then landing on the dark sillicate lava centers woud be a priority, perhaps on a lava flow, landing on the sulfur deserts woud be boring.
    Needs AI as well to guide itself automaticaly to land on example prometheous flow field

    IO Volcano Observer will be fun

    • What IS realistic is that we have been in an economic crisis since 2008, and it is accelerating again.
      So, there might be different priorities. Or you finance it, Jesper.
      Americans take to the streets for gender- and BLM-matters instead of protesting against this outrageous NASA-spending that seems to know no end.

      • Seriously? The Pentagon is burning through 5/6 of a trillion dollars annually, while tax rates on the wealthy are super-low, and it’s NASA’s couple of billion bucks that bother you?

        • Naw, I don’t care. I’m just wondering why Americans take it. Maybe because Americans are in love with entertainment, and NASA knows how to transport what they want to share in an entertaining way.
          I’m also wondering how much money is burnt in different fields without any real product to sell. However what is to be sold as a consequence of space travel I might not really grasp.

      • I have to strongly disagree on this. NASA’s spending on science has an enormous payback, in human interest, in technology and in human capital. I would have preferred more solar system and less moon in their program, and after the ban on Earth monitoring during the trump presidency (really!) they have fallen behind on that. But NASA is not outrageous. They are a bargain.

        • There was absolutely no doubt for me that you would contest this, so I will make it clearer and include the military:

          1. It is an enigma to me why a country and its organizations can have the best and largest military and space company in the world, but tolerates people living in shabby huts without a cellar that are blown away by hurricanes. Plus has a more than ugly infrastructure concerning water in California. The same goes for streets, bridges and electricity everywhere.

          2. The same enigma is why that organization that in the context of a whataboutism is cheap looks for life far out in outer solar systems that we could never reach instead of making human life while it still exists a bit nicer and i.e. furnish like Nyaragongo with a supervised system including security, whereas people there seem to still be living in refugee camps (at least the ones who didn’t make it to some overcrowded European countries) plus – to stay in the US – repair the infrastructure and provide decent buildings that can stand a hurricane.

          3. Nothing against all science in the Solar system that makes a certain sense. And it is not up to me to decide about that sense: But common sense tells me that some things are out of balance. And to mention Elon – he could also build housing instead of space ships. Or water reservoirs in California. And certainly decent bridges.

          4. So, from the point of view of science there is nothing to say against space agencies. From a humanistic point this is now a bit exaggerated which of course concerns other countries as well. I am more interested in life, not only human life, on this planet and less on some faint possibilty that there might be signs of life in areas we could never reach unless we jump into a pond or walk through the back of a wardrobe like in Narnia and that works.

          • You can make this argument against anything – movies, universities, trains. None of those are needed for survival here and now. But we want to have a life and have a future as well. CERN has given us the touch screen and the internet. Astronomy has given us wifi. NASA has given us weather forecasts and GPS. The development has trained generations of engineers and physicists who would not have chosen that to study otherwise. The stories even sell newspapers. The investment has paid itself back many times over. Please find something else to attack.

          • My point wasn’t about survival at all (most people in Goma have survived), it was about a good life for as many as possible including animals, of course. Trains and universities belong to that, a touch screen not necessarily. It is just about proportions. As an astrophysicist you are not willing to take this, and I understand it.

      • NASA was 0.3% of the US budget in 2022. Military was 38% of the US budget in 2022. So make it 37% would free up more than 3x as much money as cancelling NASA.

        Space industry is nealry entirely done by SpaceX now anyway, and most of the couple that are not are through ULA, which is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. NASA has not built a rocket themselves since the Space Shuttles were made. SpaceX also is profitable on its own without NASA too because of Starlink, so all this stuff will happen anyway.

        • “So make it 37% would free up more than 3x as much money as cancelling NASA.”

          Good point, indees.

    • In February 2024 Juno will pass very close to IO indeed comming as close as 1500 kilometers and we should have a very good look on whats happened in the past 20 years

    • Just clad an electric car with radiation shielding 🙂 aerodynamics wont matter and Io is the same size as the moon so the weight of such a vehicle would be 1/6 as much as it is on Earth.

      Cybertruck looks like a spacecraft already… There will be much more data when they are officially in delivery in a few months but the longest range model is meant to be 800 km, so say at least 600 reliably in real world use to be safe. That would be 3600 km on Io. But it would actually be a lot more as it wont be driving at high speed, likely not faster than 40 km/hr, and there is no air resistance either 🙂 So basically on one charge it could go pretty much anywhere on Io, within a few weeks.
      The biggest hurdle would be getting it there in the first place, and getting enough power to run, solar is at its limits out there. But a panel able to make 1 kW would be about 100 m2. That is a 10×10 square, huge, but probably possible to fold up inside a modified cybertruck. 1 kW would need to take about 100 hrs to charge the battery, which is about 4 days. But that is pretty good. Even if the panels were 1/4 that size only 2 weeks to charge, and then another couple thousand km.
      Really when you think about it, Elon Musk is a massive space nerd at heart, is the head of a company that is revolutionizing space travel, and is also the head of a company that makes cars that dont need air to run, seems beyond coincidental to me 🙂

      Of course if you want it to do rigorous science then perhaps this approach is not the best way to go but I really cant see the need to justify $1 billion rovers that move 1 km a year when we now have long range and relatively dirt cheap electric vehicles. Even if a titanium water shielded Cybertruck with space proven batteries and cost $1 million to make, which would be probably more than 10x what the standard thing cost, then that is pennies compared to most rovers, and would be a more capable vehicle in the sense of its ability to traverse the terrain and move around. NASA might have their reasons why they dont do this but in the modern day a private individual with money can do this instead… And, well, SpaceX has launched a car into space already 🙂

      • As comparison. In 2017, someone drove a Model S 900 km at 40 km/hr. 2017 Model S had an official range of only a little over 300 km, and weighs 2.3 tons. So 3x better range. And today a Model S has got 700 km range unless you live in the US and have to drive it at 120 km/hr out of the driveway all the time 🙂 so a 40 km/hr range test would probably go something like 1500 km. Now add in 1/6 gravity and no air resistance 🙂

        So there you go, your perfect Io explorer, can drive around to all of the volcanoes, and it wont take a decade to go around one lava lake 🙂 And it is something that already exists right now and there are thousands of them being sold every day, not some distant future fantasy 🙂

        • Actually, at the 90 wh/km that the 2017 range test was getting, 2023 Model S range would be 1130 km more or less. So that is 6780 km on Io, probably still over 5000 accounting for uneven offroad terrain.


    • Wonderful Chad yes I wants more Ionian probes with super high resolution cameras. I wants almost kind of like an IO curiousity rover thats radiation proof that coud climb around the pahoehoe at prometheous
      But its haves To be fast to escape the lava breakouts ( Marsian rovers are awfuly slow )

      So yes better to drive around the edges of the flow field in Elons Cybertruck rather than risking swallowing up by a lava breakout, plus I think Prometheous is still active today

      • I think the next Mars rover will be private made with NASA supervision. I mean, it makes sense that SpaceX will do some exploration.

        Perseverence was probably designed something like 20 years ago. It is basically the same design as Curiosity which was launched in 2011 and these rovers take a long time to make and test. Electric cars in 2011 were very niche, but now that is not the case at all and in 5 years even more so. Really would not be too hard to buy a Cybertruck, take out the interior, and kit it out with scientific equipment.

        Only thing I can think of potentially being a problem is lithium battery longevity in deep space, they werent designed for that, but then spacecraft all still have batteries of some sort anyway so there are alternatives 🙂

    • Needs more IO probes Im indeed addicted to IO 🙂 oversized volcanoes and plus sized lava lakes are simply irresistible for me

  19. Is it Pakistan that have salt deserts ?
    Coud a magma intrusion cause a molten salt volcano ? Salt melts at 800 C

  20. Sure, Chad: – The inland or western taipan, Oxyuranus microlepidotus, is the most venomous snake in the world, according to Britannica.

    Native to Australia, this snake has the deadliest venom based on median lethal dose, or LD50, tests on mice. According to Merriam Webster, LD50 defines “the amount of a toxic agent (such as a poison, virus, or radiation) that is sufficient to kill 50 percent of a population of animals usually within a certain time.”

    Not everybody’s taste.

    Beauty contest:

    Blue Racer, United States. Non venomous

    Blue snakes (with pics):

    Concerning Australia, I prefer Koalas.

    • Also lives in Papua Newguinea that inland taipan. Has been living there for a while it seems.
      “The present-day distribution of Mesozoic rocks in Papua New Guinea is interpreted as having developed as a consequence of a mid-Tertiary continent/island-arc collision between the northeast margin of the Australian continent (Papuan Platform) and a southerly facing Cainozoic island-arc system (Northeast Island Arc Province).”

      That’s how they got the idea of contenental split-up, starting woth Alfred Wegener. Animals, plants and fossils of both.

      • The part of Australia there, Queensland, is where that snake is at home.

    • Koalas are much more likely to try to kill you than any snake 🙂 wild koalas are very defensive. It is actually a very explicit warning to visitors to not every try an approach one in the wild because they have pretty vicious claws and wont hesitate to bite, they are not cuddly at all.

      To me, being completely honest, I dont see a lot of difference between the two snakes, other than knowing one is highly venomous.

      The venom LD50 is also not the defining factor of what makes a snake dangerous too, like I said Australian snakes are very rarely responsible for fatalities, or even bites in general, about 1000 bites a year and single digit fatalities, and that is despite their abundance within suburban environments in Melbourne and Sydney. Puff adders kill over 30,000 people per year throughout Africa. I know which one I would consider more deadly, and designations of ‘deadliness’ based on LD50 are criticized for not taking real world death data into account.

      • I have had an uncomfortable encounter with a puffadder. Not normally deadly (although I was told it hurts so bad you wish it was) but very aggressive. It will come after you, something that is not normal for snakes

      • We are talking about different things. Their venom has a Lethal Dose 50, which means when taipans bite 20 people and ten die it is LD 50. That was tested with mice.

        You are talking about the frequency of encounters with man. Wikipedia says about that that they are shy and would only bite when felt menaced. So the encounters might be rare esp. as Australia is more settled and visited in NSW where you normally wouldn’t find the inland-taipan.

        Albert is talking about an aggressive snake. I think he described one sort of it in his Pilanesberg article. This snake is special and has a much larger habitat in Africa. I counted over 30 countries. Compared with the shy taipan which seems indeed prettier to me than the stout adder it certainly does more damage considering the relatively small habitat of the taipan and the different behaviour.

        I think you don’t want to get bitten by either one.


    Two fatalities from snake bites a year.
    United States, taken population into account, even lower: Five.
    Sub-Saharan Africa: 20.000

    These numbers tell us nothing at all about snakes. They tell us more about the difference between going to the Supermarket and collecting food in the fields or trying to find water.

    You find about the same numbers for Crocodiles, low in Australia and US, high in Africa and Indonesia. It is like with volcanoes if we think of the low death toll around St. Helens.
    And with crocodiles the difference is between washing machines and washing the laundry in the Nile River.

    You don’t have to defend Australian snakes, Chad. I don’t really like them, but in zoos I adore them.

  22. Fun that a whole volcano can be exhibited in a museum.

    I was wondering if this event was actually a petrochemical eruption, but seems not from the photos. There are tar volcanoes around the world, eg off the coast of California.

  23. Back to the stricken pylons and their mini-eruptions…

    Sent link to cousin who used to install lightning protection masts, down-leads, grounding etc etc.
    When he stopped giggling, he mentioned there can be ‘weird stuff’ near grounding points. Broiled lawns etc,
    Also, lightning will so do its own thing, sorta like cats.
    And, every so often, a lightning strike will be a ‘mega’, much, *much* stronger than the ‘usual’.
    As with many such phenomena, Be NOT There…

  24. Geoscientist discovers new phosphorus material after lightning strike

    After lightning struck a tree in a New Port Richey neighbourhood, a University of South Florida professor discovered the strike led to the formation of a new phosphorus material. It was found in a rock—the first time in solid form on Earth—and could represent a member of a new mineral group.

    “We have never seen this material occur naturally on Earth—minerals similar to it can be found in meteorites and space, but we’ve never seen this exact material anywhere,” said geoscientist Matthew Pasek.

    In a recent study published in Communications Earth & Environment, Pasek examines how high-energy events, such as lightning, can cause unique chemical reactions, and in this instance, result in a new material—one that is transitional between space minerals and minerals found on Earth.
    Nik-note: If you did not know it was an actual fulgurite, you’d wonder if it was a dead ‘silicate alien’…

    • That is fun. We write about lightning-fuelled volcanoes and suddenly the stuff is everywhere!

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