What Would Make a VSI 12?

Guest post by Tallis

source: https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2013/10/fermi-paradox-great-filters-and-super.html

My father and I disagree on a lot of things from religion, politics, career, and more; One of the things we disagree on is the title of worst geological disaster. I believe that title goes to volcanoes while my father believes it goes to earthquakes. This is actually a fun point of contention (For me at least) and is part of a larger passive debate. We haven’t even come close to seeing the worst case scenario for eruptions, in fact we haven’t seen a truly bad case scenario for volcanoes! Think back to all of the most deadly eruptions of the past 100 years, all of those eruptions were 100s, 1,000s, 10,000s, or even 100,000s of times smaller than some of the larger eruptions in recent geological history.

The most violent eruptions of then past 2000 years have grabbed endless amounts of fascination among the geological community. The most violent of which, the Hatepe eruption, hasn’t gotten as much attention as it’s peers. In my opinion, this might be the only historical eruption that rivals the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa’s intensity..This eruption released over 30 km3 of tephra in just 5 minutes and produced the most impressive pyroclastic flows since the Akahoya eruption. The pyroclastic flows traveled 80 km from the volcano, over mountains and across valleys, while traveling at the speed of sound for a significant portion of the flows lifetime. In fact the only reason the flows stopped is because there wasn’t enough material sustain it.

For an eruption smaller than the Tambora this very impressive. We’ve had 3 other “VEI 7s” like this in the past 2000 years and those weren’t as violent as the Hatepe eruption If an eruption like this were to happen in some other volcanoes now, millions would die if the proper preparations weren’t made. In fact, the way that people have been talking about historical eruptions has led to a huge misunderstanding about large eruptions. When people talk about eruptions like Tambora that are considered “VEI 7s” they automatically assume that they are just grade below the biggest eruptions of all time. After all, F4 tornadoes can be just a cut below f5 tornadoes and it’s same with hurricanes. We need to get some facts straight. Human society has not survived a VEI 7 let alone VEI 8. But Tallis! What about Tambora? I hear you say and I’ll say that wasn’t a VEI 7 either, at least not by the standards that other eruptions have to live up to. When most scientists judge larger eruptions, they use Dense Rock equivalency which is very different than bulk. DRE is for how much real magma is erupted while bulk is for the general erupted products. For all the smaller eruptions, bulk is used and for larger eruptions, DRE is used. This has led to a huge misunderstanding for just how powerful eruptions can get. For all of our historical “VEI 7s’ ‘ we’ve used bulk and if we were to use DRE, we’d no longer have any historical VEI 7s. Tambora, probably the largest eruption in history, just produced 46 km3 DRE of magma. Yes, this 30,000 megaton eruption is incredibly not that big in the slightest.

The Los chocoyos eruption, a real VEI 7, produced over 300 km3 DRE of magma, perfectly encapsulates the power that geologically frequent events can actually have. This eruption was around 6 times larger than the Tambora eruption making this a VEI 8 in bulk. This eruption produced pyroclastic flows that traveled 130 km away from the volcano at the minimum, dumped a few centimeters of ashfall 2,000 km away from the volcano in Florida. This eruption likely produced a cooling event in the range of 5-8 C and caused significant Ozone destruction. It cannot be understated how apocalyptic the damage an event like this would cause to our society and that’s not even the scary part! The scary part is the fact that there are eruptions that are up to 15 times bigger than the Los Chocoyos eruption.

Using bulk, we find that Toba and Yellowstone weren’t low-end VEI 8s, they were high end VEI 8s, and as it turns out VEI 9s are real too. Wah Wah springs and Fish Canyon were both over 130 times and 17 times larger than the Tambora eruption and the Los Chocoyos eruption respectively. This puts the energy of the largest eruptions that we know of around 4 Teratons of TNT, much more powerful than what is usually assumed. Unfortunately these eruptions happened so long ago it is almost impossible to give a detailed analysis or timeline. So one’s imagination could run wild concerning how destructive this event would be.

Massive eruptions are much more common than previously assumed, We’ve had 6 VEI 8s in bulk in the past 100,00 years (Toba, Los Chocoyos, Aso-4, Oruanui eruption, AT eruption, Akahoya eruption)  The Akahoya eruption released 500 km3 of magma making it over 10x larger than Tambora as well. Actually good news for Humanity but bad news for society.

The question is how would our society react to a VSI 12? (See the link for the definition.) I think now we actually have a much clearer idea of how the world would react, now that we are currently in the midst of a global crisis as well. The COVID-19 pandemic is the world’s first substantial crisis since the cold war and HIV/AIDs pandemic, it is also the first major respiratory pandemic since the Hong Kong flu in the 60s. Contrary to popular opinion, this pandemic is not that special when you look at the numbers. After you adjust for population growth, with a fatality rate of 0.5% Covid-19 has so far been no deadlier than the several other major flu pandemics and it’s almost nothing compared to the Spanish flu which killed between 1% and 5% of the world’s population at the time. A pandemic and volcanic eruption are two completely different things but both are global crises and just like we are  unprepared for a major volcanic eruption, we were also unprepared for Covid-19.

People don’t understand just how fragile our modern society is, this pandemic has dealt the economy a damaging blow, millions were put and are currently out of work, causing disrupting global supply chains and trade. This has led to global inflation which has caused a worldwide economic crisis. If this pandemic happened 200 years ago society would’ve carried on like nothing happened, and if it happened 50 years ago, it would’ve caused issues but not to this extent. Our complex system isn’t built to withstand disruptions of any kind and large volcanic eruption is one of the biggest disruptions that society can experience.

People also don’t understand just how high the chances are for a destructive eruption and just how many volcanoes threaten millions. A massive volcanic eruption is infinitely more likely than an asteroid impact, Gamma-ray burst, or other frequently talked about global disasters. There have been 11 major eruptions that were a low-grade VEI 7 or a high-end VEI 6 in the past 2000 years. Giving this year a 1 in 181 chance of receiving a major eruption. For what would be a major global disaster, those are some pretty high odds.

Coatepeque, El Savador

There are several VSI 12 candidates that some others and I have already written about, such as Tatun, Campi flegrei, Aso, Toba! But there’s more! There is so much more it’s actually pretty terrifying and exciting. Here’s a quick list of VSI 12 candidates ranked in no particular order and unfortunately I can’t give too much detail.

  1.     Tatun Volcanic group, Taiwan

  2.     Taal, Philippines    

  3.     Iwo-jima, Japan

  4.     Aso, Japan

  5.     Kikai, Japan

  6.     Coatepeque, El Savador    

  7.     Ilopango, El Savador

  8.     Campi Flegrei, Italy

  9.     Ischia, Italy

  10.     Santorini, Greece

  11.     Corbetti, Ethopia

  12.     Nevado Del Toluca, Mexico

  13.     Paektu, North Korea

  14.     Masaya, Nicaragua    

  15.     Apoyeque, Nicaragua

  16.     Los Humeros, Mexico

Nevado Del Toluca, Mexico

These are just the volcanoes I can remember off the top of my head and all of these can threaten millions with a VEI 6 eruption. To give further perspective on how bad volcanic eruption can be, if the Coatepeque caldera produced an eruption like the Hatepe event, almost all of El Salvador would be completely destroyed by PDCs. No other geological disaster can produce the damage a volcanic eruption can. We’ve already seen some worst case scenarios for earthquakes in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and while I am not trying to diminish these events, an earthquake can not cause the same damage a volcano can.

Let’s take Corbetti for example, If the volcano were to produce an eruption the size of the Los Chocoyos eruption, over 10,000,000 people would die directly without adequate preparations, the economy of Ethiopia and East Africa would be immediately crippled as the ash fall would cripple transportation and infrastructure and the entire region would be in immediate risk of societal breakdown leading to the deaths of millions more. All of this would happen in just a couple of weeks and it would just be the beginning.

This pandemic has shown us one thing, a global disaster doesn’t have to do that much direct damage to be disruptive, people just have to believe it is. No past pandemic has caused this much damage to the economy and this pandemic isn’t that much worse than other past pandemics. With a massive eruption, the entire global economy would collapse before a single aerosol would form. If Corbetti produced a major eruption, the news of the volcano killing over 10 million people and the fear of volcanic winter would cause global panic the likes of which none of us would have ever seen. Global stock markets would all collapse completely, destroying companies and a large amount of wealth. Global trade would be crushed as every country would try to hastily prepare, leading to countries hoarding it’s resources and/or trying to take others by force. This would cause global food and gas prices to skyrocket making them far too expensive for the common man. This would lead to massive riots and unrest that would cripple preparations and the economy further. Most people would be homeless and unemployed before the volcanic winter actually hit. This isn’t to say that there is nothing that can be done, if the world came with a good global plan to withstand a large eruption and stuck to it, I do believe society could withstand a lower end VEI 8 eruption. I wouldn’t bet money on the world banding together to prepare for it though.

One thing you may have noticed about me is that I am a contrarian; as some edgy teenagers would put it, I don’t like following others. When I read the NDVP and saw the volcanoes on the list, I was impressed by the articles and the selection but I felt as if there were some missing candidates. This feeling is what lead me to research Tatun but one candidate that can’t be ignored on any list is Taal. All of last year, I was screaming my frustration that Taal was a side piece for the eruption in Iceland despite the increasing likelihood of a major eruption. Let us not forget the escalating activity at Taal, the incredible gas emissions, the phteaomagmatic bursts, and the incredible deformation.

As I have been saying constantly, the deformation at Taal is impressive, everything within 30km west of the volcano is inflating, while everything within 20 km southeast is deflating. This is a massive area, over 1,500 km2, the volcano is having a hard time getting magma out of it’s system and that’s a problem.

I’ve had enough of people saying absurd things about Taal, questioning the existence of it’s large magma reservoir and it’s explosivity. Let’s get some facts straight. This a caldera system, formed by large eruptions 140,000-5,800 years ago and for the past 5,800 years the volcano has been chugging out mafic products and smaller eruptions. The fact that this change in behavior is used to say that Taal is no longer capable of VE 6+ large eruptions, felsic eruptions, or doesn’t have large magma chambers is ridiculous.

Healthy calderas produce mafic eruptions all the time, a frequent cause for large silic systems is in fact, mafic magma melting the surrounding crust creating a felsic reservoir but sometimes that basaltic magma doesn’t want to change and it decides to erupt. Mafic products exist at Corbetti, Taupo, Toba, and MANY more. With Taal, there is no reason to assume that this volcano has done a complete flip in it’s volcanism, after so many large felsic eruptions, the volcano has been and is likely still in a recovery stage where it’s building silicic magma and erupting some basalt.

Sillic system don’t die like this, they don’t exist and erupt for over 100,000 years and become a small mafic system. Even if Taal exhausted all of its silicic magma and could only erupt and produce basalt there would still be the ineruptible crystal rich mash leftover, mingling with the basaltic magma that’s trying to erupt. This mush isn’t going to disappear and there should still be some at Taal even if one wants to believe that this a completely mafic system.

People need to understand that the postulated idea of small shallow magma chamber as the source of Taal ‘s recent eruptions makes no damn sense, a 2 km radius magma chamber isn’t going to produce repeat VEI 4s and large dikes; Large sillic chambers don’t just disappear without leaving a trace underground. These are facts.

It’s more likely that this volcano has a large magma chamber than not, the low-velocity zone just north of the volcano is a good candidate but there hasn’t been enough research into it. This shows one of the stupidest parts of human nature. Something that I’ll call “Peachy Bias.”. We’ve ripped on people for their irrational fear of certain events but there hasn’t been enough ripping on people that dismiss the threats that come with living in this world. The damage from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami could’ve been avoided if the Japanese government listened to a man named Ryohei Morimoto. This man predicted the worst affected area by the tsunami by looking at the evidence from past tsunamis. No one listened to him and then Fukushima happened. I love his quote “Even if they couldn’t predict the size of the tsunami, they should’ve been prepared for the waves of the past.”

Look at interviews after disasters, “I never thought this would happen.” “It’s so shocking.” “I didn’t have a plan.” “I couldn’t prepare.” are phrases you might hear. Despite living in tornado country, seeing other areas get hit by major tornadoes, you’ll still see people get surprised when they get hit by a tornado. It’s human nature to dismiss events that seem unlikely to happen and people believe in comforting thoughts and thinking about future catastrophes isn’t a comforting thought for most. Peachy Bias has cost the lives of hundreds of millions and is infinitely more dangerous than its counterpart. I can see a lot of peachy bias with Tatun. Despite a surplus of studies concerning it’s size and history and with 2 nuclear facilities near the volcano, the volcano is considered extinct by some and is completely unknown by others.

This what would make a VSI 12, thinking that Tatun is dead, Taal is incapable of producing a felsic eruption, or that some other volcano will stay dormant are the type of mindsets that precede disaster, volcanoes can erupt just as easily as they can stay asleep and to not have a plan is ridiculous.


305 thoughts on “What Would Make a VSI 12?

  1. This is another great piece raising awareness. All the money that was lost by declaring Covid equally dangerous to the Spanish Flu could have easily gone in precautions for such desastres.

    You forgot – funnily enough – North America, and here is a real danger of a massive tsunami by – yes – an earthquake, but certainly also by a huge flank collapse of Kilauea or also something in the range of Augustine, whereas talking about New York in combination with a Canary flank collapse is next to ridiculous as there are enough other places including cities in Morocco, Lisbon and London that would be hit harder.

    Concerning volcanoes there should certainly be more awareness. I would take some out that have emptied their magma reservoir with diligence, Santorini and also Changbaisan. And I think instead, after what Carl said recently, Atitlán belongs into that list.

    Being European and frequent visitor to Italy, the Tyrrhenan Sea as a whole, including Marsili, should be a number 1 European issue. Even the British would agree, being frequent visitors of the area. And the Alban Hill Crater Lake doesn’t look too soothing either.

    Anyway, good piece, thank you very much. Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai should wake some people up. This would be much more serious than Covid, I agree.

    • Most people look at prep negatively, mocking preppers and questioning government action concerning infrequent disasters but when the time comes, it’s better safe than sorry and most will be sorry 🙂

      • I think people mock preppers because they lack any conception of “taking things too far”. It’s akin to the difference between a hobbyist collecting memorabilia, versus obsessively hoarding every last item related to a particular fandom. It’s the difference between obsession and balanced awareness.

        As someone who has a bit of disaster myopia (let’s face it, disasters are fascinating, and it’s partially human nature to constantly be scanning for potential threats to your wellbeing), I find it’s important to weigh probabilities as well as the actual costs of prepping. Many people in the obsessive camp miss the costs component, and that includes mental health and personal happiness in my opinion.

        A lot of the time you will see preppers going to extreme measures to protect themselves against some extreme event. Yet the irony is that in going through all the measures they’re taking to protect themselves, they actually are making themselves just as miserable as they would be as if said event actually occurred.

        Fear myopia is a very powerful motivator. In my opinion, it’s important to realize that we as humans are biased to focus our attention on whatever scares us, and our mind’s attention leads us to believe that the probability of occurrence is far greater than reality.

        You also get this in reverse, which was seen at the start of the pandemic. Far too many people wrote off the risk of Covid due to previous experiences with Sars, Swine Flu, and Ebola not amounting to anything material in the long run. It’s a combination of “boy-cried-wolf” and strong recency bias in action.

        • Very good post! Agree on all points.

          I’ll add that specific to volcanic threats, the public just has no even real baseline knowledge of volcanology. It’s a nebulous “wonder” where most think of volcanic eruptions as relatively harmless effusive events or small explosions that you can view from a mile or two distance.

          Ironically, I think the hype around Yellowstone and the unscrupulous fearmongering from YouTubers and other non experts talking about the “overdue supereruption” woke many up to the fact that volcanism can happen in a very frightening extreme, and indeed has happened many times in our history.

          For Europe I’m sure Campi Flegrei has done something similar, though probably to a lesser extent (despite being a greater risk than sleepy Yellowstone).

          Hopefully together with Hunga Tonga’s surprise large blast, more people are waking up to the sleeping threat that has surfaced many times even just in recorded history.

          If only takes one. But scientists and volcanologists have to convey the threat in a manner which gets attention without causing hysteria. That’s always a delicate balance and a difficult task.

          • Agree completely: “But scientists and volcanologists have to convey the threat in a manner which gets attention without causing hysteria. That’s always a delicate balance and a difficult task.”

          • It was realizing the potential of a Carrington Event-type solar flare that finally got me prepped better. Just a “what would you do if you needed to be completely self-reliant for a week or three” sort of preparedness.

            Then there are other kinds of threats, threats you run from. That’s a different question: “If you had to run away and THEN be ok for a week or three, how would you do that?” Where I live, there’s a strong potential of wildfires like the one in Colorado (plus only distant volcanism and earthquake concerns -we’re pretty lucky in that respect). That also got my attention.

            But then we have what’s discussed here – what happens when society itself is faltering? That’s a harder and scarier one to prepare for.

        • And yes, for certain Mt St Helens woke up many Americans at the time, but I think there was this notion that it was more or less the “top end” of volcanism with little concept of how much larger things can get.

        • The average layperson here also doesn’t really have much awareness of Pinatubo, either. At least in terms of its size and climatic forcing.

  2. I have to add some to this. All the money that is needed for these issues should go to some larger organisation, the USGS or NASA or the UN for these purposes.

    If you give those countries money which are in the danger zones it just disappears like equipment disappeared from Nyaragongo (which really should be supervised continuously via satellite or drones).

    These larger organisations also have enough know-how of procedures like flight paths, evacuation plans and so on, and they can teach the locals. I think it is next to ridiculous to set up equipment in poor countries with next to 100% corruption and a lot of poverty.

    Japan doesn’t need much learning. Countries like Nicaragua or Guatemala and the North of South America need plans for evacutions into neighbouring countries for a certain time as they are tiny, and you cannot place people into the Wild Forest.

    I am still very impressed of the US handling things with Mount St. Helens with few deaths, wild animals can’t be helped, and I am equally impressed by reforestation and getting the lake settled again. So, The US might be the country that can lead in more mitigation. Russia with Kamtschatka could contribute knowledge, New Zealand and South America as well. Possibly also Indonesia and the Philippines.

    China has next to no volcanoes, and Europe is outright careless about the Tyrrhenian Sea and travels collectively to Iceland to do volcano tours. Europe is not to be taken seriously, imho, esp. Germany. Their main issue is gender with all its abstruse exaggerations. An eruption of Campi would leave them helpless like chickens. People would store toilet paper, and that says it all.

    • South and Central America has some bad potential; with large, mysterious, and unmonitored volcanoes, high population density, and a lack of resources. This region is the most dangerous in my opinion, a lot of high risk volcanoes in a bad spot

      • The biggest risk is volcanoes which have been inactive for several centuries, and these may not even be on our list of volcanoes that should be watched. Tambora was not known to be volcanic until it showed some activity only a few years before its boom. Krakatau was considered so harmless that people organised a picnic visit to the island after the initial eruption. No one saw Hunga Tonga coming. What else are we missing?

          • Here’s another example. The eruption of Mt. Lamington, in Papua New Guinea in 1951, caught even the local aboriginal nation–the Orokaiva people–by surprise. The Orokaiva “. . . had no memory, no legends of a volcanic eruption.” When earthquakes and ash clouds began six days before the big eruption on 21 January, 1951, the British, the Australians, and the Orokaiva were evidently more mesmerized than terrified, and so they largely did not evacuate, with deadly results.


          • I believe Pinatubo had been dormant for at least a few centuries and was erroneously considered extinct even by some

        • What else are we missing?

          Possibly a lot on the ocean floor.
          Aside from that: Somebody said recently that the Eifel Maar wouldn’t blow up. But I think it is probably well monitored.
          The Aleutian Chain wouldn’t hurt too much locally, but volcanic winter should be possible.

          Himalaya – read a great piece of yours about it just today – has had its own island arc and volcanism in the geological past, also the Alps.
          So, the Andes which still grow up are certailly one of the main issues, being very high already, but not done. The height of the Andes and their climate probably prevents thorough monitoring.
          You might like this paper about traces of Tethys in the Alps:


        • Thank you for the article, Albert!

          I certainly agree about volcanoes that have been inactive for centuries (Or millennia). We don’t know to watch them, and even if they do start acting up, they may well be ignored for a while, dismissed as tectonic quakes, etc.

          I’m reminded of Carl’s volcano in Iceland (the one near OK, the latter being unique amongst Icelandic place-names in that I can spell it) where we’re seeing quake swarms that look very much like an intrusion, yet IMO is calling it tectonic.

          • Ah! I’ve been going by the name at the top. I see I should look at the name at the bottom. Oops!

            Thanks for the article, Tallis!

            And for what it’s worth, I very much agree regarding Taal; that one worries me a lot. I also think that Hunga Tonga was a very loud wake-up call regarding the assumption that just because a volcano has been mildly erupting, it will continue to do so.

          • They have got a reason for calling it tectonic, there was a powerful quake not far from there in 1973, which was part of a swarm like this.

            But then that could also be seen as an earlier stage of magma movement… really until we get an inSAR of the area there is no way to actually prove anything. I do hope Carl is correct thoug, I had high hopes for Fagradalsfjall being a shield but it seems it will be much more episodic, in common with the area as a whole. This is not on a rift though, one if the things I noticed actually is the biggest shields in Iceland more often than not form outside of fissure swarms. Maybe the reason shields are not common is because they require a direct conduit from the mantle to rise outside of a rift, so that it is mostly vertical.

          • I see your point, Chad; if there were swarms of this configuration before, and they were tectonic, it raises doubts.

            My guess is that Carl is probably right; this is volcanically driven. On the other hand, IMO is usually very good. So, we may be in a situation where we’re waiting for more opinions on this. The opinion I’m most waiting for is that of the volcano (It should know, right?); if it voices its opinion with lava, I’ll be fairly confident that we’re talking volcanic, not tectonic. 🙂

        • Exactly the right question.

          The next sizable 6 to 7 could come from a wholly unexpected source.

          Davidof I think illustrates this potential as (I believe) it was considered extinct before throwing some very decent quakes recently. Although nothing will come of it in all likelihood, it’s that sort of unseen “dark horse” that may present the biggest risk; not unlike Pinatubo.

          How many unmonitored or lightly monitored large volcanic systems have potential trouble brewing at present? The more serious version; how many wholly unknown volcanic systems are cooking up something large from the shadows?

          I’d assume the number of the latter is likely small as we’ve gotten much better at locating and studying volcanic threats even in the few decades since Pinatubo, but I sincerely doubt we’ve identified every system that poses a potential threat.

          The world is a big place. And volcanology isn’t always exceptionally well funded.

    • Pinatubo did not cause a much larger disaster because of the US. A branch of the USGS warned about the potential and helped PHIVOLCS in getting the message out. This means there was a mass evacuation before the eruption. Without the US, I expect this would not have happened.

      • They had a large military base close to the volcano that needed to be evacuated, which is the main reason USGS got involved in the first place.

        There are not many volcanoes outside the US that would receive so much attention by USGS.

        • The USGS has a program specifically to help countries with volcano emergencies. I believe it was the people behind that program who called the alarm. It wasn’t about the US military base, although now doubt they became very much involved. The program is called VDAP (Volcano Disaster Assistance Program).

          • Actually, there were two large American military bases affected by Pinatubo, Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base. And, while the USGS certainly did a lot of work before, during, and after the 1991 eruption, one must not discount the work done by the PHIVOLCS director at the time, the late Raymundo Punongbayan.

        • Philippines government often does not want the US involved unless they really need help, because the US colonized them.

        • This looks a little dated now, but still a good account, I believe.

          • I have watched this documentary several times.
            It is old, but there is footage in there I’ve not seen elsewhere, and the interviews are very good.

  3. There’s that mega-bulge in the High Andes which just keeps growing and growing and growing.

    Either complex is trying for a new triple-junction, rifting the continent like Africa, or, more likely, it is brewing something horribly akin to Toba.

    Be a while yet, possibly millennia, but watching it blow from orbit would be advisable…

    IMHO, near-term wild-card could be a coastal mega-thrust quake ‘fracking’ that side and spawning multiple long dykes that surface as flank eruptions…

    • There are unconfirmed pyroclastic tephra sheets that may go above
      24 000 km3 solid VEI 9 s If Thats true that maybe equal to a small felsic batholith thats totaly blowing up

  4. What is this drum signal from Husafell station close to the swarm west of Langjökull?
    Just trafik noice or something more interesting?

      • Not so strong winds there today but rain! Could be heavy rain?

        • Not sure which station you’re referring to. I don’t know of any station called Húsafell. The closest station is Ásbjarnarstaðir and that looks like it’s showing some weather related signals. There is one station with short name HUS, but that is Húsbóndi that sits close to Grímsvötn.

  5. Concerning missing volcanoes: Wondering about Methana near Athens (32 volcanoes). Last eruption around 2000 years ago.

    • Just seen that myself, looks like it was inflating at a steady rate for years but has suddenly increased. I guess if anything was to come of it years down the line, it would be the south sister that erupts.

    • That area is interesting, seems to have a rifting component to it. There was a huge amount of activity there around 1500 years ago, formed some large lava flows and shields. The shields here also look different to Icelandic shields, they are pretty much entirely a’a, almost looking more like what Nishinoshima used to look like when it was island building, except this is way bigger and on land. There is also a long fissure swarm full of huge cones. Area reminds me a lot of the area south of Tolbachik, where there were eruptions in 2012 and 1975, rather large scale effusive volcanism, huge lava fountains.

      Also rhyolite erupted at the south end of the complex around the same time. If the area is beginning to wake up then it will be interesting for sure, There is such extensive volcanism along western North America and yet only St Helens has erupted in living memory (well unless you are 110, then maybe you might remember Lassen). Would be quite interesting to see a large lava eruption again in the Three Sisters area, a slightly different take on a lava shield than we are used to from Hawaii, less invisible tube flows and more a 10 year long Etna paroxysm :).

      • I have seen geophysical speculation that there is a subducting slab tear in that area …. of course it will take a while to find the papers , and I am lazy …

      • This is an interesting area. Three Sisters is a complex of stratovolcanoes in the middle of volcanic field of gigantic basaltic eruptions. For example the shield eruption of Belknap 1500 years ago had a volume of 10 km3, as big as the shields of Iceland. And Bachelor may have been an earlier shield formed in one eruption with a volume of 30-50 km3.

        Three Sisters has started doing large rhyolitic fissure eruptions. This is a behaviour of caldera systems. Fissure rhyolitic eruptions are rare and only seen in calderas, like Okataina, Long Valley, El Teide. Taken together with the large area of inflation, which is probably due to large sill intrusions, then Three Sisters seems to be evolving towards a caldera system. A very large one at that, given that the size of the inflation area would correspond to a 15 kilometre wide caldera.

        Shasta and Lassen Peak are also similar and probably evolving towards large caldera systems. Stratovolcanoes surrounded by massive shield eruptions. First there is a large volcanic field of basaltic or andesitic eruptions, which later develops a central conduit in the form of a stratovolcano, then the stratovolcano starts doing large sill intrusions which eventually coalesce into a magma chamber and eventually collapses. Still though they are probably thousands of years away from collapsing, if not more.

        • So Crater Lake isnt special then, just a bit early.

          Area is also close to Newberry volcano, which is quite similar except has already made a caldera. Newberry is a very interesting volcano, it is maybe the best example of bimodal volcanism anywhere. The area is abundant with basaltic volcanism, maybe more than anywhere else on the continent besites the Snake River plain. I do wonder if there might be a distant cnnection between the two actually, with the 3 sisters area being directly in line, maybe it is the way it is because of the weakness in the crust after the passage of the plume. Maybe not, but it is interesting.

          It is also interesting that literally the only example of monogenetic mafic-intermediate volcanism that is so visibly abundant along the whole west coast of North America is that of Paricutin and Jorullo, one would think at least a few more would have shown up in the last 300 years. Maybe we are about to see one in the near future if this uplift keeps going.

    • Last I read about that region, there was an area of uplift to the west of the newest Sister. There’s also part of an extremely large sporadic volcanic field due west, think Albert did a piece on it a few years back.

  6. Has there been a massive global effort among volcanologists to study Taal (not just Volcano Island but the whole caldera)? With all the technology we have now?

    I believe there should be a massive effort to determine the depth and size of the parent magma chamber and its plumbing system.

    16M living in the CaLaBaRZon area (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) plus 15M in Mega Manila area.

    • Nope, but for the basics, there doesn’t need to be a massive global effort. The size and composition of Tatun was unraveled by a relatively small group of scientists. All we is attention on the right place

  7. Albert,
    Of course you are right.
    We had grain mountains in the EC (a whole monthsworth of grain).
    The us had stockpiles (long since gone).
    Its probably for all of us to have some reserves (I could manage a week or two, electric depending perhaps 30 days).
    Most people might manage a week (poor third world rural probably a few months), then its mob rule, best to live US survivalist, lots of storage and much ammo.
    Middle ages here we come.
    Like many things, predictable but unavoidable.

  8. Just reread the Iwo Jima article in light of the Tonga event. Anybody like to hazard a guess on how much supercritical water is sitting below the lid? The odds of a massive explosion here may need to be reexamined.

    • Ioto should be a concern currently for every single person in the coastal Pacific.

      The duration and consistency of its inflation to me suggests some level of stability making it difficult to assess when such a threat may manifest. But as we saw with Hunga Tonga, it may happen in an unexpected manner with little warning. And it may not take much to set off a cascade or destabilization.

      Concerning system for sure.

    • Could be wrong but I read it as the initial eruption evacuated the solid parts and left a vacuum for the water to go into, or it was sucked in and trapped and then superheated. Point is a relatively small initial set of eruptions could have a domino effect and cause a massive one.

  9. A VEI6 or VEI7 eruption near any significantly populated area would be very bad indeed.

    And there are more people everywhere than there were when Tambora erupted, making the risks higher.

    Too many volcanoes that aren’t frequently active, and how much do we know about them? Anything near a big city should probably be investigated.

    Good article, Albert. This is exactly why I’m interested in volcanoes.

    • Hear, hear! Last year I gave a talk to my ham radio club about VEI-7 eruptions in Holocene times. Thus I learned about Aso, an enormous & very active caldera on Kyushu, mostly here at Volcano Cafe, mostly at http://www.volcanocafe.org/a-wedge-of-worry-aso-caldera-ndvp-4/.

      Four VEI-7 eruptions since 270K yrs ago with the last 90K yrs ago sounds to me like Aso is a reliable repeat-performer, overdue if there is such a thing for volcanoes, and most likely to inflict a future volcanic catastrophe that will be really, really bad.

  10. Popocatepetl makes me nervous, even though it is very active and not bottled up, because of its height and proximity to Mexico City (population 20-30 million). At what height does a free-standing stratovolcano become unstable?

    • Tambora was a bit over 4 km tall before 1815, so they can get very tall without doing anything. I think yu are right to be wary of Popocatepetl, Tambora was actually not that silicic, its magma in 1815 was trachyandesite, which is basically andesite with more alkaline component, it is an intermediate rock. I think there is quite the chance that the eruption that began a few years before 1815 might have just been the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak, and it was enough of a pressure release that it allowed the whole volcano to cave in on itself, maybe slowly at first but probably very rapidly in the climax. Of course the caldera was not that big, maybe the chamber was more vertical in form, or was deep enough to not show on the surface in full.

      I think maybe that same mechanism of collapse pushing out the magma chamber happened at Taupo too, that is the only way I can think of to get such a high eruption rate, I dont think degassing alone could do it. Basically the same as filling a tube with water and then dropping a heavy weight with a slightly smaller diameter into the tube, so that the water has to be squeezed out the side. That but with magma. So it is mostly gravity as the primary driver, with degassing of the magma maybe only being important after being erupted.

      • We don’t actually know how tall Tambora was before the eruption. It was much taller than after the explosion, but the height was never measured. As far as I know, we don’t even have sketches of its original profile

        • Even a cone as tall as its present height is very tall, so the original cone must have been an impressive mountain in any case. Wikipedia lists it as at least 4300 meters, which might make it one of the tallest freestanding mountains of recent time, expecially as it rises out of the ocean.

          I also read that it has never erupted anythign properly silicic, it is mostly mafic with intermediate products, so likely today would not have even been considered as a risk for such an eruption. it is quite similar to Agung actually, and markedly different to Rinjani which before 1257 was mostly dacitic, though more recently has been mostly mafic/intermediate. To me this further supports the idea that really tall stratovolcanoes can do high VEI eruptions without felsic magma provided their magma chamber is sufficiently large that it can destabilise the mountain. I guess this really means that we cant just look for one thing when lookign for the next Tambora, because for all we know it could be a volcano that actually is erupting often, or is much less silicic than we are expecting.

          Maybe then Agung and Kerinci are places to keep watch, both are very tall. Rinjani also is very tall still, but it is probably a truncated satellite of old Salamas volcano, not its own thing, so probably can be ignored.
          I dont know why but this part of the world seems very consistent on making really tall stratovolcanoes, most other places you get the odd one that is in many cases growing on a high base, but the Sunda Arc has got giants that go 3-4 km tall right out of the ocean pretty much every other volcano. I did see recent publication that the magma there is dominantly a direct mantle melt, not from melted crust as expected, maybe that has something to do with it.

          • Interesting comment. I have been racking my brain about how Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai could have been considered as a risk for a large eruption. Perhaps I am grasping at straws here but the following features might be worth considering….
            -Recent eruptions seem to have been a relatively homogeneous andesite according to a recent paper. Recent eruptions had been of significant size in 2009 and 2014, but did not bring up more mafic material. Could this have been an indication of a rather sizable chamber of homogeneous evolved andesite? Andesite might not be considered as particularly silicic but there seems to be a general trend of less silicic magmas forming calderas when they are hosted in relatively thin and mafic crust. Be contrast, almost all calderas in thick continental crust seem to erupt dacite or rhyolite (or their similarly felsic alkaline equivalents).

            -Recent eruptions seemed to occur over a relatively broad area around 3km across, extending from the reefs if the southern part of the caldera in 1988 up to the center of the 2014-2015 tuff cone, and from the west side of old Hunga Ha’ apai in 2008 over to the December 2021 vent closer to old Hunga Tonga than the 2014 vent. Perhaps eruptions of relatively homogeneous andesite from vents up to 3km apart was a warning sign ?

            -The volcano was a relatively large and tall stratocone with a previous history of caldera forming eruptions which included the eruption of andesitic ignimbrites. The volcano already had a preexisting caldera 3-4 km in diameter.

            Still, even if the historic eruptions were to be seen as pre caldara eruptions was there any reason to believe that this particular eruption would turn into a caldera forming event ? It seems that historic caldera forming eruptions have tended to occur from volcanoes long dormant and Hunga Ha’ apai does not fit this pattern.

          • That is what my idea proposes, that perhaps we should not rule out a volcano for such an eruption just because it is not silicic or erupts often. In principal any volcano with a magma chamber at shallow depth relative to its overall size should be considered, no matter the magma composition or the frequency of eruption.

            Really we should have been well aware of this already. In hindsight a few years ago we all watched in explicit detail the caldera collapse of a volcano that not only erupts frequently, but was erupting non stop for decades before suddenly escalating to a much more extreme level and catching us all off guard. Before that many considered it a volcano of little real power, just a place to safely test stuff for use elsewhere, some had called it the baby version of Iceland even…

            I think there is a flawed argument about looking for volcanoes with long repose time for caldera candidates. The long repose is a product of magma supply, but a big magma chamber is a product of local geology. Rifts form big chambers, rifts with high supply form basaltic flood lava volcanoes, those with low supply let the magma evolve so can form silicic volcanoes. High supply under continental crust though will make bimodal silicic supervolcanoes, erupting both basalt and rhyolite. Really high supply rate volcanoes like Hawaii just form gigantic shields. If Hawaii was under a continent it would probably be something like the Deccan Traps, a continental flood basalt province. .

            Notice though that there is no explicit requirement of a lengthy interval of dormancy for a caldera to form. All that is required is enough magma erupting to begin the collapse, data from Kilauea suggests this can be as little as 5%. Once that begins there is no return, the eruption accelerates, and in large caldera formation the figures are insane at the end. Kilauea in 2018 increased by 3 orders of magnitude in effusion rate as the went on, from 15 m3/s on May 6 to over 1500 m3/s on August 2.

        • In fact, I don’t find any paintings of Tambore before 1815. After the eruption we can find a lot of remarable paintings. This is John Crome’s “A Windmill near Norwich” from 1816:


          And the haze persisted longer, it is believed. Here Caspear david Friedrich’s painting “Greifswald im Mondschein” (Greifswald – North Germany – in Moonlight) from 1817:


          This is William Turner’s allegoric painting (people were in despair by then, says piece) “The Decline of the Carthiginian Emoire” from 1817:


          Altogether an extremely interesting read called ‘Paintings in the Year without Summer’:

          • Paintings would be less likely as the area was not settled by westerners. But sailors would often sketch the profile of the shores, and these sketches could be included n maps to help the ships to know where they were.

          • Right, Albert.
            But there is also nothing. If you take the map in the link and enlarge you see lots of names, but were Tambora is (Sumbawa, South of a line drawn between Sulawesi – Celebes – and Borneo, closer to Celebes, there is a white area. Secret: Tambora felt ignored and was thorouhly hurt 😉

            Excuse me for explaining the precise location, that is not for you, but other readers, so they have it easier than me. I’m aware you know where it is.

      • Concerning my answer to Albert there is one more. It is from 1823/24 by Caspar David Friedrich, so it might have staid cold in winters. It is the Baltic Sea I suppose. I myself have seen the Baltic Sea subtotally frozen in 1979.

        painting from wikipedia, exposed in Hamburger Kunsthalle

    • I’m not worried about Popo now, largely because it has been an open system for years. Open volcanic systems tend to vent their pressure, which decreases the likelihood of a larger explosive eruption.

      That’s not always the case of course, as some volcanoes can actively vent *some* of their pressure, while still accumulating more magma and pressure further down (which is what is happening at Aira / Sakurajima). But generally speaking, I would personally be much more wary of the volcanoes that do not degas, do not vent ash ever, and have been dormant for some time. This is especially true if they start inflating.

      With that said, Popo is a dangerous volcano on a longer time frame, largely because of it’s propensity for large collapses. There are other volcanoes in the Mexican volcanic belt that are probably more likely to see a flank failure in the near future, but none are closer to major population than Popo.

  11. I think Kīlauea could do damage to Hawaii than just lava and explosions at the summit. I was quite thinking recently about another sort of repeat of the 2018 eruption except futher uplift from there and hitting the shallower parts of Puna Ridge. If the dike becomes a fissure here without anything in the way, I would think it’ll produce a Surtseyan-type eruption where it builds islands and land. However, if it hits a old magma pocket, like what happened at Fissure 17, it could turn out much worse and maybe produce a big explosive phreamagmatic eruption, or in other words, a seriously bad day for Puna. I quite concerns me for the people there when I think about it.

    • Kilauea haves also an insane magma supply .. that makes things even more scary for potential of large events

    • That is something I have thought about too, it is very similar environment to Veidivotn in many ways.I think to get proper phreatomagmatic explosions the magma pressure needs to be less than the water pressure, so that water will force into the vent. An eruption in Puna would be very high pressure, so maybe not as likely, but then we have Kapoho cone so it has at least happened once before. In 1960 as the fissure contracted to a single main vent the stranded parts of the fissure did become phreatomagmatic too, and that eruption did see some rather enormous lava fountains for the eruption rate, an order of magnitude higher than those in 2018, so there migth have been some play there too.

      But really, I think any assumption Kilauea is not dangerous is an old fanciful idea of the early 1900s, one that really should have died in 1924 but especially after 2018.

  12. Another swarm south of Husafell west of Langjokull. Strong but dry!

    • I would greatly appreciate it if someone would correct what I’m about to say (I’m trying to learn) but here;s my current interpretation of those EQ maps; we’re starting to see quakes in the surrounding area, much akin to what we saw last year in the leadup to the Rekjanes peninsula eruption. Those were due to the tectonic stresses induced by the intrusion.

      If I’m right (A mighty big if), that means we’d be seeing deformation, such as uplift. However, the area isn’t instrumented, so would see see it?

      Anyone have recent satellite uplift data? Or know where to find it?

    • It is interesting that the depth ranges from 10km to 1.5km. And that’s reading the 99%ers. A good column there. Whilst it appears to be dry, there’s little doubt in my mind magma is doing the shifting as the area is off the main rift zones.
      (Hmm: “magma doing the shifting rather than the rifting”…nice ring to it. Volcano rap, anyone?)

      • yo, yo, yo your tectonics be rifting,
        But my magma is shifting

        Your rattles and shakes, headfakes,
        For those who await, my great

        BOOM of eruption, a huge interruption
        of your boring subduction

        Lava my gift, drowning your rift,
        F your uplift, your continental drift,

        I’m bringing the heat, so pull up a seat,
        Eruption is hear, can you hear the cheer?

        Yes, it’s the sheep.

        (Something like that?)

  13. Unfortunately no GPS data from the Langjökull but satellite data would be nice!

  14. Tuesday
    01.02.2022 00:05:28 64.559 -21.133 4.0 km 3.7 99.0 19.6 km SW of Húsafell

    01.02.2022 01:15:01 64.569 -21.125 4.1 km 3.0 99.0 18.5 km SW of Húsafell

    • This passage seems important to me:
      “Data isn’t just limited to spreadsheets and seismograms though. Wright said there’s valuable information in the oral traditions of indigenous communities that surround volcanoes.

      “Even the 7,500-year-old climactic eruption of Crater Lake is recorded in the Klamath Indian and Modak Indian oral traditions and legends,” she (Heather Wright, at VDAP at the United States Geological Survey) said. “There’s so much more to be learned from just enriching our understanding from learning from these long, long-lived stories that have been passed on for so many generations.”

      One should listen to people. Not only scientists, but also translaters seem to be important for a local assessmant.

  15. Lon time lurker, first time commenter.
    Is this article a thinly veiled advertisement for preppers? : )
    In my opinion, it is simply not worth living in a society that is forced to prepare for every disaster. A thousand years of forced slavery on 99% of the population could not prepare us for such things. On a societal level, the cost benefit is almost never worth it. (Yes, even if society itself is destroyed.) Nobody likes having their freedom taken away, no matter how virtuous the excuse.
    On the other hand, if society allows, an individual is free to prepare for anything they want. And if enough individuals prepare intelligently enough, society won’t truly have died.
    IMO only.

    • This is an interesting comment. How do you cost a potential disaster? Different countries have different approaches. Affordability clearly pays a role. The Dutch have coast defenses that are build to a 1-in-10,000 years event. (That is for events of the past. The chance of such a flooding event increases dramatically into to the future as sea levels rise.) But floods may not come from the coast. River flooding is a separate danger. The biggest danger though is that the surrounding countries are not as well protected, and it is politically unwise to build huge dikes on the open borders. The UK is happy to accept 1-in-100 year floods as being unmanageable, and gives up coastal property every year. The Houses of Parliament are better protected – but not much. The US has a harder time protecting its coast, first because it has so much, second because the land owners object, and third because a hurricane requires immense protection. But sometimes the risk is clearly costed incorrectly. A major solar flare may happen once every 200 years. It could take out the electricity network in the entire northeast, and the transformers have replacement times of many months. It would leave New York City without power for 8 months. Protection against it possible but expensive. The network is owned by private companies. Their maximum liability is the value of the company. So building protection that costs more than that is not economically viable for them. The damage it could cause far exceeds that. Now you have a problem. I believe the US is aware of it and some action will have been taken. Enough? One day we will find out. Volcanoes are harder to mitigate against, as we do not know which one will blow. But one day we will have another year without summer. In these days of just-in-time supplies, can we cope? You can’t buy insurance against starvation. It requires a world trading network that is resilient, and a willingness to cooperate. Possible, and doable, but are people willing? We are not talking about cost levels that you mention (it is not terraforming Mars) but it is also not cheap. We often discuss renewable energy here. As people point out, it is doable but will require sacrifices both in ways of living and in money. Will we? It goes in events. A major weather disaster focusses minds and suddenly people see what can be done. Two years later they have forgotten again. Are you right that individual action will suffice? It is not impossible. Even in the past 5 years, when the US refocussed on coal for economic reasons, in reality coal use went down. A slow change in society can achieve more than a sudden move by a government. But it does need time.

      • A year without a summer would be rather catastrophic, not least as europe reduces food production to increase some sort of perceived greenness. There are no grain mountains and end of year stocks are generally very small. When the UK population was low 8M in 1800 and 5M in 1700 there was quite a lot of livestock and most people grew enough to feed themselves in a poor year and could survive a year with no cereals because at least they had livestock that could eat grass, and even unharvested grain. Today we are utterly dependent on 2% of the population growing mostly cereals that can go to zero yield with late frosts and unharvestable weather.
        Huge areas of the world rely on the major food exporting countries so the world population would likely halve, possibly worse. That’s assuming there wasn’t a total loss of law and order, which is a most likely consequence, in which case it would be a world bloodbath.
        Probably the safest places would be usa, australia/NZ. The near east, europe and much of asia would be traumatic.
        To be honest no amount of preparation will help, unless you are well armed, in reasonable numbers in an isolated position with two years of food.

        • Well said. Imagine two eruptions at the same time which has happened at least twice in the past 3500 years (see link to Alberts pieces, bottom). Imagine one equatorial, the second one somwhere between the North Pacific Ocean and Iceland. And then China and Russia being hit by a severe cold spell.
          Therefore you are completely right with the United States and Australia/NZ and with Europe becoming too dependant, nicely seen in mask-gate. These politics are risky.

    • “thinly veiled publicity”, I was surprized.
      What I am regurlarly getting from this site (besides knowledge and fun) is more or less the message that scenes seen in these articles (link) should be avoided and the question how this can be done or improved by better prognosis and better mitigation:
      No prepping whatsoever would help those people if they happened to be in the area.

      Volcanic winter is another chapter but I’d like to contribute another story to this.
      When the alpha-variant of Covid had entered Europe the main problem certainly was that there was no personal protective equipment (PPE), nowhere, and this way it spread. I believe that states should store something like this, so another time, at least hospital and care home staff are protected right away.
      About other things like food and water and medicine I don’t want to say anything like now, I just wanted to offer an example of drastic carelessness. Everybody knew that pandemics can happen, we had three in the last century, plus SARS and MERS, the Bird Flu, the Swine Flu and Ebola, not turning into pandemics, so there were enough warning signs.
      There should be a certain amount of reserve in every state.

      • Oh, there were stocks, not enough and when opened mostly out of date.
        Its an interesting pointer to our society where people reject out of date (but almost certainly perfectly good) equipment that will save lives.
        What you really need is to have local producers with a plan to ditch what they are doing and switch immediately to essential services, with the tooling kept ready in stock (the paper etc, they probably use and stock already).

        • Yeah, out of date is a joke. I even eat out of date after checking it well, yoghurt and so on. Imagine people starving and “out of date” thrown away. There is a lot of absurdity in today’s society. A mask which is out of date would still be better than no mask.

    • Welcome, GLotus!

      I think the first thing we need to do is come up with an agreed definition, at least roughly, of “Preppers”. In US usage, it generally means people who prepare for disruptive events, such as by stockpiling some food and supplies. Some go to great extremes, others far less. Some of us got into it because we live in areas where a severe snowstorm can leave us isolated for weeks. (That’s why I got into it – necessity). I keep a couple of months of supplies on hand, and as a side benefit it came in handy during the supply disruptions and the pandemic. Cost? It saves me money, because I buy in bulk for a lot of items, and can wait for sales. That’s why I had a large supply of toilet paper when the great toilet paper panic of 2020 hit.

      Is it possible to prepare for every disaster? Absolutely not. Is it possible to prepare for interruptions due to natural disasters and other temporary disruptions? Absolutely. I’m opposed to anyone being forced to do this, but I think it’s a good thing to do for those that have the room and the means. It helps everyone, as was seen in the supply disruptions early in the pandemic; the preppers weren’t adding to the demands on the system, because we, by and large, already had our supplies.

      Same with hurricane preppers; already having the supplies on hand (water, plywood, etc) saves a lot of time and expense in the frantic days before a hurricane hits. It also eases the supply crunch for everyone else. I also think it’s advisable that people familiarize themselves with their own homes, such as learning how to turn off and isolate their water heater (for a typical tank heater, this gives you 50 or more gallons of safe, potable water just via turning some valves). That sure beats having to go out and scrounge for packs of water bottles after the storm hits. 🙂

  16. My question is: Could Tambora do it again esp. when considering that it might not have emptied out enough magma and is running as a VEI 7, but also discussed as a VEI 6? Rinjani and Tambora belong to the same setting in West Nusa Tenggara. About Rinjani it is said on wikipedia that:
    “There is a marked offset in the line of active volcanoes between the most easterly Sumbawa volcano (Sangeang Api) and the line of active volcanoes in Flores. This suggests that a major transcurrent fault cut across the arc between Sumbawa Island and Flores. This is considered to be a feature representing a major tectonic discontinuity between the east and west Sunda Arcs (the Sumba Fracture).”

    There is not only the transcurrent fault (strike-slip), but also a very complicated setting. I call these things plate salade. In the west (Java and Sumatra) we see a continental-continental collision between the Asian and the Indo-Australian Plates. Then, east we have lots of broken oceanic plates, microplates, the Sulawesi plate, the North Moluccan Plate, a neighbourhood to the Philippine Mobile Belt and a Triple Junction in the East:
    Good description and fabulous tectonics map (1) in this paper:
    “The three most important plates affecting the Indonesian region are the SE-Asian Plate, the Indo-Australian Plate, and the Pacic Plate. They can be subdivided into a number of smaller Plates and meet at a triple junction situated south of New Guinea’s Bird’s Head. In addition, the narrow North Moluccan Plate is interposed in the north between the Sulawesi Sea Plate, an oceanic associate of the SE-Asian Plate, and the Philippine Sea Plate, a forerunner of the Pacific Plate. They both subduct under the North-Moluccan Plate. This plate tapers out northward in the Philippine Mobile Belt that extends up to Taiwan.”

    It is a great paper by – guess – a Dutch scientist – of course 🙂
    with wonderful maps and above all it is accessible.
    And with a bit of colour from another paper:

    • So, if I had to write a list from 1-10, I would find it very difficult. I think there are four main distaster zones, imho, from the point of view of Plate Tectonics, 1. the above mentioned, 2. Middle America with a similar setting of plates and faults and an Igneous Province in the east, the Caribbean Plateau, an obstacle, 3. Japan and 4. The Bay of Naples.

      And basically the first two can only be helped with education about what to do in the case of a looming fatality and also by teaching them that the fatality might not happen, but awareness is better than the other way around. If I lived in one of those zones I would have all my important papers in a bag that I could grab any time.

      • Anything that was to cause mass crop failure in Russia, China, India or the US would be apocalyptic. Majority of people now in the modern world don’t have a failsafe if they can’t get food or water. That’s where the focus should be for me, volcanic devastation is usually fairly local.

      • I am not about to sign up for National Geographic’s useless newsletter, but I am glad somebody in the media asked that question without screaming “The end is near!” Looking at historical eruptions, most of the big ones have taken place in Indonesia, and the surrounding regions; there is a good chance that we’ll get another one there.
        I think East African volcanoes should be up there as well, the region isn’t familiar with dealing with large explosive eruptions, and with very bad monitoring; the situation doesn’t look good.

        • East Africa, yes.
          Concerning volcanic winter you said s.th. very intelligent in the other post you wrote about it. First of all you mentioned that it would play a role whether in would be an El Niño or a La Niña year. Second you said that effects might be mitigated by climate warming, and I believe this might be true.
          When Tambora erupted the world was in the so called Little Ice Age which means basically that a Tambora style eruption today would possibly not lead to the same global disaster at all. More important is that a Tambora eruption today, same style, would kill a lot more people locally and by tsunami.

          A danger though is that big people with large funds would place bets on rising food prices, and that habit should be forbidden or honored by some years in prison. There are some cynical folks around who care more about fast profit than about human beings and also animals. Most of them call themselves philantropists which is as cynical as it can get.

  17. Can anyone explain this from PHIVOLCS?

    High Sulphur Dioxide and a deflating ground. Ring dyke?

    “In the past 24-hour period, the Taal Volcano Network recorded eight (8) low-frequency volcanic earthquakes and low-level background tremor that has persisted since 7 July 2021. Activity at the Main Crater was dominated by upwelling of hot volcanic fluids in its lake which generated plumes 600 meters tall that drifted southwest. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission averaged 10,594 tonnes/day on 31 January 2022. Based on ground deformation parameters from electronic tilt, continuous GPS and InSAR monitoring, Taal Volcano Island and the Taal region has begun deflating in October 2021.”


  18. Kilauea have gone full blown shield building
    Raging lava river flows into the Halema’uma’u crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the magma supply is insane for soure .. like an unstoppable tap of liquid rock this volcano is

    • Impressive and its still yet not erupting the total input volume of magma, If the ”Pahala Magma Sourge” arrives soon then we will have a gigantic lava fountain there 🙂

  19. Glorious sunrise into a clear sky in central england.
    Definitely better colour and seemed to go on unusually long.

  20. https://imgur.com/a/ct2XYiL

    Kilauea lava lake really unzipping along its edge, lava flows all over the place, the most I have seen it do in months.

    I think something changed in the past few days, most of the pauses of the past weeks have lasted for about a day before obviously declining and then stopping. This one looked like it was about to do the same but then the lake surged again and has been active since, and now breakouts are happening along most of the lake edge. The start of this episode was also a lot more extensive than I remember any of the others being, lava flows made it to the other side of the crater

  21. Somebody – I think Gwen – asked further up whether an eruption like Hunga Tonga could be exspected. I would say yes, any time, but caveat: On a geological time scale. A scenario like the one in the picture (link) would probably have effects similar to stresses around triple junctions.

    But Héctor gave the answer under the last post for the human time scale: Not enough seismic monitoring. We never know precisely when exactly something happens, but monitoring helps.
    So I am wondering whether there is more monitoring in the area between the Aleutian Trench and the Cobb-Eickelberg Seamount Chain. Might be wise, considering all those earthquakes up there (Albert has a piece about them).

    Then I wonder sometimes whether it helps to see papers and papers and more papers about petrochemical details here and there, but few papers simply comparing settings and also the seismic signals.

    • Corruption is high in Tonga which doesn’t help. Adding to a list of rising absurdities is an article I saw the other day in their so-called leading newspaper about people demanding to get an internet connection via Satellite which is possible. But beware: It is the wrong company. So they are supposed to wait while having financial problems.
      Instead they want to restore the cable and might use the money from the World Bank for that. And here comes the next absurdity: Everybody is whining and crying about coral reefs, but they run a cable in the middle of those reefs which helps to destroy them. While waiting for repairs of that cable in the middle of coral reefs which must have cut it in the first place they complain about rising sea levels, although their main problems were exposed about three weeks ago which are i.e.: Not enough monitoring, running a cable and doing repairs to it through coral reefs.

      • The damage a few cables do to a reef is utterly, but utterly insignificant.
        Given the isolation, tiny population and limited economy of Tonga I am astonished they can afford any sort of cable. I imagine its the cheapest possible installed as cheaply as possible.
        Be realistic.

        • Maybe I’m not realistic enough, their people though are not content about it, but aren’t listened to. I would have set a link to the article, but by now it is reserved to suscriptions.
          And basically, s.th. like this can happen again on one of the numerous islands there, and then the cable will be lost like before.

          • Which also means that the World Bank could fund them a connection via Satellite, right or not, Albert?

          • Btw, the last time I set a link to that paper my whole system came down right afterwards – this mustn’t mean anything and can be purely accidental – it took me some time though to set it up again. The internet connection was down, the browser, everything. Just saying.I won’t provide links to that newpaper any more.

          • Currently satellite is not really an alternative. It works for individuals who need a basic connection and do not mind high latency and throttling. Starlink will do better but needs a lot of equipment on the ground (which isn’t there, so needs shipping in)

    • And then, to read this passage helps: “Located in the southwest Pacific ocean, the ~2,600-km-long Tonga–Kermadec arc is the most linear, fastest converging and most seismically active subduction boundary on Earth…This collision zone between the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates is characterized by one of the world’s deepest trenches and the most volcanically active arc, with the highest density of submarine volcanic centers (>1 per 50 km of strike)…”

      So I gather: These facts are known, however they have insufficient monitoring, but money for a long cable running through coral reefs while whining about them, although they can have their connection by satellite. This is called a world of knowledge. In reality it is a world full of senselessness and obfuscation, governed by economical interests of who is better in selling his product. World of reason: Often absent.

  22. This is an important observation by Albert:
    “The apocalypse came swiftly, unexpectedly, and without anyone knowing where it came from. Either of the two eruptions would have been survivable. The combination of the two left the world vulnerable. The four horsemen saw their chance and rode out: famine, war, plague and death attacked and destroyed the weakened civilizations.

    This is how the Dark Ages began. One disaster was manageable. Two simultaneous disasters became a catastrophe. And the third disaster truly brought apocalypse.”

    To be compared: Okmok 44 BC and Unknown + Llopango (possibly) 536/540.


    I think this is really a precious observation. The same happened with Aniakchak and Thera with considerable consequences.

  23. Just to let Dragons know – I’m seeing the whole page in Italics font.

    • Looks like someone added the text “Guest post by Tallis” in italics but forgot the closing tag.

      • Indeed. And all hell has hereby been revoked and re-romaniced

        • The question I have is, is a massive and sudden upsurge in italicization a volcanic event precursor?

          If there’s a major volcanic eruption in the next couple of months, at least we’ll know what to blame it on. 🙂

          • Albert, that is a gem from the archives that I had no idea existed! I very, very much enjoyed reading it, and it explains so very much! Thank you.

            The quantum world is indeed fascinating, and though it makes me rather uncertain at times, I know where I am.

            I can only note that, when it comes to eruption types, there is room for uncertainty; the USGS both does, and does not, include “dome building” in its list of eruption types – it depends on where you are. The same may be true of fontic eruptions.

  24. Kilauea is in deflation mood, yet the lava is flowing constantly.. looks like chads hell machine have started 🙂 and eruption rates are certainly faster than Puu Oo too
    This is an insane volcano really, an unstoppable tap of liquid rock

  25. Well, looks like the dragons have unleashed Italics hell on the VolcanoCafe comment section for not doing the weekly riddle competitions.

    • Yes, I think we can classify this event as an FEI* 1. If the entire page had been, say, changed to Comic Sans, then we would be talking about a high FEI 5 or possibly even a low FEI 6. I shudder to think about the consequences of such an event.

      *Font Explosivity Index

      • That was a funny comment.

        If the entire page turned into Webdings, that might be a FEI7, FEI8 if they were blinking off and on.

        • Oh go on, do it just for an hour …..
          No blinking though,

  26. Wednesday
    02.02.2022 19:10:43 63.659 -19.086 0.1 km 4.0 99.0 8.4 km ENE of Goðabunga

  27. Very shallow M4 at Godabunga Iceland. Many shallow quakes around this area back in time. Steam explosions???

    • When I see earthguakes 0,1 and 1,1km deep, its means this is Katla.

    • Usually when there at that depth it’s the glacier ice cracking or sometimes melting from what I’ve seen in the past. It tends to have more in the summer than the winter due to the ice melting more.

      • The seismo looks tectonic. I think the depth is not well measured but it probably is indeed shallow. There was a precursor, followed by the 4.0 on the ringfault. The rest is aftershocks

        • Some years back I asked one of IMOs seismologist how they calculate the location an deep of quakes. He told me they use an algoritm based on data from several/many stations to pinpoint the site and deep. However, if the altitude of the terrain is very variable like in mountains, only a small miss could result in large errors in the deep calculation. I still wonder if there are something in Katla that affect the seismic waves and makes the quakes seem to be extremely shallow! Could density variations in there bend the seismic waves like a lens bends light? Or cause confusing reflections?

      • The Seismologist say that it is easy for them to sort out signals from ice cracking. So when given 99% confidence values ice quakes should be sorted out!

  28. Wednesday
    02.02.2022 19:44:41 63.665 -19.091 0.1 km 3.4 99.0 8.3 km ENE of Goðabunga

  29. 3 stars now…

    02.02.2022 20:34:21 63.662 -19.074 0.1 km 3.2 99.0 9.0 km ENE of Goðabunga

  30. A few observations on large scale prepping, disasters, societal collapse etc
    Cynical though I am, I’m not convinced we are all inevitably doomed when the (volcanic) balloon goes up. It doesn’t have to be that way, it shouldn’t be that way: sure, we have a preposterous, precarious global infrastructure, but it’s only precarious because it’s so fine-tuned to the whole ‘just-in-time-economy’ machine, a machine that exists in a very particular moment in time, driven by the fashionable economic systems of the now. Who ‘runs’ those systems? Nobody’s driving, or maybe a few big players across the globe, and then the mass of consumers.
    Occasionally the big players do big things, like build entire cities in China or Dubai, which goes to show that we *could* construct protective infrastructure that would allow us to continue to have full rich and happy lives. I’ll go so far as to say the only reason we aren’t building protective infrastructure across the globe is that the Big Players aren’t thinking about it.
    By ‘protective infrastructure’ I do literally mean ‘shelter’ – robust, insulated, with robust utilities, for millions of displaced people. Transplanted cities that actually work, rather than refugee camps where valuable people are forced to sit about uselessly and miserably. With accompanying ‘shelter’ for food ie the kind of greenhouses that we’re already getting pretty good at, so people can get carbs from indoor-friendly crops instead of fragile wheats and rices. And so on. We have the brains and we have the information connectivity – there may be millions of trolls and idiots out there but there are also millions of nerdy fixer types who *want* to make things work. Of which Volcanocafe is a most shining example.

  31. Just to add a bit of number crunching on large eruption frequency, I had calculated this a while ago, but wanted to share since it’s relevant here.

    Based on the GISP2 (greenland volcanic so2 ice core data) chart going back to roughly 13,700 BC, we have had over 100 volcanic So2 signatures show up in the data that are as large or larger than the Tambora 1813 eruption.

    This gives us a frequency based on the available data here of one signature every 157 years.

    Does this mean that VEI-7 eruptions occur at a frequency of every 157 years? That’s tough to say. There are some variables that are not accounted for. IE, not all eruptions produce the same amount of sulfur due to varying gas content. Also, some eruptions being closer to the ice core source will mean their signature is much stronger, whereas eruptions south of the equator are much less likely to show up as a large eruption in this dataset.

    That being said, I would say fairly comfortably that VEI-7 sized eruptions occur much more frequently than what most would otherwise believe. Also, if we were to assume that So2 signature is equivalent in proportion to eruption size, the timeframe of 7000 b.c. to 5000 b.c. saw many enormous eruptions that would seem to dwarf what we’ve seen in the historic era.

    • Based on latitude, that might capture 60-ish percent of the world’s volcanos. So you’re talking basically one per century. There’s “only” been 5 in the last 2000 years, though. That’s a pretty major discrepancy. Has there been something geologically that has changed the frequency? Or are we counting smaller puffs that still leave the SO2 trace?

      • Greenland is going to record all of the relatively much smaller but very SO2 rich eruptions in Iceland. Maybe only 3 eruptions in Iceland in the Holocene would have been really dangerous, Thjorsahraun, Eldgja and Laki, the other numerous lava floods seem likely not quite big enough but would have been enough to.show in Greenland rather nicely. 1477 eruption from Veidivotn is not associated with anything particularly bad in the history books, and that was a major eruption.

        Just an example. Maybe try to find how much SO2 from Kilauea made it to Greenland, it is likely almost none, Iceland has proximity bias and is going to be overrepresented.

      • Hmmm, based on Albert’s article from 2019, he provided data showing the Northern Hemisphere had no less than 9 significant signatures between the years of 500-700 alone, with 6 of those being present at both poles (bipolar). Not all the eruptions were VEI-7’s, but then again the VEI scale in general may not be the best tool to use for explaining climatic impacts.

    • Cbus,
      For reference purposes, do you know what the SO2 spikes associated with Mt. Pinatubo and El Chichon were…the two most impactful (climate-wise) eruptions of the modern era?

  32. Looks like something caved in or collapsed in Katla. It made quite a lot of noise. Cliff face going?

    • Hopefully, it is nothing to be really concerned and, even if it erupts, I hope that it is a small one not at where the glaciers are and harmless.

      • The area currently is not known for doing large explosive eruptions, all of the Holocene eruptions are pretty much effusive, including the silicic activity. What the area is known for, however, is Icelandic scale basaltic effusive eruptions, Belknap shield is formed from 2 eruptions 3000 and 1500 years ago, and totals at least 10 km3 of lava. Sand Mountain is a range of 7 huge scoria cones that all formed within a couple decades of each other at most, likely in one episode around 3000 years ago. Would have been quite a lot like the eruptions on Lanzarote except instead of flooding the land with lava it was semi-constant massive lava fountains, like at Etna 🙂

        The way things are going though there wont be any glaciers on the volcanoes at all by the time the next eruption does happen…

        • Yeah, I hope it was more like that. What got me more concerned about the Three Sisters is the fact that the last time they erupted, the lava is rhyolite, not the basalt of its neighbors. Also, this article kinda made me think about it:
          Could the Three Sisters be in a stage of some sort of caldera system? I hope that it only happens when we are not around.

  33. Concerning volcanic winter I’d like to mention though that we wouldn’t be in the situation of Captain George Pollack who steered the Essex into an encounter with a huge sperm whale (the story being base for Melville’s Moby Dick). Funnily enough they didn’t try to reach the closest islands, the Marquesas, as locals there were said to attend to some cannibalism, but when they ran out of food and some died, they ate them.
    Similar stories have happened to settlers getting stuck in snow while crossing the Rocky Mountains and to people in The Andes after a plane crash.

    We would get into a situation instead that our parents or grandparents have gone through: Second World War. Food in Germany was first given to the soldiers, the rest of the population had it alloted. There was not enough bread, also after the war, no milk, vegetables were sparse, but there was still food, canned meat and fish, strange coffee, nobody died of famine, as far as I know. So basically there might not be riots, as the reason would be clear enough, and it would be communicated that the situation would improve after a year.

    It wouldn’t be funny, but shipwrecking or being stranded in high mountains is different.

    • I have to add to this though that some was easier. My grandparents (one set) and also their parents were tailors and had always sewn for peasants. During both wars there was considerable exchange of food for new or mended clothes.
      Today there are many office jobs, so nothing to give to a peasant for ten eggs. People are much more dependant nowadays. Many can’t do basic repairs any more. My daughter gets stuck when her sink is clogged. She calls me, and I can still take everything apart, empty it and set it back, and I learned it from my father who insisted that we learn some basic things.
      But now we have people in our countries who can do these things. They are mostly from Poland and from Turkey. It has two sides to be a highly specialized society. It only works in good times.

      • Troublehshooting common household repairs is one of YouTube’s strengths.

        What’s more important is that you WANT to do the repair yourself, not that you can’t.

    • To be fair to George, cannibalism was not intended and was only done when it was obvious there was no other option than dying anyway. Whether or not the repotation of cannibals on the Marquesas was actually true, if they lost their bet on it then they would be in a rather worse situation than they expected to end up in. Im not sure in hindsight that they would have preferred to go adrift in the open ocean for weeks forced to eat each other instead of risk landing on a potentially hostile island but then that is what hindsight does.

      I think to be completely realistic about this, the effects a VEI 7 eruption would have on our society today will never be uniform. Some areas really will be thrown back int othe dark ages, most likely those closest to the eruption. Some areas though will probably fare well, perhaps not even noticing significant disruption. Both may be in the small minority but we cant assume everywhere will be hit the same or react the same way to the same stimulus.

      I think the location of the eruption would be important too. If the next VEI 7 is in the high Andes it will probably do very little at all, be more of an inconvenience to air travel than anything but far from a catastrophe. If on the other hand the next VEI 7 or 8 is from one of the calderas on Kyushu that really could be apocalyptic, being a direct hit on both Japan and China, and that probably would actually destroy the whole worlds economy in an instant.

      • Right, it would be difficult, but probably manageable. The Chinese though, still more rural than urban, might tend to rioting, the Japanese rather not.
        The patience in better developped countries with Covid is over now, but it was considerable. There was a lot of discipline altogether in 2020. No significant problems with refugees either.

        • I think you really might want to look at China again, particularly the eastern seaboard that would be directly impacted. I you read the NVDP article on Ioto, that was given the number one title for this exact reason that it would throw a wave at the coast of China, something that after a certain recent event is probably going to be taken a lot more seriously than when that article was made.

  34. Aside from that I considered the toilet paper crisis utterly stupid. How can people sink to a level where they fight for toilet paper? I ordered 100 rolls in – yes – China. It arrived after two weeks, just when I needed it. And I did the same thing with kitchen paper. It came from – yes – Milano. I had it sit for two days in the garage and opened it with gloves, that’s all. I will never stand in line for toilet paper, at least not while amazon exists. Never.

    • But why did you need to buy 100 rolls?

      Other people did that too except the suppliers never would have expected such. Even if everone only bought 1 pack of 12 tolls, whic hwoudl last a few months, that is going to run out very quick, and in todays society toilet paper actually is an essential item, it shouldnt be, but it is, and it is also one of the few things in that category that people cant actually just make themselves easily so it was in very high demand. Food that was in short supply quickly was nonperishable stuff too, so people were actually being methodical about this, they werent stupid (well not everyone anyway), and the supply of these items was suddenly in very short supply, and so some people more predisposed to agression took it into their own hands, and the media ran with it as they always do, it is their fault more than anything else.

    • Or this. Kuril Islands (does anybody know the volcano?):

        • If Albert doesn’t object you should be right:

          Oic on wikipedia

        • This is an honest piece and an honest discussion about volcanic hazards, and then some pictures pop up, and it’s just wow – how incredibly beautiful, at least for me. They have both sides. Without them the world wouldn’t be as far as pretty and not as fertile either.
          And were we see mountains (Andes, European and New Zealand Alps, Himalayas) they are underneath – in the Andes also present – and were dominant before the mountain chains, just as beautiful, rose up, when plates collided and oceans were subducted.

          Without them the world might be a safer place, but utterly boring. So truly ewesome, volcanoes. True majesties. And more impressive with crater lakes or craters in the ocean. The more impressive, the more dangerous. Nature is like this. A tiger is a wonderful creature, but dangerous. Not to mention colorful snakes, all poisonous.

    • Hope they don’t mind, but this is real publicity for them, those make great presents for volcano-enthisiasts and nature freaks.

    • Very dangerous to try!
      It coud also be liquid aluminium thats been heated to well well above its melting point, at 1100 C it woud glow just as yellow like liquid copper .. rather than being a silvery liquid

      • I think liquid aluminium that hot would probably catch on fire in air, and would be an extreme explosion hazard to have it falling into water in that volume as seems to be happening in the video. It probably is copper if it is a metal, otherwise it could be liquid slag from a blast furnace, in which case it actually is pretty much lava 🙂

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