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Monday Musings: Gaua evacuations, more activity at Soufriere Hills and the destructive force of Toba revisited

Catching up with some of the past week's news, including new evacuations in Vanuatu, some new research on the destructive force of the Toba eruption and images of Bezymianny from space.

Back to work after Thanksgiving Break … lets clean up a few news items I missed trying to figure out the non-eruption of Karkar.

Undated photo of the summit area of Gaua, Vanuatu.

  • There was an actual eruption – or, more correctly, a continued eruption – of Gaua in Vanuatu. The current activity has prompted the evacuation of 300 villagers from the island and they will not be able to return until activity wanes. Tourists were also told to stay away from the volcano, but the airport on the island has not been affected by the eruption, which might suggest the activity is relatively localized. However, ash from the volcano is falling on the forests and nearby villages, causing eye and throat irritation. Vanuatu has asked New Zealand for assistance in monitoring the activity at Gaua as well. The volcano is currently at the second highest alert level.
  • The NASA Earth Observatory posted a nice shot of Bezymianny in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. The image captured not only the steam plume from the degassing volcano, the ash from explosive eruptions on the snow, but also the shadow on the volcano.
  • Soufriere Hills on Montserrat continues its revival after 10 months of silence. The volcano in the western Caribbean dropped ash on the capitol of Montserrat and pyroclastic flows from the collapsing dome at the summit nearly reached the ocean.
  • There have been a few pieces lately about a recent study in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology by Martin A.J. Williams (U of Adelaide) and Stanley Ambrose (U of Illinois) that suggests that the great Toba eruption in Indonesia ~73,000 years ago destroyed forests in India – almost ~4,800 km / 3,000 miles away. The study that the volcanic aerosols from the eruption caused such a severe volcanic winter and the ash disrupted forest processes that much of the tropics was deforested. I’ll try to post the link to the article as soon as I can track it down. (The articles are ambiguous as ever – one implies that the researchers determined the existence of the caldera in this study.)

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