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Wednesday Whatzits: Yellowstone plume, man-made lava and monitoring Hawai`i

No, Yellowstone isn’t really “eating mountains”, Ireland fights man-made lava and the USGS gets its stimulus.

Some news for today:

Yellowstone National Park, USA.

  • Another fine example of media headline versus actual research, an article in the Jackson Hole Daily about a new study by Dr. Robert Smith and others on the Yellowstone plume was titled “Park’s giant magma plume eating up mountains”. Yikes! Well, the actual study published recently in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research is more about the geophysical parameters of the Yellowstone plume – a plume that might reach as far as 500 km below the caldera itself. As for the mountain eating part, I think they were trying to get at the idea that as the North American plate move over the plume, the topography over the plume will change (thanks to the bulging of the plate), thus “erasing” mountains – however, this is a minor part of the study. The most interesting thing (at least to me) is speculation of what might happen when the plume hits the colder, thicker crust of the North American Craton.
  • In what can only be described as the closest thing to a man-made lava flow, a glass factory in Ireland had one of its furnaces crack, producing a giant molten glass flow. The glass (at ~1600C) flowed out of the furnace and filled an area 2-3 feet deep in glass. Luckily, no one was killed, but I’m sure there are folks who study glass rheology dying to get a look at the results of this spill. Might be the only time firefighters in Ireland will have to deal with lava flow-like events!
  • Volcano monitoring in Hawai`i looks to get a big upgrade with an announcement of ~$420,000 for updating the system and research. Sounds like a lot of the money will go to study the vog problem on the Big Island of Hawai`i. Overall, the USGS received $7 million from the Department of the Interior as part of the ARRA.

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