HURRICANES, EARTHQUAKES, NOW ADD A GIANT VOLCANO TO MENU OF DISASTERS
The past few weeks have been quite the show in terms of natural disaster events forcing humans to remember nature is boss. The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean have been hammered by super charged hurricanes. Mexico has been shaken apart by one earthquake after another. Now we are looking to add a volcano to the list of potential devastating maladies the world is facing this Fall on the other side of the world in Bali. The expected eruption has already caused more than 50,000 people to flee to safety.
10,000 FOOT HIGH MOUNT AGUNG KILLED OVER 1,000 IN LAST ERUPTION
The scale is daunting. The volcano is called Mount Agung and is a 10,000-foot high peak that has been rumbling and quaking. The last time this conduit below erupted back in 1963 it killed over 1,000 people. The memory of that disaster has motivated both locals and visitors to flee to safety with a forecast for some powerful and devastating damage.
VOLCANIC EARTHQUAKES CREATE EVER GROWING ZONE OF DANGER
Volcanic earthquakes began on August 10, according to the Smithsonian. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) in Indonesia created a 3-kilometer exclusion zone surrounding Agung in the weeks that followed, which eventually increased to 6, then 7.5, and now 12 kilometers (7.5 miles). The active volcano is 72 kilometers (45 miles) away from Bali’s tourist destination, Kuta, reports the AP.
PYROPLASTIC FLOWS A 50MPH WALL OF BURNING DEATH
Agung’s 1963 eruption was catastrophic—its staggering death toll came from pyroclastic flows, 400 to 1000 degree Fahrenheit clouds of gas, rock, and lava moving at speeds faster than 50 miles an hour that buried and burned everything in their path. Pyroclastic flows accompanied the Mount St. Helens eruption in one case, and buried the city of Pompeii in another. Agung’s 1963 blast also brought lahars, mudslides from water mixing with the volcanic material.
MOUNT AGUNG’S 1963 VOLCANO ERUPTION AFFECTED GLOBAL TEMPERATURE FROM BLOCKED SUNLIGHT
The 1963 eruption disrupted air traffic and sent gas into the atmosphere, temporarily lowering the global average atmospheric temperature by between .01 and 0.4 degrees Celsius, Australian National University geologist emeritus Richard John Arculus wrote in The Conversation.
Arculus added that technological improvements have greatly improved seismologists’ ability to predict volcanic eruptions. “ A primary line of evidence is the frequency and locations of earthquakes beneath the volcano, caused by upward flowing magma,” he wrote.
MOUNT AGUNG MAY GO BACK TO SLEEP, BUT DANGER IMMEDIATE. FOR NOW.
United States Geological Survey geophysicist Michael Poland explained that “predicting eruptions is a significant challenge. We can certainly detect the onset of unrest at a volcano, and track changes in that unrest over time. The increase in seismicity there is easy to chart and points to a volcano that is showing some of the classic indicators of a system that is about to erupt. The timing and style of potential future eruptions, however, remains quite difficult to forecast.” It’s possible that Agung will go back to sleep, and there are examples in history of these alerts being false alarms. Volcanology is getting better at predicting eruptions, but it’s still not an exact science.
Of course, “Because of the high population density in Indonesia, most volcanoes there have the potential to cause significant loss of life and property,” he said. At this point, we have to wait and see what happens. But based on the evacuations, and the past experiences of a nation accustomed to volcanism given its location on the geologically-active Pacific Ring-Of-Fire, there’s definitely cause for worry.