Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Volcanology Teaching Resources

- Janine

I am excited about an upcoming set of Google Hangout sessions with 6th graders talking all about volcanoes, why they erupt, why some erupt more violently than others, what their hazards are, and what we, as volcanologists, are doing to try and help people that live near them. So I sent out a request to the world of Twitter and volcanologists (links to their twitter feeds included, also full of information and resources - many more twitter volcanologists can be found) from around the world got back to me with great ideas and resources, and here they are!

This is an open blog, I will add more resources as they come to my attention, so if there is something missing please contact me and I will add it for everyone to enjoy.

Volcanologist @kenhrubin has put together a list of Twitter volcanologists, volcano watchers, and volcano-related organizations so you can keep an eye on the latest activity and volcano news. You can watch the list Here.

This looks like a lot of fun if you have access to dry ice, suggested by @lavabombs

"The Soufriere Pyroclastic Flow is a type of granitic explosive eruption where the pressure of an eruption cloud fails to hold up the ash and it collapses as a pyroclastic flow. This experiment is easy to create, just put some dry ice and water into a bowl, soak a strip of cloth in dishwasher detergent, and contain the CO2 into one big bubble."

Professor David Pyle and the team at Oxford Sparks have put together a great video taking you through an underwater volcano disaster. The bottom of the page also has links to other resources you can use in the classroom.

The team at Volcanoes Top Trumps (Volcanologists and geologists with STREVA: Jenni Barclay, Anna Hicks, Jon Stone, David Pyle, Paul Cole and Iain Stewart) have done a great job putting together this Top Trumps edition where you play with volcanoes and the proceeds of the game even go to help people affected by volcanic activity - how great is that! The game combines categories of explosivity, deadliness, wow! factor, unpredictability, and devastation potential, showing your students just how much volcanic activity can vary. They have an Educator's Materials section with posters, information leaflets, and activities, and even an online game. Thanks @VolcanoJenni and the team at @VolcTopTrumps (who also tweet some great articles on volcanoes). 

Volcanoes Top Trumps. Image courtesy of the Volcanoes Top Trumps website, links are above.
If you really want to blow your classroom out of the water, the @LondonVolcano team took things to the extreme! They actually built a volcano - a 3 meter tall replica of Soufrière St. Vincent volcano, and they take it on tour! Check out their activity on twitter, and their website.

The London Volcano eruption! Courtesy of londonvolcano.com.

Earth Learning Idea is a website with a range of ideas for teaching Earth science topics, including natural hazards, geological time, evolution of life Earth in space, energy, and other Earth systems. They include information sheets, lists of resources, useful links, questions to ask, videos, and more. Thanks @Volcanologist!

Closer to home for me, all the way from New Zealand, is the GNS Science Volcanoes page. They have a collection of videos (like the one below), lesson plans, recommended reading, and links talking about volcanoes, monitoring, hazards, and what to do during an eruption. Thank you GNS Volcanologist @Eruptn.

Also from New Zealand is the Geonet webpage that looks more into volcano monitoring, Volcanic Alert Levels, a series of great videos, and information on New Zealand's volcanoes, sent by @Eruptn who is a volcanologist at GNS Science, New Zealand (in the video below).

A good resource (In Spanish) by SERNAGEOMIN in Chile gives hazards maps of their volcanoes - and there are a lot of them, geological maps, a glossary of volcano terms, the ranking of the 90 - yes 90! active volcanoes in Chile. Thanks @aficientifico.

Volcanologist @volcanoclast spent two years with Rutgers University in a laboratory on wheels. Some of the experiments and demonstrations they performed included bazookas to show how materials of different densities settle from a volcano, beans and seeds to show sorting of volcanic debris, and sand and water to demonstrate how a volcano grows - check them out here. You can contact him on twitter for more information, and check out his 3D Volcano project which also shows how 3D volcano models can help volcanologists and public officials with investigating and communicating volcano hazards.

Volcanologist @eruptionsblog writes the Eruptions blog on Wired. He has a list of webcams around the world that can show you real volcanoes erupting, in real time! The Colima volcano webcam run by Webcams de Mexico below shows you one of the most active volcanoes, where you can almost guarantee a few eruptions on any given day (for now) like the one below. You can have a webcam up in the background and have a glimpse of what it's like to be near a volcano waiting for it to erupt.

There is of course the classic Mentos-and-Coke eruption experiment which is usually the first to come to mind when someone wants to make a volcano. Using different candy types you can explore how gas is dissolved into a liquid, and how explosive it can be when it all comes out at once! Here and here are two websites with resources and instructions to carry out this experiment, and an explanation as to why this explosive reaction occurs (there are others if you Google it)

Another great experiment is one that explores viscosity - an important factor in controlling what type of eruption you get. Looking at liquids of different viscosities you can blow bubbles into them, and add sugar crystals to look at how gas bubbles and mineral crystals affect the viscosity as you have them flow down a slope, looking at the times it takes for different liquids to reach the bottom. An example of this set up can be found here.

A cake batter version of this experiment from the University of Hawaii can be found here along with data tables that the students can fill in. The University of Hawaii also has experiments to look at how particle size affects the angle of a volcano's slope (Piles of Fire), and using Gelatin Volcanoes to understand how magma moves inside a volcano. A list of other resources and classroom activities can be found here.

Stromboli online has a list of virtual excursions that you can take for a rage of volcanoes, including some of my favorites Tongariro and Mount St. Helens. Click on the 'Adventure Starts Here' link for each volcano to see photos and explanations, a view into what field work can be like. They also have maps, photos, panoramas and information on eruptions and monitoring. You can also learn how to make your own 3D model of Stromboli Island! (use Google translate for English)

The below video links viscosity and gas content to real volcanoes:

Another (slightly) less messy version is having different viscosity liquids in cups, and having students blow bubbles into them to see the different effects. If a build up of gas in magma causes pressure to form, how do you think the different viscosity liquids would change the way a volcano erupts? A video example is below:

And a version with Alka-Seltzer to make a small rocket also shows how gas works!

Here's a version with ducks!

If you have a spare trash can and a thermal camera (and lots of safety measures!) you can make a trashcano - thanks @volcaniclastic for this awesome idea! On this page you can find the instructions for the outside experiment making eruptions with balloons, pop rocks candy, and a plain old trash can, plus more neat FLIR (thermal camera) videos of the 'eruption'.

If you want to stay completely dry and clean, an online activity looking at different viscosities is online by the University of Rhode Island. This shows the internal structure of the atoms that affect the viscosity and how they change for the different magma types.

USGS has an Education website that has resources for a huge range of subjects, from volcanoes, to maps, satellites, biology, ecosystems, rocks, plate tectonics, etc. They include references, videos, animations, online lectures, and even a section on Citizen Science where you can help scientists collect real data! They link resources into Grades K-6, Grades 7-12, and Undergraduate.

USGS video showing the dome growth at Mount St. Helens on September 23, 2004. Other videos on a range of topics can be found here.

USGS also has a Predict an Eruption Interactive Scenario where you look at monitoring instruments, ground deformation, earthquakes, and learn about Kilauea and Mount St. Helens volcanoes.

If you want to know about most things to do with volcanic ash, USGS just released a new Volcanic Ash Impacts and Mitigation website. This website has information on the effects of volcanic ash on buildings, power supply, health, agriculture, water, communications, etc. and what you can do if you if you find yourself under an ash cloud.

Impacts and clean up of different ash depths from the USGS Volcanic Ash Impacts and Mitigation website.
The Smithsonian Institute Global Volcanism Program is a great place to go to learn about individual volcanoes and their past eruptions, as well as reports on the current activity of the volcanoes and a map of where they are. They have descriptions of the types of volcanoes and the activity they produce here, as well as some videos explaining processes. They also host a Dynamic Planet Map where you can look at the world's volcanoes, different plate tectonic boundaries, impact craters, and earthquakes. You can learn about Geologic Time with this interactive page.

Discovery Kids has a Volcano Explorer page where you can play with viscosity and gas settings to make your own eruption. The Magic School Bus also has a simple volcano game where you can drive the bus all the way from the Earth's inner core up to a volcanic eruption.

SEAS: Student Experiments at Sea has a set of units looking at mid-ocean ridges that includes reading maps, building a 3D model of the East Pacific Rise, looking at lava flows, plate tectonics, organisms of the deep, and more. If you do manage to make a 3D model of a volcano, you can combine the viscosity experiments to show where a lava flow/lahar/pyroclastic flow would travel down the volcanic flanks, and how this is controlled by the shape of the volcano - volcanologist @lava_ice has poured syrup over 3D maps of the big Island of Hawaii - a lot of fun!

NASA has an activity with worksheet online that can guide students to identify the basic volcano types - cinder cone, composite, and shield.

SERC has a long list of assignments and guides covering a range of volcanoes, processes, and eruptions.

A video touching on the different signs a volcano may display when heading towards an eruption - or not! A volcano may look like it is going to erupt, then for some reason nothing happens.

Living With a Volcano in Your Backyard—An Educator’s Guide with Emphasis on Mount RainierThe USGS Volcano Hazards Program (USGS-VHP) and the National Park Service have put together a fantastic resource with a range of activities for the classroom (or at home!). You can download the individual chapters and activities that include an overview, learner objectives, teacher background, materials, and a whole lot of information to get the most out of the lessons. This great project is coordinated by Coordinated by Carolyn Driedger, Anne Doherty, Cheryl Dixon, and Lisa Faust
Some fun examples are (with explanations and images straight out of the online document):

Lahar in a Jar : 'Explore how small amounts of water can mobilize loose rock to form lahars by making a small lahar within the safety of a beaker or jar and analyzing it using scientific methods.'

Shoebox Geologist: 'Model depositional processes from volcanically active areas using sediments in a shoebox. Interpret geologic events from layers in a classmate’s shoebox model and draw a stratigraphic column graphic.'

Shoebox Geologist result.

Magma Mash: 'In an exploration of magma behavior, students role play minerals that are cooling at different rates, and then examine rock sample.'

Play-Dough Topo: 'Students make a clay model volcano, and then create a topographic map of it.'

Tephra Popcorn: 'Students measure the volume and mass of popcorn before and after popping in an exploration of how expanding gas bubbles inflate and fragment magma during a volcanic eruption. They study the physical characteristics of tephra using samples or photographs.'

Learning about volcanic tephra using popcorn.
Fire and Ice: 'Students use ice cream glaciers and hot wax lava flows to simulate the interaction of glaciers and lava flows.'

Learn about lava and ice using ice cream!
Riding the Magma Elevator: 'Examine the processes leading to a volcanic eruption, including mantle melting, magma formation, and magma ascent. During this activity, the students will ride an imaginary elevator from the subduction zone to volcanic vent.'

Rock Stars: 'Students identify the characteristics of rocks in samples or photos and then tell a story about where and how each formed.'

The Next Eruption of Mount Rainier: 'In this activity, students use Mount Rainier as an example, while they explore a variety of themes associated with future volcanic activity. Students make a timeline of Mount Rainier volcanic events, interpret hazard maps, investigate potential effects on people and infrastructure, learn how scientists watch for signs of volcanic unrest, and create a warning statement. All products created during this activity can be included in a “school volcano museum” for students and parents to view.'

There are many more activities and resources for all aspects of volcanology in the classroom, so go check out the whole program here.

@ExplosiveEarth (the Cambridge Volcano Seismology group) has put together a great online activity where you can put in your postcode and see how much of your local area would have been covered by the Iceland Holuhraun lava flow. Check it out here.

This is the extend of Pittsburgh, PA, that would have been covered by the Holuhraun lava flow.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Global Volcanism Program has released a great new interactive tool for exploring earthquakes, volcanic activity, and sulfur dioxide emissions from 1960 to 2016. You can click on the event for more information, or look more into a single volcano with links to the volcano information pages.

The interactive Eruptions, Earthquakes, & Emissions map. Click on the map to go to the Smithsonian page.

The British Geological Society has put together instructions on how to make your very own lego seismometer! Find the instructions here.

'Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis are fascinating geological processes with dramatic consequences. In the interactive game Hazagora, developed at the department of geography of the VUB, your students are introduced to such geo-disasters and how we can arm ourselves against them.

The students build a society on a volcanic island, which will be hit by various geo-disasters during the game hour. Are you building a solid roof to protect yourself from ash rains, or better a flexible cabin that can withstand an earthquake? Do you use your valuable raw materials for a warning system against tsunamis, or do you store extra food supplies to distribute after the disaster?'

  See their website here (use Google translate to see in English)


How is magma actually made? This video explains three ways in which mantle rock is melted to create magma that can rise through the crust to form volcanoes.

This page will be updated as I come across new resources, so check back if you are learning about volcanoes in the classroom. Also check out our other blog posts for information on volcanoes, experiments, eruptions, monitoring, and wrapping your head around some of the complicated aspects of eruptions.

Monday, February 1, 2016

How fast is volcano-fast?

- Janine and Alison

This morning I (Janine) was researching the May 18, 1980 Mount Saint Helens eruption to begin the next phase of my research. Reading through the descriptions of the start of the eruption - when massive blocks of the volcano slid to the north, I enthusiastically jumped out of my chair surprising my office mates. Marking out 1 meter with my feet I looked up at them and told them "this is one meter, now imagine 50 of these. Now imagine a massive chunk of rock moving 50 of these in one second! 50 m per second! This is nuts!" The joys of sharing an office with an over-enthusiastic volcanologist...

50 m/s is how fast the side of the mountain began to travel down and away from the volcano, taking chunks of rock the size of 30 story buildings northward. As the slide evolved into a debris avalanche, the sediment mass began flowing, the blocks reached speeds of up to 80 m/s [1]. So this got us talking about the insane speeds involved in volcanic processes and how we can relate them to something a little easier to grasp than a 2.3 km3 block of volcano racing away from it's former host.

GIF created using the famous Rosenquist photos that recorded the beginning of the Mount St. Helens May 18, 1980 eruption. You can see the first block sliding towards the right of the images, followed by the explosion of the cryptodome caused by the rapid reduction in pressure after losing all of that overlying rock. GIF created by Reddit user PGwojowski.

Janine then messaged me (Alison) to share this revelation, and we immediately began playing the game of what else is fast. Can humans go that fast? In a previous post I found ways to express deposit volumes in more relatable dimensions, now it is time to try with speed.

Out-driving the Yellowstone eruption in the movie '2012'. No. On so many levels, no. (Image courtesy of worldmoviedb.com).

Let us start with 50 m/s. Most humans are familiar with how fast cars go, so let us compare a car moving at 50 m/s with a chunk of rock (there were chunks of volcano the size of buildings, but we'll work with a car for now). 50 m/s is the same as 111 miles per hour or 180 kilometers per hour. Safe drivers don't go this fast. Even on the famed autobahn most drivers don't go that fast. NASCAR drivers go between 40 m/s and 89 m/s. But, before you think that anyone can out-drive these flows, remember, NASCAR tracks are flat. Volcanic landslides other volcanic flows do not. In the case of Mount Saint Helens the debris avalanche traveled through a forest UPHILL!

Hummocks of debris that traveled from the flanks of Mt St Helens uphill over the ridge in the center of the photo to the location on the arrow. When I finally got to see this in 2015 it really made an impression on me. It is one thing to know what a volcano can do, but when you get a good idea of the actual scale it is very different. Photograph by Alison.

To help calibrate your brain for meters per second the fastest animal on land, the cheetah, goes up to 30 m/s in short bursts, which is 75 mph / 120 kph. For comparison, the fastest human is Usain Bolt, who goes 12 m/s which is 27 mph / 42 kph. He would get a speeding ticket in many school zones, but he still isn't close to fast enough to out run a cheetah, let alone a debris avalanche. So even on your best day, even if you are the fastest human, you are only going 20% of the speed of the flows we are talking about.

Underwater the fastest animal is the marlin, though some websites gave the honor to the sailfish. They are on par with cheetahs reaching speeds of 35-36 m/s. Although there is some debate on this matter as measuring the speeds of water dwelling animals and being sure you measured the fastest one is quite a challenge. What we do know from this is that animals finally best the speed of the Mount St. Helen's landslide only when you include animals in the air. Diving birds of prey like the Peregrine Falcon reach 200 mph, or 89 m/s when in a dive. So in a way they are cheating, you know the whole falling thing. But man is that fast!

Damage in Cancun from Hurricane Wilma (Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk)

The bullet trains of Japan, the Shinkansen, have operating speeds of up to 88 m/s. Similarly 80 m/s was the fastest sustained wind speed of a Category 5 Hurricane (note, the scale doesn't go any higher). Hurricane Wilma in 2005 was estimated to have produced winds of 185 mph or 297 kph at its peak.

The eruption plume of May 18 lasted for over 9 hours, with an average speed of 60 miles per hour. The eruption began at 8:32 am and by noon the eruption plume had reached Idao (courtesy of USGS).

What else did Mount St Helens produce that we can discuss in terms of speed? As the eruption began in earnest on My 18, large pyroclastic flows, mixtures of hot rock, ash and gas were expelled from the newly formed crater and traveled 90 m/s [2]. That faster than the debris avalanche and even faster than the peregrine falcon in full dive! But wait, Mount St Helens was even faster than that. The plume of ash and debris that rocketed straight up out of the crater after the pressure release caused by the landslide was estimate to travel at 111 m/s [2]. You can imagine Mount St Helens as a soda bottle that is under pressure because someone shook it up, then when the cap is removed the pressure release means soda escapes rapidly and makes a mess. Only the volcano makes a much larger, faster, and rockier mess.

1980 Mt St Helens eruption throwing rock upwards into the atmosphere at speeds up to 111 m/s that is the top speed for a helicopter.  Image from USGS archive.

At this point we need new comparisons to keep up with this eruption. Helicopters can travel up to 250 mph or 400 kph, which is 111 m/s! But helicopters only travel this fast horizontally, and after they accelerate. The vertical velocity of the Mount St Helens plume started at 111 m/s.

The May 18 eruption was powerful enough to devastate an area of 600 km2 (230 mi2). This image shows the forest trees lying on the ground with some still standing at the top, courtesy of USGS.
Trees still floating on Spirit Lake today. Photograph by Janine.
Volcanic explosions come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and sometimes bigger doesn't always mean the fastest. Hydrothermal explosions, caused by pressure changes in existing hydrothermal systems on volcanoes, can vary from 20 m/s (or twice as fast as fast humans) to 200 m/s [3-4]! For comparison the Japanese have an even faster train, a maglev train that travels over 600 kph or 374 mph, which is 167 m/s, faster than the explosive start to the Mount St Helens eruption, but the ride is a lot smoother. Your other options are planes and rockets, but if I ever get on a rocket it may be one of the few ways to get me to stop thinking about volcanoes.

Landsat false color image of Mt St Helens deposits. Material first moved north at high speeds knocking down trees and traveling over ridges. Then the flows became channelized and traveled along river valleys as lahars, still reaching speed of 45 m/s which is over 100 mph!

Other volcanic explosions, like Strombolian bursts and fire fountains have been estimated to carry molten rocks at speeds between a few meters per second up to 100 m/s [5]. For comparison, my experimental explosions used to model volcanic explosions throw rocks at speeds of 25-60 m/s.

Strombolian eruption in December 1969 from USGS archives. These flying bits of hot rock can go as fast as 100 m/s. Photograph by B. Chouet. 

Experimental explosions to model volcanic eruptions throws rocks up to 60 m/s at the University at Buffalo Center for Geohazards Studies Field Station.  
So what about all the other things volcanoes do to move rock from one place to another?
Before all this violence Mount St Helens had been covered with snow and ice and Spirit lake was nestled on its flanks. All this water mixed with the rapidly moving debris and formed debris flows. Volcanic debris flows, also known as lahars, have been measured to travel at speeds ranging from 10-30 m/s, with the 1980 Mount St Helens lahars reaching 45 m/s. If you want your body to go that fast and not be in an airplane you can travel to Brazil to the Insano water slide where brave bathers can travel up to 29 m/s. That is 105 kph, or 60 mph! All I can think of is after your heart slows down you will have a heck of a wedgie. To go faster you would have to jump out of a plane. Most skydivers go about 50 m/s which is how fast the landslide blocks went at Mt St Helens. Janine and I have both done this, and it is pretty impressive.

Janine in a tandem freefall, experiencing (awesome) acceleration that feels like your stomach is still on the plane!

The fastest a human body (not in a vehicle) has ever traveled was 843 mph, which is 377 m/s, which is how fast Felix Baumgartner fell in 2012. This took falling from 38,000 m (Mt Everest is only 8,000 m tall for reference) in a pressurized suit and lots of training.  Alan Eustace jumped from the Stratosphere, and has the record for highest jump, but his parachute system was different and thus didn't get to fall as fast (only 367 m/s). Either way, that is impressive and gets to be the fastest thing listed in this blog post. But it gives you a good idea of just how impressive things are moving during a volcanic eruption.

Spot the scientist below the May 1980 lahar mudline (Courtesy of USGS).
Volcanoes are a beautiful balance of catastrophically fast processes mixed with slow processes. If you look at a pyroclastic rock you see evidence of the crystals that were produced from patient deep earth processes of melting and crystallization right next to bubbles and glassy margins made by the explosive rise to the surface.

A piece of the Fish Canyon Tuff filled with biotite crystals.  A mix of fast and slow processes that make volcanoes what they are.
So, contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, we strongly recommend against having driving away from a pyroclastic flow as a back up plan.

The eruption scene in the movie Dante's Peak where they drive away from the pyroclastic flow and safely smash into an old mine to survive the eruption. I wouldn't count on this as a safety plan (Image from www.jimusnr.com).

[1] Voight, B., Glicken, H., Janda, R.J., Douglass, P.M.. Catastrophic Rockslide Avalanche of May 18. In: Lipman, P.W., and Mullineaux, D.R., 1981. The 1980 eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. Professional Paper 1250.

[2] Sparks, R.S.J.; Moore, J.G., Rice, C.J. 1986. The Initial giant umbrella cloud of the May 18th, 1980, Explosive eruption of Mount St. Helens. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 28: 257-274.

[3] Montanaro, C., Scheu, B., Gudmundsson, M. T., Vogfjord, K., Reynolds, H. I., Dürig, T., Strehlow, K., Rott, S., Reuschle, T., and Dingwell, D. B., 2016, Multidisciplinary constraints of hydrothermal explosions based on the 2013 Gengissig lake events, Kverkfjöll volcano, Iceland: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 434, p. 308-319.
[4] Breard, E. C. P., Lube, G., Cronin, S. J., Fitzgerald, R., Kennedy, B., Scheu, B., Montanaaro, C., White, J. D. L., Tost, M., Procter, J. N., and Moebis, A., 2014, Using the spatial distribution and lithology of ballistic blocks to interpret the eruption sequence and dynamics: August 6, 2012 Upper Te Maari eruption, New Zealand: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 286, p. 373-386.

[5] Houghton, B. F., Taddeucci, J., Andronico, D., Gonnerman, H. M., Pistolesi, M., Patrick, M. R., Orr, T. R., Swanson, D., Edwards, M., Gaudin, D., Carey, R. J., and Scarlato, P., 2016, Stronger or longer: Discriminating between Hawaiian and Strombolian eruption styles: Geology.