Tiny but Mighty! Nanosized Drivers of Explosive Volcanism

Paper: Can nanolites enhance eruption explosivity?

Authors: F. Cáceres, F. B. Wadsworth, B. Scheu, M. Colombier, C. Madonna, C. Cimarelli, K-U. Hess, M. Kaliwoda, B. Ruthensteiner, D. B. Dingwell

Explosive volcanic eruptions have punctuated our planet’s geological record for millions of years. The explosive nature of these eruptions can lead to thousands of cubic kilometers (that’s a billion Olympic swimming pools) of material travelling hundreds of miles across our landscapes and into our atmosphere. Approximately 630,000 years ago, the most recent eruption from the Yellowstone volcanic center sent ash and dust from Wyoming to southern Texas, USA. More recently, the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora, Indonesia, led to 1816 being historically known as the “Year Without a Summer”. The “Year without a summer” was started when volcanic materials entered the atmosphere and induced a volcanic winter, which led to extreme weather, agricultural stresses, and food shortages across the globe.

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Pioneering plants tell us when volcanoes last erupted

Featured image: vegetated lava flows on Le Grand Brûlé, with the profile of Piton de la Fournaise behind. Image credit: Mickaël Douineau on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Paper : Dating young (<1000 yr) lava flow eruptions of Piton de la Fournaise volcano from size distribution of long-lived pioneer trees Authors: Sébastien Albert, Olivier Flores, Laurent Michon and Dominique Strasberg

A newly formed lava flow may appear to be a sterile environment: devoid of vegetation and humus. But within years, the rocky wasteland erupts into life as a host of tenacious plants take hold. The size of plants rooted on solidified lava is now being used by volcanologists working on Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, to date past eruptions.

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