Friday, January 30, 2009

Alaska Volcano Observatory's Twitter

I am now following the Alaska Volcano Observatory's Twitter with it set to send the message to my Iphone device. That way I hear a "ding" when they make their posts.

To get the most information you need to follow their TinyUrl - the latest one mentions an observation flight (no . . . I would not want to be in THAT plane right now) that reported no ash emission, significant steaming from a new melt depression near the vent from the 1989-1990 eruption.

I googled Volcano Alert Systems and got this info from: Volcano Live John Search.

Alaska Alert System

Volcano is in typical background, noneruptive state or, after a change from a higher level, volcanic activity has ceased and volcano has returned to noneruptive background state.

Volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background level or, after a change from a higher level, volcanic activity has decreased significantly but continues to be closely monitored for possible renewed increase.

Volcano is exhibiting heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption, timeframe uncertain, OR eruption is underway with no or minor volcanic-ash emissions.

Eruption is imminent with significant emission of volcanic ash into the atmosphere likely OR eruption is underway or suspected with significant emission of volcanic ash into the atmosphere.

The Volcano Live site has lots of interesting information about what is going on with volcanoes around the world.

Nature is indeed fascinating!

Mount Redoubt -Fox News

Fox News has a news report that does a good job explaining why the geologists think Mount Redoubt is about to erupt and why that eruption is so different from the volcanoes in Hawaii.

Being Prepared - Volcanoes

Having been both a Cub Scout Den Leader and a Girl Scout Leader, I know the importance of "Being Prepared." As a Girl Scout leader I regularly took classes from the Red Cross in First Aid and CPR, which also emphasized the importance of being trained and prepared. I also grew up in the 1950's when civil defense was a priority. In school, we practiced tornado drills, fire drills, and nuclear bomb drills (yes, we really did - although what good ducking under our desk would do in case of a nuclear attack still escapes me.) Buildings marked with a triangle were fallout shelters that were supposed to be stocked with food and supplies. At the time, it felt like a very real danger, but the emphasis was on being prepared if something happened.

I think one of the things that I've done subconsciously over time is to look at the natural disasters as they occur around me (floods, tornadoes, etc) and to see where they caused the damage and why. When unexpected things occur, we have to have thought about where to go for safety, what things do we take with us, what will we need, etc. Having some kind of mental plan can sometimes make the difference between life and death. In the past, you could go to your local county extension agent and pick up brochures and flyers to learn how to prepare for emergencies. Now, in the internet world, the information is readily available at your finger tips.

While I don't live near a volcano, I found Actions to take for Ashfall from the United States Geological Survey interesting reading.

FEMA's What to do during a volcanic eruption also has good information.

Anchorage, Alaska's Office of Emergency Management Volcanic Ash Informaion

State of Alaska - Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management notes that since the 1700's forty one volcanes have erupted in Alaska and some of them have erupted more than 25 times.

Why am I posting all these links? When an emergency strikes, sometimes our body goes into overdrive and we don't think as clearly . . . we panic. If we have at least read about what to do when (fill in the blank), then some of it will be filed in our brains and we are more likely to have an instinctive reaction that will propel us to safety than if we are totally ignorant about what to do.

The Red Cross has a page that is good for being prepared for any emergency. One of the important things I noticed was being aware of your area. Early in my years here in Austin, a lady from my church drowned in her car in a swollen creek. Being from the Texas Panhandle where flooding was not a regular event, I wondered how that could have happened, until I drove over to the site where it happened. Since then, I've been more aware of where the roads in my area are most likely to flood.

Mount Redoubt -Alaska Volcano Observatory Report

From the Alaska Volcano Observatory's January 29th report
Their site is getting a lot of hits such that they are having a hard time staying up.

Redoubt Volcano
60°29'7" N 152°44'38" W, Summit Elevation 10197 ft (3108 m)
Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

Currently we have no indication that an eruption of Redoubt has occurred or is occurring.

Unrest at Redoubt Volcano continues. Seismicity has remained at a relatively constant level for the past 24 hours, and is still well above background.

Staff are currently monitoring the volcano 24 hours a day. We will issue further information as it becomes available.

Alaska's Mount Redoubt

When our kids were little, we took them to Alaska. When we were driving from Alaska to Homer, we noted a mountain on the other side of the Cook Inlet that was "smoking." We suspected a volcano and were pleased that we had guessed correctly when just a few miles up the road we came to the roadside sign that told us all about Mount Redoubt. We had been to Mount St. Helens and Mount Ranier a couple of years before which was one of the reasons that we were so quick to leap to the conclusion we were seeing another volcano.

In my morning news web surfing, I came across the news that an eruption is eminent at Mount Redoubt. Yahoo News article reports beginning in early November, the volcano changed its emissions and there was some snow melting at the top of the summit. At that point, the scientists raised the volcanic threat level from green to yellow. This past Sunday there was a sharp increase in earthquake activity below the volcano that led scientists to increase the threat level from yellow to orange - signaling that an eruption is imminent.

I remember the scientists who were studying the quakes around Mount St. Helens before it erupted in 1980. It was an amazing time as volcanologists were learning how to accurately predict an eruption.

Mount Redoubt last erupted in 1989-1990. An airliner flying through the ash had all four engines stall out. Fortunately they were able to get them restarted before a crash. But now they issue warnings so that jets won't fly through the ash.

When I was looking at the world wide earthquake maps in the last week, I had noted some in southern Alaska. This week's earthquake list shows several earthquakes in Alaska.

People in Alaska seem to be taking the warnings seriously, stocking up on protective eye gear and masks. The particulates in the air after an eruption are very abrasive and can damage eyes and the air passages in your nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs.

Interestingly enough, the change in status for Mount Redoubt occurred January 25th, but only today did it make the front page at My Yahoo. It will be interesting to see if the mountain settles down or goes into an eruptive phase.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More on the Border Fence

From NPR, the Nature Conservancy is fighting the border fence going through its property in South Texas. I sure hope they are successful. The article is worth reading.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Central Texas "Winter" Weather

Today was a pleasant change from the weather pattern. January has been unusually sunny and dry this year. On one level, sun is good because it keeps my moods brighter and I feel like I'm more productive. On another level, we are in the middle of a prolonged drought. With a sunny dry January, we aren't getting the moisture that the grasses need or for the spring flowers.

Even though I had to get out early for jury duty and drive in the fog, I was glad to see the fog. We've had very little fog this year. It was SO nice to feel the moist cool air against my cheeks. We have not had moist air for what seems like quite a while. While we did not get a lot of moisture out of the sky today, we got a little.

I hear that colder weather is coming in. We have alternated between days in the 70's and 80's and then days in the 30's. Today got up in the 70's but tomorrow will be colder. I have to say I like cold winter weather. So I brought firewood up under the porch tonight, hoping it will be cold enough for a fire in the fireplace tomorrow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Rumors" of the End of the World

My son has been telling me about a scenario or prediction about 2012. It seems to be based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends at 2012. The New York Post has an interesting article that goes into all of the theories. My son was telling me about an alignment of the planets, but I remember an alignment of the planets several years ago. This article talks about an alignment within the galaxy, a magnetic pole shift, Hopi writings, etc. The nice thing about the article is that it goes into scientific reasons why most of them are probably irrelevant.

For me, the Bible says there will always be rumors of many things, but only God knows the time and place. Just like the big hoop-ha over the possibility of Yellowstone erupting and causing global extinctions or the possibilities of a meteor strike, all things may be possible, but all things are not probable - certainly not in my short life span on this very ancient planet. I'll just keep on keeping on until my time on earth is over.

Thanks to Bill Crider for the link.

More Yellowstone Earthquake URL's

Podcast with Dr. Jake Lowenstern, the USGS scientist-in-charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

National Parks Traveler interview with Hank Heasler, the staff geologist at Yellowstone National Park

It is interesting that Ranger Heasler mentions the 900 quakes from both swarms of earthquake activity and Dr. Lowenstern only mentions the 500 associated with the first swarm. I was following the earthquake maps from the University of Utah. One set of quakes was near Yellowstone Lake, the other closer to Cooke City. There was one more much smaller set near West Yellowstone. A week or so later was a larger quake south of the Tetons. Interestingly enough there has been an earthquake in Alaska this week.

Plate tectonics is interesting as these continental plates move against each other. I don't know enough to even make guesses as to whether the earthquakes in Wyoming are related somehow to the Alaskan earthquakes. However when I found another interesting earthquake map: the United States Geological Services, Latest Earthquakes in the world, the last 7 days, it was very interesting that there was a line of quakes along the western Pacific from east of Australia all the way to Japan crossing over to Alaska and going down as far as San Francisco. This page also has links to geographic areas of the globe where you can get more information about each quake.

These quakes remind us that we live in an dynamic, ever changing world. I find I am still interested in watching this quake activity even if I am not a geology expert.

Galveston's Recovery

We've been making visits to Galveston Island for over 25 years and have owned property there for around 10 years. Part of my heart is there, so I have been following the news carefully about the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. One of the frustrating things to me is the timing of Ike. The national news media covered the landfall and immediate aftermath. But the more urgent news of the financial crisis in the credit markets swept the national consciousness quickly to other news with more national repercussions. The sad thing is that Hurricane Ike did not just do tremendous damage in Galveston and Point Bolivar, it affected an entire region along Galveston Bay. For people living inland, it took 3 weeks or so, but life got back to "normal," but for those living near the waterfront areas along the coast and bay, life is still far from normal.

I was so pleased and proud of our state in the initial stages. Help came to Galveston quickly, very quickly. There was a virtual army of people bringing ice, water, food, military and police making rescues and maintaining order, government people trying to get people settled in some kind of temporary housing with money for immediate needs, and charitable organizations providing much needed assistance.

It has now been four months since Ike hit. The reality of how long it is going to take for the area to recover financially, to rebuild the damaged properties, to demolish and restore the beaches where the houses can not be rebuilt is sobering. It has been three years since Katrina. We visited coastal Mississippi last February. The road at Biloxi that runs along the beach is empty of all but a few houses. Entire neighborhoods in the few blocks near the beach are gone. The buildings have been demolished, the debris piles gone, but very little reconstruction has occurred. Cynically speaking, the casinos are rebuilt and up and running, but the neighborhoods around them have not returned.

Galveston is not only a resort, vacation destination, but it was also a vibrant community populated with people from all walks of life. While the costs of living on the island were pushing middle class families to the mainland, there was still great diversity of income levels on the island. Galveston is a historic city, many residents, both rich and poor, are multi generational islanders with deep roots. They want to restore or rebuild their homes. But the road right now is rocky and filled with obstacles.

I know that there is money being channeled to help not only Galveston families and businesses, but also the other areas - Point Bolivar, San Leon, Texas City, etc. Insurance payments and FEMA have certainly paid out a lot of money. This article from the
Galveston Daily News gives an interesting look at where some of this allocated money goes. On one level, it really makes sense. There is $814 million in federal funding that is being distributed to help the region. There is also $1.3 billion in Community Block Grants. The regional governments have been hard hit in providing services and repairing infrastructure. Their tax bases have been tremendously impacted and future revenues will be much less for a long time.

There are three ways that this money must be split: restoration of infrastructure, housing, and economic development. There is a lot of FEMA money still going to pay for temporary housing. Obviously the sooner you can get people into "real and permanent housing" the money can be more efficiently spent. Economic development is important as well, because area business have been devastated as well. People need jobs not only to pay for their housing, but also to feed their families. The good news is that businesses are reopening in the area. But some major employers are facing obstacles that seem insurmountable. Galveston had a world class medical school and medical center. The Shriners had an important children's burn center. Both hospitals were damaged by the flood waters of the storm surge. The UT medical center has already laid off workers and is downsizing. The Shriners were in the process of repair and reconstruction, but have been forced to halt and lay off workers due to investment losses in the national endowment funds. The HEB grocery store in Galveston will not reopen. The Dillard's in the mall off I-45 will not reopen.

The article above does a good job showing how hard it is to get money into the hands of the families that really need it to rebuild. In rebuiding Galveston in 1900, there was a lot of private money spent to assist the recovery efforts. With the crash of the financial and equity markets, it is going to be harder to get that private money flowing this time.

As I watch this process, I'm realizing what a long term project this is going to be. I'm wondering how long it will take before all the debris through Galveston and Chalmers county is dealt with, how long before all of the people displaced by Ike will be in permanent housing, how many will return to live in Galveston, how many will permanently relocate. I remember the great San Francisco earthquake in 1989. In checking Wikepedia it took 8 years to rebuild the freeway bridges that were damaged. I don't know how long it took to rebuild and repair all of the buildings that were damaged. At the time I had never been to San Francisco, so after the major news of the earthquake, the rescues of people caught in the bridge collapses, etc, it fell off my radar. I know that today, San Francisco has rebuilt. The reconstruction was all done to current earthquake construction codes.

Thinking about how San Francisco, so far from me in Central Texas, fell off my radar, I suspect that the Texas Gulf Coast has fallen off our nation's radar. Like San Francisco, the reconstruction is going to have to meet hurricane construction codes. Some houses will have to be elevated. Some will be bought out. But for houses behind the seawall, buyouts don't seem practical. Any homes that are bought out become public land forever. I don't quite see Galveston island becoming an uninhabited island like Padre Island National Seashore. But the population is going to be smaller for a long time. Before Ike about 57,000 people lived on the island. The estimate is that now it is 40,000 - almost a third have not returned. Even with large sums of money being allocated, rebuilding is going to take a long time.

Let's hope the tourists do come to the island and the other coastal areas during spring break and this summer. That tourist money will go a long way toward helping the area rebuild.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Border Fence News - ARGH!!!!

I was hoping that the newly elected President Obama would call a halt to the building of the border fence in Texas. I know he has a lot to think about, but building a fence along a border with an important environmental river riparian zone . . . Between the environmental damage, and the cost, this is SUCH a bad idea. I hope someone will get the word to him that this is a waste of tax payer money as well as damaging to fragile ecosystems.

Border Wall in the News Blog

The Brownsville Herald

US Customs and Border Protection Fencing Construction Status 1/2/2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jerry's Artarama

I've been framing my own work for several years now. I don't do a lot of framing each year, but I figured out very quickly that if you're going to be an artist or photographer, you've got to frame your own work - otherwise framing costs will eat up any profit you might make. Add to that one bad experience getting some work dry mounted that had to be redone at the last minute - think stress attack because I was working on a deadline.

I still fight procrastination, I still work better and faster when that deadline is approaching, so I like to find places to buy what I'm going to need locally. I've got two projects that need to go out next week - one will only be mounted and matted, the other will need to be framed. Both will need to be conservation processed - acid free everything.

Simple black frames seem to be preferred for some gallery shows, so I wanted to see what I could find locally. I had driven by Jerry's Artarama many times, wondering what all they carried. So, I had some time yesterday and I went over. I suspect it is a sign when all the parking spaces except for the handicapped space were full and I had to wait for a parking place. It's a pretty big store with JUST art supplies. Acid free and conservation mats and mounting boards, a different selections of frames than Hobby Lobby and Aaron Brothers, portfolio supplies, drawing, painting, canvases, easels, etc. You could spend a lot of time there exploring.

I found the simple metal frame that I was looking for. I won't know until I've opened the package and actually tried to use it, but I think it is going to make my work look elegant without me having to spend a fortune.

Yes, eventually I need to try out the online places where I can order frames. But, for now, I'm glad I've found one more local place to buy supplies.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stuart Dahne's Inauguration Photos

I know Stuart through his participation at the The Digital Image Cafe. He was lucky enough to get a press pass to help document the inauguration. I read what he posted in the forums at the Cafe and asked his permission to share them here in my blog because I thought that what he saw was such a positive wonderful thing. He's someone like me who got to be part of a big, special national event. And his photos are amazing and worth taking time to savor. The website with his photos: "Faces of a Nation," The Opening Ceremonies, 44th Presidential Inauguration

Stuart's Story:

Well, here's the news, the good and the bad!
Sunday was AMAZING and BRUTAL at the same time. We only had 1 pass for Sunday and I figured that I would just get in early and work from up front while Richard worked from the Press area. We arrived in time to be among the first ten people allowed in and when we got to the front we were amazed and disappointed at what we found! H.B.O. had bought Sundays show and what they did was set up so that it was impossible for anyone to see anything without using their screens! They obviously did not want anyone having any opportunity to photo or video an actual person, they set up huge risers that created a solid wall from the edge of the reflecting pool over and about 20ft high. They set up boom cameras that could go out over the pool and look straight this point I made the desision to make the best of it and shoot what I call "Faces of a Nation", the people who made this all possible! It was brutal, I had my 1D with my 70-200 f/2.8 and the 1.4 extender and my 20D with my 24-70 f/2.8. As I began to work the crowd, the energy began to become apparent! It was so intemse, people were running to get a good spot, and obviously happy to just be there to witness this! I began to tune in and what I found was people from all over the country, all coming together, not in protest (which is what I am used to on the Mall of the Capital), but with unity of purpose, hope for better times! It didn't matter about race, creed, religion, lack of religion, sex, or sexual preference... it felt like, for the first time that there might be a chance for unity..... maybe even a United States!

As the mall filled up it became increasingly difficult to move,elbo to elbo is what it was like..... before I knew it I was in the middle of a half a million people!!!! WOW! This was COOL! As the day went on (some 8 hours after we had arrived) and the speakers and entertainers had begun, the emotions began to flux!

People were smiling, laughing, and yes, crying.... overwhelmed with the hope for the possibilities. The generousity and kindness that was in the air was impressive and this energy is what kept me going throughout the day. As the sun began to set and the day was coming to an end, I began to feel what the day had done to me. I made my way through the crowd, a little disappointed that I couldn't see a thing and grateful as hell for the opportunity as a result of that to experience "THE PEOPLE"! When Richard & I finally hooked back up we shared about our day and He told me that it was as brutal where he was as for me! He was there on assignment and he actually got all that he needed and by this time I was starting to feel the pain of the day.... my back began to go out and decisions were going to have to be made.

We went back to where we were staying and discussed what we did and what we had found out about what was coming up. We found out that our passes for today were not as good as we had hoped and that our best bet was going to be to capture shots along the parade route, the more that I thought about that and the more pain that I had physically, the less attractive that was...... We then made the decision, Richard had what he needed and I had already experienced an amazing day, one that I didn't feel the need to cripple myself just to get that ONE shot!!!!
I am truly grateful for the opportunity and for the experience that I had, and more so, it was really great to finally meet yet another friend that I have made here at the Cafe!
So, gratefully and regretfully I am home today and will share in this moment in history from the comfort of my warm house with my beautiful wife!

Thanks for sharing in my journey and please take the time to visit my gallery, FACES OF A NATION

Peace & Blessings,

Changes in the Wind - a new President

Tuesday is the big day - one of the miracles in our country is that every four years, we, the people, get the chance to choose who will lead our nation. The blessing is that it occurs peacefully with predictability and stability. There are many parts of the world where political change comes abruptly without warning and violently. We may not always like the change, but we know that in four years, we have another opportunity to elect either the same leader or a new one.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher, Mrs. Matherly. She was a democrat, I think she would qualify as a yellow dog democrat - she always voted Democrat. However, once the election was over, whether her candidate won or not, the new president was HER president.

I voted for Obama, the first time that I EVER voted for a Democrat for President. But I have neighbors, friends and family who thought McCain was the better choice. We must remember that we all look at things from different and often equally valid points of view. There is no one "right" way to solve the problems that currently face our nation. Many ideas, many possibilities, many hopes and dreams . . . But regardless of who I voted for . . . I want our new President to be successful, I want him to have a strong presidency, I want him to do good and great things for our country. I am going to be optimistic about the future.

I want to see less partisan politics and more working together for the good of our great country. I want to see statesmanship and wisdom from the President and the members of Congress. 2009 is a year when our economy is fragile and weak, there is a lot of political unrest and instability in important countries around the world. Our leaders are probably going to need to make some tough and unpopular choices to get our economy turned around. I hope that they are strong enough, courageous enough, honest enough, and wise enough to make choices that will in the long term be good for our nation.

The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders. It tells us that ultimately all rulers are put in place by God. Do all world leaders do wonderful, great things . . . no. Do we have men and women who end up in positions of power and authority who use it for evil, yes . . . Do I understand God's plan when I read about the violence, the poverty, and disease that exist around the world . . .no. But I do believe in a God who lives among us - who sees our daily struggles, who is aware of the turmoil in the world, and who does respond when people pray to Him.

So I am going to pray for not only President Obama, but for the Senators and Representatives, the Governors, the rulers overseas. I'm going to pray for wisdom, good judgement, peace, and prosperity for all the political leaders around the world. Then I will trust God both when these politicians do things I approve of and when they make choices that I think are the wrong choices.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thursday's Grand Teton Quake

Jackson Hole Daily reported a 3.7 magnitude quake near the Grand Tetons Thurday evening. The University of Utah's map shows the earthquake's location at 8 miles SW of Hoback, Wyoming. This one is definitely farther away from the Yellowstone earthquakes and I really don't know how all the faults in that area are connected. This earthquake occurred at the "south end of a seismic gap that extends into Yellowstone National Park. I had to look up what a seismic gap is. According to Wikepedia: "A seismic gap is a segment of an active geologic fault or subduction zone that has not slipped in an unusually long time; they are often considered susceptible to future strong earthquakes." According to the USGS visual glossary: "A seismic gap is a section of a fault that has produced earthquakes in the past but is now quiet. For some seismic gaps, no earthquakes have been observed historically, but it is believed that the fault segment is capable of producing earthquakes on some other basis, such as plate-motion information or strain measurements." According to Planet Jackson Hole Online the earthquake swarms in Yellowstone are at the north end of this seismic gap.

On January 7, 2004 Teton county was hit by four earthquakes, magnitudes of 5.0, 3.7, 4.1, and 4.0. These quakes were preceded on December 30, 2003 by a 3.5 magnitude quake. Even farther back, in 1925 there were small quakes reported in the same area.

The Wyomic State Geologic Survey has .pdf files with records of earthquakes throughout Wyoming listed by county. I looked up the Teton County information. It has a different earthquake scale the Mercalli Intensity Scale , which I was not familiar with. It is a long read, but for those who are interested in the geology of this area, it has a more complete history of the quakes in Teton county.

I think it interesting that both the Jackson Hole Daily and the Planet Jackson Hole online include earthquake precautions. Most of the quakes historically have been relatively minor, but anyone who lives in an area that could experience an earthquake, should be familiar with what to do when an earthquake happens. I grew up in Girl Scouts, and participated in both Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts with my children. Both have the motto: Be prepared. Taking the time to look over these guidelines, to talk them over with your family, to check out your house or apartment, being careful what you hang over your bed, having canned goods on hand . . . these are things that don't require a lot of time, but could save you and your loved ones lives.

But . . . after you have studied up on what to do before and after an earthquake happens and have taken what ever preparatory actions seem prudent, then file the information in your brain. Don't waste time needless worrying about a big earthquake that may not happen in your lifetime. The probability is that these are just normal small quakes part of our planet's normal shifting. It is wise and prudent to stay informed about the quakes in your area, but it is not healthy to go into a panic mode over something that "could" happen, but probably won't.

I'm following the news about the quakes, because I love the area and find this real time geologic activity fascinating.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Yellowstone's Earthquake Activity - Interesting Websites

For my readers who are interested in keeping up with the latest news about the earthquake swarm that has gone on during the last few weeks, here are a couple of good websites with the most up-to-date information.

This first one is fun, because when you start the animation,the oldest earthquakes "disappear" off the map and you can see where the more recent ones have happened in relation to the earlier ones.
Animated map of the last week's earthquakes in Yellowstone National Park

The University of Utah's Seismograph Stations post a list of the most recent earthquakes This site gives you a list with the how strong the earthquake was, when it happened, and where it happened.

From these two sources, it is obvious that the earthquake activity has slowed down a lot. There is some new earthquake or seismic activity on the west side of the park near West Yellowstone, but the quakes are very very small.

Good News for Yellowstone's Bison!

My husband sent me this link to Science Daily this evening. It confirms what many have been saying: that transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle is very low risk most years and "periodically high only in certain localized areas." Not surprisingly, there are much more cost effective means of managing these issues than the current plan that hazes, rounds up, and slaughters the bison. Once again, elk seem to be the more likely culprit. For those interested in the bison issues in Yellowstone, this is a good article.

Even if it is possible to come up with a plan that will allow the Yellowstone bison herds to roam exist without the hazing and slaughter that is the reality today, eventually you have the future problem of what to do when the Yellowstone herd overpopulates its ecosystem. But after last year's needless slaughter (plus the deaths from the severe winter last year) of more than half of the herd, we are a long way from worrying about too many bison . . . Let's just hope enough of the herd survive this year's harsh winter weather.

I can hope and pray that scientists can come up with ideas that will work for the bison and the ranchers. Yellowstone National Park is a national treasure and the animals are a big part of that legacy. It is one of the largest natural ecosystems still left in the United States. We visit many national parks regularly and I can truthfully say that no other park has the diversity of wildlife that is so easy to observe.

According to the closing statement of this article: "The Yellowstone herd is the only one that has remained free-ranging and unconfined." Let's hope it stays that way!

Murdoch's Bathhouse - Demolition Today - Rebuilding Soon!

Leigh Jones blog at the Galveston Daily News reported today that what was left of Murdoch's Bathhouse was demolished today. There are comments from the owners . . . I can't image how difficult it must have been to watch the big machines finish the job the hurricane started. So much work, so many dreams, so many people's happy memories . . .

But the good news - the demolition is the first step in the process of rebuilding! They are hoping to reopen by spring break 2010 - what a great way to celebrate their 100 year anniversary!

Good luck, best wishes for a speedy, uncomplicated construction job!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Volcano Musings

My husband and I tend to be interested in many things. Volcanoes are amazing things. We've been blessed to see a number of volcanic areas. My fascination with the current Yellowstone earthquake news dates from volcano stories from my childhood.

I grew up on stories of Pompeii. For one thing, my mother visited Pompeii on her trip to Europe in the late 1930's and told me stories of her visit. We had a copy of Richard Haliburton's Book of Marvels." My favorite chapter was the one about Pompeii - the volcano that erupted and buried a city that stayed lost for 1700 years and then only found by accident.

In my growing up year, as we drove to Colorado to spend time in the mountains and visit relatives, we regularly passed by Mount Capulin in New Mexico. It was only as a teenager that I finally took the circular drive to the top of the cinder cone. While taking trips with our children, we would stop and picnic at the Valley of Fire in New Mexico and marvel at the hardened lava flows there. When we lived in South Austin, we often passed by Pilot Knob, the remnants of an old, extinct volcano. The rocks around McKinney Falls were hardened by this volcano's activity creating rock formations that give us these beautiful falls.

In 1980, we listened to the news reports as the earthquake activity increased around Mount St. Helens. It was an amazing opportunity for scientists to study changes in an active volcano. We have so much equipment today to try to understand how volcanoes work and to learn to predict eruptions so we can evacuate people and save lives. While there were obvious expectations that something big was about to happen, when Mount St. Helen erupted, we were awed by the power and devastation we could see with the amazing still photos and the TV coverage. We visited Mount St. Helens in the late 1980's after its eruption in 1980. It was amazing to see how the pyroclastic flow went up and down the hills, knocking down all the trees in its path for miles and miles and miles. When we were there there was a small dome forming in the crater. Flowers were growing in the ash. I would love to go back and see how much vegetation has recovered almost 30 years later. We went to the summit of Mount Ranier and enjoyed seeing the volcanic peaks in northern Washington State.

On our Alaska trip we noted a smoking mountain and identified it as an active volcano even before the road sign noted it as the volcano, Mount Redoubt.

On our 25th anniversary cruise, we stopped on the Caribbean island, St. Lucia and toured the drive through volcano. We noted the similarity the thermal features shared with Yellowstone National Park.

Around the year 2000 we went to Hawaii and included the Big Island. We stayed at a guest house on the slopes of the volcano. We drove to the crater and down to the ocean where the lava hits the sea. We saw ancient lava tunnels and an "eye" into an existing tunnel. We took a helicopter ride over the crater and the red "eye".

On one of our trips to France, we spent the night near the Parc Naturel Regional des Volcans d'Auvergne. Our hotel was built into one of the volcanic cones and overlooked a valley filled with other volcanic cinder cones.

While I am not enough of a volcanologist or a geologist to know exactly what kind of volcano I'm visiting without reading the signs, I do know there are several kinds of volcanoes - cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes,and lava domes. I have not found the reference for it yet, but I suspect that volcanoes that form calderas are probably still a different type of volcano. The USGS webpage, Principal Types of Volcanoes has some great photos and explanation describing the differences between these types of volcanoes.

The term super volcano is relatively new phraseology. A different USGS information page says, "It was used by the producers of a British TV program in 2000 to refer to volcanoes that have generated Earth's largest volcanic eruptions. As such, a supervolcano would be one that has produced an exceedingly large, catastrophic explosive eruption and a giant caldera. Examples of volcanoes that produced exceedingly voluminous pyroclastic eruptions and formed large calderas in the past 2 million years would include Yellowstone, Long Valley in eastern California, Toba in Indonesia, and Taupo in New Zealand. Other "supervolcanoes" would likely include the large caldera volcanoes of Japan, Indonesia, Alaska (e.g., Aniakchak, Emmons, Fisher), and other areas."

One of my nexts posts will be to look at some of these previous "super volcanoes" and how Yellowstone's previous eruptions compare. I really don't believe that the current evidence from the Yellowstone earthquakes is pointing to a super volcanic eruption. I don't want to be a doomsday predictor. But I am fascinated with the natural world that God created. There are so many things in nature - hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, etc over which man has no control. We can study them, we can learn to make some predictions about them, we can take shelter from them, we can run from them, but we can't prevent them. They are more powerful than anything man can make. They remind us of how small we really are in this vast universe. I find it amazing that there are so many different types of volcanoes around the world. There are people whose life work is either studying or photographing volcanic eruptions. And, yes, some of these people die when they end up too close and in the wrong place during an eruption. But they leave a legacy of information that helps us better understand how volcanoes work.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yellowstone's Earthquake Activity

I've been following the news about the earthquakes in Yellowstone. Beginning on December 26 there have been a swarm of earthquakes under Yellowstone Lake. There was a lull in activity for a few days, but they have started back up although the center has moved about 10 miles. While most have been very small quakes, the largest have been up to 3.9 on the Richter Scale. While I first saw the news about the quakes on MyYahoo, I keep up to date with Jim MacDonald's Yellowstone Newspaper. He surfs the web and provides links to news stories, articles and blogs related to Yellowstone National Park.

I first visited Yellowstone as a child. My husband and I have been back a number of times over the years, staying longer each visit. We keep the natural trail guides from each trip, because as an active geothermal area the information as to activity changes over time. It is interesting to see which features are active today vs when we first went. During our early visits to the park, no mention was made of the caldera because the Yellowstone caldera is so large that it took satellite imagery for it to be discovered. According to Wikepedia, a caldera is a cauldron like volcanic feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. A caldera forms after a volcano empties its magma chamber and the chamber's ceiling is no longer strong enough to hold the volcanic rock above it. The first caldera I ever saw was the Valles Caldera in New Mexico. (Remember - at the time we did not know Yellowstone was a caldera.) It is 14 miles in diameter and we drove straight across it before it became a National Preserve. It was an impressive site to be on the flat land between the far away ridges of the rim of the caldera.

The discovery about Yellowstone's explosive volcanic past occurred during the 1980's. Since then a lot of study and research has revealed an amazing history of eruptions - both great and small. Yellowstone is classified as a supervolcano. According to Wikepedia, a supervolcano is a volcanic eruption which is substantially larger than any volcano in historic times (generally accepted to be greater than 200 cubic kilometers). This kind of eruption is typically sufficient to cause a long-lasting change to weather (such as the triggering of an ice age) sufficient to threaten the extinction of species, and cover huge areas with lava and ash. I've seen the BBC documentary,Supervolcano . It gives a very scary presentation as to what could occur if Yellowstone had that kind of eruption today.

Because I do pay attention to news about Yellowstone, I know that a few years ago, they had to close part of Norris Geyser basin because the ground had gotten too hot and there were noxious gases present. I also know that the ground has been rising at a more rapid pace than "normal" the last few years. Since 2004, the park has been rising 3 inches a year more than three times faster than ever measured before. So when the news about these earthquakes that were happening at a much higher than normal frequency, I was intrigued and concerned. While I do not really believe that these are precursors to a volcanic event that will cause extinctions, I believe that something very interesting is happening up there right now.

Here are some things I learned as I looked deeper into Yellowstone's volcanic past.

Geologic time is always amazing because it tends to be measured in millions of years and hundreds of thousands if years orather than decades or hundreds of years. Yellowstone's caldera forming eruptions go extremely far back in time:

2,100,000 years ago - Caldera forming eruption that created Huckleberry Ridge
1,300,000 years ago - Caldera forming eruption that created the Island Park Caldera
640,000 years ago - Caldera forming eruption that created the Lava Creek Tuff

Deposits of ash from these eruptions have been found as far away as Iowa, Louisiana, and California.

If Yellowstone were to erupt at one of these levels all of North America and in some ways the entire Northern Hemisphere would have severe effects.

Fortunately, not all of Yellowstone's eruptions have been that catastrophic. About thirty eruptions of rhyolitic lava flows have amost filled the Yellowstone Caldera since the last major caldera forming eruption 640,000 years ago. These flows may move slowly, but are very destructive. The last major lava flow seems to be about 70,000 years ago.

Earthquakes are common - in fact 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes are typical in a given year. Another source said the usual number of quakes was 2000 per year. However, with over 900 in roughly 2 weeks, it is easy to see that the current activity is more than the norm. Earthquakes can change the patterns of the geyser eruptions - making some more active and others less so. The 1959 Hebgen earthquake was one of the stronger ones at 7.5 on the Richter Scale. Part of the mountain slid into a campground and dammed the Madison River creating Hebgen Lake. 28 people in the campground were killed. A 1975 quake near Norris Geyser Basin registered 6.5 and was felt throughout the area.

The last kind of eruptive activity are hydrothermal explosions.From "Hydrothermal explosions occur when ground water, heated above the boiling point (superheated) expands explosively after a rapid decrease in pressure as the water nears the surface. Ten such hydrothermal explosion craters are found in Yellowstone." 13,800 years ago the largest hydrothermal exposion created a 1.5 mile crater at Mary Bay. A 1989 hydrothermal explosion at the Porchop Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin threw rock debris fifteen feet across the spring. Hydrothermal exposions seem to be independent of volcanic magma flow - none were followed by an eruption of magma.

In 2003, a long linear fissure on a hillside above Nymph Lake north of Norris Geyser basin vented steam and threw rocks.

The geysers, mud volcanoes, and hot spring pools are also effects of the magma heat source under Yellowstone.

This chart summarizes the kinds of activity I've been describing.

Right now Yellowstone National Park is buried underneath a thick layer of snow. It is hard for scientist to get to the surface area near where these earthquakes originate. I wonder if there will be evidences of hydrothermal explosions in the spring when everything thaws out. It is going to be interesting to watch the events unfold in Yellowstone. Most likely, these quakes will die down and become just another footnote in the history of Yellowstone. But, it is always possible that they are the precursor of something larger. Will we be the generation of people that get to witness a new lava flow in Yellowstone? I have to say I would rather not be in the generation of people who survive a cataclysmic caldera forming eruption.

Watch for part two where i will compare Yellowstone's caldera forming earthquakes with other earthquakes around the world.

For more reading, here are some of the sites I used to research this blog:
The charts came from the USGS service site.


US Geological Survey
Armageddon Online
Yellowstone National Park - Calderas
Daily Kos

Additional Links:
For most recent earthquake activity at Yellowstone: University of Utah Seismograph Stations
The USGS update as of January 8th also reports 900 earthquakes in Yellowstone between December 26, 2008 and January 8, 2009.
University of Utah's site has a Deseret News article from 1975 listing the 1959 Yellowstone Quake as 7.1. However, the The USGS site reports it as 7.5 and Wikepedia's 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake article lists the magnitude as 7.3-7.5.
My husband found a USGS Animated Earthquake Map for Yellowstone. It shows where last weeks quakes were and where the new ones are in relation. (Granted, the link worked a few minutes ago and isn't working as I post this, hopefully it will work for my readers.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Special Events

Today I got to give a presentation at my friend, Jane's PEO club. Someone thought up a very nice theme for their year - based on Donna Reed's 1950's TV show where she always wore her pearls. My talk was about putting on pearls that reflect our inner spirit - and finding those in nature. I'll be blogging some of my talk because I hope it is worth sharing here.

But getting up and making a presentation is a lot of fun for me. I always enjoyed teaching Ladies' Bible Class as well as being part of that group when I was just a member of the class. It is especially pleasing when you learn at the end that what you said has connected with your audience. I had printed some of my photos to share with the group as I told my stories. I had enough so that every lady could leave with one. It amazed me that several of the ladies found a photo that had a special connection for them.

My friend has been part of this group for a long time, and these ladies are very special to her. I'm glad I got to meet them. I was also glad to get to do the presentation. One of my long term goals is to be a motivational speaker. So today was very special to me . . . very special indeed. I hope God will send some other opportunities like this in my direction.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Galveston Update

I'm still reading the Galveston Daily News almost every day. Sometimes the news is good. (The UTMB hospital opened 200 beds this week - finally.) Sometimes the news is sad. (The Galveston Alternative School that will probably have to close due to lack of funds.)

But sometimes, there is something to good not to pass on. Dolph Tillotson's
101 Reasons to love living in Galveston County is one of those.

There are several things on that list that I have not done . . . you can be sure I'm going to try some of them next time I get to go to Galveston.

I'm finding this to be a wonderful newspaper to read every day . . . but then part of my heart is in Galveston . . .