Saturday, July 30, 2011

About that volcanic activity in California...was DutchSinse right?

I'd reported a few days ago about a dust-up between a citizen scientist called DutchSinse who said he had discovered volcanic venting at extinct/dormant/inactive volcanic craters in southern and central California. The USGS had felt compelled to issue a press release denying that the anonymous videographer's claim (but not that data existed showing something, only that he had interpreted it wrong.) In that exchange between the Government Agency and the anonymous videographer (a ludicrous event to begin with) the USGS had gone on record July 29 stating:

"USGS volcanologists evaluating the situation find nothing to indicate that the NEXRAD feature results from volcanic activity. Satellite images from the same period DO NOT SHOW the steam or ash clouds that accompany volcanic activity..." .

So...there's a situation? Anyway...

The point of the essay was to discuss the difficulty in the average citizen to find truth in media reports and to trust what the government is telling us, a condition that exists in parallel form in the church with the warnings about false teachers, false doctrines and false prophesies. The stress of the average person in attempting to sort out what is undeniably increasingly horrific news just at the time when trust in media is failing most is getting to stratospheric levels. I was tickled to read that as Obama took the debt ceiling debate to twitter, he lost 40,000 followers. People are plainly disgusted.

So who to trust? Well, DutchSinse came back with two interesting videos. One was a clip showing MORE plumes of what he called venting, and right along the line of extinct/dormant volcanic craters in the Mono-Inyo chain. USGS says this about the volcanic chain-

"The Long Valley Caldera is only one part of a large volcanic system in eastern California that also includes the Mono-Inyo Craters volcanic chain. This chain extends from Mammoth Mountain at the southwest rim of the caldera northward 25 miles to Mono Lake. Eruptions along this chain began 400,000 years ago, and Mammoth Mountain itself was formed by a series of eruptions ending 50,000 years ago. The volcanic system is still active. Scientists have determined that eruptions occurred in both the Inyo Craters and Mono Craters parts of the volcanic chain as recently as 600 years ago and that small eruptions occurred in Mono Lake sometime between the mid-1700's and mid-1800's."

In successive videos, he reported 6 vents in all. That, along with recent earthquake activity in the same area reaching magnitude 6.0 caused him to conclude that the extinct/dormant volcanoes were waking up. Not such an outlandish assessment as one might think, ever since the extinct chain that had never erupted in Eritrea woke up one day and killed 32 people. (Nabro). By the way that situation also had citizen reporters and amateur scientists alerting the world that the eruption had occurred. They were initially marginalized because Nabro had never erupted, but they knew what they knew and they persisted. Within days they were proven right.

The second interesting video is one where a second USGS press release denies their earlier denials. Or something. These things get tangled up if you don't follow them in detailed fashion, but the USGS release states "Satellite images from the same period do not show the steam or ash clouds that accompany volcanic activity, and there is no seismicity in the vicinity indicative of volcanic unrest/eruption." But DutchSinse shows that there is quake activity in the vicinity and that the satellites do show vent-cloud activity. Now, maybe the quake activity in the vicinity isn't the right kind of quake activity, but there was seismicity, a 6.0 quake was recorded, and there were clouds. I looked at the radar and I looked at the quake, the dustup continues.

Below, NASA Pisgah Crater photo

Remember in 1997 two volcano movies came out at the same time, Volcano and Dante's Peak? At the time I thought it was ridiculous to make a movie about such an unrealistic disaster as Volcano had in setting the disaster in LA with eruptions and all. But is is not unrealistic. There are active volcanoes in the Long Valley area.

This trailer is from Volcano and has the campy tagline "The Coast is Toast" and featured tough-guy Tommy Lee Jones.

Dante's Peak was considered the more sober and scientific movie of the two and featured tough-girl Linda Hamilton. I've digressed. To the issue at hand- The back and forth between the government agency and the anonymous citizen will likely continue. But we can all rest assured that this information from the California Seismic Safety Commission is true:

"Volcanoes: More than 500 volcanic vents have been identified in the State of California. At least 76 of these vents have erupted, some repeatedly, during the last 10,000 years. Sooner or later, volcanoes in California will erupt again, and they could have serious impacts on your health and safety. -- Miller, C. Dan, 1989, Potential Hazards from Future Volcanic Eruptions in California: USGS Bulletin 1847, 17p."

My money is on "sooner."


  1. To find out if this really is being caused by water vapor in the air being pushed over mountain peaks, forming clouds that last for several minutes, maybe even hours, maybe someone should go back through water vapor images during the same time of year when the vapor streams through CA like that, for the past 10 years and see what they find. Living in Colorado most of my life, I have seen this happen thousands of times. Clear blue sky, winds pick up aloft, clouds form off the higher peaks, drift at varying speeds across valleys or out on to the plains and then disappear. I've been to that part of California several times, spent time in the area around Yucca Valley and I've seen clouds come off the peaks that way in that area, too.

    No doubt that the eastern edge of CA is volcanic - anyone who has traveled that area must be aware of it! Desert area, little vegetation to cover the ground view, little water for erosion of rocks, and so forth. And, as I wrote before, Mammoth Mountain area is still very active - has been for a long time! (This is also not far from Death Valley.) If you google it, you'll find reports of people dying with in the last 10 years from being gassed at a ski resort there. I am absolutely sure that the gov. monitors the whole area for gas releases.

    As for earthquakes - when is that part of California NOT rocking? We have family and friends in the area so I am very quick to look where the recent earthquakes are in Southern CA. With the biggie just over the border a year+ ago, with the Salton Sea slowly drying up (change of weight on the earth's crust affecting faults), and all the small quakes that happen *every* day in the area - well, it's a very busy place and always has been.

    My biggest fear is that DutchSinse is going to be a 'little boy who cried wolf' so many times that no one is going to pay attention any more. On the volcano blog where Lurking answered my question for me, I got a few very negative remarks about DutchSinse's continual fear mongering. I think Lurking only answered because I addressed my question directly to him, plus he was/is very involved in monitoring the earthquakes in Arkansas (fracking).

    It's going to happen, one day, for sure. No doubt about that. But we must be careful about crying wolf. Make sure what you think you see is really what you think it is.

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    You make great points. Thank you for the comments. I think the comment by the USGS about the continual activity in the Mono Lake area and the comment from CA Seismic Safety Commission(above) settles the question that the area is both volcanically and seismically active.

    I agree when you say "Make sure what you think you see is really what you think it is" -but that is exactly the point. Sometimes we simply don't know what we are seeing, being unskilled or unschooled in proper interpretation of certain data, but when we turn to the officials who *should* know, we sense we are not getting the true story. The "Making sure" part is ever harder on the beleaguered citizen who just wants unadulterated information so they can make good decisions.

  3. I had to laugh to myself. I wrote the first post above, then several hours latter read the volcano blog. Apparently my question a couple days ago, added to DutchSinse's youtubes making so many waves on the internet, pushed the right (or maybe wrong?) button. :) :) Here is Erik Klemmeti's response - too long to copy it, but here's the link:

    Again, no one has said what it IS, except for Lurking, but then Erik is not a meteorologist, but a vulconologist. :) Maybe NOAA needs to respond instead of the USGS. Check out the water vapor views on:
    or: (you can compare several different kinds of views on this website)


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