Sunday, March 26, 2023

Molten motions

| December 12, 2022 1:07 AM

A series of volcanic eruptions have made headlines in 2022. According to Volcano Discovery, there are currently 27 volcanoes that are erupting around the world.

On Dec. 20, 2021, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, or also known as the Hunga volcano, began its underwater eruption in the southern Pacific Ocean, which is located about 40 miles north of Tongatapu along the Pacific Rim. The eruption climaxed Jan. 15, and according to NASA, was “hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.” The explosion was so loud that it could be heard up to 6,000 miles away. That eruption was compared to the one of Krakatoa that occurred in 1883.

According to an article by National Geographic, recent studies of this eruption stated that the explosion sent very hot gas over 35 miles into the sky, the highest that humans have ever seen. The additional dust likely led to more dramatic sunrises and sunsets. The eruption was compared to the massive eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 that led to numerous reports of red skies across the globe.

Huge amounts of vaporized water were also sent into the atmosphere from the Hunga volcano, which some scientists speculate that we could see some slight additional warming to the Earth’s climate as water vapor is also considered to be a greenhouse gas.

In early December, Mount Semeru, Indonesia’s largest volcano (12,060 feet) erupted, sending rivers of lava and searing gas down the mountain. This explosion was caused by the heavy monsoon rains causing the lava dome to collapse, resulting in the eruption.

The volcanic eruption that has recently grabbed headlines is the one on Hawaii’s Big Island called Mauna Loa, which had not erupted since 1984. Known as the world’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa encompasses about half of the Big Island and is 10.5 miles from its base to the summit. The volcano is not known to produce explosive eruptions in recent times. However, there is evidence to suggest there has been explosive activity around 300 to 1,000 years ago, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The other continuously erupting volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is Kilauea. There are currently two simultaneous eruptions occurring, which has tourists flocking to the region. These eruptions are not threatening any residences at this point, unlike the devastating big eruption of Kilauea that began in early May of 2018. During that time, the Kilauea eruption covered nearly 14 square miles of land with lava and destroyed 700 homes. As the lava flows reached the ocean, it created hundreds of miles of new coastline.

The Hawaiian Islands were essentially built from volcanic activity. The process is driven by the movement of the Pacific Plate over a “hot spot” of very hot material within the Earth. The melted rock, or magma, rises through the Pacific Plate and creates the islands over time. The Big Island is the youngest one as Mauna Loa and Kilauea are the most active volcanoes.

Although, some of the historical eruptions on this island have been explosive, they have not been large enough to send large amounts of dust and ash into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. By contrast, the volcanoes that are formed from the collision of several tectonic plates will produce the cone-shaped volcanoes that can produce large-scale explosions. Most of these landforms are located along the infamous Pacific “Ring of Fire” that stretches from Alaska to the southern tip of South America, and from New Zealand northward across Japan and into the Gulf of Alaska. There are about 20 major volcanoes along the Cascade Arc that include Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood, just to name a few here in the Northwest.

The volcanoes in and around Indonesia have been the most explosive in recent history. The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 is the most powerful volcanic eruption in history and literally plunged many parts of southern Asia into darkness for a week. Global temperatures cooled at least a degree in many areas and led to the “year without a summer” in the Northeast the following year.

In terms of our local weather, nearly 34 inches of snow has fallen in Coeur d’Alene since the beginning of the season. Temperatures did manage to warm up a bit, leading to some rain mixing in with the snow in the lower elevations over the weekend. Very little moisture is expected for the rest of the week, but there is a chance of snow along with colder weather early next week across the Inland Northwest.

The long-range computer models are showing more cold air streaming from the north and into our region through Christmas Day. Assuming this pattern holds up, there’s no doubt it will be a White Christmas. In fact, it could be a very frigid Christmas Day.

• • •

Contact Randy Mann at

Recent Headlines