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Sunday, May 3, 2015


Well, the above photo has nothing to do with golfing in Napa.  I will return to my current trip tomorrow.  For now, let me begin by saying that it was nearly 35 years ago that the country experienced the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in our history:  Mount St. Helens (MSH), the Fuji-san of America, erupted on 18 May 1980, killing 57 people,  causing  a billion dollars  in damages, now with a current value of $3 billion.  MSH is located 50 miles from Mount Ranier (MSH in foreground, MR in background), 96 miles from Seattle, 50 miles from Portland and 60 miles from Mount Hood.  Before and after photos:

While there have been at least two minor eruptions since 1980, the dormancy period for MSH between major explosions is in the range of 120-150 years.

Harry Olson, who was the Spark Matsunaga Fellow in Geothermal Energy at the University, sent me a link showing how well the area devastated by the 1980 eruption has recovered.  It was to the good fortune of Seattle and Portland that the fallout occurred in the other direction.  To the left above is a photo of a stylish, but ominous-looking, ash cloud over Ephrata, Washington, 145 miles downwind.

Regarding Mount Fuji, Masaaki Kimura,  now a retired professor from Ryukyu University, five years ago predicted that Fuji-san will erupt in 2011, and surely by 2015.  Surely enough, Mr. Fuji's magma chamber pressure has risen to a worrisome 1.6 megapascal, estimated to be higher than when it last erupted in 1707.

Quoting the article (you can purchase this painting  of Fuji erupting by Yuzo for $6):

Prof Kimura also mentions the rise of the water level at Lake Sai which is located to the northeast of Mt Fuji. At the time of the Tohoku earthquake, the lake’s water-level rose by one meter. Kimura believes that this was caused by the permafrost near Fuji’s summit melted by rising magma.

Prof Kimura also claims that there have been a large number of phreatic eruptions – explosions of steam caused by heating of ground water from rising magma – around the mountain. No lava is released during these explosions, only water and rock.
However, some say that phreatic eruptions are precursors to major volcanic eruptions. Prior to the 1980 eruption of Mt Saint Helens in the US, there were numerous reports of phreatic eruptions.
However, before you cancel your next trip to Japan, it should be noted that Kimura last year published as a co-author Fujisan No Funka Wa Hajimatteiru!  The English translation is "The Eruption of Mt Fuji Has Begun."  To the left is a woodblock print by Hokusai.

It's now only a tropical depression, but there is a budding ocean storm destined to become a powerful typhoon and strike either the Philippines or Taiwan in a few days:


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