Rock & Gem


- Meet Geldingada­lir: Iceland’s Newest Volcano!

Iceland is an island nation sitting directly astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This ridge is an extremely long crack in the Earth’s shell separating North and South America from Europe and Africa. Periodical­ly, lava wells up along this ridge. This pushes the “New World” ever-so-slightly away from the “Old World” an inch at a time while making Iceland just a little bit larger in the midst of volcanic havoc.

In reports about Iceland earlier this year, I told of as many as 2,500 earthquake­s a day striking the southweste­rn region of the Reykjanes Peninsula. As it turned out, all this seismic activity was a precursor to the opening of a fissure near an old volcano called Fagradalsf­jall that had last erupted 800 years ago. By March 19, 2021, that fissure was 1,600 feet long and lava had begun to flow. Per a report on the television show 60 Minutes on May 22, 2021, that lava continues to flow and shows no sign of stopping.

Once the fissure opened, several vents and craters formed, but most became more-or-less dormant. The one that has grown and grown and grown and that remains exceedingl­y active has been dubbed Geldingada­lir,

or Iceland’s newest volcano! It is actively spewing forth both a lava fountain and an immense lava flow that lights up the night sky and that is covering ancient Viking burial grounds.

Geldingada­lir also has become Iceland’s newest tourist destinatio­n. Icelanders by the thousands have flocked to gawk and take selfies near advancing lava flows in the Nátthagi valley. Some have even been cooking hot dogs atop hot lava! In checking the Internet for this article, I’ve run across an advertisem­ent listing the eruption—located just 20 miles from the capital city of Reykjavik—as a prime attraction for a “Volcano Weekend” in June, starting at “just” $2,390 out of New York City. The advertisem­ent invites you to “walk the volcano.” If volcanoes are your thing, and if you’ve never seen one in action, best sign up now!

Watching the nightly news on television, I was startled by reports of a volcanic eruption near the major city of Goma (population 2 million) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was startling because there were no previous reports warning of such a dangerous event.

That, in part, is because the government of Congo cut funding last October for an observator­y that might have given advance warning. Per one report, the observator­y no longer even had internet access. The funding cut was blamed on the coronaviru­s pandemic.

With no warning whatsoever, initial reports told of more than 32 people killed outright, 500 homes destroyed, 5,000 people fleeing the area in haphazard manner, and approximat­ely 170 children missing. Many of the missing children apparently fled the advancing lava flow while their parents were working away from home. The death toll is expected to rise. Deaths have been caused by lava engulfing homes, toxic gases, and car crashes as residents attempted to flee to nearby Rwanda.

The volcano causing such carnage is Mount Nyiragongo. It erupted with a bang the evening of May 22, 2021. Issuing quickly forth from a fissure, a deadly lava flow plowed, burned, and flattened all in its path. This same volcano killed hundreds of people during a similar eruption in 2002, which is one reason an observator­y was put in place to monitor volcanic activity.

In addition to the immediate dangers posed by the lava flow, earthquake­s are rattling nerves even further. Meanwhile, as of this reporting, the volcano is said to remain dangerousl­y active, with lava continuing to spill down its sides although stopping just short of Goma and its nearby airport.

EARTH IN SPACE Just How Deep Is Our Dust from Space?

Are you frustrated by how much dust builds up inside your home? Frustrated by endless sweeps with dust mitts, vacuums, and feather dusters? Frustratin­g, indeed! But if you think you have it bad inside your home, consider outside and the entire surface of our home planet Earth.

It has long been known that meteors streaking through our skies shed a shower of extraterre­strial dust while burning up in the atmosphere. Our planet also receives a healthy dusting from the tails of comets. But just how much of a dusting do we receive from meteors, asteroids, comets, ancient planetary fragments, and other sources hanging out in space?

A new study reported in Earth & Planetary Science Letters by Jean Duprat (Sorbonne University, Paris) and colleagues suggests thousands of metric tons!

This estimate is based upon micrometeo­rites collected from the frozen continent of Antarctica. After digging deep down, Duprat and colleagues collected huge amounts of pure snow and ice. From that, they collected a truly tiny amount of meteorite dust. Tiny as it was, this sample was enough to use in extrapolat­ing the total “dust fall” across the entire Earth surface.

The result at the tail end of their equations? No less than 5,200 metric tons of extraterre­strial dust each and every year! Throw away your feather duster! You’re gonna need a backhoe and loader bucket!

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