Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our very own volcano...

Sometime in the near past, I read the story of Mt. Tambora and its eruption in 1815. It was an interesting story that explained the Year Without Summer, 1816. That frigid summer caused so much death and misery around Europe and the New World and all from a volcano in Indonesia. A volcano that a starving Irish peasant had never heard of.

Now Chile and Argentina are suffering from the near effects of the recent eruption of Mt. Calbuco. Tons of ash are already in the upper atmosphere and subject to the winds that sweep from west to east. But...maybe the eruptions will end soon and the effects will be minor. It's happened in the past.

Here in Butte County, I can stand up from my seat here at the kitchen table and look out the window to the northeast and see Mt. Lassen, a real live volcano and it's less than a 100 miles away; maybe 60 miles? It last erupted in 1914-1921 with a major eruption on May 22nd of 1915. The 100 year anniversary of that event is less than a month away. I'm not really worried (should I be?) as the USGS monitors the whole of Lassen Park for any increase in volcanic activity.

My wife and son have climbed to the top of Mt, Lassen and described it as thrilling. I was away on business or I would have joined them. We've been to Lassen Park in the winter and seen the plumes of steam rising from the vents in 'Bumpass Hell'.

The evidence of volcanic activity is all around here in Butte County. Even the buttes themselves are formed from volcanic basalt. The fields around here are littered with small chunks of lava that make them unsuitable for anything other than grazing. The residents of Paradise, a small town just east of here, routinely use dynamite to 'dig' holes for the planting of trees. A cap of lava covers the whole ridge and it won't yield to a shovel.

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