Tuesday, 05 October 2004

Yes, people, we are still alive here - the media in some places is getting overly excited. Really, nothing has happened as far as any major events. There is no ash in Portland or pretty much anywhere else as of today. Please stay calm, move along, nothing to see here (well nothing catostrophic anyhow, but plenty of interesting stuff). If you want to keep in touch with updates on the volcano as I post them, I have created a new category for posts and a matching feed.

Mt. St. Helens this morning let off the largest of its steam and ash emissions so far since the new volcanic activity started. Portland's KATU News got some great spot video becasue they just happened to be in the air when it started. Interestingly, the seismic activity dropped off when this emission took place, and has remained mostly low-level since.

In the image below, taken from the University of Washington's webicorders of the St. Helens South Ridge seismographic station, the seismic activity drops off right after 9am, which is when the new cloud of ash and steam was emitted:

Activity has - as you can see - stayed at a lower level since, with a few larger quakes occurring among a lot of smaller ones.

Clicking on either image will open a new window with the full size image from the U of W webicorder site.

An interesting anomaly on the webicorder readout during the 11am Pacific Time hour shows what is either a strange (harmonic?) event or a simple error in the seismic recording. Anyone know or have any idea what the wandering lines represent?

At any rate, ash and steam from the mountain went thousands of feet in the air and for the first time ash amounts were detectable on weather radar. Small amounts of ash fell around small towns northeast of the mountain and on US Hwy 12, which resulted in reduced visibility, according to media reports.

The lava dome, which was formed between the big explosive event in 1980 and 1986, has raised more than 150 feet since the events started. Last week they were excited over a 2 centimeter lift - In the past 36 hours the dome has lifted more than 50 feet.

The forecast is for more events like the ones we have been seeing, with a likelihood of an eventual (sooner or later) explosive event. If magma (hot molten rock) reaching the surface (at which point it's called lava) is new magma from deep inside the earth, it will contain lots of compressed gasses, which will create an explosive type of event that throws rock and ash in the air. If it is old magma, perhaps left over in a relatively shallow cavern from the 1980 eruption, it might not contain as much gas, and as a result it may just flow out and help build a newer, bigger dome in the volcano's crater, a process that could - eventually - build the mountain back up again.

But the amount of ash being thrown about has grown with each steam eruption so far, and the levels of magmatic gasses have also grown, so I am betting on bigger event, rather than smaller. Nothing like 1980, mind you - but spectacular, I will bet.

Those Earth Science classes in high school and junior high did some good after all. See? Good teachers make all the difference in the world.

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Mt. St. Helens | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 05 October 2004 19:14:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Buy.com is taking pre-orders for the soon-to-be-released Media Center Extender devices made by Linksys.

What are Media Center Extenders? They are devices that communicate with a Windows Media Center 2005 (I believe that is an actual requirement, but will need to check) computer on your home network, allowing you to view and use media stored on the PC on your television systems. Think of it as an integration device that connects TV to music, images, live and recorded TV items on your Media Center PC. Note that Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 will also be released soon.

  • Connects your Home Entertainment Center to a Windows Media Center PC through a Wireless-A, Wireless-G, or wired network
  • Watch home or downloaded digital movies and browse your digital pictures on your television. Also watch, pause, and record live TV shows
  • Listen to your digital music collection and Internet radio through your stereo system 
    Select entertainment from on-screen menus with the easy-to-use remote control

So, what's so cool about that? Well, this device converges the media stored on your PC with the rest of your AV equipment - It means you can store all that video, music and image data and information in one place (on the Media Center PC) and view or listen to it anywhere you like on your home network (such as on your TV, your home theater system, the stereo system, etc). Plans are that you'll even be able to add a Media Center Extender title to your XBox system and watch movies, view pictures, and listen to music there.

Bobsled you say? Yeah. Code name for the Microsoft project while it was under development.

Find out more about Windows XP Media Center here, and more about Media Center Extenders here.

(info via Charlie Kindel)

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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Tuesday, 05 October 2004 16:56:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 04 October 2004

When it's light out, it's great... When it's dark out, it's... well... dark. If it gets cloudy... you get the point. Click the picture below for the full-size image.

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Monday, 04 October 2004 22:18:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The SpaceShipOne team did it - they left the Earth's atmosphere twice in a week, winning the Ansari X Prize, which required a privately funded team to put a space vehicle that can carry three people into space twice in a two-week period. View the video of the winning flight and previous flights.

NPR Audio report: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4060565

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Monday, 04 October 2004 19:02:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I arrived back in Portland yesterday afternoon, and was met by my mom at the airport because she happened to be in town. Great timing, since Mt. St. Helens is coughing up steam and stuff these days. We made some stops along the drive home to look at the mountain (there are lots of great viewpoints near where I live). This morning we watched the big steam venting out of the crater, and then we drove back to the airport for her flight home.

Image, click to enlargeIt looks like the volcano is getting ready for something bigger. I have tried to estimate my house's distance from the volcano, because people keep asking (I assume out of concern). It looks like I live somewhere between 40 and 45 miles from the volcano (I will map it out sometime soon). So, no fears - the worst thing that would happen here is ash fallout (which can be problematic if you breathe it or get it in your eyes, and it's nasty on car paint and windows). But the winds at the mountain are blowing directly away from here right now. If it's going to blow, I just hope it happens when I am home, so I can snap some pictures and watch. And, in true form, Dan Appleman (whom I met at the conference last week) has some funny observations on volcanoes and politics that will generate a laugh or two. (Image by USGS, click for more pictures, or for seismographic info from the Cascade Mountains)

USGS Update: Mount St. Helens Update 4 October 2004 7:00 P.M.

Current status is Volcano Alert (Alert Level 3); aviation color code RED

This morning visitors to Mount St. Helens witnessed a 40-minute-long steam-and-ash emission starting at 9:43 PDT. Steam clouds carrying minor ash billowed out of the crater to an altitude of 10,000 to perhaps 12,000 feet. The event did not generate earthquakes or an explosion signal. We infer that hot rock was pushed up into the glacier, melted ice, and generated the steam. Part of the vent for today’s and other steam and ash emissions of the past few days is now covered by a boiling lake. The emission occurred during a time of gradually increasing seismicity, which dropped slightly after the emission, but continued to increase gradually through the afternoon. Another period of smaller steam and ash bursts occurred between 2:10 and 2:40 P.M. Visual observations show that the area of uplift, which includes part of the glacier and a nearby segment of the south flank of the lava dome, continues to rise. We infer that magma is at a very shallow level and could soon be extruded into the vent or elsewhere in the deforming area. Additional steam and ash emissions are likely and could occur at any time without warning. Conditions suggest that there is also an increased probability of larger-magnitude and more ash-rich eruptions in coming days.

Yesterday’s gas-sensing flight detected slightly lower concentrations of carbon dioxide in the crater, but for the first time the airborne instruments detected the presence of hydrogen sulfide. Wind conditions during today’s flight should permit the first estimation of the rate of gas flux.

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Monday, 04 October 2004 18:31:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 02 October 2004

I'm sitting in California at a geek conference (til tomorrow), and so I am missing the up-close excitement of what's happening at St. Helen's. The USGS raised the volcano cautionary level to III (press conference video link - WMV) today and evacuated the immediate area. Geologist say all indications are that magma is moving underground in the crater.

There's a good slideshow on KATU TV's web site from Friday's eruption. The KATU web site has a lot of great information and video, and you don't have to sign up and start getting spammed to access it, unlike on some other PDX news station sites. Score one for KATU - that's customer oriented content publishing. Thanks to KATU's decision-makers for that.

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Saturday, 02 October 2004 16:11:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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