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Spectacular blue lava flows at this Indonesian volcano

Photographer Olivier Grunewald first learned about the Kawah Ijen volcano in 2008. A sulfur mine by day, this infernal Indonesian mountain turns into a surreal alien landscape when the night comes. His pictures—taken in very dangerous conditions—are stunning:

He and his friend Régis Etienne have gone back repeatedly to photograph and film this incredible unearthly patch of glowing blue lava. A recent 52-minute documentary film is the result of 30 nights in hazardous conditions.

But it’s the sulfur mine workers who are constant toiling among the flames. Here is the description Olivier sent to us:

For over 40 years, miners have been extracting sulphur from the crater of Kawah Ijen in Indonesia. To double their meagre income, the hardiest of these men work nights, by the electric blue light of the sulphuric acid exhaled by the volcano.

As the light of day recedes, an eerie incandescence appears to rise from the depths of the Kawah Ijen crater. The high-temperature liquid sulphur that flows from an active vent at the edge of the world’s largest hydrochloric acid lake flares in blue flames that can reach up to 5 metres.

At the foot of the glow, miners bustle amidst the toxic fumes. They are monitoring the flow of molten sulphur as it pours out of pipes at 115 °C, and its subsequent crystallisation. Breaking up, gathering up, loading up and transporting the coagulated blood of the earth earns them a living. By the blue light of the flare, they extract hunks of sulphur, then carry them up the flank of the crater to sell for 680 roupees per kilo (about €0.04). But the loads they carry, weighing between 80 and 100 kilos, cost them their health—and sometimes their life. By working nights, they manage to haul out two loads every 24 hours, doubling their salary, avoiding the daytime heat of the Kawah Ijen cauldron, and despite the condition remaining independent

The sulphur, among the purest in Indonesia, is destined for the food and chemical industry. Whitening sugar, at the price of their health and youth, such is the destiny of these serfs to sulphur.

Olivier is a four-time World Press Photo winner. After studying commercial photography in Paris, he first began shooting natural landscapes after a shoot with rock climbers. He’s been photographing volcanos since 1997. You can see more of Oliver’s work at his website.

Source gizmodo.com

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Planet Earth

Powerful sprites over Kansas were visible to the naked eye

Have you ever seen sprites? They say that this is impossible. Strange and fleeting forms of Red Lightning materialize over thunderclouds, usually disappearing in less time than it takes to blink. However, storm hunter Michael Havan had no problems seeing them on May 23rd.

“The extremely bright jellyfish sprites were easily visible to the naked eye at dusk!” Says Gavin. “This is one of the brightest shots I’ve captured with my modified Canon T3i.”

Gavin saw this sight from Northwest Kansas. “Clear skies provided fantastic views of the MCS (mesoscale convective system) moving through Nebraska almost 100 miles from us,” he says. “I was not the only one who saw them.” There have been reports that people also saw sprites from Interstate 70. “

The storm lasted so long that Gavin managed to attach an 85mm lens to his camera for several close-up shots. “Because I had an image of the same area without a sprite from a few seconds earlier, I was able to subtract the sky (stars, air glow, etc.) to take a photo of the structure of the sprite without any distractions.

A solar minimum can stimulate sprites. During the low phase of the solar cycle — now occurring — cosmic rays from deep space penetrate the inner solar system relatively unhindered due to the weakening of the Sun’s magnetic field. 

Some models claim that cosmic rays help sprites get started by creating conductive paths in the atmosphere.

By the way:

Today, May 25, 2020, the level of cosmic rays crashing onto the Earth, reached its maximum levels, increasing today by 10.4% of average values.

Cosmic rays 

The magnetic field of the sun is weak, which allows additional cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system. Neutron counts from the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory of the University of Oulu show that cosmic rays reaching Earth in 2020 are close to the peak of the space age.

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Planet Earth

A surge in volcanic activity threatens the Earth with a new Ice Age

Over the past few days, we have witnessed a turbulent global volcanic surge in activity. He sends us all signs that the Great Solar Minimum is approaching.

The Japanese meteorological satellite HIMAWARI-8 recorded two powerful eruptions on May 16, both of which occurred in Indonesia.

The first took place in IBU – a relatively new volcano with only 3 noticeable eruptions; in 1911, 1998 and 2008 – and was confirmed by Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), which warned that the ash plume rises to about 13.7 km.

The second high-level eruption occurred just a few hours later on Semera – a very active volcano with an eruptive history; the first happened in 1818, the most recent in 2014.

As with IBU, the Semeru eruption was confirmed by both HIMAWARI-8 and VAAC Darwin, the latter confirming the generation of a “dark ash plume that reached a height of 14 km.

In addition, active lava flows remain active on the southeastern flank of Semeru, currently about 1.5 km long (as of the morning of May 18).

Direct cooling effect

These high-level eruptions are notable for the fact that solid particles are thrown to a height of over 10 km – and into the stratosphere – are often delayed, where they have a direct cooling effect on the planet.

Volcanic eruptions are one of the key factors pushing the Earth toward its next round of global cooling, with their worldwide surge associated with low solar activity, coronal holes, a diminishing magnetosphere and the influx of cosmic rays penetrating silica-rich magma.

In addition to Indonesia, Icelandic volcanoes have intensified, and it is this high-mountain volcanic region of the world that is believed to be home to the next “big eruption” – one that will plunge the whole world into the new Ice Age almost instantly.

Katla is such a volcano here and it shows signs of activity, since a significant gas output has been recorded over the past few days. 

In addition, seismic activity under a large ice volcano has also increased, and this activity is probably caused by injections of new magma entering the chamber.

Icelandic authorities are aware of the danger posed by the next Katla eruption, and a delegation of volcanologists regularly meets with the Icelandic parliament to discuss how to respond in the event of an eruption, the likelihood of which is simply a matter of when, not if.

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Planet Earth

99 years ago, the Great Geomagnetic Storm of 1921

99 years ago this week in May, people all over the world woke up and were shocked by some unusual headlines. “The telegraph service has been defeated, the Comet is not to blame,” the Los Angeles Times said on May 15, 1921. “Electrical disturbances are the worst ever known, “the Chicago Daily Tribune said. 

At that time they did not know this, but newspapers covered the biggest solar storm of the 20th century. Since then, nothing like this has happened.

It all started on May 12, 1921, when the giant sunspot AR1842, crossing the sun during the sunset phase of the solar cycle 15, began to flash. One explosion after another threw coronal mass ejections (CMS) directly to the Earth. 

Over the next 3 days, a powerful geomagnetic storm shook Earth’s magnetic field. Scientists around the world were surprised when their magnetometers suddenly got out of hand, pens in strip card recorders were uselessly attached to the top of the paper.

Auroras in May 1921. The leftmost red circle indicates Apia, Samoa.

And then the fire started. Around 02:00 Moscow time on May 15, the telegraph exchange in Sweden caught fire. About an hour later, the same thing happened across the Atlantic in the village of Brewster, New York. Flames swept the switchboard at the Brewster station of the New England Central Railroad and quickly spread to destroy the entire building. This fire, as well as another one at about the same time at the railway control tower near New York Central Station, is the reason this event is sometimes called the “New York Railroad Super-Storm.”

What caused the fire? Electric currents caused by geomagnetic activity passed through telephone and telegraph lines, heating them to a burning point. Strong currents disrupted telegraph systems in Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the USA. The Ottawa Journal reported that many long distance telephone lines in New Brunswick were burned due to a storm. On some telegraph lines in the USA, the voltage reached 1000 V.

Sunspot AR1842 dated May 13, 1921

During the peak of the storm on May 15, southern cities such as Los Angeles and Atlanta felt like Fairbanks, with northern lights dancing overhead, while telegraph lines crackled with geomagnetic currents. Auroras were spotted in the USA right up to Texas, while in the Pacific Ocean red auroras were spotted from Samoa and Tonga and ships at sea crossing the equator.

What would happen if such a storm happened today?

Scientists have long discussed this issue. As a result of research, it was found that the storm peaked on May 15: its intensity was comparable to the intensity of the Carrington event of 1859.

This result disproves the generally accepted point of view. Space weather researchers believed the Carrington Event was the strongest solar storm in recorded history. Now we know that the May Storm of 1921 was about as strong.

If the May Storm of 1921 hit today, it would at least lead to a power outage, profound changes in satellite orbits, and the loss of radio technology such as GPS. GPS malfunction can significantly affect the operation of logistics and emergency services.

This is something to think about on the 99th anniversary of a 100-year storm ….

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