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 Published by the American Geological Institute
Newsmagazine of the Earth Sciences

 July 2000


New Mexico — Winds up to 50 mph whipped a prescribed burn on May 4 into a raging wildfire that destroyed more than 47,000 acres and left more than 200 families homeless. In Los Alamos, the fire forced 25,000 people to evacuate. A small army of 1,262 firefighters managed to contain the fire after a lengthy two-week battle, but 700 remained on guard after spot fires from wind-blown embers flared up on May 26. More than 1,500 archaeological sites may have been scorched, including delicate sites on the edge of Santa Clara Pueblo at Santa Clara Canyon. The fire, which the National Park Service started in an effort to thin brush at Bandelier National Monument, was expected to continue to smolder, smoke and flare up within its 143-kilometer confines until New Mexico’s summer rainy season, which started early this month.
On May 9, from 427 miles in space, Landsat 7 acquired this image of Los Alamos, shown in true color (right) and in visible and infared (left). Images courtesy of Rob Simon, Earth Observatory, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Indonesia — A magnitude-7.5 earthquake devastated Sulawesi and nearby islands on May 4. At least 46 people died, 254 were injured and another 30,000 others were left homeless. The quake damaged 80 percent of the buildings in Banggai. Fire burned dozens of houses and destroyed a local market in Luwuk. A local tsunami with estimated wave heights of up to six meters caused much of the damage east of Luwuk and on Peleng. The temblor originated at 1.41 degrees south latitude and 123.62 degrees east longitude. It occurred at a depth of 21.7 kilometers below the surface and had a half-duration time of 16.4 seconds.

Taiwan — At least four people were killed after several earthquakes jolted the island on May 17. The first and most severe quake, measuring a magnitude of 5.3, struck about 25 miles northeast of the Sun Moon Lake resort area, about 95 miles south of Taipei. Five more moderate earthquakes followed near Taichung County. A rockslide triggered by shaking buried one victim. At the hot springs resort, a construction worker fell to his death in a ravine when the tremor hit. Twelve people were reported injured and 39 others stranded after landslides blocked mountain roads. After months of tension between China and Taiwan, the quakes provoked a rare friendly response: China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits — the agency that handles Taiwan relations — offered its “profound condolences,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

Alaska — The Shishaldin Volcano showed an increase of low-frequency events on May 15, but remained a level green, indicating normal seismicity and fumarolic activity. In February the level had been raised to yellow after steam plumes shot 3,000 feet above the crater. The Shishaldin Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc. It has erupted at least 29 times since 1775. The cone has a base diameter of approximately 16 kilometers). The most recent eruptive period occurred last year in April and May.

Ecuador — Tungurahua Volcano’s crater glowed in early May. Nearly continuous gas and occasional ash emissions erupted throughout the month, teasing scientists and residents of Ba~nos, who anticipated a violent explosion.

Tropical Storm Aletta reached minimum hurricane strength of 75 mph on May 25, becoming the first hurricane of the 2000 eastern Pacific season. Aletta was centered approximately 355 miles south-southwest of Acapulco, Mexico.
Image from: SeaWiFs Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

Solomon Islands — After nine years of quiet sleep, the shallow Kavachi seamount erupted, shocking local sea life and an international team of scientists studying sea floor volcanic activity and associated mineral formation in the Bismarck and Solomon seas north of Australia. Kavachi, in the Solomon Island chain of volcanoes, is only 30 kilometers from the boundary of the Indian and Australian tectonic plates. The new island-building volcano is a roughly conical feature rising from a sea floor depth of 1,100 meters. Kavachi is about eight kilometers in diameter at its base and has produced ephemeral islands at least twice in the past century. The team on the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation research ship Franklin made a comprehensive study of the eruptive activity, as the volcano ejected molten lava up to 70 meters above sea level and mushroomed sulfurous steam plumes to 500 meters.
Image from: Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation


Associate Editor Christina Reed compiles Geophenomena.

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