Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pakistan Volcano?

Erik Klemetti, volcano blogger extraordinaire at Eruptions, has asked for help in making sense of a purported volcanic eruption in Pakistan. (here and here) The above picture (click to enlarge) appears to be approximately the location of the reports. The white line measures ~75 kilometers from Quetta, as specified in one of the articles. At first glance, I'm not seeing anything that looks like volcanic landforms, but I'll look around and see if I can spot anything, and update as called for. As an aside, doing teh Google for "Pakistan Volcanoes" returns a lot of hits for mud volcanoes, which frankly makes more sense to me than true volcanoes.

Followup: here's Wikipedia's list of "volcanoes" in Pakistan; all but one are indeed mud volcanoes. The first isn't technically a volcano either; it's an erosional remnant of a magma chamber. "Neza e Sultan is an extinct volcano and only the magma chamber remains and it looks like a spear." This isn't even enough to convince me it was a magma chamber that fed a volcano.

Neza e Sultan
Malan Island
Jebel e Ghurab

Mud volcanoes are often associated with release of natural gas, methane. It's pretty easy for me to imagine such natural gas being ignited, by rocks grinding against each other, by lightning, or static electricity, leading to reports of fire and explosions. Now all my speculation does not mean there isn't an actual eruption, mud and gas effusion just seems the most sensible explanation.

Followup: here's an extensive and interesting blog post on Pakistan's mud volcanoes. A couple of relevant quotes:
This earthquake shook and vented the mud volcanoes of Hungol so much that the gases coming out of this volcanoes got ignited and flames rose several hundred feet in the air.
Another account of these eruption come from V.P. Sondhi, who in 1947 also wrote about the same volcanic phenomenon in the area near the mouth of the Hungol River in Baluchistan following the 1945 quake. According to Sondhi, the self-igniting plume of gas had erupted “with such great force that the flames leaped thousands of feet high into the sky.”
"Thousands of feet" sounds like an exaggeration to me, but I wasn't there.

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