SoT 226: Seismic Swarms

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

A further 1,284 more exoplanets have been confirmed by NASA’s Kepler mission. This puts the total number confirmed planets outside our solar system to 3,268!

Does the increase in small earthquakes below Mount St. Helens signify an imminent eruption? Not quite, but that hasn’t stopped the media from panicking.

For a long time, climate change scientists have been warning that as sea levels rise, some countries could be lost underwater. This week, new research shows that at least five reef islands in the Solomon Islands have been lost completely to sea-level rise.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a boat sitting above the Marianas Trench, and it’s live-streaming video from a remotely operated vehicle. One of the many amazing finds they’ve looked at is a beautiful jellyfish with brightly coloured gonads!


This episode contains traces of John Oliver ranting about bad media reporting of science.

  • Chris

    A question came up on whether Mt. St. Helens is close to air traffic. Well, yes it is. It is located between Seattle, WA and Portland, OR, which are two major cities. Plus lots of air traffic going to Asia from many cities like Denver, Dallas, etc. go almost over the mountain. I have seen it many times flying from Seattle to Denver, Tuscon and San Francisco. Also most of Boeing’s airplanes are flight tested over in Moses Lake, which is in Eastern Washington, a bit north and east of the mountain.

    Because it was a lateral blast to the east, it spewed ash over much of the northern tier of the country (into Canada). We only got some dusting of ash in Seattle. It not only mucked up air traffic, but the ash clogged car engines, disabled sewer systems, and just made a very big expensive mess:

    By the way, volcanoes all rumble a bit. Glacier Peak (north of Seattle) and Mt. Rainier have both had quakes and steam, but no real eruptions as far as I can remember. It is just something we live with. Some places near the flood planes of Mt. Rainier having warning sirens in case people need to evacuate to higher ground. See the bit about the Toutle River in the above link, the mudflow took out lots of road, bridges, houses, etc.

  • Chris

    I found this:

    Apparently there are a few volcanoes in the USA (and elsewhere, but this is just for one country). There is a link to aviation notices, apparently there are a couple of volcanoes in Alaska that are causing some problems.

    In our local media, the 36th anniversary had a few articles about the 1980 eruption, another with this head line: “The volcano today: active, but in a normal way.” The May 9th head line was “It’s not about to blow, but magma is moving under Mount St. Helens.”

    Far from panicked, more like “So what else is new? It’s been doing that for years.”

    • Hey Chris, thanks for the info!
      I’m glad the media coverage has been reasonably level-headed. Tabloids will always use fear to sell papers, of course!

      I find it extraordinary that volcanoes can have such a significant impact at such distances!