Tag Archives: hawaii

The 2018 eruption of Mount Kīlauea in Hawaii likely caused by rain

The 2018 eruption of Mount Kīlauea in Hawaii was likely triggered by excessive and sustained rainfall in the region, according to a new paper from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Kīlauea Erupting with lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Image credits USGS.

Such findings have implications for volcanoes around the world, not just those in Hawaii, as they suggest local precipitation patterns could have an important role to play in the timing and frequency of eruptions.

Just add water

“We knew that changes in the water content in the Earth’s subsurface can trigger earthquakes and landslides. Now we know that it can also trigger volcanic eruptions,” said Falk Amelung, professor of geophysics at the UM Rosenstiel School and coauthor of the study.

“Under pressure from magma, wet rock breaks easier than dry rock. It is as simple as that.”

The team shows that the eruption was preceded by prolonged and at times extreme, rainfall in the months leading up to the event.

Kīlauea is an active shield volcano, one of the liveliest volcanoes in all of Hawaii. On May 3, 2018, it started spewing lava nearly two hundred feet in the air, eventually covering over 13 square miles of the well-populated east coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. The unprecedented event destroyed hundreds of homes and only ended four months later, in September, when the summit of the caldera (the volcano’s top) collapsed in on itself.

The researchers used data from ground- and satellite-based stations from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA), to model rainfall patterns in the area before the event and, from that, estimate the fluid pressure within the volcano over time.

This pressure is, essentially, what drives volcanoes to explode. Magma itself may be molten-hot, but it is generally quite harmless if left to its own devices. What actually pushes it out of the volcano is the buildup of fluids — gas and liquids — in the enclosed space. These fluids typically seep out of the magma as they escape the depths of the Earth, and thus encounter lower pressures. It’s the same mechanism that makes a can of soda pop if you shake it before opening.

All in all, the team explains that fluid pressure was highest just before the eruption — this wasn’t surprising. But they also calculated that it was the highest recorded pressure value in half a century at this point, which they argue helped move the magma and caused the eruption. Their hypothesis would also explain why there was no widespread uplift (from gas building up beneath the surface) at the volcano in the months prior.

“An eruption happens when the pressure in the magma chamber is high enough to break the surrounding rock and the magma travels to the surface,” said Amelung. “This pressurization causes inflation of the ground by tens of centimeters. As we did not see any significant inflation in the year prior to the eruption we started to think about alternative explanations.”

This is the first time that this mechanism has been invoked to explain deeper magmatic processes. In support of their theory, the team notes that Kīlauea’s historical eruption record shows it was almost twice as likely to erupt during the wettest parts of the year.

And, if this process is at work here, it’s likely to also take place at other volcanoes, the authors add. If such a link between rainfall and volcanism can be reliably determined, it “could go a long way towards advanced warning of associated volcanic hazards,” according to Jamie Farquharson, a postdoctoral researcher at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study.

“It has been shown that the melting of ice caps in Iceland led to changes of volcanic productivity,” said Farquharson. “As ongoing climate change is predicted to bring about changes in rainfall patterns, we expect that this may similarly influence patterns of volcanic activity.”

The paper “Extreme rainfall triggered the 2018 rift eruption at Kīlauea Volcano” has been published in the journal Nature.

Eruption of volcano in Hawaii led to phytoplankton bloom, study shows

The eruption of the Kilauea volcano last year in Hawaii had a destructive effect on land, tearing apart more than 700 homes and covering land with volcanic rock. But, on the ocean, the lava had a different effect, stimulating a massive bloom of planktonic algae, or phytoplankton, according to a new study.

Volcano Spewing Lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo by J.D. Griggs.

The research, led by researchers at the University of Hawai’i (UH) at Mānoa and University of Southern California (USC), showed that this biological response hinged on unexpectedly high concentrations of nitrate, despite the negligible amount of nitrogen in basaltic lava.

The team, whose research was published in the journal Science, determined that nitrate was brought to the surface ocean when heat from the substantial input of lava into the ocean warmed nutrient-rich deep waters and caused them to rise up, supplying the sunlit layer with nutrients.

“There was no reason for us to expect that algae bloom like this would happen,” geochemist Seth John, assistant professor of Earth sciences at USC Dornsife and an author of the study, said in a press release. “Lava doesn’t contain any nitrate.”

John and the rest of the team observed the phytoplankton bloom in satellite images, leading to organize a rapid response oceanographic expedition on UH research vessel Ka’imikai-O-Kanaloa from July 13 to 17, 2018—in the thick of Kilauea’s activity.

They discovered that since there was so much lava in the water, the dissolved iron and phosphate combined into particles, making those nutrients unavailable for microbes. Further, deep, heated seawater became buoyant and brought up nitrate which caused other classes of phytoplankton to bloom.

The team believes that this mechanism has led to similar ocean fertilization events in the past associated with the formation of the Hawaiian Islands and other significant volcanic eruptions. Depending on their location, sustained eruption on this scale could also facilitate a large flux of nitrate from the deep ocean and perturb larger-scale ocean circulation, biology, and chemistry.

“The expedition in July 2018 provided a unique opportunity to see first-hand how a massive input of external nutrients alters marine ecosystems that are finely attuned to low-nutrient conditions,” said co-author Sam Wilson. “Ecosystem responses to such a substantial addition of nutrients are rarely observed or sampled in real-time.”

Planktonic algae or phytoplankton, like the one found in the ocean due to the volcano, plays a vital role in the ocean ecosystem. It forms the base of the ocean’s food chain and is an important food source for zooplankton, fish, and crustaceans, which are quickly gobbled up by larger ocean-dwellers like sharks, seals, and whales.

Kilauea erupts with massive explosion [photos and videos]

The Hawaiian volcano of Kilauea continues its explosive streak with a massive bang, creating what is essentially the modern version of Mordor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEkidF6pUfc

Kilauea’s summit is rapidly deforming, aerial surveys have shown. The volcano was rocked by more than 180 explosions and earthquakes — with one explosive event throwing ash and gas plumes that towered to nearly 10,000 ft (over 3 km).

The USGS reported that there is little ground motion around the volcano, but the summit is subsiding rapidly. However, despite this, there’s very little chance of a summit collapse. The situation is still unclear and could change in the near future.

Hawaii volcano: Satellite photos of Kilauea reveal summit deformation. Image credits: USGS.

The USGS geologists added they’re not really sure for how long the volcano will continue to erupt — the only thing they know is that there have been massive eruptions, and there’s a good chance the eruptions will continue:

“We’re not exactly sure how much magma is stored beneath the summit. We have only estimates, but we are confident it is at least in excess of 100 times what has been erupted so far from Fissure Eight.”

Image credits: USGS.

Over 600 homes have already been destroyed by the lava, which the volcano is spewing out at a speed of 100 cubic meters per second — the equivalent 26,000 US gallons (98,000 liters) per second, roughly enough to fill 720 dump trucks every minute. Lava now covers 9.24 square miles (24 square km), the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency confirmed on Saturday.

More than 2,000 people have already been forced to relocate, and the eruption continues.

It’s not just the eruption itself, volcanic dust is also a health hazard, even if it cools down because it contains small bits of glass which can damage the nose or throat.

Fissure 8 of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. Fissure 8 fountains reached heights up to 160 feet overnight on Friday. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports that fragments falling from the fountains are building a cinder-and-spatter cone around the vent. USGS image taken June 12, 2018, around 6:10 a.m. HST. View the latest images and videos via USGS.

Now, Kilauea seems to have settled down a bit. You can keep an eye out on it yourself using the USGS 24/7 livestream:

Alternatively, you can also stay up to date by following the USGS website or local social media accounts, for candid stories.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkI88a7gQqc/?utm_source=ig_embed

 

Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupts, threatening local community. So far, everyone is safe

Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has erupted at around 4:30 p.m. local time, ejecting magma, rocks, and toxic fumes.

“It sounded like there were rocks in a dryer that were being tumbled around,” said Jeremiah Osuna, who lives near Leilani Estates, one of two subdivisions evacuated. “You could hear the power it of it pushing out of the ground.”

The eruption didn’t exactly come as a surprise, not only because Kilauea is extremely active and eruptions happened regularly, but also because the eruption was preceded by a series of over 600 earthquakes — one of them going as high as 5.0 in magnitude.

All 1,500 inhabitants of Pahoa, which is close to the eruption, were told to leave after steam and lava started pouring out of a crack. In total, thousands of people have been evacuated following the eruption, with Governor David Ige saying he activated military reservists from the National Guard to help with the evacuations.

Currently, new ground cracks have been reported in the area, but the eruption seems to have calmed down. However, authorities have urged people to remain on alert. The opening phases of fissure eruptions are dynamic. Additional vents and new lava outbreaks may occur and at this time it is not possible to say where new vents may occur, the USGS writes.

Thankfully, no one was reportedly injured during the eruption. If anything, Hawaiians have grown to be quite resilient in the face of such eruptions. But, even for veterans, the event can be disturbing.

“Living on a volcano, everybody has got pretty thick skin. They know the risk,” said Ryan Finlay, who lives in Pahoa and runs an online trade school. “Lava for the most part has flown to the ocean the last 30 years. Everybody gets in a comfort zone. The last couple weeks, everything changed.”

For all its spectacular eruptions, Kilauea isn’t a particularly dangerous volcano. Its name means “spewing” or “much spreading” in the Hawaiian language (referring to its frequent outpouring of lava), but Kilauea is a shield volcano — a type of volcano usually composed almost entirely of fluid lava flows. Because the lava is so hot and fluid, it flows instead of blowing up, which means that eruptions tend to be less violent.

The first well-documented eruption of Kīlauea occurred in 1823, and since then, the volcano has been erupting more or less all the time. The volcano lies directly over the Hawaii hotspot — an area which is fed hot material directly from the mantle. In a way, the Earth’s mantle is “leaking” through Hawaii.

Hawaje.

Hawaii moves to ban common sunscreen mixes in a bid to safeguard its corals

Sunbathers beware — Hawaii plans to become the first US state to ban sunscreen mixes that are toxic to marine life.

Hawaje.

Satellite view of the Hawaii archipelago. Image credits Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC / Wikimedia.

Two chemicals that are often used in sunscreen mixes (oxybenzone and octinoxate) are also sadly quite very deadly — if you happen to be a coral, a fish, or some other kind of marine resident. While that may not often concern us, landlubbers, especially as we’re basking in the sun on those oh-so-sweet vacation days, it’s a real problem for beach-totting tourist hotspots such as Hawaii.

That’s why the state is moving to ban the sale of sunscreen mixes containing these two compounds, becoming the first US state to do so. The bill was passed by the Hawaii state legislature on Tuesday and is now awaiting the governor’s signature. If this comes to pass, the ban would enter into force in 2021.

More coral protection factor, please

One past study (published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 2015) has shown that both oxybenzone and octinoxate break down coral reefs by leeching its vital nutrients. The same compounds also disrupt the normal development of simple marine organisms (like algae or sea urchins) as well as more complex creatures (like fish). According to the same paper, these compounds can be found in especially high-concentrations in beaches frequented by tourists.

NOAA has also warned about the dangers such sunscreen compositions pose.

They affect corrals in three different ways: by leeching them of nutrients, by altering their DNA, making coral more susceptible to bleachings, and finally, by inhibiting their endocrine system (i.e. glands), deforming and ultimately killing baby coral. These effects started at extremely low concentrations — only 62 parts per trillion (ppt). Oxybenzone can also turn adult male fish into female fish, cause sexually immature fish to adopt characteristics common to mature, pregnant female fish, is toxic to shrimp, sea urchins, bivalves (e.g., scallops, mussels), and is especially toxic to marine algae (according to the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Hawaii).

The reefs of Hawaii and the U.S Virgin Islands showed some of the highest concentrations of oxybenzone out of all coral reefs that attract tourists, the 2015 paper reported. Sunscreen enters the ocean both from direct contact with people wearing such compounds and from wastewater streams that drain into the sea. Both oxybenzone and octinoxate are widely employed in sunscreens, as well as some other types of lotions.

“More and more people realize, as you go home and shower the water is getting treated and put out into the ocean,” Hawaii state Sen. Laura Thielen told KHON2.

“So really it’s damaging our corals no matter whether you’re wearing it on land or at the beach.”

So the only realistic option that Hawaii had at its disposal was a carpet ban on all products containing these compounds. If the governor puts his signature on the bill, vacationers will have to use alternative sunscreen options. Luckily, these options are readily available, with mixes most often substituting ingredients such as titanium oxide or zinc oxide in lieu of the dangerous chemicals.

Hawaii to ignore Trump, stick to the Paris Agreement

After over 250 US mayors expressed their continued support for the Paris Agreement, states are also starting to take action. The very next day after the governor of California discussed directly with China and pledged to follow solid environmental policies, the governor of Hawaii, David Ige, signed a bill to align Hawaii to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Hawaii’s environment is under great threat due to climate change and invasive species. Image via Max Pixel.

Last week, President Trump publicly announced his intention to exit the Paris Agreement, the global framework to reduce emissions and limit global warming as much as possible. This has spurred an immediate backlash, both nationally and overseas. But the time for reactions has passed, and the time for action has come.

Hawaii is almost certainly the most threatened US state, in terms of climate change. A recently published study has concluded that climate change will bring nothing short of ruin to the islands, destroying tourism almost entirely and killing off the native wildlife.

“To lose coral reefs is to fundamentally undermine the health of a very large proportion of the human race,” said Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. “We’ve lost 50 percent of the reefs, but that means we still have 50 percent left,” said Gates, who is working in Hawaii to breed corals that can better withstand increasing temperatures. “We definitely don’t want to get to the point where we don’t intervene until we have 2 percent left.”

Ige feels that first hand. He sees the tides coming higher, the coast eroding, the corals bleaching, and the biodiversity shrinking. He — and implicitly, Hawaii — is in the first line of the battle against climate change; and he is not remaining idle.

“Many of the greatest challenges of our day hit us first, and that means that we also need to be first when it comes to creating solutions,” Mr. Ige, a Democrat in his first term as governor, said in remarks before the signing. “We are the testing grounds — as an island state, we are especially aware of the limits of our natural environment.”

“Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” he added.

Hawaii is already one of the more than 10 states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition which has pledged to bypass the White House and respect the Paris Agreement despite Trump’s plans. By bringing this in a legally coherent form, Hawaii becomes the first state to officially pledge its support of the Paris accord. We’ll see if this triggers a domino-like reaction for other states.

Climate change will ruin Hawaii, new study finds

America’s favorite travel destination, Hawaii, is in for some nasty times.

Image credits: dronepicr.

Climate change affects everybody on Earth, but if you live on a coast, there’s extra reason to be worried — sea level rise is no joke. If you live on an island, and a volcanic one at that, you’d better do your homework and see what lies in store for you. That’s exactly what the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant program aims to do: understand how Hawaii will be affected by the shifting climate conditions.

Their new report, called “Climate Change Impacts In Hawaii: A Summary Of Climate Change And Its Impacts To Hawaii’s Ecosystems And Communities,” was solicited by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Although now, tourism is booming on the islands, the HTA is concerned about what the future might hold. The study found that there’s a lot of reasons to be worried because, in the future, climate change might all but destroy Hawaii’s tourism industry.

The main findings:

  • Hawaii’s rate of warming air temperature has quadrupled in the last 40 years to over 0.3°F (0.17°C) per decade. This puts a huge pressure on the biodiversity, both plant and animal. It will pave the way for more and more invasive species to come in, at the expense of native species.
  • Rising temperatures will lead to a surge in heat-related diseases, especially things like dengue fever or cholera.
  • Warmer oceans will lead to coral bleaching, causing a disaster for marine creatures. Increased oceanic acidity will further exacerbate this phenomenon.
  • Precipitations have declined and will continue to decline more and more. This causes a decrease in stream base flow, which in turn reduces the rechargeability of the aquifers, with major consequences for local agriculture, wildlife, and even in terms of water availability.

Of course, sea level rise deserves a special mention. Shoreline retreat is averaging 1 ft per year (0.3 m/yr) statewide. Do the math, and that’s 3 meters lost every decade. Directly, this is expected to impact hotel revenues by as much as $661.2 million, with a scary $2 billion lost overall, each year. In the long run, combine that with wetland migration and cliff collapse due to erosion, which are occurring now on many of Hawai‘i’s coastlines (according to the UH Coastal Geology Group, 2013; Fletcher, et al., 2010), you end up with a recipe for disaster.

Of course, this isn’t a definitive sentence, and there are still things Hawaii can do to prevent this scenario.

“There’s a lot we can do to start preparing,” Dolan Eversole, an agent with the UH Sea Grant program, told the Star-Advertiser. “It’s like a freight train. We can see it coming. Are we going to be ready?”

In terms of climate change, it’s not like Hawaii can solve the problem on its own. Still, it’s important for the islands to play their part. Due to its isolated nature, Hawaii has the most expensive energy in all the US (more than double the average US prices), and heavily relies on imports of petroleum and coal for power. However, in recent years, Hawaii is starting to take advantage of its natural conditions more and more, harvesting the solar and wind energy which it has in abundance. In 2005, just 6.8% of Hawaii’s electricity came from renewable sources. In 2015, the figure almost quadrupled to 23.8%.

But the state can also take care of other environmental problems. Specifically, researchers suggest utilizing more rain catchment systems to conserve water, which is expected to become scarcer and scarcer. Preserving the reefs, beaches, forests, streams, floodplains, and wetlands is also vital, because these natural elements have an “inherent capacity to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the impacts of climate change” and could prevent a further snowball effect.

All in all, Hawaii’s tourism industry is directly dependent on the islands’ local conditions — and climate change is a direct threat to these conditions. There is action which can prevent some or all of this damage, both local and global — but we need to act fast.

The US steps up for the bees, adding seven Hawaiian species the Endangered Species List

Seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees have been added to the endangered species list coming into effect this November, the US government announced. This marks the first occasion any species of bee has received federal protection.

Image credits Orangeaurochs / Flickr.

Under the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in 1973, the USFWS or NOAA can designate certain species at risk of extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.” The animals gain a protected status, with habitat zones and additional programs set in place to promote their recovery. The ruling on September 30th could thus prove invaluable in helping the affected populations rebound, saving Hawaii’s most important pollinators from extinction.

“Native pollinators in the US provide essential pollination services to agriculture which are valued at more than US $9 billion annually,” said Eric Lee-Mäder, program director at the Xerces Society, the non-profit organisation that petitioned the US government to label the bees as endangered for the CNN.

The seven species – Hylaeus anthracinus, Hylaeus longiceps, Hylaeus assimulans, Hylaeus facilis, Hylaeus hilaris, Hylaeus kuakea, and Hylaeus mana –populate unique habitats on the Islands including coastlines, shrublands, and wet and dry forests. But human encroachment on their territory, invasive species, and to a lesser extent the increasing use of pesticides have been taking a heavy toll on the bees, pushing these specialized pollinators close to extinction. The team says that this destruction of habitat is splintering up the bee population, making it even harder for the hives to resist invasive species.

“These bees require a habitat with a diversity of plants that flower throughout the year so that a consistent source of pollen and nectar is available,” the Xerces Society reports.

“Many species nest in the ground, but some nest in hollow stems of plants; the availability of nest sites is another important habitat requirement for these animals.”

Bees are a species we should strive to keep as happy as possible, as the work they do for us is invaluable. They keep the plant world going, pollinating roughly 30% of the world’s crop plants and 90% of wild ones. Without them, our crops would fail, and ecosystems around the world would grind to a halt.

“People tend to focus on the rare plants, and those are important, that’s a big part of the diversity,” Xerces entomologist Karl Magnacca told the AP. “But the other side is maintaining the common ones as common. [The bees] help maintain the structure of the whole forest.”

Back in 2015, the White House issued a report entitled “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” in response to the growing issue posed by the colony collapse disorder, or CCD. This occurs when stressed worker bees leave the hive, abandoning the queen. At that time, CCD was causing anywhere between 20 to 40 percent of honeybee hives in mainland US to vanish every winter, and the White House aimed to find a system to help protect bees and butterflies.

Hopefully, the Hawaiian bees are only the first in a long list of protected pollinators. To save the seven species, programs will need to be put in place to allow these populations to thrive. Federal agencies will step in to provide funds and protected areas in Hawaii where these bees are known to live, although the exact details of the plan have yet to be decided on.

 

 

Hawaii’s wildlife is being killed off by invasive species

Invasive species – such as pigs, goats, rats and slugs – are destroying Hawaii’s flora fast, a new IUCN report states.

Hawaii’s flora is threatened by species brought by animals.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s the governing body on species conservation, has issued an ample press release reassessing the status of  thousands of plants and animals, including an overview of the situation in Hawaii. The beautiful volcanic islands seem to be plagued by invasive species destroying the local species.

Invasive species

Invasive species threaten biodiversity by causing disease, acting as predators, parasites, or competitors, altering habitat, or by hybridizing with local species.

Technically speaking, an invasive species is a plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species). When you think of invasive species, you’d perhaps think of something exotic, but most invasive species are actually quite common. In fact, they’re invasive and common for the same reason – they’re highly adaptable and can thrive in different environments.

Because Hawaii is a group of volcanic islands, life here evolved differently from other places and many species are endemic, unique to Hawaii. There, (much like in the case of Australia and New Zealand), invasive species have been brought by humans, and they’re mostly domestic.

There are 1093 known endemic Hawaiian plant species, and IUCN assessed 415, so almost half of them. They found that 87% of them are threatened with extinction and four species have already gone extinct in the wild. Invasive species are the main threat to all these species.

“Hawaiʻi is an example of nature at its best with spectacular examples of evolution, yet it is facing an uncertain future due to the impact of invasive species – showing how unwittingly, human actions can make nature turn against itself,” says Matt Keir, a member of the IUCN SSC Hawaiian Plant Specialist Group. “What we see happening in Hawaiʻi is foretelling what will happen in other island or contained ecological systems. Hawaiʻi and other nations must take urgent action to stop the spread of invasive species and to protect species with small population sizes.”

Furthermore, another 105 species have been classed as extremely rare, which means there are less than 50 mature individuals in the wild. Another 38 species have less than five mature individuals surviving in the wild.

The most expensive things you can eat or drink

Gastronomy is becoming more of a science and less of an art with each passing day, but there are some foods which are just downright unreasonably expensive. This is a list of the most extravagant, exorbitant and expensive foods (the list is not exhaustive, so if there’s anything else you think is worth added here, just contact me).

The most expensive caviar

Price: 7-10.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: Caspian region

Caviar is the expensive food by default, but beluga is the caviar among caviar. It can be produced only by a certain type of sturgeon (Huso Huso) that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and it’s best served only when the fish it is extracted from is older than 100 years.

The Beluga sturgeon, however, is an endangered species, and therefore numerous countries, including the US, have banned the import and use of it, but it can still be found in most countries from the former USSR, as well as other countries in the Caspian region.

If eating an endangered and banned species won’t stop you, the price probably will; at 7$/gram, a decent taste will cost about 1500$, which is more than your average night out.

Most expensive omelette

Price: 1.000$
Where can you find it: New York

The Le Parker Meridien restaurant serves the world’s most expensive omelette in the world by far; by so far that in the menu, next to it, there is a challenge that reads “Norma dares you to expense this”. It’s not the 10 eggs that are expensive though, but the lobster in the middle and the 200 grams of caviar.

The white truffle

Price: 5-165.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: almost anywhere in the world

The white truffle is by far the rarest and most expensive mushroom in the world.

It originates from a region in Italy, and their price varies widely. You shouldn’t confuse them with black truffles, which are expensive too, but a whole different league.

Truffles can be eaten in many ways, but I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never had one; as a matter of fact, I only know a single person who has.

The record price for white truffles was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid US $330,000 for a single specimen weighing 1.5 kg. Just think about that, find one single mushroom, and you’re set for life; but finding one is not so easy. Dogs are trained for years before they can successfully locate such a truffle.

The most expensive pizza

Price: 4.200$
Where can you find it: you can’t

Pizza is a regular dish for most Americans and Europeans especially because it’s good food for a small budget. But this isn’t the case here, of course, because chef Domenico Crolla’s “Pizza Royale 007″ has some absolutely amazing ingredients, such as lobster marinated in cognac, caviar soaked in champagne, sunblush tomato sauce, Scottish smoked salmon, venison medallions, prosciutto, and vintage balsamic vinegar. To top it off, it even has some edible 24-carat gold flakes. The pizza was a one time offer, and it was auctioned on eBay.

The most expensive burger

Price: 5.000$
Where can you find it: Las Vegas

If you’re thinking pizza is too expensive, then why not try a burger ? In this case, you should go for the Fleur 5000 Burger, sold in Vegas; the good thing is, you will also get a 1995 Chateau Petrus from Bordeaux to go with it. The bad thing is that bottle is also a reason why it is so expensive, aside from the kobe beef, truffles and foie gras. If you’re still not impressed, you can quench your curiosity by going to the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

The most expensive bagel

Price: 1000$
Where can you find it: New York

The world’s most expensive bagel can also be found in New York, and why shouldn’t it be one thousand dollars, when it’s made with white truffle cream cheese and goji berry infused Riesling jelly with golden leaves ?

The most expensive ice cream

Price: 1000$
Where can you find it: Manhattan

After a fine meal like the ones above, there should definitely be some extra room for desert – and what better dessert can you have than the premium ice cream made by Serendipity 3 from Manhattan ? Made from Tahiti vanilla, Madagascar vanilla, edible gold flakes and one of the most expensive chocolates in the world, this ice cream will definitely cool you off – and your pockets too.

The most expensive chocolates

Price: 2,600 euro / box
Where can you find it: on the internet

If ice cream isn’t your thing, these chocolate truffles will definitely please your senses. You can buy them online, from the Knipschildt site, at about 3.500$. Created after a secret recipe, their cream is made from 70% highest quality cocoa, as well as black truffles. A box weighs slightly under 400 grams.

The most expensive coffee

Price: 10.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: fancy stores

If you feel the need to wake up, the Kopi Luwak coffee might do the trick for you. The most expensive coffee in the world has an interesting story: it is made from coffee beans which have been eaten by a species of civet and then defecated. Aside from being digested in the civet’s body, it is also dried, roasted and brewed, after which it becomes much more aromatic and much less bitter.

The most expensive Rum

Price: 53.000$ / bottle
Where can you find it: unknown

 

I don’t know about you, but after this kind of prices, I could definitely use a drink – a strong rum, perhaps? It is unknown just how many bottles of Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum there still are in the world, but there can’t be too many. No one has sold or bought one in ages and considering its price, I would bet no one has drank one in ages too. Made in 1940, this is the most expensive rum in the world, and one of the most expensive drinks, too. It’s not for your average pirate, that’s for sure.

The most expensive cocktail

Price: 18.000$
Where can you find it: Tokyo

It would have been impossible to have a list such as this one without including Japan in it at least once. The Diamonds Are Forever Martini is a supreme luxury in a (small) glass. It comes with a smooth blend of chilled Grey Goose vodka poured over a one carat diamond, some martini, and a twist of lime. Yeah, the good news is you get to keep the diamond; however, only a handful of such cocktails were bought. Don’t forget to get yours when you go to the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Tokyo.

The most expensive beer

Price: 1.000$
Where can you find it: London

But enough of these fancy drinks ! You can always just go out with the boys for a beer or two, right? Well, not in London, at Bierdorme, where a Vielle Bon Secours costs no less than 1.000$ – guaranteed to make your head spin the next day, and probably many more after that.

The most expensive water

Price: 2144$ / gallon
Where can you find it: Hawaii, Japan

If all else fails, you can always just have a glass of water; except when that water is made from desalinated water with a high mineral content found 2,000 feet down off the coast of Hawaii. It is credited with aiding weight loss, skin tone, and a whole lot of other health benefits. It’s supposed to be so good, that you can actually dilute it with … water. Japanese love this water so much that 80.000 bottles get shipped there every day, even though there is a local alternative processed in the same conditions.

Earthquake swarm indicates lava build-up at Kilauea volcanoes

Geologists are expecting increased activity on the Kilauea volcano, warning that another eruption is likely possible. It seems that lava continues to build up, as manifested through a swarm of minor earthquakes.

The lava lake within Halema’uma’u Crater at the summit of Kīlauea on February 1, 2014. Image via Kilauea Military Camp.

“The overall evolution of unrest in Kilauea’s summit area and upper rift zones in the coming weeks to months is uncertain,” the Hawaii Volcano Observatory said in a statement.

There have recently been two significant eruptions at the Kilauea volcano, including one that collapsed a crater wall, but the situation still hasn’t stabilized. Earthquake swarms have rocked the area, with two magnitude-3.0 earthquakes hitting on Saturday. This seems to indicate that highly pressurized lava is gathering up and pressing against the walls.

“The magma storage system within Kilauea is highly pressurized at this time, and future changes in the location of unrest, and the potential for eruption, could unfold quickly (in days to hours),” it said.

The lava lake in the crater reportedly fell down by 500 feet (150 meters), and this lava had to go somewhere – it’s almost certainly accumulating in an existing chamber or in an entirely new place, where it might erupt. Steven Brantley of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said that they are currently trying to use these earthquakes to anticipate when the next eruption will take place.

“We don’t know what the outcome of this activity might be. That is the challenge, is trying to interpret what this activity really means in terms of the next step for Kilauea”. He added that there is a possibility that the lava will burst out of Kilauea in a new spot.

Even if it blows up in a new spot, the risk of the eruption threatening locals is reduced, but scientists are still keeping an eye out. The area is generally closed to tourists and there are no structures nearby.

Study puts growth of Hawaiian volcanoes in a different perspective

Even an area so studied as Hawaii sometimes yields surprises – a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and the University of Rhode Island (URI) changes the very foundation of how the Hawaii islands were formed: it is the eruptions of lava on the surface, extrusion, which grow Hawaiian volcanoes, rather than internal emplacement of magma, as was previously thought.

3-D view of topography & seafloor relief of Hawaiian Islands; colors show residual gravity anomaly - red shows higher densities, blue shows lower densities.

3-D view of topography & seafloor relief of Hawaiian Islands; colors show residual gravity anomaly – red shows higher densities, blue shows lower densities.

Before this, the currently accepted theory was that Hawaiian volcanoes grew primarily internally – magma intrudes and solidifies before it hits the surface. While this type of growth does occur, it is definitely not the major component of the growth; previous studies which concluded otherwise were based on observations over a very small time frame.

“The discrepancy we see between our estimate and these past estimates emphasizes that the short-term processes we currently see in Hawaiʻi (which tend to be more intrusive) do not represent the predominant character of their volcanic activity,” said Ashton Flinders, study author.

Ashton Flinders (M.S. from UHM), lead author and graduate student at URI worked with his colleagues and Jim Kauhikaua of the U.S. Geological Survey – Hawaiʻi Volcano Observatory to compile historical land-based gravity surveys as well as marine surveys from the National Geophysical Data Center and from the UH R/V Kilo Moana. These data provide an insight over longer periods of time.

This could have a significant impact on how the island develops and what kind of challenges it has to face in the future.

“This could imply that over the long-term, Kilauea’s ERZ will see less seismic activity and more eruptive activity that previously thought. The 3-decade-old eruption along Kilauea’s ERZ [east rift zone] could last for many, many more decades to come,” said Dr. Garrett Ito, Professor of Geology and Geophysics at UHM and co-author.

“I think one of the more interesting possible implications is how the intrusive-to-extrusive ratio impacts the stability of the volcano’s flank. Collapses occur over a range of scales from as large as the whole flank of a volcano, to bench collapses on the south coast of Big Island, to small rock falls,” said Flinders. Intrusive magma is more dense and structurally stronger than lava flows. “If the bulk of the islands are made from these weak extrusive flows then this would account for some of the collapses that have been documented, but this is mainly just speculation as of now.”

They are now working on a new density model which will serve as a starting point for future studies and pave the way for a better understanding of the entire volcanic system.

Via University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Colour composite image of the Subaru XMM-Newton deep survey field. In the right panel, the red galaxy at the centre of the image is the most distant galaxy, SXDF-NB1006-2, according to the astronomers. Image by NAOJ

Oldest galaxy discovered so far in the Universe is 12.91 billion years old

Colour composite image of the Subaru XMM-Newton deep survey field. In the right panel, the red galaxy at the centre of the image is the most distant galaxy, SXDF-NB1006-2, according to the astronomers. Image by NAOJ

Colour composite image of the Subaru XMM-Newton deep survey field. In the right panel, the red galaxy at the centre of the image is the most distant galaxy, SXDF-NB1006-2, according to the astronomers. Image by NAOJ

Using the  Subaru and Keck optical/infrared telescopes on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, a 4,200 metre-high summit which houses the world’s largest observatory for optical, infrared and submillimeter astronomy, a team of Japanese astronomers claim in a recently published paper that they’ve discovered the earliest galaxy found thus far in the known Universe – it is 12.91 billion years old or 12.91 billion light years away.

A light-year is the distance that light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles – don’t multiply this by the estimated distance from above; it might give you headaches.

At the beginning of the year, scientists at Hubble discovered, what they claim was, the oldest galaxy cluster ever found, at 13.1 billion years, while last year a California team using Hubble said they saw a galaxy from 13.2 billion light-years ago. However, neither of the two teams managed to prove their calculations through other methods.

The Japanese claim for the oldest galaxy found thus far, dubbed “SXDF-NB1006-2”, is more “watertight,” according to other corresponding scientists, since it uses methods that everyone can agree on. Current theory holds that the universe was born of an explosion, called the Big Bang, about 13.7 billion years ago. Using top-notch infrared and optical telescopes, astronomers peer right through the early days of the Universe.

The astronomers are also claiming their research has verified that the proportion of neutral hydrogen gas in the 750m-year-old early universe was higher than it is today. Thus, some 200 to 500 million years after the Big Bang, the dense parts of neutral hydrogen clouds contracted under their own gravity, forming the first stars and galaxies.

“These findings help us to understand the nature of the early universe during the ‘cosmic dawn’, when the light of ancient celestial objects and structures appeared from obscurity,” indicated an NAOJ statement.

“The radiation from this first generation of stars started to heat and reionise the hydrogen in nearby space, eventually leading to the reionisation of the entire universe. This was the era of ‘cosmic reionisation,'” said the NAOJ.

The findings will be published in the journal the Astrophysical Journal.

via Silicon Republic

Hawaii becomes first US state to ban plastic bags – sets a remarkable example

The Governor of the Honolulu county signed the law passed by the local council, banning plastic bags altogether – thus making Hawaii the first state ever to do so.

There are four counties in Hawaii – and all of them set a great example together; the thing is, this was not done by state legislature, but instead, each of the four counties voting the same thing, showing just how big an impact local activism can have.

The City and County of Honolulu was the last county to ban plastic bags, after Maui and Kauai counties already have plastic bag bans in place while Hawaii County passed an ordinance that will take effect next year – and it’s already made a difference. In Maui, the amount of plastic trash blowing around in the almost constant Trade Winds in the area near the main landfill has drastically decreased.

Of course, the usage of reusable bags has risen significantly, but the bad thing is that so has the usage of paper bags. Still, let us enjoy this victory and fine example, and spread the word to bring reusable bags when in Hawaii; hopefully, in time, education will allow even more improvements, and in the end, we will be using almost entirely reusable bags. The city of Seattle has also banned plastic bags, and so have Congo and Italy.

Via Ecowatch

Further heartbreaking information about the Japan earthquake + info on threatened areas

The earthquake that struck Japan is much worse than original estimates ! The original 7.9 magnitude actually just got upgraded to 8.9, which makes it 10 times more powerful, and the 4th most powerful earthquake in the past 100 years.

Sadly, reports of injured and killed people keep coming in, and will likely not stop for a long time, especially as the earthquake hit some refineries, causing several deadly fires, and to make matters even worse, there are reports of actual tsunamis actually catching fire !

Here is a time map of the threatened areas, if you are in one of them, PLEASE BE PREPARED !  Sirens in Hawaii are already ringing, but there is also a warning for Russia, Guam, Taiwan, Marshall Islands and Wake Islands, so if you are in one of those areas, or know anyone who is there, be prepared for it

Also, Al Jazeera is doing a way better job at live coverage than American television, so you can watch live streaming here – but it’s not for the faint of heart. I just watched several people trying to run from the tsunami… but didn’t make it.

It breakes my heart to see something like this happen, and it’s a testament of what nature can do, even to one of the most developed countries in the world, which is used to earthquakes by now, and always prepared for them. We’ll keep you posted as things continue to develop.

Picture sources: 1 2

Stunning picture and video from the Kilauea Eruption in Hawaii

Photo by Adrian Glover.

As I was telling you just earlier, the Kilauea volcano erupted, with a fissure throwing lava up more than 20 meters towards the sky in a dazzling display of volcanic power. The Hawaii eruption took place just after one of the volcano’s floors collapsed, thus creating the necessary conditions for lava to come out to the surface. This is great news to volcanologists and volcano loves throughout the world, especially as so far no lives were threatened and no significant damage was done.

 

More absolutely amazing videos which I highly recommend can be found at USGS

 

Volcanic eruption in Hawaii

Hawaii isn’t all warm breezes, mojitos and surfing; it’s what geologists call a hot spot, one of the most active volcanic regions on the face of the planet, so it was little surprise when Kilauea erupted; after all, it is one of the most potent volcanoes in the world, being in a constant eruption since the 3rd of January, 1983 (yes, you read that right)

This time, lava came out to the surface through a fissue, after the Pu’u ‘Ō’ō crater collapsed, event which led to the dramatic and destructive display we can see now; the magnificent volcano threw lava at heights of 65 feet, which then began to flow. As USGS reports, it is still erupting powerfully at two locations, and no less than 18 earthquakes were detected inside the volcano (I haven’t been able to find out their magnitude, but they shouldn’t be too great – still, the seismic tremor levels remain significantly elevated).

You can get maps, photos, videos, and even webcam views at Kilauea status, and we will also keep you posted with what happens.

Despite the fact that this eruption doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody, the 370 feet collapse of one of the volcano’s floors (Pu’u ‘O’o) was pretty unexpected. Janet Babb of the U.S. Geological Survey said this weekend’s activity indicates “new episodes in eruptions and further unknowns”.

New planet close to size of Earth found

The Planet

new_earth306Researchers have long been interested in finding other planets that have approximately the same size as our mother earth, because it’s estimated that they have the biggest odds of hosting life in a significant diversity. However, out of the over 400 planets that have been discovered so far, the vast majority resembles Jupiter rather than Earth.

Scientists using the Keck telescope in Hawaii discovered a new planet they’ve called HD156668b. Located in the Hercules constellation 80 light years away from us, this “Super Earth” has all the odds of being inhabited.

“This is quite a remarkable discovery,” said astronomer Andrew Howard of the University of California at Berkeley. “It shows that we can push down and find smaller and smaller planets.”

Of Super Earths

mantle-11Super Earths are planets with a mass relatively close to that of Terra; they are rather bigger than smaller (from 2 to 10 times bigger, actually). They have to be bigger, because if they are smaller (like Mars, for example) the interior would just not be hot enough to drive tectonics (tectonic plates slide on a layer of molten rock called a mantle, and convection currents make it move around).

But of course, even such a (relatively) small difference can cause significant modification in the planetary dynamics. With these bigger planets, the interior would of course be hotter, bigger, and the planetary crust would be thinner and would suffer more stress. The tectonic movement would be much active and as a result, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other such processes would take place way more often.