A few weeks ago the USGS's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory released an incredible video of lava draining out of a lava pond at Kilauea's Halema`uma`u vent (an embedded Flash version can be found on the Big Island Video News website). At the beginning of the video, lava mostly fills the pond (a depression filled with mostly molten lava that is NOT connected directly to the underground source of the lava, unlike a lava lake), but as the lava drains out to the right, more of the shelf surrounding the pond becomes visible until lava starts cascading over that shelf. Known lava ponds on Io include Pillan Patera during the 1997 eruption, when lava from a fissure eruption 75 kilometers to the north of Pillan flowed over the edge of the patera, and covered its floor.
While we ooo and ahh at the powerful forces of nature, like this beautiful lava pond, these same geologic forces on Earth, volcanism and tectonism, can cause tremendous suffering for the planet's inhabitants. This can be clearly seen this week in the island nation of Haiti, where a simple break along a major strike-slip fault on the boundary between the Caribbean and North American Plates has caused a massive loss of life and tremendous suffering for the survivors in the area around Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince. I encourage my readers to donate some of their resources to the charity of their choice that they feel can make a difference down in the earthquake zone. One important thing to remember that in the days and weeks to come, the survivors of this quake will be facing a second disaster, one of disease and infection as a result of a complete loss of what sanitation and infrastructure they did have and the injuries they suffered from falling debris during the quake and its aftershocks. My favorite charity, Doctors without Borders will be working on the ground there in Haiti to try to mitigate that potential second disaster. Consider a donation to that wonderful organization, or the International Red Cross/Red Crescent, or check out the CNN.com website for a list of worthwhile and trustworthy charities.