On Mt. Saint Helens


Mt. Saint Helens (Wikipedia), erupted steam and ash around 12 noon, October 1st, 2004. The small, 24 minute event was the first of a series of small events, signalling the re-awakening of the mountain in 2004. OregonLive has a special report including the latest from members of the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program.

KATU in Portland has live television coverage. Here’s more from CNN, the official live webcam, photos of the USGS sensors, Cascades Volcano Observatory news, Google News and Yahoo Full Coverage. Here’s an assortment of Mount St. Helens’ Map Resources.

Yesterday I traveled up to Mt Saint Helens (my Flickr Slide Show) which is experiencing thousands of small tremors (seismometer) under magnitude 3. I spoke to a couple of geologists from the Cascades Volcano Observatory who had just retrieved some instruments from inside the crater.

UPDATE: Here are USGS photos from inside the crater shot in March, 2005, the latest status reports and some great shots installing the instrumentation.

Mount St. Helens, about 80 miles NE of Portland, first erupted in May 1980, killing 57 people and covering the region with gritty ash. The eruption took off the top 1,313 feet of the peak.

On October 1, 2004, Mount St. Helens re-awakened, sending steam and ash up some 10,000 feet for approximately 25 minutes, yielding evacuation orders from nearby areas. Mount St. Helens vented steam, ash and rock once more on October 6, 2004.

Today the mountain is being prodded, poked and photographed with visible light cameras, IR, multi-spectral imagery, gas spectrometer “sniffers”, GPS-based motion sensors, and other seismic gear. The recent activity on the mountain motivated several groups, including a geologic “SWAT” team.

This page informally documents some of the sensor networks, I’ve read about. I have no background or expertise in geology. The focus is on wireless technology that is used (or might be used) on The Mountain.

In 1980, after the first eruption, there was only one component — up-and-down movement. Today, digital broadband seismometers separate any volcano movement into three-dimensional data.

A Reference Station Network (RSN), around Seattle’s Puget Sound provides real-time high accuracy location information via differential GPS and a cellular network.

The Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array (PANGA) supports field experiments in mainland Mexico, Baja California, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. It measures millimeter-scale displacements with the Pacific Northwest region.

The University of Washington operates 5 continuously recording GPS sites as part of the PANGA network in the Pacific Northwest.

Analysis of GPS station movement at GPS sites that have been in operation for three years indicates that crustal deformation in western Washington comes from two sources: 1) subduction of the Juan de Fuca under North America and 2) a north-south compression, presumably due to the the northward motion of the Sierra block in California.

Modern digital seismic arrays produce three-dimensional images of North America’s continental crust and the deeper mantle on which it “floats.” EarthScope, a project of both the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey, is using a network of receivers, called the Plate Boundary Observatory. They are installing 5 new GPS stations on the volcano.

The 250-station Southern California Integrated GPS Network (SCIGN), is a multi-agency effort jointly sponsored by NASA, NSF, USGS, and the W.M. Keck Foundation, under the umbrella of the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC).

Over the next five years, SCIGN will become an integral part of the multi-agency, multi-disciplinary Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO), an observatory of high-precision geodetic instruments spanning western North America. The USArray component of the EarthScope experiment is a continental-scale seismic observatory.

The GPS system will consume about half of the budget for the $200 million EarthScope’s Plate Boundary project (FAQ). It will blanket the United States with seismic stations. The undertaking will measure latitude and longitude at 875 permanent GPS stations, graphing how the earth moves over time.

Each receiver can measure relative distance changes of less than 0.5 millimeters. GPS receivers, strainmeters and new satellite radar imagery will measure and map the smallest movements across faults, the magma movement inside active volcanoes and the very wide areas of deformation associated with plate tectonic motion.

A Transportable Array seismic station was installed in September, 2004, near Wishkah Valley School in Aberdeen, Washington.

The seismic data from this station and others are available through the IRIS Data Management Center. Students at the K-12 school are using the recorded data to learn more about the local geology and natural hazards.

Earthscope may have been an easier political “sell” than John Delany’s Neptune Project (right), a $250 million underwater subduction zone monitoring project off the Pacific coast.


But development of the Lambda Light Switch on the National LambdaRail (video) and OptIPuter (video) video wall may need to come first. Earthscope is a test-bed. Here’s a riveting one hour lecture by Larry Smarr.

C/Net says older analog seismometers that date back 24 years are still in use in the Mount St. Helens region. Digital seismometers are more sensitive and flexible. The newer machines are listening to vibrations in the Long Valley region of California, which generally has much more equipment for sniffing out geologic rumblings, said Chris Newhall, a research scientist with the United States Geological Survey.

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Silver Fox from Advanced Ceramics Research has been deployed to monitor seismic activity at Mt. St. Helens.

The Silver Fox’s thermal imaging payload streams images directly from the volcano’s crater for analysis by U.S. Geological Survey scientists.

NASA scientists used an instrument called Master, for Modis/Aster Airborne Simulator digital imaging system. The images were taken Oct. 12 from an airplane about 4,000 feet above the 8,363-foot-high volcano. Sky Research in Ashland provided the propeller-driven Cessna Caravan airplane that carried the infrared imager.

Hyper-spectral imagery makes identifying and monitoring the locations of potential slope failure easier.

Because of the real-time landslide monitoring systems developed by Rick Lahusen, geologists can know when a mud slide starts. They can alert people downhill of life-threatening risks, before lives are lost.

Earth Search Sciences, in Idaho, has been a pioneer and leading collector of airborne hyperspectral data, which stacks hundreds of narrow bandwidth images, from the infrared to the ultraviolet, to make a composite image. Their Probe-1 hyperspectral airborne instrument fits in a Turbo Commander aircraft.

If they could fit a hyperspectral scanner into one of Insitu Group’s tiny autonomous airplanes they’d really have something. Another option might be Rotomotion’s $27,000 WiFi-linked robot helicopter. The aerial platform for small cameras and other sensor payloads has a limited range but it might be cheaper than a flying a real helicopter around for a hours, sampling gases.Rotomotion ought to talk to Intel about a MIMO-based WiMax client for 5-10 mile range. Meanwhile, here are some great megapixel photos shot from inexpensive R/C planes flown by amateurs.

The USGS and NASA scientists are using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to analyze changes in the surface elevation of the crater. In 2003 the USGS contracted a LIDAR survey of Mount St. Helens. In early September 2004, USGS and NASA scientists began detailed planning for a second survey. LIDAR shows the new uplift grew to the height of a 35-story building (110 meters or 360 feet) and the area of 29 football fields (130,000 square meters). They used gear from Sky Research, based in Ashland, Oregon. Along with their partners, Watershed Sciences, Sky Research is the only LiDAR provider in the Pacific Northwest. They use an Optech ALTM 3100, a 100 kHz Airborne Laser Terrain Mapper.

Differential Absorption Lidar works on the principal that a gas will absorb light emitted at a certain laser wavelength while transmitting light at most others. By comparing two wavelengths, the concentration of the gas at that particular region of the atmosphere – differential absorption – can be determined. Gases in the atmosphere can indicate volcanic magma location and other characteristics.

Meanwhile, visible light photos pack megapixels of information that can be clearly interpreted. The official Mt. Saint Helens live webcam uses an analog video camera with a video frame grabber so high resolution is impossible.

A Web cam is trained on Mount Etna, in Italy, which began to discharge lava last month. The camera connects wirelessly to a notebook computer equipped with Intel’s Centrino wireless technology, with the computer housed in a protected container. At the top of Mount Etna’s crater, a wireless hot spot has been set up, which transmits images from the notebook computer to a Web server in Sicily.

Nexense, an emerging sensing technology and research and development company, has chosen Fujitsu to develop and manufacture a new ASIC chip set for non-intrusive monitoring and tracking of vital signs via mobile phones. It may turn mobile phones or other devices to personal vital sign monitors. Users can non-invasively monitor heart rate, respiration, temperature, blood pressure as well as step counting and distance. Vital signs data may be transmitted to doctors or medical facilities in real time.

I was surprised to discover that The Mountain (WikiPedia) does not have any broadband connectivity. There’s a voice relay tower and some telemetry but nothing, apparently, that can relay high resolution photos or sound.

Holy cow. (NOTE: This is not the case anymore!)

In Ecuador, a wireless sensor network monitors eruptions at Volc n Tungurahua, an active volcano in central Ecuador. This network consisted of five tiny, low-power wireless sensor nodes, three equipped with a specially-constructed microphone to monitor infrasonic (low-frequency acoustic) signals emanating from the volcanic vent during eruptions. They gathered over 54 hours of continuous infrasound data, transmitting signals over a 9 km wireless link back to a base station at the volcano observatory.

The sensor node software was implemented in TinyOS, a tiny operating system for sensor networks. Laptop software was implemented in Perl and Java running on the Linux operating system.

Through the deployment the Freewave Modems and GPS receiver were powered by standard 12 Volt car batteries, a readily available energy source in Ecuador. All other devices were powered by 2 AA batteries. No power sources required replacement over the duration of the deployment. Matt Welsh and his colleagues now plan to develop a wireless seismometer to augment their infrasound array.

Maybe it’s time to dust off the Seattle To Portland Wi-Fi Proposal from a couple years ago.

MaxStream has a 1 watt, 900 MHz wireless modem with extended range which might connect to the WiMax backbone. Redline is ready to go. They have one of the largest and most ambitious operational broadband wireless deployments in Canada. Using Redline’s AN-50 broadband wireless solution for access and backhaul services, more than 7,000 students in remote locations are connected over a 27,000 square mile area.

The network was deployed over a four-month period, includes multiple back-to-back links comprising up to seven segments in a row reaching distances of over 120 miles (200 kilometers). The average bandwidth rate achieved for the 22-link network is 48 Mbps. The previous maximum rate was 1 Mbps.

There were about 50 satellite trucks parked by the mountain and dozens of newspaper photographers and reporters all waiting for something to happen. Add up the cost.

DailyWireless has more on Maine’s SensorNet, Solar Powered Hot Spots, $20 5GHz Relays, WiFi Birdhouses, Wireless Parks, Seattle To Portland Wi-Fi Proposal, and other Sensor Programs such as the Center for Coastal and Land-Margin Research which already has an expert team in place from the Oregon Graduate Institute and the Oregon Heath & Science University.

The Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute will initially be headquartered in donated space on Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Corvallis campus, but it will have other facilities at Oregon State, University of Oregon and Portland State University. About 10 national research centers are expected to be named.

Perhaps a wireless sensor network could save lives and money. That’s what my Seattle-to-Portland WiFi Proposal was all about. High schools, scientists and the USGS might build and run this network and lease a portion to the Forest Service (for $100K/year).

Four Canon Digital Rebels ($700), 20D SLRs ($1500), or 16 Megapixel EOS-1Ds ($8,000), using four 100 degree wide angle lenses will get you a 360 view. The cameras can be controlled from a tiny OQO XP computer running Breeze Remote Pro ($129). An 8 Megapixel Nikon 8800 ($999) with a 10-1 zoom can also be remotely controlled. Nikon’s new D2X, a professional 12 Megapixel digital SLR, will feature the Wireless Transmitter WT-2/2a along with Capture 4.2 software for wireless remote control of the camera. My DailyWireless story on 360 degree remote panoramas explains how it’s done. A WiFi Bridge could link it to the observatory (or anywhere).

It might cost from $1,000 to $10,000 for a remote 360 degree webcam, but such a setup might also save the Forest Service millions by spoting forest fires early. Oops, there goes another $100M. Of your money.

A solar-powered 1.2 megapixel Toshiba Netcam ($600) (demo), inside the crater might be bridged to the Johnson Ridge Observatory 12 miles away.

Toshiba’s WB02A Network Camera outputs both video and IP. Panasonic’s KX-HCM280 is a user-controlled outdoor Net Cam with Remote 350° Pan and 220° Tilt and 21x Optical Zoom ($1299). Plug those network cameras into Netgear’s Extended Range AP ($129 x 2), using Atheros Xtended range chips. It should go 10 miles. Stick four on a pole for panoramas. Maybe a $12K Meyer or Murdock grant for broadband monitoring could get the local schools involved, too.

A high resolution netcam ($1,000) connected to a computer and photoprinter ($2,000) at the volcano observatory could allow viewers to pan and tilt while the PhotoKiosk prints out photos ($5 each). It could pay for itself in a week.

Here are some other camera ideas:

Nikon’s new D2X, a professional 12 Megapixel digital SLR, expected to ship in January 2005, will feature an improved wireless adapter option using 802.11g. The Wireless Transmitter WT-2/2a along with Capture 4.2 software will provide wireless remote control of the camera. Pricing has not been set on any of the newly-announced products, though the D2X is expected to sell initially in the $5000+ range with a typical Nikon lens. The D2X could be a successor to Nikon’s D1H and D1X.

The Wireless Transmitter WT-2/2a is an 802.11b/g device that, when operating in 802.11g mode, should transmit photos several times faster than the 300K/second of the current WT-1/1a, which is 802.11b-only. The wireless adapter attaches to the base of the camera and communicates with the camera via a cable to the USB 2.0 port.

Nikon’s Capture 4.2 software lets you control the camera from a laptop with full remote control of the D2X over the WT-2/2a wireless link.

A new image data transfer protocol named PTP/IP (Picture Transfer Protocol over Internet Protocol) promises easier and more flexibe configuration of the wireless link. Security is provided using TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol), which switches the encryption key every 10,000 data packets. WEP is supported, too.

The D2X will also accept the earlier 802.11b device WT-1/1a ($500), although transmit speeds will be slower and camera remote control isn’t supported. Nikon’s earlier D2H camera is not supported by the new device; only the new D2X supports the new WT-2/2a wireless adapter. The WT-1/1a, consequenty, is not being replaced by the newer wireless transmitter in Nikon’s accessory lineup.

The WT-2/2a accepts the same optional Extended Range Antenna WA-E1, as well as third party 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi antennas that have an RP-SMA connector. The WA-S1 stub antenna is included with the WT-2/2a.

Multiple users can zoom into different areas – simultaneously – using the remarkable virtual zoom server from Social Canvas (free & fee). Users can get interactivity with 100-1 (virtual) zoom capability. An 8 Megapixel still can be stored on the server but screen resolution of (say 320×240) allows the page to be displayed quickly. Zoom in or out. Different people can zoom in on different objects. Simultaneously. Cellular EV-DO modems may provide mobility and speed; both for taking and viewing images.

Most still digital cameras don’t have the control software that runs on a PC. Canon and Nikon do. Currently they run using a USB cable. Nikon’s Capture 4.2 software and Canon’s Remote Capture work with their pro D-SLRs. Nikon’s Capture 4 Software works with their pro “D” series SLRs but Krinnicam works with consumer models like the Coolpix 885, 995, 4300, 4500, 5000 and 5700.

Breeze Systems has Camera Control software ($50) for the Canon line that can work on $200 Canon point and shoots as well as Canon’s new EOS 20D ($1500) D-SLR which features 8.2 Megapixels and ultrawide zooms. The Breeze PS Remote software works with Canon Pro1, G3, G5, S1 IS, S50, S60, A75, A80 and IXUS cameras. But cameras must remain tethered to a USB cable since Canon does not (yet) offer a wireless control option.

Nikon’s new 8 megapixel 8400 ($900) comes with a 24mm (effective) ultra wide zoom. Plug it into a $600 laptop running Krinnicam camera capture software. Webcam software like TinCam ($19) can automatically update still images.

Matt Frondorf spent six days driving across the country with a camera hooked to his car’s odometer, automatically snapping a picture every mile along the way. Second Story built the amazing website. Phillip Torrone explains how to do GPS tagged photography – on the cheap. Red Hen Systems has a GPS attachment for digital camcorders. The Nikon D2X can accomodate external GPS units using the new MC-35 adapter cable, which connects to the 10-pin remote port on the camera. Latitude, longitude and altitude are stored in a photo’s metadata. The D2X’s date and time can also be set automatically when a GPS unit is connected.

Wireless camera control as provided in the new Nikon D2X could come in handy. Hang a camera in the rafters and run it from your OQO (below). Perhaps you could combine it with Remote access software like PCAnywhere and LapLink. They require you to install a copy of the program on both the remote PC and your local PC, while GoToMyPc is a combined software package and web service. Maxtrix The City.

Nikon anticipates the wireless funtionality of the pro model will filter down to their consumer line (which just introduced several new models). The new Nikon 8800 ($999) features 8 megapixels, a 10-1 zoom, and can shoot unlimited video (on a CF card). No word on a WiFi adapter for that camera (yet).

Ron Galbraith explains Microsoft’s new software that will streamline the setting up of a PC and camera for wireless FTP transmission. The working plan is to build it for Windows XP Professional SP2 only, since Windows XP Home doesn’t ship with Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) software and its FTP server on the installation disc, as XP Professional does. We hope that an XP Home version of the PowerToy will be considered, however, one that handles the wireless configuration only, while the XP Professional version could tackle both the wireless and FTP configuration tasks as planned.

If the PowerToy works as well as described, Nikon D2H owners in particular should benefit in the short term, since it’s this camera and its WT-1/1a transmitter that are both a handful to configure and are also not expected to be upgraded to take full advantage of newer technologies such as the PTP/IP support in the Nikon D2X and WT-2/2a Nikon announced earlier this month, or the MTP and MTP/IP functionality that Microsoft is currently developing.

Partner with a local college & tv station and make a CD/DVD.

Let’s see, 50,000 units times $10….

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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