Tracking land policy in the Golden State.

Breaking: Dormant Mojave Desert Volcano Is Dormant

Pisgah Crater, not erupting | Creative Commons photo by Bighornplateau1

This month's breaking news from the Central Mojave: The Pisgah Crater, a cinder cone two miles south of Interstate 40 near Ludlow, California that has likely been dormant for at least 20,000 years, is not erupting.

That's right: not erupting. The US Geological Survey has even issued a press statement to that effect, after two agency geologists were interviewed by local press. Why? Because a fellow going by the name of Dutch Sinse, a conspiracy buff far from the Mojave Desert, viewed NEXRAD doppler radar videos of what would seem to be monsoonal storm cells and declared them to be "volcanic plumes" -- an eruption, of sorts, in progress.

Story Continues Below
Support KCET

Sinse, who generally writes about alleged tampering with weather by the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), has a significant following on his blog and YouTube channel. Here's the video in which Sinse announces the eruption:

In the video, Sinse states that the "plume" cannot possibly be a wildfire, in part because there have been no news reports of wildfires in the area. (The similar lack of news reports on volcanic eruptions two miles off Interstate 40 escapes mention.) One YouTube commenter responds to the video saying:

I live 15 miles from the Pisgah crater and no we did not have an earthquake nor did the crater erupt! No smoke plumes no nothing just a lot of desert storms.

Sinse responds, in part:

within 3 days of this last week there was a 6.0 south in baja

The epicenter of said quake, a 5.9, was in the Sea of Cortez off Los Mochis on the Mexican mainland. Pisgah Crater is closer to Denver, Colorado than it was to that quake, which was far too weak to have been associated with a minor volcanic eruption 775 miles north.

In all likelihood, what Sinse pointed out in the above and subsequent videos were local storm cells, a wave of which has been running roughshod over the California Deserts in recent weeks. In summer, when superheated air rises from the desert floor and meets moist air coming in from the Sea of Cortez, thunderstorm cells can materialize seemingly out of nowhere, often creating small and intensely violent storms surrounded by many miles of clear sky.

The USGS had this response:

Inquiries have come to the USGS regarding a potential eruption in the vicinity of Lavic Lake Volcanic Field (LLVF) in Southern California. The inquiries stem from a citizen report noting a plume-like feature on NEXRAD radar imagery from July 23, 2011. USGS volcanologists evaluating the situation find nothing to indicate that the NEXRAD feature results from volcanic activity. Satellite images from the same period do not show the steam or ash clouds that accompany volcanic activity, and there is no seismicity in the vicinity indicative of volcanic unrest/eruption. No earthquakes were located within 20 miles of LLVF during the last week (USGS-Caltech Seismic Net update 14:10 PDT July 27, 2011 ). No reports of eruptive activity have come in from ground observers (LLVF is within 2 miles of Interstate 40) or from regional pilots (Barstow Daggett County Airport is within 10 miles of LLVF).

To sum up: a guy in the Midwest watches a doppler radar video of Mojave storm activity on the Internet and decides, in part due to apparent ignorance of Mojave weather patterns and a lack of familiarity with basic concepts of geology and mathematics, that a volcano is erupting, despite eyewitness accounts that said volcano is resting as peacefully as it has for the last 20,000 years or more. Why would the USGS bother issuing a response?

In part, it's because Dutch Sinse has a following, a network of conspiracy buffs who seem to see a new volcanic eruption in the Mojave -- and a subsequent USGS "coverup" -- as part of a vague but widespread threat to the US connected with secret HAARP research involving weather control as a war weapon,, the perennial and persistent chemtrails scare, secret plans to impose martial law on the US, and -- for some of his fans -- the looming end of the world forecast for 2012.

Sinse's prognostications spread quickly throughout the net. Within four days of the July 23 "eruption" I'd received three or four questions about it from different sets of online acquaintances. For one reason or another, this particular conspiracy theory gained traction, even inspiring some people to go out and document the plumes for themselves -- like these women, who ended up filming what looks like a convective updraft at what they thought was Pisgah Crater -- but which was actually Amboy Crater about 35 miles east of Pisgah.

Oddly, Amboy Crater's recent history offers one of the most compelling rebuttals to Dutch Sinse's speculations about Pisgah. At the end of World War II witnesses saw a thick plume of black smoke emerging from the crater, which is a few miles south of Route 66. Word spread quickly. Within a few hours the Los Angeles Times had chartered an airplane to fly over the crater to investigate. The aircraft's occupants saw firsthand the source of the smoke: a huge pile of tires and creosoted wood that a few Barstow High School students had stockpiled in the crater and ignited as a prank.

If it was that easy in the mid-1940s to check on a small volcano in the remote Mojave Desert to see if it was erupting, it certainly would be far easier now. Thousands of people see Pisgah Crater every day, and USGS vulcanologists would relish the chance to study a Mojave Desert volcanic eruption. This is the stuff of which dissertations are made and departmental budgets fortified. Few people would be more excited about a volcano coming to life in southern California than your typical USGS field scientist. An agency less likely to cover up an eruption is hard to imagine.

Dutch Sinse is far from the first person to make statements about the American deserts without actually knowing anything about them. That practice reaches at least as far back as 1845, when Lansford Hastings published a guidebook to a route across northern Utah that he had never actually seen, indirectly sending the ill-fated Donner Party to their doom. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it's unlikely Dutch Sinse's nonsense will hurt anyone the way Hastings did. Still. The Internet offers its users the best library in world history, and learning about the world is now far easier for the average American than it was just twenty years ago, but when you start deciding you know more about what's happening in a far away section of the Mojave Desert than do the people who actually live there, and the scientists who've made a life work of studying it, it's probably time to turn off the computer and go outside.

And take a map: you don't want to get your volcanic craters mixed up when you go. That would be embarrassing.

Chris Clarke is an environmental writer of two decades standing. Author of Walking With Zeke, he writes regularly at his acclaimed blog Coyote Crossing and comments on desert issues here every Wednesday. He lives in Palm Springs.


An Overview of Controversial Solar Energy Projects in California's Deserts


The Fire Next Time

About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
RSS icon

Add Your Response


Cheers Chris you have successfully proved some people are idiots and don't know their geography or how to use the internet.

This does not remove the fact the in the official European Union report into climate and security list HAARP as a "climate weapon" while geowarfare is also acknowledged in a 2010 report into the need for regulation of geoengineering technology commissioned by the United Kingdom Parliament.

This is with standing commercial models of HAARP which can easily be found in public sources relating to the current research of China, Pakistan, India, Russia, Italy, to name a few countries were I know such technology has been used to alter the climate or such things as the Beijing Olympics, Agriculture and even clear skies around airports.

Like wise the aforementioned reports also deal with your "Chemtrails" (otherwise to use their technical term known as atmospheric aerosol spraying) and acknowledge their existence. In fact Chemtrails only seem to be a "conspiracy theory" to the US media in light that only yesterday I was sent a report from a German TV Chanell watched by over 80,000, 000 viewers were the weatherman (who we hope does know how to read a map correctly) matter of factually referring to clouds over part of Europe as having "something to do with the military". Like wise in the NZ (where the Ministry of Transport has being issuing "scientific" permits for atmospheric aerosol spraying since the 1980s: according to the Royal New Zealand Society, made up of NZ best legal and scientific brains, who recently held a conference on Geoengineering at Te Papa Wellington last year). The NZMetservice also confirmed local reporters (Otago Daily Times DEC 12) inquiries that an aircraft seen "chemtrail spraying" (by over a dozen witnessed who took independent photos plus several hundred other eye witness) was a C5 US Military transport which had taken off from Christchurch's Operation DEEPFREEZE (the US support base to its operations in Antarctica).

Metservice Imagery showed the "contrails" behind the transporter following it the length of the South Island of NZ unit it past over land at which point the aircraft 'contrails' simply ceased (even though the aircraft continued to head south). Metservice confirmed subsequent clouds grew from their 'contrail' in front of witnesses were inconsistent with the weather patterns of that day.

Subsequent investigation reveals that the materials used in Chemtrails are along the same lines as the material used by oil companies, for oil exploration and in the event of disaster oil dispersal, also used in military communications, to either boost signal strength or provide secure communications (NZ has number of such sites including the Waihopai signals base run by the NSA, Mt John observatory used in missile Defence, Tenix sonar buoy network, and HARRP stations (known as CEDAR & TIGER located in Christchurch and Invercargil [as well DARKSIDE the US facility located at Scott Amudsen Antarctica]), or in geoengineering experiments. Such as that conducted last year by the MV Polar Stern known as LOHAFEX - again an event which is public record.

Such technology chiefly relies on material that is namely made from industrial alloys, engineered at nano level so they are extremely porous and there for toxic to any life form that come in contact with them. In addition such material have the additional ability to create an ideal breeding ground for toxic algae and mutated virulent strains of virus or bacteria.

Personally I have know idea what install for any of us in the future but I do recognize a clear and present environmental threat when I see one. I might add I see no point in declaring martial law in light the US military it seems can already blatantly spray on a daily basis through out the US with fear of being asked in awkward questioned by their media or being held accountable by any civilian agency for something which has huge malign health consequences for the millions who have already being exposed todate.

Finally Chris if you want to talk about people who can't read a desert right and are proned to far out conspiracy theories may I suggest you look no further than your own ex President George Bush. After all this is the murderer who has sent hundred of thousands of American troops and Iraqi civilian to their deaths because of weapons of mass destruction that simply never existed (other than of course the chemical shells destroyed in 1991 by the allied forces which all had one thing in common they bore the legends "made in the USA)."


I agree that dutch is really stretching it. However, this article is not very accurate either. Did you look at the historical radar imagery to see if there was a pattern to these plumes? Well I did, and what I found was that at about 2pm many days in a row this radar return, even bigger than the one that happened on 7/23/2011 keeps happening in the same day. I have no idea what it is, but if it's a weather pattern, it's really strange. Why would it happen in that one spot on a regular basis for so many days in a row? Please do some real journalism and use your press credentials to do some research. I encourage you to look at the radar returns for July 6-14 (base reflectivity usually shows it). I'm not an expert, but I have researched this. I think it may be related to the military operations at 29 palms, I have asked around, and no mention of that large amount of smoke. I am waiting for new plumes to happen, then I will be able to look at the visible satellite, and other things. If the experts would give some real answers then regular folks like me would not have to speculate. So let's make a deal. You report the facts, and research them independently, and we will stop speculating about what it is. We don't have the ability to ask questions at a military base, or look at radar archives and all that stuff. It costs me time and money to research. I think this is an interesting story. Look at my vids, and you will see I do not jump to conclusions. I have exposed the fallacy of chemtrails, haarp and other nonsense, but I'm open minded, and I try to do my homework. Please do your homework. Thanks for at least drawing attention to this issue.