Special report: Eruption at El Hierro volcano, Canary Islands

At 04:18 UTC on 10 October, 2011 a eruption did start somewhere close to the El Hierro volcano Island (but inside El Hierro volcano system). So far nothing has been seen to this eruption, so location is uncertain at the moment. At the moment this eruption has only been confirmed by harmonic tremors seen on seismometers on El Hierro island.

From what I can tell, based on the harmonic tremor plots. It seems that the eruption has been growing in size since it started well over 12 hours ago. This suggests that the eruption is growing in size. That also brings up the issue that new fissures might open, both into deeper ocean and on shallower depth and even on land without any warning at all.

The harmonic tremor from El Hierro at 21:08 UTC on 10 October, 2011. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

A location for the eruption has been suggested, as can be see on this map here.

The speculated eruption in El Hierro. Copyright of this picture belongs to el-mundo.es Thanks to Dr. John v. Kampen for this map via email.

Lack of earthquakes does not mean that magma is not the move and has not reached the surface already. But this however suggests that magma now has a free flow upwards to the surface since sometimes yesterday, when the earthquake activity did drop suddenly from ~100 earthquakes to ~30 earthquakes over the day.

Current earthquake activity in El Hierro. It is my personal opinion that the eruption is around -18.05 and 27.65 to 27.70 (middle of that area, around 450 meter depth). Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

Spectral image of the harmonic tremor. This image clearly shows that the orgin of the harmonic tremor is magma on the move. Not something else. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

I am going to update this blog post as more is known about the eruption in El Hierro.

Canary Island news about this. With thanks to Dr. John v. Kampen how did send them to me in a email.

Posible erupción al sur de El Hierro (Youtube, Spanish, Video)
¿Emergerá una nueva isla? (Youtube, Spanish, Video)

Blog post updated at 21:49 UTC on 10 October 2011.

529 Replies to “Special report: Eruption at El Hierro volcano, Canary Islands”

  1. To all you “eruptoholics” 🙂
    What is concidered the biggest eruption in the last 50 years (world wide)?

      1. The Santa Maria eruption of 1902 also a VEI 6 tends to be forgotten when the large eruptions of the 20th century are mentioned.

    1. As well as Pinatubo i keep getting Mount Shinmoedake (Japan) from this year on google.

      1. No way… Pinatuba was much bigger. I think some very excited Japanese person has put that in erronously. The drawback with non-peer editing you know.

    1. Most bet on La Restinga Harbor where the Island Taxi boats are moored.
      I have a favourite outlayer, it moves to the south into the Las Hiejas Seamount (low low probability).

      1. “KarenZ says:
        October 11, 2011 at 13:12

        Jon’s initial prediction of 27.65 to 27.70, 18.02 is here. Still very close to La Restinga.


        I think you must minmize the view. The point is in the ocean. Goggle shows La Restinga as named point.

        Try this:

      1. If you really thinking about writing an ebook, a chapter should be about the interpretation of harmonic tremors and external noise. I would buy that ebook.

      1. Hi Alan. It has been raining non stop here for 3 days…heavy rain too. Not gardening weather as I am not growing watercress!!!

    1. Seems to be a combination of earlier bad weather and possible geothermal drilling / pumping (weekend).

      The stations round Katla seem a bit more restless.

  2. Canarinews
    11/10/2011 20:42 – Joan Martí, a researcher at the CSIC (Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra) and secretary of the ‘Asociación Internacional de Vulcanología’ (International association of vulcanology) has stated that “As the magma approaches the coast of El Hierro, it could trigger an explosive eruption if it occurs at a depth of less than 200 metres but would not be dangerous if appropriate safety measures are taken”. It is thought that the magma could be following a fault under the sea bed which is known to run underneath the island and could currently be looking for another way to escape to the surface. Scientists have observed that the magma is currently moving towards the centre of the island.

    1. Can I assume that “appropriate safety measures” essentially consist of arranging to be somewhere else?

  3. 20:48-Alpidio Armas said in A3 Canary tonight that could have erupted and so would be 50-100 meters deep and it would be dangerous by contact with water

  4. reporting this link from someone else earlier http://img51.imageshack.us/img51/4219/tremoresmodelo2.jpg (which is about a different volcano but gives an idea of how one might read these graphs) and then comparing this

    with this

    I’d say no ‘proper eruption so far’ just degassing (I might be wrong -I’m not a volcanologist) so I’m guestimating that they are wrong about an underwater eruption – and we’re still waiting for several hours for that yet. I’m going to put my invisible pennies on the moment just after I’ve given up on anything new happening tonight and head to bed. So maybe 6hrs from now. I don’t have the means to get to the hekla dalek for any dancing I’m afraid. 🙂

    1. Don’t care for the means, it’s about the commitment, it’s a feeling, a way of life. Even if you never manage to do it, it’s the will and preparedness that counts…

      1. It is all about the mental dancing of the brain… and the sheeps.
        Just plug in your cam, give the link to Diana, strip down and go out into the yard and start BBQing your hat starkers.
        Then you dance with feathers as only clothing dreaming about Iceland. Diana will understand 🙂

      2. <<<<<Is Blushing ! I seem to have gained a notorious reputation. But…. The more dancing the merrier! 🙂
        My Norwegian, soon to be,daughter -in-Law says the Icelandic web cams sound interesting!! 🙂

      3. Well, I could save time and post existing links to my foolish exploits, oh no that’s what facebook’s for I remember now.
        I don’t imagine my better half would be impressed though 🙂
        I think we’ve still got a real Dalek at Cardiff bay, there is probably a security camera that shows it. Not that many sheep in the vicinity – need to take it to the hills, but the security camera might be a problem, hmm bring the sheep to the bay, set up an impromptu hat barbecue. Sounds possible 🙂

    2. Without pictures, we do not know for certain whether or not the submarine activity is merely degassing via a fumerole(s) or whether it is an eruption proper.

      I agree that the spectrographs appear to be showing only magma movement at the moment to the untrained eye so an erupting is still pending. Given that the magma seems to have got stuck at around 19:00 this evening, an EQ may also be pending (or the plots have not been updated).

      I guess it is a case of time will tell.

    1. I don’t know. You can see:

      1) the football pitch is the highest ground. It might be adequate refuge for a small tsunami but not much else.
      2) the terrain seems to be unstable partially compacted volcanic ash so you can see why the authorities are concerned about landslips.
      3) La Restinga is very small so it does not really matter how accurate Lurking’s plot is, most of it (if not all) is likely to impacted in some way.
      4) the island is also not very big so hope they have a plan B to evacuate the whole island.

      1. If it is La Pinar that will erupt in the end it would be not so good because that would impact some of the evacuees.

        But, unless it does something really unexpected most of the places of the island would be safish. But I guess they will start evacuating people to other islands when an eruption on land starts due to lack of resources localy on the island to house a lot of displaced people.

  5. Can’t hear their “could”s anymore. All a bunch of sh… Sorry. Probably only some gas. Ooooooh, there will follow some dead fish… Heaven COULD they stop his messy communication. It will be quite clear when it blows. Even if it’s not a supervolcano, I wonder if they realize the energies under their feet…

    1. Those bloody journalists like to talk about dead fish, as it sounds dramatic. Yet, they do not even have any idea about what the El Hierroans are waiting for…

  6. Has Jon given an update on this in the past few hours? Cant see anything but I might have missed it. thanks

    1. Good night, Europe people! Those of us in the Americas have another 6-8 hours to watch this situation, so something will probably happen around midnight, when you all get up.

      Typically Renato posts something interesting just as I am about to turn in, then I am awake into the wee hours and unfit for work the next morning. 🙂

  7. 21:48-President Zapatero launches a message of reassurance to the residents of El Hierro

    Good, the Volcano is probably terribly impressed and will go back to sea now… 😉

    1. Zapatero launches messages of assurance about the Spanish economy all the time, and heck! it has gone almost completely…

  8. 22:03 – “The Iron rash may last a week or so” volcanologist

    Isn’t it called rust?

    1. Must be hell to scratch an itching iron rash. 😉

      Rash is a wrongly giggle translate version of “eruption”. What Iron has to do with anything I do not know. I am amazed at all the corny things their “volcanologists” are saying. There is no way they could say how long an eruption will last.

    2. the iron in spanish is close to el hierro

      rash = an eruption of spots/pimples on your skin

      so “the iron rash” is just an attempt to find the best match for “the eruption of el hierro”

      1. probably something like “spectral density” .. seems to be a short windowed Fourier Transform of the seismic signal (Transform in frequency domain sometimes be call the spectral density )

      2. It is simply the combined amplitude (volume as in sound, strength) component of the frequencies over time represented in a non-absolute form.
        Think of it as a graphical equalizer of cheap stereo from mid-nineties 🙂

        Nothins as fancy as Fast Fourier transform, just summing of energies of the various frequncies. Probably binned as minutes.

      3. a 6-pack of E-Beers says it it is a FFT of some sort 😉 … much easier to do that than anything else .. computer power is cheap these days … we’ll need a referee , however …

  9. The village of La Restinga has now been evacuated. (i live on the Island, although not there at the moment)

    1. Hi Helena.
      Our thoughts are with all the Islanders of El Hierro at this worrying time. I am sure I speak for everyone on this Blog when I say we wish you all well.

  10. Canary Islands earthquakes 12th October 2011

    -Quake at 9:41 pm from 2.6 degrees to 14 km depth
    -Quake at 8:06 pm from 2.2 degrees to 18 km depth
    -Quake at 6:04 pm from 1.9 degrees to 10 km depth
    -Quake at 5:55 pm from 1.6 degrees to 20 km depth
    -Quake at 5:30 pm from 1.8 degrees to 23 km depth
    -Quake at 2:33 pm from 2.4 degrees to 18 km depth

  11. Canary Islands earthquake 12th October 2011*******7th quake today so far
    -Quake at 12:27 pm from 2.6 degrees to 13 km depth

    1. Sheep, I read this the other week, but history shows a landslide has occurred before and tests to date indicate the ingredients are still there for a possible landslide which could trigger a Tsunami again.

  12. Historically there have been numerous landslides (or is that “slope failure”) in the Canaries, as there have been in other parts of the globe. There is some doubt as to the scale of tsunamis – and their strength when they have crossed an ocean. The Indian Ocean tsunami was a completely different scale to a volcano and subsequent partial landslip.
    I’m no expert mind …. just an opinion.

  13. On Swedish TV, it was just a television program that focused on El Hierro. They have built a dam in a crater that they will fill with water from pumps powered by wind. They will become independent of oil with this wind-pumped hydro power station. Let us hope that we will not see any fissure open in this crater…

  14. 20:30 – Current Volcanic Canary Islands
    Impressive tremor, we know from where it broke, it seems the news conference PEVOLCA confirmed eruptive process in place at two different points by the presence of two spots in the sea, with a strong sulfur smell and appearance of dead fish.

    The distance of the ongoing eruption of the Restinga area

    1 – eruptive mouth: 5.5 – 7 miles – 970-1000 m deep
    2 – eruptive mouth: 2 – 2.5 miles – 700 m depth
    3 – eruptive mouth: 1 – 1.5 miles – 500 m depth

    -Quake at 17:21 pm from 1.9 degrees to 15 km depth
    -Quake at 15:56 pm from 1.5 degrees to 16 km depth
    -Quake at 15:43 pm from 1.8 degrees to 15 km depth
    -Quake at 12:27 pm from 2.6 degrees to 13 km depth

  16. EARTHQUAKE SWARM-VOLCANIC – EL HIERRO ISLAND – 12 OCTOBER 2011-22:00 h peninsular – Seismic activity remains high, with few earthquakes located and continue a strong signal harmonic tremor, although today has dropped dramatically from 14:30 h from entondes remains constant with variations on the rise. The magnitude of the earthquakes between 2.6 and 1.5. New earthquakes 5. Depths to 13, 14, 15, 15 and 16km. The day before yesterday 31. Yesterday 8. Today are 10. A total of 10,022 earthquakes are located in El Hierro by IGN

    1. Yes we know, it happened 200K years ago. And the thing is that the safest thing there is would be an allready collapsed flank… And all the flanks on El Hierro are collapsed.
      One should not believe all that is written on alarmist sites about “end of the world things”. El Hierro quite simply do not have any sides left to slide with.

      1. Sorry Carl – comes from Dave Petley and he commented on a scientific paper
        We try not to be alarmist 🙂
        We have to wipe out a lot of armageddon scenarios daily

      2. I read the link, it was not alarmist at all.
        It is as you know a fact that slips have happened, actually pretty much all have sliped 🙂
        So, as I am writing all the time, El Hierro may be the least slip prone volcanic island of its type.
        I was not actually thinking of Earthquake-report when I harped about alarmist sites. I meant the unmentionable ones that try to scare people into buying survival things. Like ModernSurvivalistFlog and GodLikePorrductions. Odd that you can see if it is an alarmist blog just by how they place capitals in their names 😉

        By the way, hello Armand! Welcome to the friendly lunatic club, sheeps to the left, and beer in the bar 🙂

  17. Finally,
    The scarab will tell us soon what is happening, and hopefully we will all see it
    The ship from France Telecom carrying many rovs is currently in Puerto de la Cruz and is chartered by the Canary Island Government

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