Quiet time in Iceland in earthquake and volcano activity

Currently there is a quiet time taking place in Iceland. This does happen often in Iceland. Sometimes the quiet days are due to bad weather. But now the quiet seems to be a ongoing and has been for past few weeks. The exeption from that is the earthquake activity in Katla volcano and the man made earthquake activity in Hengill volcano. But that activity has dropped down for some reason the past few weeks. I am not sure why that is.

I also want to point people to a new feature on Iceland Metrological Office web site, that seems to have gone up only few days ago. But this web site shows the drumplot (webicorders) from the SIL network. This is not far from what my geophone network shows. That web site can be viwed here.

Blog post updated at 16:43 UTC.

78 Replies to “Quiet time in Iceland in earthquake and volcano activity”

  1. Jon, There’s a extra “h” in the address for the drumplots, it does not currently load.

  2. Hi Jon and everyone, I booked flights to Iceland for late december to stay 10 days. I have been in Iceland last year shortly after the Eja eruption, but that was in summer. Now if you have some sort of checklist and or advices for Winter Travel in Iceland, please let me know. I booked a 4×4 jeep to be somehow independant, but would like to have some experienced advices.
    Can´t what to go and sorry for Off-topic

      1. I thought of that, maybe this pushes for the need of it : ). Would love to have a short book about traveling in iceland with some more vulcano and geology backbone.

      2. Still working myself through this one
        “Thor Thordarson, Armann Hoskuldsson: Iceland. Classic Geology in Europe 3”

    1. Here is my short advice. But please do check with the professionals on this also. They might offer you a more detailed advice on this.

      – If you are going outside the main road, book your travel plans on this web site, http://www.safetravel.is/ – It helps the rescue teams if the need comes to it.

      – Have a mobile phone that can cover GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (world) and can also cover 3G 900/2100 at least. GSM/3G coverage map for Vodafone IS is here, http://www.vodafone.is/simi/staersta – GSM/3G coverage map for Siminn is here, http://www.siminn.is/einstaklingar/netid/dreifikerfid/

      – If you can afford it. Rent a Tetra mobile station. It offers a lot better coverage then a mobile phone. This is important on the highland where mobile coverage can be bad to none at all. I do not know what it costs to rent a Tetra mobile station in Iceland.

      – If your mobile phone does not have GPS. Get one. In any case, you should have a GPS with you at all time.
      – Check the weather forecast at least every 12 hours. But remember that the weather can change without notice in the highlands and local weather can not be mentioned in the weather forecast.

      – If travelling off road, check the road conditions of the path ways here before you go. http://www.vegagerdin.is/english/road-conditions-and-weather/the-entire-country/island1e.html
      – If you are unsure. Check with the locals for more information.

      – If you get lost. Do not go outside your car if you are in one. If you are outside make a shelter from the snow if there is one, or behind a rock from the wind and maybe the rain (or whatever weather that is ongoing at the time).

      – Have a FM/LW radio with you. It is important so that you can get news reports if anything major happens while you are travelling in Iceland. If there is a emergency because of a eruption or a earthquake. The news is going to be broadcast in English + other languages.

      I do think that this is all the good advice that I can give you.

      1. I wouldn’t go to the highlands all on my own by this time of year. My advice is: Better keep to the main roads, or at least be in a group of other cars or hire a guide.

        Problem is: One can get lost when the weather changes, and it can change very quickly in the winter time to snow storms in the highlands. Meaning – sight:1 m and snow coming horizontally at you.

        Also: Make sure, you have spikes on your tires.

        Near exposed places on the main road, e.g. under mountains like Hafnarfjall (direction Borgarnes, West Iceland), Esja (direction Hvalfjördur) or Hellisheidi, there are electronic information boards. They are saying a lot about temperature of air and earth and esp. the wind. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Hellisheidi1.jpg Even if the road is not closed, I wouldn’t continue under Hafnarfjall or Esja or over Hellisheidi if there is snowcoming and 20 m/sec. or more in the winter time. Also if you are on a big jeep, like Patrol or so, it is very good off road or in deeper snow, but not so much if there is ice on the roads and a storm, because it’s so high.

        For the rest, Jón gave you very fine advice.

        PS: There is also a small brochure about driving in Iceland. You should get it with the hired car. It is worth reading it carefully!

        On the other hand, Iceland in the winter time can really have a special charm. I envy you! Perhaps, I’ll go there in February.

        Have a nice trip!

      2. Don’t go to the highlands in the winter, unless you know the country very well, are in a convoy with at least two other cars, have the proper equipment and a super jeep. If one of the points is missing don’t do it. Its dangerous. And we just lost a tourist last week.

    2. One really good tip is to have a couple of candles and matches in your car at all times. If the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere they can keep you warm until help arrives. And we have a saying here in Iceland “cotton kills”. When cotton gets wet it also gets cold unlike wool clothes. So make sure you have the right outdoor clothes. And use http://www.safetravel.is

    3. I dont think there is much to worry about, as long as you stay off the high land.
      Just drive carefully and know the limits you and your car have.

      For example those french tourists tried to cross Krossá river in a 4×4 matchbox car .

      Tourists often seem to run into problems while driving on gravel, or in ice and snow.


    4. Even with a jeep, you must be extremely careful when travelling in Iceland during winter. People often die, in fact, just a couple of days ago a Swedish photographer died on a glacier. Be humble in Icelandic winter.

      The list could be:
      -Snaefellsnes (good road and quite close to Reykjavik)
      -West fjords (challenging roads, probably even more in winter, and far away)
      -Myvatn (far away from Reykjavik but very beautiful in winter), also Krafla volcano (open road even in winter); Dettifoss and two other waterfalls around and Àsbyrgi (near seaside)
      – Reykjanes (Krisuvik volcano)
      – Hverargerdi, Hengill volcano (some jeep roads going there, good except during snowstorms), explore the region until Thingsvellir (good road), also Geysir and Gulfoss
      – South coast (Vík, but off the main road, roads are very bad)
      – East fjords (quite ok roads and beautiful scenery, but far away from the capital and in snow roads can be challenging)

      Last 2 advices, be extra careful hiking, because rocks are often icy and extreme slippery in winter. And watch the sky for northern lights (but weather is often cloudy now, and so it could even be your 10 nights).

  3. RE Drumplots:

    is there some way to associate drumplots with geographical locations ?

  4. Some – interesting, I think – news about Bob:


    El volcán de El Hierro expulsa piroclastos de más de un metro
    El Pevolca autoriza la vuelta a sus casas de los vecinos de La Restinga y abre el túnel de Los Roquillos entre las 07.30 y las 18.30 horas. La mancha del Mar de las Calmas podría tener ya hasta quinientos metros de diámetro

    14:20 – 15.11.2011

    El volcán submarino de El Hierro expulsó ayer piroclastos humeantes de hasta un metro de diámetro que pudieron ser vistos desde el helicóptero de la Guardia Civil, que sobrevoló la zona del Mar de las Calmas a primera hora de la tarde de ayer junto con científicos del Instituto Vulcanológico de Canarias (Involcan). Se trata del material de mayor tamaño que ha expulsado el proceso eruptivo desde que hace poco más de un mes se produjera una fisura en el fondo marino, junto a La Restinga, por la que comenzó a salir magma.

    También ayer el Plan de Protección Civil por Riesgo Volcánico (Pevolca) autorizó la vuelta a sus casas de los vecinos de La Restinga, después de que el pasado 5 de noviembre fueran desalojados por segunda vez ante el riesgo de que se produjeran explosiones en superficie que desprendieran gases tóxicos procedentes del volcán. Junto a la vuelta a casa de los vecinos de la zona sur, el Pevolca autorizó además la vuelta a casa de las 21 familias desalojadas en Los Polvillos, en Frontera, y la reapertura del túnel de Los Roquillos, que conecta Valverde con Frontera, aunque sólo entre las 07.30 horas y las 18.30 horas. Las 11 familias de Las Puntas, localidad de Frontera situada junta al Roque de Salmor, aún no podrán volver a sus viviendas.

    El vuelo del helicóptero de la Guardia Civil coincidió en la tarde de ayer con un aumento considerable de la señal de tremor del volcán submarino de El Hierro. Justo entre las cuatro y las cinco de la tarde, el tremor, que es la vibración que genera el magma en su desplazamiento por el subsuelo, amplió de forma considerable su señal para luego volver a lo que fue normal en todo el día de ayer. Fueron pulsos que duraron casi una hora, probablemente los más grandes de toda la crisis sísmica, desde que el pasado día 10 de octubre se abrió una fisura a unos trescientos metros de profundidad bajo el Mar de las Calmas por la que desde entonces sale lava.

    En ese momento, enormes piroclastos humeantes de hasta un metro de diámetro emergían de las profundidades hasta llegar a superficie, donde se desprendían pequeñas columnas de humo fruto de su enfriamiento al llegar a la cota del nivel del mar. El helicóptero, por seguridad, no se pudo acercar a recoger muestras, pero los primeros indicios apuntan a que se trata de material basáltico, el más común de los tres que ha expulsado el volcán submarino en poco más de un mes de actividad.

    Según apuntan los científicos, la zona total del burbujeo que se reinició en la jornada de ayer sobre el Mar de las Calmas podría tener hasta quinientos metros de diámetro, con una zona más caliente en la parte exterior cuyo diámetro podría ser de unos cien metros. Como ya se ha apuntado en diversas ocasiones, el burbujeo indica que en la fisura submarina puede haber al menos tres bocas eruptivas diferentes.

    En la zona norte, en el otro proceso que se produce en dos cotas de profundidad diferentes en la zona de El Golfo, en Frontera, ayer se volvieron a vivir terremotos de más de tres grados en la escala Richter, que fueron sentidos por la población. Según aseguró Carmen López, responsable de vigilancia volcánica del Instituto Geográfico Nacional, “aún se pueden producir terremotos de 4,6 grados [el máximo de toda la crisis sísmica] e incluso superiores”, dijo al finalizar la reunión del Pevolca a mediodía

    En esa zona norte todo está preparado para que se produzca una nueva erupción, probablemente en el mar a una profundidad incluso superior a los mil metros, aunque no se descarta que la lava puede emigrar hacia tierra y romper una boca eruptiva por el edificio insular. Así continúa El Hierro, con el magma cercando la isla de norte a sur.

    The volcano de El Hierro is expulsing pyroclasts of more than 1 meter (diameter)

    Pevolca lets the people of La Restinga return to their homes and opens the tunnel of Los Roquillos between 7:30 and 18:30. The plume in the Sea of las Calmas could at this moment reach a diameter of 50 meters.

    The submarine volcano of El Hierro was expulsing yesterday steaming pyroclasts of up to 1 m diameter which could be seen from the helicopter of the Guardia Civil flying over the zone in the Sea of las Calmas around 13:00 h with scientists of the Instituto Vulcanológico de Canarias (Involcan). These are the biggest pieces of material produced by the eruptive process since a bit more than 1 month ago, a fissure opened up on the sea floor near La Restingo by which magma started to erupt.

    Also yesterday, PEVOLCA gave leave to return to their homes to the citizens of La Restinga, which since 5th of Nov. had been evacuated for the 2nd time because of the risk connected to possible explosions on the surface which could have implicated the emission of toxic gasses by the volcano. Connected to the return to their homes of the citizens in the south, Pevolca also gave permission to return home to the 21 families evacuated in Los Polvillos, in Frontera, and to the reopening of the tunnel of Los Roquilles connecting Valverde to Frontera, but only between 7:30 and 18.30. The 11 families of Las Puntas, a part of Frontera situaded next to Roque de Salmor, may not yet return home.

    The flight of the helicopter of Guardia Civil yesterday evening coincided with a considerable augmentation of the tremor signal of the submarine volcano of El Hierro. Just between 16:00 and 17:00, the signal of tremor which is the vibration generated by the magma moving through the earth, went up considerably and returned after some time to the level which had been normal during all of yesterday. These were pulses which went on during almost 1 hour, probably the biggest ones in all of the seismic crisis, since on 10th of october a fissure had opened up some 300 m under the sea surface in Mar de las Calmas and by which lava has been emerging all the time since then.

    In this moment, very big steaming pyroclasts of up to 1 m in diameter emerged from the fond of the sea and arrived at the surface, from which small columns of smoke mounted as a consequence of the cooling effect at their arrival on the surface. The helicopter, because of security reasons, couldn’t approach them to take samples, but the first signs pointed to them consisting of basaltic material the commonest of the three [different ones] emitted by the submarine volcano in slightly less than a month of activity.

    Following the scientists, the whole jacuzzi zone which was reactivated yesterday in the Sea of las Calmas could measure about up to 50 m in diameter with a hotter zone in the outer part whose diameter could be about 100 meters. As it has been pointed out before, the jacuzzi points to the fact that there could be no less than 3 different eruptive vents in action.

    In the north, within another process which is taking place in two different layers of depth in the zone of El Golfo, in Frontera, there were yesterday earthquakes of more than 3 on the Richter scale felt by the population. Following Carmen López, responsable of the volcanic monitoring at IGN „there is still a possibility that earthquakes of 4,6 degrees [max. of this whole crisis] or more“ could take place, as she said at the end of a meeting with Pevolco at noon.

    In the northern zone, all is prepared for the a new eruption, probably in the sea at a depth of up to more than 1000 meters, though it is not excluded that lava could migrate on land and open there up a vent in the island’s edifice. So continues El Hierro surrounded by the magma from north to south.

    [translation is mine – feel free to correct it]

    1. Alan, Jon said yesterday that “video of world volcanos not OT, just don’t expect him to do a blog post of them”. 😉

      1. @ Newby (trust you and yours are well)
        Sorry (not really!!) but its a corker of a fire fountain innit!!
        Still no rain here in Norfolk!!

      2. The drought is a major problem for some areas and a sign that this year is strange weather. I agree on a wonderful video, fantastic to see the power of nature.
        Now do you or anyone else know if there has been another thermal image taken recently of the ‘jacuzzi’ area close to La restinga?

  5. @ Jon etc
    Two OT comments if I may
    1) With your introductory comments on the various post updates, you always acknowledge IMO etc copyrights on diagrams/info; when us posters add links to reference papers/Iceland review etc etc how are we affected re copyright of the materials posted, given that most copyright conditions state no copying by any means??
    Could you clarify please.
    2) Could you make it clear to all posters/readers/lurkers and sheep (!) that to many here English is not their first tongue and that some comments/terms used that cause offence – here I sympathise with Judith the other evening – is simply a lack of the use english grammar/correct term etc and that misconception of the comment is accidental and not meant as insulting or denigrating. I hope we are and long continue, to be an amicable gaggle!!
    Alan C

    1. @Alan C.

      About this.

      1: There is no copyright on links (regardless of what some might claim). So that is not a issue. I do have a permission from IMO to use there images and plots. I add copyright to them so people know that they are not under CC licence as rest of this web site is (excluding comments).

      2. Thanks for this suggestion. I am going to look into this on how to make it clear to people that not everyone how read and comments on this blog does not have English as first language. But it is a bit hard in terms of one blog post. But I am going to look into this.

      Thanks for the suggestion.

    2. Academic publishers – think Maxwell – follow a well trodden path to riches by ensuring anything they publish stays behind paywalls for decades. Only the enlightened minority of publishers make their articles open source after say a year. Sometimes authors put pdfs on their university web sites, worth trying.
      Citing an article as URL does not infringe copyright. Copying and pasting could.

      1. Or in the middle of a deepening global recession, they will price themselves out of the market.

  6. @ Jon
    Thank you, I ran foul of copyright many years by referring to one of my diagrams someone else had used and I used my own work – c’est la vie!!
    Regarding (2) would it be possible to have a permanent comment line or two below your title picture stating this? Just a suggestion.

    1. I noticed that also luisport. At first I thought perhaps a trick of the tide flow into the harbour but two things against that. First it is a way out from the entrance, second it lasts too long. If volcanic it is in a very bad place. Let’s pray it is only a temporary and an unimportant phenomena.

  7. Long time lurker, first time poster…

    My own excursions into this subject has only begun, as yet, and after hedging my actions with that, I thought I would pass on this link, since it appeared to have a scientific source 🙂

    Vis a vis man made earthquakes…


    and big credit to Jón for the management and posts, and to GeoLurking, Carl and Diana and all the other regulars, who makes this blog such a joy to follow!

    1. Hi and welcome Nanocube.
      Re man made earthquakes here are some of our discussions about this in Iceland where there has been some fracking into hengil Volcano and resultant earthquake swarms.
      Here is a happening here in North West England in an area that is not prone to many earthquakes
      If you need help in locating volcanoes or other places mentioned in Iceland here is a nice interactive map.
      However the search only works for names written in Icelandic so it’s a good idea to copy and paste names as for instance Hofsjokull wont work in the search but Hofsjökull will and shows up with a nice yellow highlight 🙂

      1. Welcome also from Me! A semi regular poster and regular lurker!

        P.S: Thankyou to Diana for the reply yesterday about long period events! 😉

    1. I remember reading about this earlier this year and thought how awesome nature is and how puny man is.

    2. I have seen a documentation about this amazing place. Really har for the scientific team to go there…

      1. Yes because of heat too. Is this heat from volcanic activity I wonder or just from the depth?

      2. “The translucent columns also resemble giant pillars of ice but are warmed by superheated air leaking up from underground magma chambers.”
        (from the link above)

      3. Thanks Mafl, serves me right for thinking I knew it all without reading the article. 🙂 I would have known more had I read it. LOL

    3. A quite stunning place. I really would like to know how these crystals managed to grow so large without the defects that would normally cause branching and greater complexity.

  8. Looking at La Restinga in the darkness there seem to be many street and security lights but very few in the windows of houses. Not sure if this is due to good shutters as I see in Spain or if it means people are wary of sleeping overnight in the village. I think I would be .http://earthquake-report.com/2011/11/12/32535/

  9. Thank you Jon for the Drumplots.
    Could you please help me in interpreting them correctly. If you take the two plots for SMJOR below one has very close tremors and the lighter one looks like long period lines.
    Also are the numbers for different drums set up at one location > Do you know how the recording devices are set up? Is there any link to show me please?
    SMJOR-6362E2 2011-11-15

    SMJOR-6362M8 2011-11-15

    1. I am not in a lot better situation then you. I am still learning my self on how to read them. But the line after the red dot is from today. That is what I have figured out so far. I think that the other plots with the same name might be different frequencies of the station, then from 0.5Hz and up to 4Hz. But I not know what the cut off frequency is exactly.

      1. Oh thanks Jon 🙂 I shall keep studying. Do you think anyone at IMO could explain if I tried emailing them? or is it best left for us to puzzle out?

  10. Well Katla just had a fresh injection of magma from the deep. I suspect it will be working its way up now and the effect should shown over the comming week. This from observations normally seems to be the case.

    The last one that lead to the recent clusters orginated near to Habunga, this new one from Goabunga at a depth of 28.6km – but still within the caldera.

    1. Sorry Ian but how do you know about the fresh injection of magma? Do you mean the recent quakes or is it something else I missed?

      1. It is because the earthquake was deep at 28.6 Km. This shows the magma was pushing up from the upper mantle. This event is often followed by a dyke intrusion as the already filled “chamber” cannot hold all this magma so magma is squeezed into vertical faults in the surrounding rock. If the magma is forced between layers of rock horizontally it forms a sill. So the earthquakes caused by the cracking of the rocks in these fault lines as the magma pushes in are less deep and often very close to the surface.

    1. The Gnomes are at it again. this last was a reply to Brian November 15, 2011 at 20:38

      1. This might help.

        If you had trouble deciphering ReCAPTCHA, you have to re-click on “reply” to keep the link.

    2. Thanks Diana. I have some incredibly clear, large crystals of Selenite that I collected on Zakinthos (there’s a whole cliff of it) but those in the mine are like something from another world.

  11. 1112734 15/11/2011 21:21:43 27.7809 -18.0570 17 Sentido 3.0 4 NW FRONTERA.IHI
    4th quake of 3 or over today. largest a 3.4.

    Any where is everybody this evening. I miss all the regulars. 🙁

    1. Sissel, Carl. Lurking, please come back or tell me where you are so I can come too please. Also Una Canaria, I really miss you and your close at hand info but mostly your cheerfulness. To hell with off topic, just come back!

    2. Suspect that given that they were chatting until early this am, they are probably having a well-earned rest.

      1. suspect they are, to use a colloquial term an old lady probably shouldn’t use, …. pissed off!

  12. I thought I would add to the earlier discussion about precautions and hints of traveling in Iceland 🙂 I was giggling light heartedly but actually it is worth pointing out :-
    Volcanoes can erupt at any time in Iceland, if they do it can be very scary like old testament, be prepared. If one does go off don’t hang around in river valleys or glacial outwash planes in the surrounding area. If the locals are fleeing, flee with them, do not stay and take pictures and have to be rescued or worse.

    1. No-0ne need worry now about searching through off topic posts. I hope you all enjoy how boring it can be. No-one even to reply or expand upon on topic posts. So very, very sad!
      I am off to bed early to read a good book as I don’t do boring!!!

      1. Goodnight Noobs, think I’ll do exactly the same. These last couple of days on here have been soul-destroying 🙁

  13. Life is too short, it will be back to normal soon. A bit of EQ or Volcanic activity and we will quickly forget.
    My captcha is “losses qibleme” …..

  14. Brian Smith says: November 15, 2011 at 23:38

    Thanks Diana. I have some incredibly clear, large crystals of Selenite that I collected on Zakinthos (there’s a whole cliff of it) but those in the mine are like something from another world.

    Oz: Fine, but bear in mind selenium is very toxic. Unlikely to be remotely a problem just handling crystals though.

    1. Selenite in this context is a crystaline form of gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O) and does not contain Selenium thank goodness.

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