More man made earthquakes in Hengill volcano

Since 04:49 UTC this morning (17 December, 2011) there has been an earthquake swarm in Hengill volcano. This earthquake swarm is due to hydro-thermal power production that is currently taking place in this area. But the Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (OR) is obligated to pump down cold water into the bedrock at depth that is greater then 800 meters. This water is used hot water that they pump up from the ground to warm houses and make electricity.

The earthquake swarm at 12:45 UTC on 17 December, 2011. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

The evolution of the earthquake swarm since it did start. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

The earthquake swarm as it did appear on my geophone at Heklubyggð. But the geophone at Eyrarbakki is scheduled to be up and running in next week. This picture is released under Creative Commons licence. See top bar for more information under CC Licence.

The earthquake swarm in Hengill volcano is currently ongoing. So far the largest earthquakes have had the size ML2.1 according to the automatic SIL system. Due the high number of earthquakes, the earthquakes have been wrongly placed on the map of Iceland that Iceland Met Office has. This are not real earthquakes in most cases, just wrongly located earthquakes that are taking place in Hengill volcano. The earthquake swarm is currently ongoing. If there are any major changes to this earthquake swarm. I am going to update this blog post with information about it.

78 Replies to “More man made earthquakes in Hengill volcano”

  1. Any idea how many EQs are echoes in the SIL system?

    Does IMO check all or does it sample check to make sure that the swarm is consistent with geothermal drilling?

      1. Thanks Wagabond, I’m really getting worried about the ground water, Reykjavík’s water reservoir is not far from Hengillinn even if it’s drilled and pumped up. I’d appreciate any info of (possible) contamination if you or anyone else knows of any. I’d also appreciate info of what is in other countries considered safe ie. as solids pr litre.

      2. There is a lot of toxic stuff coming up from the deep drilling well, currently much of this is being pumped into a lava field where it contaminates ground water.
        There is also a lot of airborne chemicals contaminating the atmosphere.

        Some information here in Icelandic.

      3. As you can see the boreholes they are pumping are CASED down to 800 meters +
        So no way it is getting in the groundwater stream .
        I feel the H2S is much less annoying since they pump it down now I think.

      4. They seem to have a lot of technical problems, and every time they do they contaminate the groundwater.

        The problem is that they are trying to do the impossible, and taking big risks while they are at it.

        There is a plan to increase Iceland’s power production close to 100 TW, from some 15 TW currently available.
        This would be done so some bankers and entrepreneurs can sell energy to Scotland trough a undersea cable.

        A very large part of this expansion will have to come with deep drilling, with all the danger and environmental damage that comes with it.

      5. 100 TW, thatäs about the annual electricity consumption at Finland (5,5 million people). That’s a lot for a country with 300 000 people…

  2. Is it somewhat possible at all that then eq’s at hengill releases the pressure on katla at all? It seems that everytime there is a swarm there, right after, katla gets quiet for a good period.. Or am I totally out there?

    1. I have noticed that 3 times when Hengill earthquake swarms have quakes that exceed 3 mag we get a quake in the dead zone between Myrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull.
      I think the Hengill eq swarms create instability, something we can do without.

    2. I differ in opinion from Jón, I think we should not close our minds to the possibility Christina

      1. Katla volcano is on different fault zone then Hengill volcano. The rift zone that Hengill volcano is on is about ~4 million years older (I think) then the rift zone Katla volcano is currently on. That rift zone started to form about 1.5 million years ago if my memory is correct on this.

  3. By the way, it is not exactly the hot water pumped up at Hengill that is used to heat up the houses . This is not possible, because this is a high temperature system on top of an active volcano and because of that, the hot water from the boreholes would contain too much chemical substances which could damage tubes and devices. But the hot water resp. its steam is used to heat up cold water from different cold water wells in the region in a heat exchange system at the plant. This heated up water (to around 83°C) is pumped through 24 km long pipelines to Reykjavík for use in industry, heating and private households.

    1. I never saw a satellite that didn’t move across the sky but just appeared to hover in one place. Perhaps they were UFO’s and like volcanoes as they were at El Hierro the other day. LOL 😀

  4. I am afraid that the fracturing caused by pumping water is going deeper. In the beginning earthquakes were mostly around 3km, but now they reach much deeper, with quakes around 7km quite widespread.

    So far everything looks tectonic but does anyone knows whether we have seen any signs of magma movements, under Hengill? Does anyone has a link to inflation data?

    An eruption at Hengill would be mostly lava fountains but possibly explosive in beginning, due to such a long resting time for this volcano. I think an eruption, if it would happen, it would be located where earthquakes have been happening (southwest flank of Hengill), so it would flow southwestwards, in the direction of Reykjavik and it seems not as much towards Hverargerdi. It would probably destroy a lot of infrastructure and could maybe barely reach the outer limits of Reykjavík. It did so in past eruptions. Despite a disaster, I don’t think it would cause much damage to the city itself, other than the heating pipes and the N1 road.

    If the eruption would happen in the northern flank, then it would make a very explosive eruption, due to the presence of Thingsvallavatn, but apparently in past eruptions lava has flowed mostly westwards and eastwards, towards Reykjavik and Hverargerdi.

    An eruption like this would quite amazing spectacle as seen from both my place or from Reykjavik, being only 15-20km away. Sooner or later, an eruption close to Reykjavik will happen, likely in Hengill or Krisuvik, but could be only in decades from now.

    1. Eruptions close to populated areas are always dangerous, not just because of lava but also other volcanic material.
      For example when the laki fissure erupted sulfuric acid rained from the sky and the drops fell trough the leaves of this plant.

      Im just saying it would be smart not to try to create a eruption, if we get one we will be as always at Surts mercy, no one can tell how good or bad it will be.

      Small eruption not long ago, no one was expecting this one.

  5. Stupid question, but trying to learn: Could the drilling at Hengill lead to an eruption? Or is that impossible.

    1. Yes. But the only reported instances of man-made eruptions have been small.

      Unfortunately I have returned the book that mentioned it to the library so can’t give more detail, except to say it was caused by geothermal drilling in Iceland & small lava bombs were emitted.

      Jon may have more information.

    2. Short of us putting an atom bomb down one of those holes, the answer is no.
      The forces that trigger a full scale eruption are much greater than anything else that humans would exert on the volcano. There are also enough cracks in the bedrock for magma to come up, even in the absence of human drilling.
      The few times we HAVE drilled into magma have never caused more than a few meters of lava flow before enough magma solidified to clog the hole.

      And before you unleash your mad scientist plans to put a nuke in a volcano, know that even then, it probably wouldn’t erupt unless it was getting ready to anyway. (And really, there are much more profitable uses for a WMD.)

      1. When the first holes were drilled at Krafla in 1975, she erupted, and continued erupting for 9 years.
        One of the earthquakes split the borehole at Bjarnarflag in two, destroying it completely.
        First there was a mud Geyser that erupted and stopped drilling, then a eruption.

      2. I remember reading something similar to this when we were concerned about the exceptional swarms at Hengill a few months back.

        At Krafla, the magma was not where they thought it was when they started drilling, hence the problems. On the other hand, because the magma was not where they thought it was, Krafla may have been near to eruption anyway.

    1. Thank you.

      The ash in the ice-cap is interesting; presumably it is from many other eruptions in Iceland as it is too near the surface to be from Katla itself. What is Jon’s view on this?

  6. Do you have any evidence that tectonic EQ’s have ever caused eruptions ??
    I think you are getting pretty close to scaremongering, For what reason I cannot imagine. But is is rather distasteful in my mind.

    1. You should first make a proper difference between what is possible and what is probable…

    2. The boreholes at Krafla that had to be abandoned because of a eruption were not deep drilling holes, the one at Bjarnarflag that was split in two by one of the quakes.

      Now we have deep drilling holes with enormous pressure and considerable amounts of toxic material coming from it, then we have swarms of earthquakes caused by fracking in the area where those wells are.
      What if some deep driling wells were split in two by a earthquake ?
      if you think OR has any control over the swarms ask yourself who takes responsibility for damage caused by those quakes.

      The way i see this, this is one of the instances where brilliance clashes with stupidity, when that happens everyone usually looses.

    3. The eruption of Chaitén was said to be caused by tectonic activity. I don’t know about the evidence for this theory though.

    4. My guesss is that an individual tectonic EQ (from plate / fault movement rather than magma) would probably only set off an eruption if the eruption was close to happening anyway.

      EQs have caused fracturing of gas reservoirs under volcanoes ~ what the magma does afterwards would depend on the pressure, the type of magma and where it is in relation to the gas reservoir.

  7. Magnitude M 4.8
    Date time 2011-12-18 15:01:01.0 UTC
    Location 35.67 N ; 13.04 E
    Depth 20 km
    Distances 217 km E Susah (pop 164,123 ; local time 16:01:01.8 2011-12-18)
    125 km W Rabat (pop 12,914 ; local time 16:01:01.8 2011-12-18)
    113 km W San lawrenz (pop 530 ; local time 16:01:01.8 2011-12-18)

  8. The weather is changin, the tempurature level is rising pretty intensively. Dont know if that have something to say.

  9. something totally Off-Topic, but my fingers are itching and i hope that you forgive me:)

    After more than half a Year of Work, the finale Edition of my Timelapse Shortmovie is finished. I don’t even know how many hours of work I put into this, but not few, thats clear.
    All the Scenes were Shot in Graubünden, Switzerland, from Juny till November 2011. The Shooting Locations are mostly several Hours away from the next human Settlements. So walking long distances with a Lot of Gear was required.

    1. Stunning Stefan. Beautiful photography and the musis suits it perfectly. Thanks for sharing this .

    2. Stefan I can see why it took such a long time. A lot of work has gone into making this film. It shows the beauty of the area wonderfully. Is this part of your studying or did you make it just for your own pleasure?
      Whichever,,, congratulations a wonderful achievement. It’s beautiful. Thank you

      1. Hi Diane & Merlin

        It was part of my Graduation Work. so it was somekind of a necessity (I had to do it), but it was also a lot of Fun and since i wanted to learn something for myself, i did a lot of extra work. Maybe thats because i wanted it to be as perfect as possible (my inner Ego wanted something good).

        I’m glad that you likethe result, for me it’s a reward for all the work.

    3. Really nice film. Since you are using Lightroom, I recommend you take a look on LR-Timelapse, which is a really awesome tool for making timelapse movies with Lightroom. Even if you only export the images and use another software to generate the video you have quite a lot of nice possibilities in editing.

    4. Stefan: absolutely stunning! The musik really fits….
      ( ich bekam akut ein “heimweh”-attacke – liebe Graubünden, konnte aber letztes jahr nicht gehen. Danke!)

      Parental RegyBru

      1. Uups.. something went wrong : the last words are the Captcha… Don’t know how they ended up here, sorry!

  10. Not much, but pretty interesting considering the location. Even though it has a low quality.

    19.12.2011 02:27:33 63.912 -19.773 9.8 km 0.6 77.08 10.2 km SSW of Hekla

      1. Monday
        19.12.2011 02:27:33 63.912 -19.772 9.8 km 0.6 77.08 10.2 km SSW of
        I too think we should watch Hekla. Remember she does not give much warning before she erupts. I think a couple of larger mag. quakes close together is all the warning given before she erupts within an hour or so of the quakes!!!!

  11. Its funny how next year is the ‘famous’ 2012 end of the world year??!!! Could an eruption from katla do something drastic? From everything ive read no one can be too hyped up about recent activity in katla NIETHER too relaxed because she is unpredictable…. and uve alse gotta ask yourself what is the worst she could do…from looking at the facts; this could be pretty nasty. And no im not scare mongering. im preparing for the worst as everyone should be!

    1. No, Katla will not cause the end of the world. It will cause some flooding in Iceland, probably some disruption of airtraffic due to ash (if the winds are good for that). But not more.
      Everything else is just fear mongering.

      1. Just before Laki erupted there was a depression in Europe caused by the cost of running a very well kept and large elite among other things.
        Laki caused some climate changes and crops were lost. This was the last straw for a lot of people so heads started rolling as we know and the democratic system we use today was born, likewise the banking empire that rules the Western world started to take form.
        That system of politics and the banking empire are on their last legs, i would suspect that shortly after Obama gets re elected next year we will see just how bad this is.
        If we get a big Katla eruption late next year, not unlikely considering recent events, then we may get a blast from the past 🙂

        I see opportunities in this disaster, if it were to happen, maybe we get it right this time and create a better system of politics, with no bankers in the background.

      2. Comparing Katla and Laki makes no sense, since the Laki eruption was huge – the biggest eruption in modern time. It had around 15 cubic kilometers of lava erupted.
        Guesses from the volcanologists here in Iceland are that the next Katla eruption would be around the same, what Grimvötn showed earlier this year. This eruption was around 600 Mio cubicmeters (or 0,6 cubis kilometers). I don’t think we get a major disaster.

    2. A volcanic eruption is highly unlikely to be that drastic, except to those unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place when it happens.

      IMO monitors Katla and other volcanos closely to minimise the risk as much as possible to local residents.

      In the rest of Europe, we might get some fall out in terms of ash and possibly gases, as we have done in the past millenium. Merely unpleasant for most.

      Don’t forget that 2012 is a man-made date. If it is the end of the world as we know it; it will be pure coincidence.

      1. I dont believe in this end of world stuff, i dont see the point in thinking about it.

        Lets hope we get a short eruption from Katla next time and the eruption stays within her caldera, that is statistically most likely to happen.
        We could get a small eruption like 1918, big one like 1755, a huge one like 934, or something brand new.

        Katla is getting ready. I suppose we could take the glacier flood earlier this year, increased eq activity, increased geo thermal activity and the sink holes in the glacier as a hint.

        I suppose its not easy to talk about volcanoes without scaring someone, unless one leaves out a large part of the information that exists about the issue.

  12. Hamarinn continues its inflation, and faster in 2011.

    I think this is another volcano that no one is giving attention and might be having an eruption in near future. It already had an uncofirmed subglacial eruption this year in July. Hamarinn belongs to Bardarbunga fissure system, which has shown to be capable of producing some of the largest eruptions of lava and ash in Iceland.

    1. Compare the inflation with Katla.

      The long-term inflation of Hamarinn is considerable larger to that of Katla, and I think it is more or less comparable with the amount of inflation Grimsvotn had this year prior to its May eruption (but one cannot compare both, because one is long-term, the other was short-term).

  13. I dont think the world will end… but something needs to happen if people are to start treating this planet with some respect!

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