Update on Hekla volcano status

Here is an update on Hekla volcano. First of, for the moment the inflation in Hekla volcano is deflating at the moment. This is following the same pattern as before last time this did happen. But that does not mean this might not happen again soon. For the moment, nobody knows what exactly is going on inside Hekla volcano as there are no earthquakes following this inflation period. The magma that is on the move down there is most likely moving deep down in the crust also, as Hekla volcano does not have shallow magma system that I know of (or is known of anyway).

What did happen inside Hekla volcano was most likely an dike intrusion somewhere in the volcano system. This dike intrusion did not create any earthquakes, that suggests to me that it was travelling trough an old dike system already in place inside Hekla volcano system. This is most likely to happen again in Hekla volcano, if that starts an eruption is hard to know for sure.

In regards to possible ash cloud from eruption in Hekla volcano is impossible of know for sure now what happens in next eruption. There might be an ash cloud, but then again there might not be. All that can be done is to wait and see what happens in the next days, weeks or years.

The GPS movement of Hekla volcano. The inflation and the deflation can clearly be marked here. There is an inflation spike around 2011.45 on this plot. But this did also happen in April/May I think (but it might be wrong). Daily updated chart can be found here. Copyright of this picture belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

It is also important to notice that Civil Emergency Authority (Almannavarnir) in Iceland advice against it travelling up to Hekla volcano at current time. Since an eruption can start in Hekla volcano without any warning at all and the maximum time that people have evacuate the mountain is from 1 hour and up to 1 hour and 30 min. No more then that. Being on top of Hekla volcano when an eruption starts is deadly to everyone. If you want to go up to Hekla volcano. Please let somebody know about and have an fully charged mobile phone with you at all times. As the Civil Emergency Authority send out an SMS message to all mobile phones in the area around Hekla volcano if an eruption is starting (I think they do that).

Icelandic News.

Almannavarnir: Hekla tilbúin í gos (Rúv.is, Icelandic)
Almannavarnir vara fólk við Heklu (Vísir.is, Icelandic)

62 Replies to “Update on Hekla volcano status”

  1. I promise myself only to hike Hekla after the next eruption. The first explosive stage of eruption 1 hour after the first earthquakes is nothing to experience in person! You would die!

    Hekla eruption will be quite a show from where I live. Hopefully not too strong, because in 1104 eruption (most powerful for centuries), rocks felt where I currently live = Not good!

    No one thinks the probable 2011 eruption will be like that. Because in 1104 Hekla was sleeping for 250 years. Now it is only sleeping for 11 years. But Grimsvotn, proved this year, how a volcano erupting only 8 years later, could have a most powerful burst in 100 years.

    I think this eruption will be stronger than the one in 2000, because inflation is bigger now, and I guess more magma. Watching this behavior, I tend to think a dike intrusion walked over an open path but found some obstruction on the way up (failed eruption). So, I think we will see a quite powerful first stage of eruption, with an ash cloud quite high in sky (around 15 km high). But I think it will be less powerful than the eruption in 1947. At least I wish for that.

    So far, everything remains back to quietness in Hekla: slow deflation and no earthquakes.

  2. What a nice Blog you have going here, Jon. Added it to my favorites the very first visit. I’m in Victoria B.C. and have been fascinated by all the Geosciences since the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens.
    Up to now my favorites for daily visits include the Alaska Volcano Observatory, the Hawaii Volcanoes site, and the Russian KVERT photo page of recent activity, Sheveluch volcano being most interesting one of all to me.
    I also pay a daily visit to the Sakurajima japan live webcam.
    With your site on my to do list I can now amuse myself a full day without difficulty. Great stuff. Cheers everyone.



  3. Thanks for this post Irpsit-
    if locals think its better to plan to hike after next eruption, that’s good enough for me.
    Hope that you and your family are safe if Hekla decides to go again.

  4. Yes Irpsit, but if Hekla has been eating too many egg burritos and is feeling sick, the gas alone….well, you know the picture.

  5. Allow me a wild theory. The first thing I thougt when I sas de inflation / deflation behaviour of the area around Hekla was “gas”. Admit the magma has a big potential of gas production. Even before the pressure release starting with the eruption, there are many changings in the temperature / pressure conditions whilst the magma makes it’s way through the crust. Every time thes conditions change you can release or solve a part of the gas, and so change the volume of the whole mix. More volume will lead to more pressure, what can dissolve gas and lead to less volume… I’d take it as an indicator for much gas in what is coming up…

  6. And let’s not forget that we don’t understand the interactions between the magma chamber and the near to surface pathways, and who could tell how the magma supply of the chamber works and affects the whole system up to the surface… All this with the complex chemistry, especially in this area, makes Hekla a really, really tough one to predict. The fact that de last eruption is less than 250 years ago in my opinion really doesn’t mean anything when evaluating the potential for the next one.
    Let’s have a thought for our islandic friends and hope it will be only a hamster-poop.

  7. As usual, Professor Pall Einarsson is at the heart of the rumour-mongering. That Hekla is a very dangerous volcano that is “due” and may erupt this or within the next few years, almost without warning, is as common knowledge as the fact that Professor Pall Einarsson is wont to make “bold” predictions. During and since the Fimvörduhalsi and Eyjafjallajökulli eruptions, he has been going on about how the Katla and Eyjafjallajökull volcanic systems were interconnected and that Katla was bound to erupt within months. It hasn’t turned out that way, so now he’s predicting that Hekla is due “within days” (as reported by Swedish Teletext). I too have a prediction:

    If Hekla hasn’t erupted by the end of the month, Professor Pall Einarsson will find it increasingly hard to have future predictions about Icelandic volcanic behaviour taken seriously.

    The question is WHY he repeatedly sticks his neck out in this fashion?

    1. He’s running short of money. Publicity is one stragegy in raising more money for your research field. And I guess Icelandic government has cut money from the volcanologists due to being close to broke for years.

    2. Pall Einarsson is a thorough and most respected personality in the community. When I see the interviews with him that lead to rumour-mongering, I blame the media. He’s been misquoted so many times, and has publically stated that he has been on several occasions. They’re a team working on this, not just Pall himself, irregardless of who’s making the statements. In this matter they decided to alert the citizens around Hekla, which of course creates alot of fuzz. And, in regard to Hekla’s eruptive patterns, it’s really better to be safe than sorry. Yesterday I read an article in a newspaper with a direct quote from Pall which read “-Hekla will erupt”. A misquote, surely – media’s fearmongering.

      In regard to Katla he’s merely been pointing out the historic connection between Eyjafjallajökull and Katla, he’s never been quoted with a dead sure statement that the volcano will erupt.

      1. He should be more careful with choosing his words. Telling that there is no proof, that the actual measurements indicate an immediate eruption and that Hekla is ready to erupt any time is *errr* not very wise. And this will always lead to mis-understandings from people, which haven’t looked into the subject.

      2. Yes, in some degree I do agree with you, but his statements are meant for the people living close by or travelling around Hekla. Sadly the media picks it up and twists his words around in every possible way, as stated by #jonbragi underneath this post. One (possible) bad call doesn’t make slamming his comments right, just because he’s the one at Askja making the statements – they’re a whole team behind them.

      3. Fredrik, he spoke at a recent conference attended by Dr Erik Klemetti and maintained the view that Katla was bound to erupt as it and Lady E were interconnected. He’s fast using up all credibility, the question is why? Surely he as a professional must know this?

      4. Right, good first-hand information, thanks. He’s seems pretty eager to draw conclusion on the relation between K and E, I’ll admit that, but he’s the one sitting with the data and much of the knowledge of the system. It seems though that Katla is his precious volcano, which can be a bit dangerous for a scientist. Let’s see how it develops first. After all, he’s relating his hypothesis to historic events, which often is the only way to predict things in geology and volcanology.

        For the record – I don’t think Hekla is going to blow up anytime soon, but who am I to speak? Next time the institute sends out a warning, they should just whisper it to the people living in adjacent areas.

      5. There are two different things connected, which the media surely will not understand.

        1) Hekla will erupt. Yes, it surely will during the next million years. But when? Pall is talking from within his own field, and using the language of his field. Media is not interested about gradations in language, they need to have a selling headline! So, what ever Pall says, some little mean journalist will surely invent a selling headline out of it.

        2) The connection between Eyjafjöll and Katla is there, but reportedly only for two occasions. And, those Icelandic volcanologists seems to have data that hint to the direction, they have also some common conduits, but nothing inconclusive. Again, media is not interested in gradations (read the rest from above).

        One friend of mine keeps saying: “Media jobs are for those incompetent to become lawyers, i.e. the only level intellectually below law jobs.” I tend to agree him.

      6. Well, Pall is a professional in a field which is bound to touch some people’s lives once Hekla starts dancing… My profession lies in an another field of similar emotional strength, so my sympathy is 100% with him. It is very hard to get any facts heard, when the listeners only care about feelings.

    3. Professor Pall Einarsson never mentioned that Hekla is a very dangerous volcano. He has never said it would erupt with in day´s. I think he is very open about what could happend. If you think Pall Einarsson is bold, then you should listen to Haraldur Sigurðsson and many other volacon professors from iceland.
      The message from professors and the media is telling us here that Hekla is ready for eruption (when is uncertain ) and that people should be careful when they are around Hekla.
      It seems to me that your Swedish Teletext is not a reliable source for information.

      1. Einarsson and Sigurðsson are Icelandic where volcanic eruptions are familiar and ordinary events.

        When Icelandic geologists talk about the likelihood of Icelandic eruptions to tephra blackened Icelandic residents, they are not apt to be unintentionally beating a sensationalist war drum.

        It’s not easy to get an Icelander hyped up about a volcano. Conversely, it is easy to instill FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) in a population whose history is rooted in the scourge of volcanic cataclysm.

        It’s unfair to criticize Icelandic geologists for ‘playing up to’ and/or being misconstrued by foreign media who overwhelmingly perceive volcanic eruptions as spectacular novelties.

  8. Henrik:
    You’re absolutely right, one should be very careful with predictions, even more when it’s about phenomena that could have considerable effects to a large population. And that aaaaaal these volcanoes can an will once burst… Yeah, well, really nothing very new. But let’s respect one thing about this guy: at least he has the balls to say what he thinks due to his knowledge en experience. I find that quite refreshing in an academic world where everyone is afraid to say anything because of what people might think if it’s not fully true. And I like anything that can make us talk about an reflect on volacnoes…
    Reputation is what the others think of You, and the others’ thougts are problems of their own, ain’t they? 🙂

  9. I suppose that is not Professor Pall Einarsson, the only professional in Iceland. In Germany (and not just here) it is quite common to “consult” those who have the “right” to say, namely that which brings in money. (Increase in circulation, government grants, etc.)

  10. @ Irpsit. I think putting a hike up Hekla on hold is a wise decision!
    @Henrick Like the behaviour of Hekla the internal workings of this Professor is a mystery. I guess if he is “Correct” in one prediction this will bring media fame… I think it could be called the National Geographic Syndrome.
    I do not usually criticise those with more learning than myself but in this case it is not a hypothesis where he, or anyone else for that matter, can provide proof as yet. To give him some credit however I do think the media will distort statements to grab selling headlines.
    Hopefully if the press do their job properly then they will read Blogs like Erik’s and THEN write informed news articles but Lurking’s avatar springs immediately to my mind! (Lurking, I am referring only to your avatar not your excellently produced posts. The media could do well to hire you as a proof reader!)

  11. The Press of course should also come straight here to Jon’s Blog when wanting to find out about Icelandic possible events. I apologise Jon for not naming this Blog first. After all this IS a blog that concentrates on Icelandic volcanoes. For those who do not know Lurking or his avatar… the avatar is a very nice representation of two flying pigs! Lurking is excellent at providing statistics in visual form.

  12. Hekla is totally calm now.

    No one knows when Hekla will erupt. It is likely an eruption in near future, due to these changes. In volcano language “near future” can be in 2 or 5 years. My bet goes for the next months. Last Hekla eruption was in Feb 2000.

  13. I’m avare of this “common thought”, but cannot really believe Hekla just immediately spits every drop of magma that comes up from very deep below. I tend to think that there must be some kind of structure where the material accumulates in some or other ways, and the picture of something like 15 km deep sounds better than just “nothing”… Due to the teconic complexity there and regarding the chemistry, I’d even dare imagining connexions very deep, but that can’t be proven in a near future and finally is nothing else than pure (to say something else than wild) speculation.

    1. It is not a matter of belief, but measurement (albeit a bit harder one).

      1. Only that in geology (and especially in matters of hazards and volcanology), You sooner or later come to the limits of what can be measured, and then, leaving the numbers more or less, we’ll have as many interpretations as geologists…
        But I completely agree to the principle of Your statement.
        If You have any measured elements that explain the whole trip of a magma-drop from its genesis to its flight out of Hekla’s crater I’d be eager to learn. No kidding, I’m not pretending to know anything solid about this volcano – I just enjoy thinking of what might be to relax and come away from my landslides and rockfalls…

  14. According to Hoskuldsson (2007) the year 2000 eruption of Hekla was preceeded by lowering ground water levels already at least 2-3 years before the eruption. Similar observations were made before the eruptions of 1766, 1947, 1970, and 1980-1981. For the 1991 eruption this is not stated by Gudmundsson (1992). However, the latter article states, that the length of the Hekla repose period seems to have a positive effect to the 1) initial explosivity of the eruption, 2) volume of tephra and lava produced, 3) duration of eruption, and 4) magnitude of largest earthquakes related to the eruption.

    1. Hmmm, wasn’t #1 and #2 also thought about Grimsvötn until this year’s eruption disproved that thoroughly

      1. Yes, I think so. Yet, the authors of the latter article state that based on the last four successive eruptions (1970, 1980-1, 1991 and 2000).

    2. The slides at http://www3.hi.is/~heidi/Data/guade-hekla.ppt from year 2009) say, that dry tilt at Hekla reached the previous pre-eruption (1991 and 2000) levels already on 2005. I could not find any newer data elsewhere.

      Well, regardless of the present state of tilt, it seemsHekla has been building pressure for 5-6 already. To me this hints that Hekla is building up a stronger than normal eruption.

      1. Meant to say “5-6 years already”.

        Anyway, this is a very simplistic conclusion. It seems to me Hekla eruptions are started by the crossing of a “critical pressure level” which fits in nicely with the very gaseous nature of the initial explosion. Grimsfjäll eruptions, on the other hand, seem to be started by exceeding a “critical seismic moment level”.

  15. Probably I’m blind, but I cannot see any meaningful variation in GPS data. The inflation (if exist) is only visible in the Up component and only for few days. The horizontal components are clearly stationary. Where is the “inflation”??

  16. Deep EQ around the KATLA area.

    07.07.2011 10:33:23 63.652 -19.046 23.4 km 1.0 99.0 8.4 km NNE of Hábunga

  17. Oh, and as a scientist (albeit in a different field) who has been misqouted several times in the media the last year I can only say I sympathise with Professor Pall Einarsson.

    The media in general do warp your words a lot! They do that and then once their article gets posted on the internet, other media sources start quoting that article without asking you, the original source, whether you actually meant what your quoted for. At that point there is little you can do to stop it. It is very annoying but there is little you can do to prevent it.

    1. Yes, I have had a taste of press misquotes,not even intentional ones but journalists a tendacy to not understand subtle differeces between what you say and what they print yet it makes the person attributed with having made the statement kook silly.

  18. No. Longer repose periods might lead to larger eruptions, but not necessarily. Small repose periods tend to lead to smaller eruptions, but not necessarily. Katla erupted in 1625 I think, after only a few years with another powerful eruption. Krafla erupted in the 1980s with small eruptions after a long repose period. So, this rule applies often but not always.

    Grimsvotn is just above the Icelandic plume, so naturally there the activity is most strong and frequent. One theory goes for a 130 year cycle in activity, which should peak again in next decades. This peak in activity is connected to increased activity under Vatnajokull and other regions.

  19. Just watched someone cleaning the Hekla webcam, bit of a shock to see a face!!

  20. I sometimes just love the press for how ignorant they are.

    I am mentioned in this news article here (Icelandic). In the end of the article they get my name wrong at the end of the article (they called me Jón Ingi at the end). But they also claim that I did get the SMS detail wrong.

    The part that they claim that I made wrong was that Almannavarnir (Public Civil Emergency Authority) cannot send SMS to people in the area. I know that they can do so because they did so in the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in the year 2010. When they did send SMS to local people and people in the area of the mountain when an eruption started.

    It is best to let somebody know that you are travelling in Hekla volcano area, since mobile reception can be bad in this area and full connection is no where certain.

    The article can be read here, http://www.pressan.is/Frettir/Lesafrett/er-hekla-ad-fara-ad-gjosa-i-dag—sama-atburdaras-i-gangi-nu-og-thegar-fjallid-gaus-sidast

    Use Google translate with care on this one.

  21. “There might be an ash cloud, but then again there might not be”

    Your not ruling out that an ash plume already has been confirmed? Come on, you’re the one who should know that in this volcano an eruption will never ever start without preceding earthquakes.

    1. Pieter:
      I think Jón is just trying to say that, in case of an eruption, we cannot be a hundred per cent sure that it will be of the explosive kind, therefore, “there might be an ash cloud but then again there might not be”.

    2. Hekla volcano might just have lava eruption, normally in that types of eruption there is no ash cloud. The good example of this is Fimmvörðuháls eruption in Eyjafjallajökull volcano last year.

      But Hekla volcano also has the tendency to have explosive eruptions, followed by an ash cloud.

      It is impossible to know what type of eruption is going to take place until it happens.

  22. And, congratulations Jon, for your blog coming once again to such spotlight in the press!
    Your blog is a unique contribution!

  23. Hi, can i ask… Does anybody know what that large (harmonic?) spike that appears on the tremor plots around the evening of the 6th??

    1. That’ll be the magnitude 7.6 earthquake north of New Zealand. Nothing to worry about in terms of Icelandic volcanoes, though I daresay it wasn’t a barrel of laughs for the locals.

    1. Yes and a pity that the posted a picture of the wrong volcano. I believe the picture is from Vestmannaeyar. But the real mystery is how did they NOT see that it was the wrong volcano?? There is a friggin ocean in the foreground. How many oceans are there in Iceland?? NONE! Journalism at its best!

      1. And to take it even further…Right under the picture of Heymai there is actually a map of Iceland pointing out Hekla.

        Is it really that hard putting two and two together and see that the picture and the map doesnt really match?

        And its not like there is a lack of images of Hekla. Try a google search on images. I got over 200.000 hits on images alone. Now not all of those depict Hekla but a big chunk of it does!
        Just goes to show you that the news which is supposed to inform you actually makes you more ignorant.

  24. Hello everybody.

    My girlfriend and me have planned the route form Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork on early august. I think it is about 15 km from Hekla. If there is an eruption of the Hekla, do you have any idea about if this track could be affected, or if it is dangerouse? Which can be the radius affected by the eruption?

    Thank you

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