Earthquakes in Esjufjöll volcano

There is always surprises in Iceland once in a while when it comes to volcanoes. This evening there was one. This time for a little known volcano named Esjufjöll. But since the year 2002 there have been regular earthquake swarms in Esjufjöll volcano since that year. But this indicates that magma is pushing up the volcano. But it is quite hard to know if that is going to lead to a eruption. It might happen. But so far nothing indicates that it is going to do so at present time.

Here (Week 43 also) are details of the earthquakes in Esjufjöll in the year 2002. But this earthquake activity in 2002 lasted until week 45 (a small earthquake swarm was also in Week 51) before it stopped completely.

So far this are the years that earthquake swarms have happened in Esjufjöll volcano. The year 2002 (swarms, see links above), 2006 (minor swarm, see here), 2008 (small swarm, see here), 2009 (small swarm, see here), 2010 (small swarm ?). Currently the only thing to do now is to wait and see what happens with the 2010 earthquakes in Esjufjöll. But this is unlikely to lead to a eruption. But with volcanoes with rather unknown eruption history it is hard to know for sure.

Last suspected eruption in Esjufjöll took place in 1927 on 5th of September (+- 5 days). But that is unclear eruption as it was not seen and did only create a minor glacier flood. This information is from Global Volcanism Program and can be found in the link at the top.

There is a web camera online that points to Esjufjöll, it can be viewed here.

133 Replies to “Earthquakes in Esjufjöll volcano”

  1. Jón: Thanks for the info. As I said before – Iceland = a huge volcano. Sorry for this amateurish comment, but that’s the way it looks. They seem to pop up everywhere.. 🙂
    As for Hekla: I check at that cam everyday, but this was the first time I saw that crater like formation. Suddenly, cam went off. Other people saw it too. But it was quite dark to tell whether it was a trick of the light.

  2. Whats your thoughts about grimsvotn, torfjalljokull, and hengill??? and the quakes around them, I know Hengill went through a fit..god leave it to wikipedia to explain the hollywood sets to me…but whats your honest opinion about whats going on… grimsvotn, torfjalljokull, and hengill, not to mention katla, what about baroabunga…I know we got three hot spots..hawaii, yellowstone…and iceland…straight to the mantle man…. Mt. erebus who knows…but let me know, email me or something, lemme know what you think….the activity of grimsvotn, torfjalljokull, and hengill, not to mention katla, what about baroabunga…Ive been a neophyte at best to this, and wondering…after watching quakes and figuring this shit out over the last 2 yrs, Ive come to appreciate the earth and the personality that lies within…..hit me back…peace…

    1. @Jason Brizendine, You already know what is going on in those volcanoes. Both you can view the online data your self.

      You gain nothing by running a imagination events in your head. Since they won’t turn into reality anyway.

      These volcanoes are going to erupt one day. They might have a great impact locally and even on a small local scale (northern hemisphere). But there is nothing you can do about it and there sure is nothing that I can do about it.

      You gain nothing by thinking like you appears to do. So take it easy and enjoy the sun or something. Nature is going to what it wants regardless of feelings of human beings or other animals on this planet.

      1. @Jon…Thanks for the reply, sorry if I came off like that to you, thats not the case, Ive been a stay at home dad for over four years now, and really enjoyed learning what I can about volcanism, geology, earthquakes etc..Im stuck in my house, (and yard) six days a week with three children, and this has become a big hobby for me since the tools of the internet are there, I was extremely excited to find a blog like this, and to see so many like minds discussing such interesting things, this is a great thing your doing, so thanks…and again sorry to come off like some doomsdayer nutjob, Im not, Ive just got a lot of time on my hands, and I fully expect the world will do what she needs to with me and all of us. Ill ease up a bit, Im surrounded by over imaginative crazies in my life, and I dont want you to think Im one…Ive learned a lot, and seen so many blogs like this, but this is the best so far for me. Thanks again for all your hard work, I suppose when it comes down to it…were probably much in the same, the earth excites me like nothing else…take care, and Ill get some sun…peace

  3. 20.10.2010 04:49:17 64.243 -16.515 2.2 km 1.8 88.78 26.5 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur
    20.10.2010 04:44:50 64.244 -16.518 1.1 km 2.1 87.0 26.6 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur
    20.10.2010 04:15:04 64.239 -16.538 2.0 km 2.1 63.38 25.8 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur
    19.10.2010 21:48:09 64.239 -16.542 3.6 km 1.9 90.01 25.7 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur

  4. Again Jón, thank you, for creating a fantastic blog! One thing I ask myself is, are all these events we see signs of a new, widely spread, period of activity, or is it just because of more, better and publicly available instrumentation that we are aware of them? Looking at the Vatnajökull area and its close neighbours from February and onwards, we’ve seen swarm activity in and around Herdubreid (longest duration and greatest number of quakes/swarms), Herdubreidartögl, Kistufell, Bardarbunga, Grimsfjall, Hammarin and now Esjufjöll, but no eruption. Luckily, none of these volcanoes seem to be aseismic like Hekla.

    If I’d known what I know now 30 years ago, I’d have studied geosciences and tried hard to get a position with NordVulk. 😉

    1. @Henrik, On my to-do list is a blog post about the 160 year (approx) top in volcano activity in Iceland. But it is normally followed by a volcano activity low that normally lasts about 50 to 100 years. But last low was in the year 1960 (maximum low). Last high was in the year 1880 to 1900

      You can read more here with help of Google translate, (Icelandic).

      I did try to find a chart that showed this cleary. But I didn’t find it and I hope that I still have it on my computer at home.

      1. Thanks Jón! The article states that the period for volcanic activity at Vatnajökull is 130 – 140 years. With last maximum set at c.1890 (1880 – 1900) and the minimum c.1960, it implies that we’re some 10 years away from a new period of maximum activity. But – this assumes that volcanic activity at Vatnajökull really is (reliably) periodic and that it does follow a sine curve distribution! If it instead were similar to the light variations in Cepheid variables, Vatnajökull could have either a sharper increase and a slow decline (the period of maximum activity has already begun), or a slower rise and a sharp decline (in which case, maximum activity could be 30 or more years in the future).

        Either way, the “big view” that Icelandic volcanoes are somehow directly connected to the activity within the Icelandic hot-spot as it interacts with the WVZ and EWZ respectively is a fascinating line of thought!

  5. 20.10.2010 10:19:18 64.414 -16.536 1.1 km 1.6 84.82 25.0 km S of Kverkfjöll
    20.10.2010 10:19:15 64.243 -16.508 1.2 km 2.4 90.02 26.6 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur
    20.10.2010 09:59:43 64.242 -16.534 2.0 km 2.2 62.0 26.2 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur

    1. 20.10.2010 10:53:36 64.247 -16.514 1.1 km 2.9 90.03 27.0 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur

  6. Jón: Good morning.
    The feature I mentioned at Hekla is still there. Take a look.
    I thought it might be snow attached to the lens, but not sure.

    1. And coincidentally, the “rising steam” Diane N Ca mentioned showing in the background cam of Jökullsárlón at the same spot.

      1. i think that was me………. She was commenting on the glow….
        and i’m thinking what i was questioning is just a light smear on the lens.

  7. This last earthquake was larger then ML2.9 it seems. I did record it at my Hekla station. But at the same time that station lost the internet connection for some reason. I hope that I didn’t loose the data on this earthquake.

      1. The feature that I question is not visible thru the clouds today but it is behind that dune…can’t wait for the weather to clear.

  8. And another 4 quakes, some of them pretty strong:
    13:46:39 64.235 -16.544 5.9 km 1.3 90.01 25.3 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur
    13:39:38 64.246 -16.513 1.1 km 2.4 90.02 26.9 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur
    13:36:07 64.241 -16.540 2.5 km 1.6 74.49 26.0 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur
    12:27:49 64.238 -16.489 1.5 km 1.2 80.2 26.4 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur

  9. One more:
    20.10.2010 14:01:10 64.242 -16.533 2.0 km 2.0 90.02 26.2 km NNE of Hvannadalshnjúkur

  10. The earthquakes that I record from this events on my Hekla station (thanks to a good weather). This looks mostly tectonics in nature. But from what I have learned from experience, that is just half the story. As I did see similar earthquakes before the Eyjafjallajökull eruption that did look tectonic in nature but where in fact due to a magma infiltration in the volcano. In the case of Esjufjöll I do think that this is the same case. But at this point there is nothing indicates that a eruption is going to happen soon in Esjufjöll. But as I don’t know how Esjufjöll behave before a eruption I might be reading this completely wrong. But I find it most likely outcome at present time.

    I can record earthquakes down to ML2.4 in this good weather. But just barely. The earthquake signal that I get is really weak and hard to see on my helicorders and my online view on my earthquake computer.

    The closest GPS station to Esjufjöll is Grímsfjall GPS station.

  11. I have checked the reviewed data from IMO. The earthquakes that are happening in Esjufjöll are from a magma intrusion inside the volcano. This appears to happen in similar manner and we did see with Eyjafjallajökull. But there are differences on how this is evolving. But that comes down to the fact that Eyjafjallajökull are two different volcanoes and so on.

  12. @ Jón – What does it mean with magma intrusion? Merely filling up or that it may erupt? And if it actually did erupt what kind of impact would that have on Grimsvötn which is already showing signs of waking up? I guess there would be a different kind of strain on Grimsvötn since alot of the glacier would melt above Esufjöll.

  13. I just posted this comment on a thread over on Eruptions, but I thought I’d share it here too:

    The one thing I worry about with interpreting earthquake swarms like this in Iceland as magmatic is that hydrothermal flow can cause similar swarms. The glaciation of the island combined with the hot crust means there is abundant and active hydrothermal systems under most volcanoes, so these quakes might very well represent changes in water/fluid flow rather than magma, even at depths of a few km down. See Mt. Rainier.

    1. Nice to see You, Erik, and everyone here checks in on the big board too.

    2. @Erik, As that may be in some cases I do not believe that is the case here. There are no known hydrothermal features on the surface. There might be below glacier, but it seems unlikely given the fact there are no glacier floods from this area.

      The deepest earthquake so far is at 23.5km depth according to IMO web page.

      — Also posted on Eruption blog at BigThink —

  14. It seems to be erupting on the webcam now. You can see a warm orange glow that looks to be lava.

      1. I have been in laughing hysterics all afternoon over this…im so embarrassed! It was actually the tail lights of a car haha, and I was getting so excited!

    1. Lurking: Is this straight collar of quakes directly beneath Esufjöll? If it is, then, wow!

      1. @Renato Rio, The reviewed data from IMO is showing interesting picture of this activity.


        What is more interesting is the fact that this earthquakes are happening in exactly the same spot as the earthquake activity that started in the year 2002. Far as I can tell anyway. This goes for Week 43 in the year 2002 anyway (check link in blog post for the map).

        That is in fact quite interesting and might indicate a eruption location when this is ready to start erupting. But I don’t think that is going to be any time soon. But sometimes I am wrong and the best thing to do is just wait and see what happens.

      2. We are waiting, Jón, you bet we are. And also hoping it won’t bring any harm to your friendly people.
        In the meanwhile we can gaze at the majestic beauties of Vatnajökul as seen from Jölkulsárlón, and learn from the debates generated between you experts.
        Thanks for keeping us updated.

  15. I don’t know if it’s under it or not. It’s under the south part of the glacier, and reportedly the other E volcano is in that area… it’s possible. I just haven’t had the motivational wherewithal to actually go look. Like I said. “My feets is tired” (rough two days)

    1. Lurking: Go get your feet rested. You have already done a lot for us all and deserve some break. But get ready, because I don’t think this is likely to be over any soon. Many thanks.

  16. What are your thoughts on earthquake, and volcanic cycles?…Is there a reason some quakes hit near anniversary’s of others, is there a rythm pulsing in the earth making it all happen? Volcanoes seem like furnaces or kilns for the earth, like chimneys to a real big fireplace we’ll never see….Do sunspots effect the earth, or the orbit, the spin of the earth. It has to be a dance of some sort Im guessing. It’d be interesting to compare solar activity with volcanoes and quakes. Anyway, I really appreciate your site and the insight of the people here. Thank you..

  17. @Jason Brizendine [03:15]

    I had always heard modern folklore about there being a Sun or Moon connection with earthquakes, but had pretty much dismissed it as something that was possible, but not readily verifiable. In December of last year, US Berkley released an article that pointed to a Moon-Sun affect on San Andreas quakes. It made for an interesting read.

    Motivated by this, I figured that there had to be an effect that could be seen… or at least pointed at. My idea was to get a feel for just how much of an influence there was. I was a bit surprised.

    What I did was to take the date and time of all reported Earthquakes from the USGS catalog for as many years as my poor little computer could handle, and then to look those time up an ephemeris program to get the Sun and Moon data. I used Alcyone Ephemeris™, which used data from a Jet Propulsion Laboratory dataset. I figured that would be accurate enough. After finding that it was worth digging into, I looked for why there would be such a strong spike at New and Full moon… could there be an issue with timing? Well, there was. There is a lag time at New and Full moon where the apparent speed of the moon on it’s orbit, tends to dwell longer at certain aspects. (phase percentages) It’s not specifically the apogee and perigee arguments, but they do figure into it. I just needed to pull that part of the effect out to see if there really was something to it. After finding out what the “dwell time” was at each tenth of a percent of lunar phase, I removed that from the curve representing the quake count at that phase.

    Here is the plot.

    The green line is probably the one of most interest. It’s shows what the general trend it. There are 132,098 earthquakes (roughly 5 years) in that blue (and noisy) line. The quake count at each tenth of a degree (of lunar phase) were divided into the total number of quakes in order to generate that percentage value.

    What this shows is that there is some variation in the number of quakes with respect to the lunar phase. Some of the wiggles in that green line may (OR MAY NOT) be indicative of some angular relationship that promotes quakes to occur.

    Remember, this is only about 5 years of data. Clustered events (like the large Sumatra or Chilean events with alot of aftershocks) could have heavily skewed the curve at that particular lunar phase. So, take the data in my graph with a grain of salt. It could be very wrong.

    Can you use something like this to predict a quake? Given what all goes into making one… highly unlikely. “Stress waves” (another abandoned project), crustal stress, rock type, heat sources and a whole lot of other things throw so many variables into the mix that it’s near impossible to by correct enough to make a decent prediction.

    1. @Lurking

      The data is very noisy. The mean is roughly 0,1 % and the average spread is roughly 0,05 % (one sigma). The apparent maximum at new Moon is roughly 0,15 %. So the “observed” effect of quakes peaking at a certain given time is only “seeing what you want to see”. And humans are very good in that kind of behavior. If this effect was real, it had to be statistically significant, i.e. the peak must deviate from the mean with more than three sigmas. The effect may be there, but with this data, the effect can not be proved. You’d need at least ten times more data to reduce the noise to 1/3 of current level to see reliably, if the situation (peak vs. mean) stays the same.

      1. Additionally, the Berkeley paper talked about tremor. You used only large (M3+) quakes. I’d quess, the situation would be quite different, if you took M1+ quakes into account.

        However, the connection may be believable: Tidal forces are quite strong, and there are many examples in our Solar system of tidal forces driving the dynamics of interior forces.

      2. I hate afterthoughts. You write and write, quickly check your formatting and write some more, post. Only to remember that you had another idea you also wanted to mention.

        Re: Noise.

        What was really neat to see when putting that plot together, was the appearance of localized peaks. For a while I thought that I had run across certain orientations of the Sun-Earth-Moon that produced higher numbers of quakes. (other than New.Full moon). As I kept adding other years to the data, the peaks would become better defined. Then they got really tight, then spiky, then they started to drift around. (meaning there wasn’t really anything there to begin with)

        Ya got to love chasing ghosts…

      3. Appreciate that.

        I tried to covey just how dodgy that info was. My take on it is that there is some effect, and that they tend to go up at New and Full moon.

        As for putting the other 20 years through that correlating process, I don’t know if it’s worth the trouble for the casual observer (me). I don’t have anything to prove by it, or a paper to write. I was curious and wanted to see if there was anything to it.

        For anyone else who wishes to pick up on that idea, just remember that “big events” like Sumatra and it’s aftershocks will introduce local spikes in the trace. (one of the reasons for staying with Mag 3.0+), and that technology creep will make more quakes apparent the closer to the present you get in the quake catalog. (the other reason for staying with Mag 3.0+)

        Again, thanks Jack @ Finland for providing a more knowledgeable statistical opinion of the plot.

  18. Oh yeah… I forgot to mention. The quakes that I used were Mag 3.0 and higher. May not mean much, but I think that’s important to say.

    While I’m at it, here is a VERY old plot using the same data vs Solar Right Ascension. In other words, what part of the Solar Year it was. I don’t think I tried to pull any dwell times out… and I also think that this plot is even more prone to clustered event errors, so this one is even less reliable than the lunar phase one. But, here it is.

    1. Hey Lurking, just wondered what your thoughts are regarding the 3 recent quakes in the last few days including the 6.9 quake off Baja in light of our conversation re: stress build in in So Calif on he SAF, SJF and EF faults. I am also wondering if you have been able to track any more stress waves coming up into the Laguna Salada Fault (LSF) and migrating up to the EF or others.

      I am wondering if there is any body of scientific thought that these quakes starting in Baja are the beginning of a series of quakes along the Pacific Plate moving northward.

      1. Umm.. pretty much all of them are related to the Pacific plate moving northward. It’s been doing that for about 17 to 18 myr or so. (probably more, but that was before the Pacific plate and the North American plate were in contact. You know, when the Farallon plate slipped into never never land ≈20 myr)

        The quakes, as have been noted elsewhere, have principally horizontal components. This is probably along one of the transform faults that connect all the extensional areas. (mini spreading centers)

        I can’t say that something bigger is not coming, I also can not say that something bigger is coming. Geologically speaking, it’s just a matter of time. As an FYI, this is the area that I was tracking what I termed a “stress wave” (for lack of a better term) as it moved up the center of the Gulf of California. The only reason I call it that is that about every month or so, a new area of activity would pop up about 145 miles north of the previous event(s).

        Not saying it’s connected… but about a month ago there was a Mag 5.6 about 200 to 260 miles south of here… 9/14/2010. Closer to the coast and 16 km down.. but not too far away from the fault system. New wave or not? Beats me.

        If there is another event ≈ 140 to 300 miles or so north of here in about a month or so, there might be something to it.

  19. Could there be any correlation between the sun timing and the larger quakes?
    (i’m thinking about my mother in law who claimed there was) What would the graph look like if You used 5’s instead of 3’s ? i understand there are too many variables to
    even begin to look for patterns…….. but still one must try to begin. i feel like we are just begining to peek behind the vail. And it follows my theory of rock throwing……….
    if one isn’t on a corner chucking rocks at people let them alone. 🙂
    Best! 😉 motsfo

  20. Ps………….. and what is that lighthouse to the left on the Katla or is it the Hekla… Is it a lighthouse or a km marker or scientific houseing for
    some instrument?
    gee i keep getting them mixed up…………

  21. I appreciate your blog. I am obsessed with Katla and you have the best and latest information all in one spot. If I feel like I need more information about something, I will do a search. Your efforts are very much appreciated, easy to understand and Renato Rio keeps the entertainment level up there. Your statement to the effect of a warm glow hat would be the sunset is hilarious and informative at the same time!!

  22. I have been following the Eruptions blog since back in April with great interest.

    Always found your posts there and now this interesting blog very informative…Thanks Jon

    You live in such an incredible country, need to find some way to visit there to see all of nature’s craftsmanship.

    It’s interesting to follow this latest swarm….maybe nothing will come out of it but still very interesting.

    BTW….I think it’s dirt on the lens of the Jokul webcam, it seems to blur the sky, down through the mountain and on the to ice. ….but understand if you look long enough you can make it into something else.

    Keep up this interesting study Jon

  23. Looking at the new cam i just got to see a large (huge) splash wave just about under the smudge…………. the tide is coming in and apparently people were watching for the turn because they were running for the edge…………….. perhaps to see a tidal bore?
    i know we line up to watch them in Turnagain Arm. And a small boat was launched and went up toward the head of the bay……… Could see the wake against the outflow.

  24. @Lurking’s response to RonF’s [21:12]

    (Yeah, I’m talking to myself)

    Sitting here looking at the quake patterns in the Gulf of Cali, and a thought occurred to me. This collection of event’s is about 220 kilometers North of where the Rivera microplate ends. (≈136 mi). I don’t know if that is a classic triple junction or not. See, triple junctions come in two main flavors. Stable, and unstable. Unstable ones migrate up or down a boundary until they become stable… but I am such a novice at this that I don’t know what those conditions are. Further south is where I noted that that Mag 5.6 occurred about a month ago. (260 mi / 420 km). This are is where Isla Maria Magdalena (and a few others) is at. It’s also the general area where the subduction zone along the coast of Mexico stops, and a different interface is set up. It’s probably what makes the the Rivera microplate rotate (as I’ve read somewhere… I think)

    So. Here is another possibility. It is possible that where these quakes are at, is just an expansion area (and neighboring transform faults) catching up on all the stress that was relieved by the (dubious) stress wave that I’ve been yammering about. Sort of joining the party after the fact.

    I missed all the excitement over this thing and had to hear about it on the radio. I had visions of the Imperial Fault getting active and people freaking out. Meanwhile I had to sit in traffic and watch a trailer load of hay burn. Hey, it’s about the closest thing you will get to an eruption plume around here…

  25. Looking through the link provided by Jón week by week, there are some interesting features such as the activity at and around Godabunga in 1997. Starting with a single, small tremor under Katla in the week 970630 – 970706 (week 27), the next thirty weeks saw an impressive activity which ended with single tremblors at Godabunga and Katla, in the week 980202 – 980208 (week 6).

  26. Do you think this last earthquake is a sign of increasing activity inland? This blog is great!!!

  27. Funny, I did not realize that the iceblocks on the Jökulsárlón cam were this huge. At the moment some campers can be seen on the cam, which puts it all in a different perspective! 🙂

  28. Jon, how would you explain that some of the earthquakes in the swarms beneath Esjufjoll occur shallower than 3km. Does that still have to do with lava filling the magma chamber? (which is probably deeper than 3km)

  29. Jón: Another earthquake far down Reykjanes ridge. A 4.7, this time. Let us wait to see if it triggers other events at its northern segment. I know you don’t believe there could be a relation, but coincidentally it has happened in former occasions.

    1. Looks the same to me, Renee. I always get this impression after a large quake hits MAR. There was one at equatorial MAR, then another at the Azores, and then Reykjanes, and now Iceland. They seem to come in threads, but it’s merely amateurish speculation.

      1. I tried plotting the MAR quakes before and I couldn’t find a pattern.

        I’m of the opinion that unless they happen on the local segments then there is not much of a connection. Remember the MAR is a collection of spreading centers and transform faults. Those transform faults come from the inability of the lithosphere to bend and accommodate the stress that arises from the different accretion rates. This sort of points to the quakes being the result of a fault adjusting to that stress and doesn’t really mean something (“stress wave”) is traveling up or down the MAR.

        It’s a cool theory, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much to support it.

      2. Thanks for the link, Jón.
        Of course, Scholz’s hypothesis of synchronized faults is supposed to happen within a shorter segment. And I am sure that Lurking has much more basis as to deny this my impression from his large experience in plotting. Who else could be more eager to find such an evidence than he, who burns his eyebrows over this most of his spare time?
        My point, and a very empirical one, is that plates are different along MAR, so that the “opening” movement of this gigantic fissure would cause different stresses at different points, like scattered adjustments to this general trend. Just looking at the maps, it kind of makes sense, but when you think of the distances, these quakes are probably coincidental.
        Keep on with the good work, ol’ pal.

  30. Yes, in Polish Renata my father preferred the french spelling Renee’ really not too common here…he chose it for the meaning as you said “reborn” as I was born 5 years after his cancer dx was to have killed him. He lived another 8 years and said I kept him going Thank you for noticing…

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