What is happening in El Hierro volcano

This is a special blog post about the volcano El Hierro in the Canary Islands. The resons for this blog posts are those that this activity is interesting and there is not a lot happening at the moment in Iceland due to bad weather (nothing gets recorded in this bad weather).

Currently El Hierro volcano is a phase that I personally call a magma intrusion phase (I have no other word for it). But that means that magma is currently coming from a depth, that is more then 20 km below the volcano and up the crust directly below the volcano. It is impossible to know how long this phase is going to last. As a example this phase for Eyjafjallajökull volcano lasted for good part of 17 years (with some breaks). When the pressure is high enough in the sill that is now forming in El Hierro the magma is going to break up the surface.

This pattern can clearly be seen on this image here.

The magma is flowing up into the volcano at around 30 degree angle from the depth of more then 20 km. When a new magma injection starts, a new earthquake swarm starts in El Hierro. This magma injections are different in size and length. But as more magma collects into the bedrock in El Hierro the stronger earthquakes are going to take place. But this increases the pressure on the rock and inside the magma chamber that is now forming and can clearly been seen with the earthquake pattern. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

I did see a picture that was made on Eruptions blog that did show his clearly, both the feeder channel of the magma and the magma chamber that is currently in the making. It seems that magma inflow into the new magma chamber or the sill in El Hierro is stable at the moment. But I base that view on the constant earthquakes that are currently taking place. But this magma inflow seems to have been stable since 16 July, 2011 when the magma started to push upwards into El Hierro.

Earthquakes that signal new inflow of magma do not need to be strong in size. But they are deep, with the most depth around 20 km. But the crust in this area is around 10 to 26 km thick. As this is a ocean crust in this area. But the Canary islands are the thickest crustal part in the area. But it is also important to notice that the magma chamber or the sill is expanding in all directions, not just upwards. That in it self is also going to create deep earthquakes. But those earthquakes should remain a bit outside the main area of the deep earthquakes that are currently taking place in the area.

I am expecting a lot more earthquake activity when or if El Hierro starts erupting. But when that might happen impossible to know for the moment. The only thing that can be done is too wait and see what happens.

Update 1: Here is the earthquake activity for today (30 September, 2011).

Earthquake activity of today (30 September, 2011). There is less earthquake activity today. This happens when magma flows into a volcano. This did also happen with Eyjafjallajökull volcano in the year 2010. If anyone has the direct link too this plot, please leave it in the comments. Thanks. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

Update 2: Links too El Hierro information can be found here.

Update 3: The Spanish news channel Canal 24 can be found here and it is live.

Update 4: Here is a news in english about the evacuation of El Hierro. It is from 28 September, 2011. Evacuation of El Hierro begins as fears of volcanic eruption grow. Thanks to Dr. John v. Kampen that did send this to me with a email.

Note: There are new pictures of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Fimmvörðuháls craters here. They show the difference from the year 2010 and in the year 2011. The text is in Icelandic.

Also. Please support my effort so I can buy two new geophones and add them to my monitoring network in Iceland. Thanks! 🙂

Blog post has been updated 30 September, 2011 at 22:12 UTC.
Blog post has been updated 30 September, 2011 at 22:25 UTC.
Blog post has been updated 30 September, 2011 at 23:08 UTC.
Blog post has been updated 1 October, 2011 at 14:48 UTC.

185 Replies to “What is happening in El Hierro volcano”

  1. @Manolo, Jón Frímann, Jack, Carl etc….

    re: Whats it doing.

    Maybe these will help. (high res plots – 1330 x 1250)

    Latitude vs time and Longitude vs time, separate plots stacked, time keyed on year and fraction.


    Depth vs time and Magnitude vs time, separate plots stacked, time keyed on year and fraction.


    Both sets use matched time increments.

    31 point moving average added to all traces in order to discern the trend.

  2. There are tremor spikes taking place in Hamarinn volcano (I think). They create sharp spikes that are larger then normal earthquake spikes on Skrokkalda SIL station.

    This has been happening for the past two years without any good explantion on what this means.

      1. This SIL station is from what I understand close to a dam or a power house for a dam. That appears to create huge amount of noise on this SIL station.

        So I do think that often there is not reliable data from this SIL station.

    1. Clear case of a volcano dancing the eruption tango as it deforms and inflates.
      You could actually see as magma started to shift away from REST at high speed.
      I do not get where the magma is shifting since it seems to be leaving the actual volcano. I would not be surprised if the eruption has started allready and is ongoing out at see. I would guess some ten to fifty kilometres to the west. But, this is guessing only, not even a guesstimate.

      1. I have no idea about the reliability of REST, it’s got a pretty hefty gap in the traces.

        I spent most of the evening yesterday beating my head against spatial analysis and deriving tilt angles from the changes in GPS data. I’m pretty happy with the outcome. Now that I have that figured out I’m trying to piece together an understanding of the Mogi model by translating (via Google) paragraphs of a paper about it from Japanese.

        It ain’t pretty.

    1. Ok, started to get a little more intrigued as this cloudbase doesn’t seem to be going anywhere! Thoughts please! 🙂

      1. ..and, as if by magic, the dark column rising from Vantajokull disappears! Damn you clouds!! 🙂

    1. Maybe peoples are just donating and not commenting 😛

      I can’t donate however.. At the end of my study and looking for a job –> No spare money

      1. That might well be. I can understand fully if people do not have the money too donate. I’ve been there my self so many times that I have lost count long time ago.

    2. Jon – I think you have gone about asking for donations for your new geophones in a very positive manner. I also think that you would be well advised to:-

      a) work out how many hours work it takes for you to run the blog. Assign a value to your time input
      b) work out the overhead costs per annum of running this blog in terms of URLs and hosting
      c) work out the hardware maintenance costs of running this blog per annum

      Add this lot together, divide by 12 and simply ask for donations towards this total cost on a monthly basis; it will site better with people and casual visitors alike who gain value from the information posted here and would like to support your work. I think it would work better than your present post, although I appreciate your reasoning and desire for full transparency. There are cultural perceptual issues that this approach would overcome. Hope this helps.

      1. Also:
        For some people it is tax-deductable to make donations. Especially for american citizens. Someone of american origin could probably tell if this is the case for Jón too.

      2. “For some people it is tax-deductable to make donations. Especially for american citizens.”

        Actually, thats applicable only in specialized cases.

        You have to enough income to justify doing itemized deductions. Every year they keep moving that boundary around and there is no way to really know where its gonna be at until the @!#$@# bags actually publish the guide for the year.

        Its almost as if they are doing everything they can to make it difficult for people to be charitable. Charities know this, but they sure as hell aren’t gonna tell you that you have a snowballs chance in hell in getting any tax break for making a donation. (yes, some people can do it, and there is a place called Hell, Michigan, and does occasionally snow)

      3. I do not know exactly how much the cost is in terms of labour cost (it can take from 10 up to 8 hours to write a blog post). So I handle it on as is terms for the moment.

        I currently use low cost hosting options. But if traffic continues to increase I am going to move to more expensive dedicated hosting. The hosting cost for the month is $14, just the hosting and nothing else. That is the only figure I can give you right now. That is $168 for the year.

      4. I wonder if women wearing dresses like the glass-floor bridge entrance to the conference room, which is on a level directly above the main central data center where the employees work?

      1. Okey Carl, thank you!

        I just noticed the vertical cloud, (it’s been there for a good 40 mins. now) compared to the horizontal clouds to the left.

      2. My name is not Jack but for what its worth I have been watching since Christina raised the question and think it IS steam – the behaviour of this ‘cloud’ over the last hour or so has been quite different from the others on the mountain!

      3. I am Christina 😛 But, Am I blind here? 😛 And just to be clear, there is no way an eruption can accur there now, since its so short time since the last, right?

      4. Oops! Sorry to both Christian and Christina! Perhaps i should buy a pair of specs!!

      5. Somebody has to go and have a close look to find out about the cloud mystery. Maybe we can ask the Mila guys to do so one day when they are doing maintenance work on the cam….

    1. I did see a minor tremor spike on one SIL station around Eyjafjallajökull volcano. I am not sure what that means. Maybe some magma got re-mobilised inside Eyjafjallajökull volcano without creating any earthquakes ?

      1. Dunno, but it is steaming at the same place that the lava-flood was running and ended last year.
        It also looks like there is a bit of water running from the bottom under that spot. But I could be dead wrong.

  3. @Lurking: I’d like to get in contact with you privately. Jon has my contact details, could you send your details to him?

    1. Hmm quite a heavy one.. waiting for the first one above 4.0. Think the ground can’t take much more of this.. Though I am not an expert at all I think there will be an eruption before the end of the year…


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