Special report: Update 4 on the eruption in El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain

Short note on comments: During the eruption in El Hierro there has been a lot of comments on this blog. Over the past 4 days (or so) there have been about ~1500 comments. If your comments is held for moderation, the blog says so. Do not try to repost your comment if that is the case. As the second comment is just going to be held in moderation as the earlier one. It takes me a little while to approve the comment and to make it appear. If your comments disappears and cannot be seen, the spam filter has eaten it. It also takes me a while to check the spam filter and restore comments that have gone there. Please do not just post comment with nothing but links, that increases the risk that the comment is going to be eaten by the spam filter.

Short note: Please note that I am not a expert in the field of volcanism, volcanoes and earthquakes. I never claim to be one. Regardless if I am asked or not. I am a man with interest in this field. I read a lot of books and studies on volcanoes and earthquakes. But that does not make me a expert in this field. If you want to speak with a expert, go and find one. Because I am not it.

Now. About the eruption in El Hierro volcano in Canary Islands. This is going to be a short blog post about the eruption.

From what I can tell and the information that I have seen. At least two more vents have opened up on the from what I can gather on the pictures and the reports from Canary Islands. So far all the new vents are under the ocean and at depth of no less then 150 meters. So seeing them directly is quite hard for the moment. There are continues deep earthquakes under El Hierro volcano, but that suggests that new magma is flowing into El Hierro volcano.

During the weekend floating magma bombs where (or some type of magma, I do not have the exact word for it in English at the moment) floating on the ocean. But this means that at least one of the vents that started erupting in the beginning is getting close to break the surface of the ocean. If the eruption continues in that vent for a little while longer. If it gets above the surface of the ocean, it is going to form a island and a lava eruption is going to start once the ocean cannot get any more into the crater.

The harmonic tremor of the eruption in El Hierro volcano today (16 October, 2011) at 22:35 UTC. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

There is a risk of new fissures in El Hierro opening up without warning. From what I am estimating, the area that this can happen has expanded about ~5 km or so from my original estimate that I made in few blog posts ago. The risk of new fissure opening up on land is going to remain high while this eruption is taking place. But this might well be a period of eruption activity for El Hierro. It is impossible to know for how long it is going to last, it could be weeks or it could be months and up to years of activity.

I am going to post more information on El Hierro when I know more tomorrow. I am also going to write about the earthquake activity in Hengill volcano tomorrow if I have time to do so.

Special report: Update 3 on El Hierro eruption in Canary Islands, Spain

I am going to fully integrate Canary Islands into my watch volcano monitoring system in the beginning of next month, but Canary Island won’t be part of my emergency system until I move to Canary Island (that is because of technical reasons mostly). When that happens, blog post regarding earthquake and volcano activity won’t be a special report. Just a normal blog post as with Icelandic volcanoes. I am doing this as I plan on moving to Canary Islands in about 10 years time (+- maybe few years depending on how my plans work out). A name change on this blog is planned in the beginning of the year 2012. But it takes a while for me to think up a new name for this blog.

The eruption in El Hierro volcano continues at the same phase as before. With little change so far. Currently the eruption seems to be in two vents, as it did when it started on Monday. There have been unconfirmed reports of new vents opening up closer to the coastline. But given lack of direct evidence that should be there. I do not believe that a new vents have opened up closer to the coastline so far.

Deep earthquake continue in El Hierro volcano. But that means a new magma is coming in from the mantle and is flowing upwards into the volcano. For long as deep earthquakes are being recorded the eruption is going to continue. It is impossible to know for how long this inflow of magma from the mantle is going to continue. But this means that the eruption is going to continue for time being. With the risk that new vents might open up at any time on and around El Hierro volcano. This inflow of new magma has also been confirmed by GPS measurements on El Hierro volcano (the island). But since the eruption did start, no major change has been seen on the GPS real time data.

The harmonic tremor in El Hierro volcano yesterday. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

The harmonic tremor in El Hierro volcano today (until 21:20 UTC about). As can be seen by comparing the pictures between today and yesterday. Not much has changed since yesterday in terms or harmonic tremor. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

If a eruption vents open up on a land. The following eruption is going to be lava only. No volcano ash and no explosions as El Hierro is a shield volcano like the one on Hawaii and that means only lava eruptions. If a eruption vents opens up on the shallow coastline, there are going to be explosions for as long the ocean water can get into the crater. The moment it closes up the explosions stop and lava eruptions starts.

Please note that I am on slow internet connection (3G). So I am not going to post anything if the internet connection is really slow, as sometimes seems to happen. I am going to try and solve this issue by using my 3G phone and connect that way. At least I am going to try and see what happens.

Blog post updated at 03:20 UTC on the 15 October, 2011.

Special Report: Update 2 on the eruption in El Hierro

This is a special report on the eruption in El Hierro. This is also a good time (as any) to announce that I plan to write about volcanoes in Canary Islands in the future. As I plan on moving to the Canary Islands in about 10 years time (no reason to start late on this). But I have already induced the Canary Islands volcanoes into my personal watch system. But I have my own personal system to watch volcanoes in Iceland and now Canary Islands. However, Canary Islands are not part of my personal emergency system until I move to Canary Islands.

Update to the name of this blog is going to happen soon, but I am not sure when. But I am going to move in a about 10 years time (going to live in Denmark until that happens). Until then, they are going to go into special report group and only major events are going to be blogged about. Please note that this might change if I move earlier to Canary Islands then I now plan.


The eruption in El Hierro volcano continues today, as it did yesterday. But the strength of the eruption appears to have dropped today from what it was yesterday. But this does not mean that the eruption is over. It just means that the current fissure that is erupting is about to close up, mostly due to the material that it has been ejecting into the ocean floor. That means a new fissure or vents is about to open up somewhere. When and where is impossible to know. But this is the nature of volcanoes that erupt in this manner, but El Hierro is a shield volcano [second link here]. Good examples are Krafla volcano and Vestmannaeyjar Island volcano. Both of those volcanoes are in Iceland.

Today around 14:20 UTC there was a sharp tremor drop in El Hierro. This means that the magma flow dropped in the current eruption fissure. This also means that if the pressure is not enough that fissure is going to stop erupting. Because of this has happened a new fissure or a vent should be expect at any time as I have told before. When and where that might happen is impossible to know, as that outcome depends on where the magma finds its pathways inside the volcano. There might not be any earthquakes before this happens, as the rock is unlikey to be hard enough to make them. Some small earthquakes might happen if the rock layer is hard enough. Today few deep earthquakes have been recorded. This means that new magma is getting into El Hierro volcano from the mantle (where no earthquakes happen). This also means that this eruption might take place for some time now. But it is impossible to know for how long, as there might be a lot of magma flowing up from the mantle it self and up to El Hierro volcano.

The harmonic tremor and the drop in the harmonic tremor today. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

Many people have been wondering why this eruption has not been seen. The fact is that depth drops quiet fast around El Hierro Island. Around 4 km out the depth is close to 1.5 to 2 km, it is only close to the island that the depth starts to get shallower. At the moment is is hard to say what happens next in this eruption on El Hierro. But more vents should be expect to open up then have already have.

I am going to update this blog post if anything changes in El Hierro volcano eruption.

Special report: Update on El Hierro volcano eruption

While everything is quiet in Iceland. I am going to continue my coverage of the eruption in El Hierro volcano. Information in English also seems to be lacking for some reason. Please note that I have little understanding of Spanish, so I am just using the data that is available to me on the internet to figure out what is going on.

First I want to say that I am not a expert. I never claim to be one. My knowledge of volcanoes and earthquakes are the result of hard work and studying them on my own (reading research papers and other sources).

It is bit unclear what is going on in El Hierro. But from what I can tell least two things have happened during the past 24 hours. The first thing is that a eruption started at ocean floor around 04:18 UTC yesterday (10 October, 2011). This eruption appears to have been small and was not noticed on the surface of the ocean. Around 06:10 UTC this morning (11 October, 2011) a large movement of magma started to take place inside El Hierro volcano. Where exact break up of this magma is going to take place is unclear at the moment. But it is clear that a eruption is taking place and it is more chance then less that magma is going to find it self a new pathway up to the surface soon. As I do not think that the current eruption vent is keeping up with the current magma that is under El Hierro. But it is worth to notice that El Hierro does not seem to have a magma chamber, like Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland so the eruption size is terminated by the current inflow of magma.

Here is a comparison of harmonic tremor charts from yesterday and today (10 and 11 October, 2011).

The harmonic tremor as it was on 10 October, 2011 at 21:08 UTC. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

The harmonic tremor as it was on 11 October, 2011 at 20:29 UTC. As clearly can be seen it has grown by a margin or more (I can’t tell for sure) in the last few hours. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

What is however really interesting is how this eruption is changing fast and without any warning at all. But this is however something that might be expected from a volcano like El Hierro. I see in the news that they are expecting earthquake activity before new vents or fissures open up. That is wrong assessment in my opinion. As new eruption vents and fissures can open without any or much earthquakes activity at all. Earthquake activity before a fissure vents open up depends only on the rock that the magma has to break trough. In many cases it does not have to create any earthquakes before a eruption starts. Good example of this is the eruption in Heimaey Island in the year 1973. Only a small earthquake swarm was detected before a eruption started. All I personally except before a eruption in a new place on El Hierro volcano is a minor earthquake activity. It is also hard to know if that earthquake activity can be detected based on the amount of harmonic tremor taking place at the moment.

Here is my personal assessment on where eruption might take place in El Hierro. Please note that it might be completely wrong. But I base my assessment on the data out there, that assessment might be wrong.

The most chance of the eruption in El Hierro in my personal opinion marked by the two red circles. Copyright of this picture belongs (original) to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

There have been some deep earthquakes in El Hierro volcano over the past few hours. This deep earthquakes mean that new magma is flowing under El Hierro volcano. This means that the flow is steady (pressure pulse in the magma creates the earthquakes). So this eruption is far from being over it seems. How long it is going to last is a good question that currently nobody has a answer to at the moment.

I am going to update this blog post if I have to or if something new happens in El Hierro.

Special report: Eruption at El Hierro volcano, Canary Islands

At 04:18 UTC on 10 October, 2011 a eruption did start somewhere close to the El Hierro volcano Island (but inside El Hierro volcano system). So far nothing has been seen to this eruption, so location is uncertain at the moment. At the moment this eruption has only been confirmed by harmonic tremors seen on seismometers on El Hierro island.

From what I can tell, based on the harmonic tremor plots. It seems that the eruption has been growing in size since it started well over 12 hours ago. This suggests that the eruption is growing in size. That also brings up the issue that new fissures might open, both into deeper ocean and on shallower depth and even on land without any warning at all.

The harmonic tremor from El Hierro at 21:08 UTC on 10 October, 2011. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

A location for the eruption has been suggested, as can be see on this map here.

The speculated eruption in El Hierro. Copyright of this picture belongs to el-mundo.es Thanks to Dr. John v. Kampen for this map via email.

Lack of earthquakes does not mean that magma is not the move and has not reached the surface already. But this however suggests that magma now has a free flow upwards to the surface since sometimes yesterday, when the earthquake activity did drop suddenly from ~100 earthquakes to ~30 earthquakes over the day.

Current earthquake activity in El Hierro. It is my personal opinion that the eruption is around -18.05 and 27.65 to 27.70 (middle of that area, around 450 meter depth). Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

Spectral image of the harmonic tremor. This image clearly shows that the orgin of the harmonic tremor is magma on the move. Not something else. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

I am going to update this blog post as more is known about the eruption in El Hierro.

Canary Island news about this. With thanks to Dr. John v. Kampen how did send them to me in a email.

Posible erupción al sur de El Hierro (Youtube, Spanish, Video)
¿Emergerá una nueva isla? (Youtube, Spanish, Video)

Blog post updated at 21:49 UTC on 10 October 2011.

No eruption starting in Hamarinn volcano

There seems to be a minor eruption starting in Hamarinn volcano (might be part of Bárðarbunga volcano). Given the current tremor signature on Skrokkalda SIL station.

The start of a harmonic tremor spike on Skrokkalda SIL station. Most likley from Hamarinn volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

For the moment I do not know if this is going to remain a small eruption or might evolve to larger eruption. That is going to come clear in next several hours. But for the moment this is starting and glacier flood is to be expected in several hours. There is no danger to humans or humans structures I think.

Update 1: Darn! False alarm!

This is how the tremor plot did look after one update.

The tremor spike just changed into regular earthquake so to speak. So this is nothing but false alarm. It happens. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

Blog post updated at 09:59 UTC on 27. September 2011.

Small eruption took place in Katla volcano in July 2011

According to the news on Rúv this evening it is now a opinion at Icelandic Met Office that a small eruption did take place in Katla volcano during the days 8 and 9 July 2011. This eruption was however larger then the eruption in Fimmvörðuháls in Eyjafjallajökull volcano last year (2010). But this is based on tremor data from around Katla volcano during this summer. But this is what Einar Kjartansson geologist at Iceland Met Office says in the news at Rúv this evening. Even if this small eruption did take place in Katla volcano it does not seems to have eased the pressure inside Katla volcano, so a large eruption in Katla volcano is still a possibility in the close future. Note: GVP has updated Katla volcano eruption status to the year 2011!

This conclusion was reached by checking out the cauldron that formed during this event. But they show a sign that they had a sudden melt taking place. But that melt can only happen of lava got into contact with the ice and fast melted it. This is also the reason why there was a 5 meters flood in Múlakvísl glacier river that did destroy the bride over it. But it is also a fact that the harmonic tremor in Katla volcano during this period was the same as that did happen during the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The only difference was that it it was stronger from Katla volcano then in Eyjafjallajökull volcano it seems (at least from what I can see from the data). Even if it lasted for a shorter time then in Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

The tremor on Slysaalda SIL station on 9 July 2011 at 00:36 UTC. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

Alftagrof SIL station on 9 July 2011 at 00:36 UTC. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

The area that was active and had a eruption on 8 and 9 July 2011. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

Even with this small eruption it is clear that Katla volcano is not done with its eruptions. Since the large one is not yet over. When that happens is a good question and nobody has a answer too at the moment.

Note: This is also what did happen in Hamarinn volcano the week after. But I also think that volcano did have a minor eruption in July 2011. As the signatures are the same from what I can gather. So that makes three eruptions in Iceland for the year 2011 if confirmed later on.

Icelandic News with this. Use Google translate with care on it. Since it does not understand.

Allt bendir til Kötlugoss (Rúv.is, Icelandic, Picture)
Segir Kötlu hafa gosið í sumar (DV.is, Icelandic, Picture)
Lítið eldgos í Kötlu í sumar (mbl.is, Icelandic)

Few points about Iceland geology

Here are few points about geology in Iceland (just because I cannot sleep at the moment). This is also a offshoot of this blog post here.

The basic thing that needs to be known about Iceland is the fact that it is just a island over a hot spot. In every other terms it behaves as expected by a volcanic island on a rift zone. There is a lot known about Iceland geological features and volcanoes. But there is also a lot unknown at the moment. There is nothing mysterious or strange about that. We just don’t know this at the moment, but in the future we hopefully are going to know this. As each eruption or earthquake swarm teaches us more about Iceland and how it works.

I have seen a lot of wrong things about geology in Iceland on this blog in past few days. For instance the claim that energy travels trough a fault zone with N-S bearing (mostly). The volcanoes in question where Hengill volcano and Hekla volcano. This volcano do not exchange energy over SISZ. It simply just does not happen, as law of nature does not allow for it to happen. The following natural laws prohibits this energy transfer (and there is no way around it), Laws of thermodynamics, Inverse-square law, Conservation of mass, Conservation of energy, Momentum, Angular momentum and whole a lot of other physical laws that apply in nature.

I know one of two thing about physics too. As I fully apply that when I am considering what a volcano or a earthquake swarm might be up to in Iceland.

The evolution of Iceland during the past ~20 million years is also a factor in this. As there are many fully formed rift zones, but there is also a lot of failed rift zones in Iceland. There might even be new failed rift zones being formed today. But it impossible to know that for sure at given time. Since we have no way of knowing what is “new” and what is “old”. Research into this matter is going to shed some light on it. But that might take years of hard work of scientists for years to come.

The basic evolution of Iceland from 15milyr ago until the today. Copyright of this image belongs to its owner.

This is the best picture that I know of what they think is the Iceland hotspot. Copyright of this image belongs to its owner.

There is also the thing about the crust in Iceland. But it is believed that part of it might be from a old continent. But majority of it is currently covered with newer layers of rock and sediments. But studies have also suggested (or proved) this. The following papers can be read on this subject.

Older crust underlies Iceland (pdf)
Continental basement under Iceland revealed by old zircons
Continental geochemical signatures in dacites from Iceland and implications for models of early Archaean crust formation (ScienceDirect)

This in part explains the difference in crust thickness when it comes to Iceland.

The thickness of the crust in Iceland. Copyright of this image belongs to its owner.

All pictures above are from this study into the Iceland mantle plume (they are trying to disprove it existence). Iceland & the North Atlantic Igneous Province

Here is a different map of Iceland volcanoes, fissure swarms and age of the lava fields.

Iceland and its volcanoes. Copyright of this image belongs to its owner. This picture is from this web site here, Post-glacial rebound of Iceland during the Holocene Click on the picture to get full size.

Similar map. But in colour. Copyright of this image belongs to its owner.

I hope that this clear few things up about Iceland and how it works and might work. Since we are still learning and there is a lot of things that we do not know about how Iceland actually functions. But me and professional geologists and scientists are doing there best to learn about how Iceland works.

If there is a claim about Iceland that just sounds crazy, it probably is crazy and not based in any actual fact about Iceland and the geology that makes up Iceland.

Few right and wrong things about geology in Iceland, part 1

I have seen many speculations on how geology works in Iceland. Some of it is good and based on observation and factual basic. Other however is nothing but speculation and far from anything based on factual evidence on how geology works in Iceland.

Few right and wrong things about volcanism in Iceland

Volcano interaction Status: Limited truth to this

Volcano interaction is something of a debated among scientists. But what is not debated is the interaction between volcanoes that lies far apart. That interaction is none by it’s nature. So while I have been seeing discussion in the comments here that there is some connection between activity between Hengill volcano and Hekla volcano. This is untrue. There is no connection between those volcanoes and never has been. The reason is simple. The volcanoes are far apart. They don’t even share the same magma source. But that is evident by the lava that comes from this two volcanoes. But Hekla volcano has mixed types of eruption sometimes. But Hengill volcano only has Hawaii styles eruptions (if not hit by water) when it erupts, in style with other volcanoes on the Reykjanes ridge rift zone.

The only real life examples of volcano interaction are from Bárðarbunga volcano and Torfajökull volcano. The reason for this interaction is quite simple and logical one. Bárðarbunga fissure swarm cuts right trough Torfajökull volcano. When magma travels south-east in the fissure swarm (it last happened in the 15th century) it can hit the magma inside Torfajökull volcano. When this happens there is a big bang in Torfajökull volcano. As the magma in Torfajökull volcano seems to be colder and more Intermediate (andesitic) [link, Wikipedia] in nature. But in Bárðarbunga volcano the magma is Mafic (basaltic) in nature. When the two magmas mix, it ends with a bang and eruption in both volcanoes. But normally the process that starts this is because there is a ongoing eruption in Bárðarbunga volcano. So when Bárðarbunga volcano. I would worry about that rather then anything else.

See, no connection at all between Hekla and Hengill volcano. Copyright belongs too this picture owner. Owner unknown to me.

Iceland is going to have VEI-8 eruption. Status: Not likely.

All volcanoes can do a VEI-8. But the thing is that they are just not likely to do so. As the size of the eruption is directly connected to the inflow of magma it is getting. In the case of Icelandic volcanoes the inflow just seems to be few magnitude too small to make a VEI-8 eruption. The largest VEI eruption known in Iceland was a VEI-6 eruption that took place in Bárðarbunga volcano in the year 1477 (?).

As for VEI-8 eruption. I am not expecting that type of eruption any time soon in Iceland.

Iceland is one volcano. Status: False.

The simple answer is no. The long answer is. Iceland has many volcanoes, not just one. So the answer is no to this.

Geology in Iceland is well understood. Status: False

Geology in Iceland is understood. But far from being fully understood. As it happens geology science is just starting to now understand what complex progress are taking place in Iceland. A lot have been learned. But a lot more needs to be learned about how geology works in Iceland.

Volcano eruptions comes in active cycles. Status: True

This has been observed by actual data. But volcano activity happens in periods of 80 to 160 years. With a quiet period of 50 to 90 years. But numbers are approximation. During the quiet time there are fewer eruptions and they are smaller (hint: Large eruption can still happen however during the quiet period). Last quiet period started in around the year 1870 and did not end until the year 1983. But that year there was a eruption in Grímsfjall volcano. But then Grímsfjall volcano had not erupted since the year 1954, but that break was 29 years long for Grímsfjall volcano.

This graph here also shows this clearly. But this is volcanism in Iceland during the years 1875 and to the year 1993.

Copyright holder unknown. Copyright of this picture belongs to this owner.

It is impossible to know for sure when the high peak in the current cycle is going to be be. But most geologist are estimating that to be sometimes from the year 2020 and to 2080 or about that. So the years ahead is going to be quite busy in Iceland in the terms of volcano activity.

I am going to write more right and wrongs about Icelandic volcanoes soon. But for now this is good enough.

Sources and other things.

Volcano-tectonic Interaction in the Hengill Region, Iceland during 1993-1998 (pdf)
Volcano geodesy and magma dynamics in Iceland (ScienceDirect)
Interaction between Continental Lithosphere and the Iceland Plume—Sr-Nd-Pb Isotope Geochemistry of Tertiary Basalts, NE Greenland
Tomographic evidence for a narrow whole mantle plume below Iceland (ScienceDirect)
Pdf document on Hengill volcano crustal deformation.
Magma (Wikipedia)
Volcano geodesy and magma dynamics in Iceland (pdf)

New pictures of Eyjafjallajökull Gígujökull glacier lava field

Rúv News has just published new pictures of Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The pictures are from Fimmvörðuháls lava field and the lava field that is in Gígujökull glacier. But in that area a lava flow did take place during the eruption. That lava field has not been explored before. According to the news, a moss has already started to grow on the new lava on Fimmvörðuháls. The Gígjökull glacier has already started to cover the lava field that did melt it during the eruption of 2010 in Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

From Gígjökull glacier. Picture from Rúv News. Copyright holder of this picture is Rúv.

The news of this can be found here. This is in Icelandic.

News from Rúv.

Undraveröld í Gígjökli (Rúv.is, Icelandic, Picture, Video)