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.

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.