Possible harmonic tremor spike in Katla volcano (it might just be the weather)

With all the bad weather in Iceland during the past few days it is hard to be sure on this. But it seems that a harmonic tremor spike is about to start in Katla volcano. So far this spike is rather small from what I can tell at the moment. At the moment it is impossible to know how this develops, if this is a harmonic tremor spike to begin with in Katla volcano.


Current earthquake activity in Katla volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.


Current tremor levels in Katla volcano. The harmonic tremor spike can be seen at the end of this plot. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.


The possible harmonic tremor spike in Katla volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.


The possible harmonic tremor spike in Katla volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

This might just be bad weather. It is hard to know at the moment. But currently the weather is decent. But there is a new storm coming over Iceland in the next 12 hours or so, at least that is the weather forecast now from what I can gather.

In September over 480 earthquakes where recorded in Katla volcano caldera. But this is the most earthquake activity since at least the year 1999. The largest earthquake in September in Katla volcano was a ML3.4 with the depth of 5.2 km.

More the earthquake activity in Iceland during the month of September.

Jarðskjálftayfirlit í september 2011 (Vedur.is, Icelandic, Picture)

Short note on Hengill volcano man-made earthquake swarm

This is a short note on the Hengill volcano man-made earthquake swarm.

The earthquake swarms that have been taking place in Hengill volcano are man made due to Orkuveita Reykjavíkur pumping down water at the depth of 2500 meters or more (down to 4000 meters from what I have read). It is clear that Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (short name OR) does not have any option but to continue this water pumping, as it is mandated that they do so in there operation permit. They have been doing this for some time now. But when they started using new drilling holes to pump down water the earthquake swarms started to happen. The people at OR claim that it is unlike that this earthquake swarms are going to grow in size and magnitude. I do not agree with that assessment.

It is my view that increased water pumping into the bedrock is going to increase earthquake activity. This has been agreed on by geologist that are not connected to OR or the government. But the largest earthquake that this area can make is Mw 6.0 in size according to a estimate on this area. So far, the largest earthquakes have been up to ML 4.0 in size so far. A jump in magnitude from ML3.5 size that was in earlier pumping was done.

There is also risk of pollution of the groundwater from heavy metals in the hot water (lead, zinc, copper and others). But this risk also seems to have been underestimated. As they claim that pumping down the water below the 800 meters groundwater line does not affect the groundwater. But it seems that no studies (that I know) have been done to confirm this.

News on Rúv about this.

Aukin dæling mun auka skjálftavirkni (Rúv.is, Icelandic)

Earthquake swarm in Askja volcano and Katla volcano

During the night there was a earthquake swarm in Askja volcano and in Katla volcano. The earthquake swarm in Katla volcano might be ongoing, but it is hard to know that for sure at the moment.

The earthquake swarm in Askja volcano are signs that volcano is preparing for a eruption period. But it seems like that magma has been starting to collecting in Askja volcano last year (in March of 2010). This progress also seems to be moving along faster then I did expect last year. But the earthquake swarm that took place during night was because if a possible dike intrusion from Askja volcano that got into the crust inside Askja volcano fissure swarm. So far the pressure of the magma is not high enough to start a eruption and I am unsure how long this progress needs to continue before Askja volcano is ready for a eruption. The largest earthquake that happened during the night was ML3.4 and on around 1 km depth according to the news on Rúv.


The earthquake area in Askja volcano. It is outside the main Askja volcano, but inside Askja volcano fissure swarm, the star marks the location of the ML3.2 earthquake (automatic size). Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

Earthquake activity continues in Katla volcano as before. Most of the earthquakes are as before just small ones. Currently the earthquakes do not appear to be from dike intrusion as happened last week (5 October, 2011) with the earthquakes that where up to ML3.9 in size (checked data). After this large earthquake swarm activity dropped considerably. But it has been picking up again slowly during the week. But earthquake observation has been difficult due to frequent storms during the past two weeks that have been passing over Iceland. This storms have had wind up to 30m/s and wind gusts up to 56m/s (recorded).


The earthquake swarm in Katla volcano caldera. This area was active this summer when there was a minor eruption in Katla volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

For the moment it is hard to know what happens next in Katla volcano or in Askja volcano. But it is clear that Askja volcano is preparing for a eruption (along with Kverkfjöll volcano). It is clear that Katla volcano is continuing to prepare for a eruption. But it is impossible to know when and how big that eruption might be. Until a eruption takes place, more dike intrusions with following earthquake swarms should be expected in Katla volcano.

Note: I am going to write more on El Hierro volcano (Canary Islands, Spain) later today. When I know more on what is going on in that volcano. But information gathering takes a little time when it is in a language that I do not properly understand yet.

News on this from Rúv.is.

Jarðskjálfti við Lokatind (Rúv.is, Icelandic)

Blog post updated at 14:23 UTC on 11 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.

Update on Katla volcano earthquake swarm

There has not a lot changed in the past few hours since the earthquake swarm did start in Katla volcano. Eruption has not yet started in Katla volcano and when it might start is still a mistery.

Current map of the earthquake activity.


Current earthquake activity in Katla volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

Here are traces from my Heklubyggð geophone. But that is currently the geophone that I have that is closest to Katla volcano. I am collecting donations so I can buy two new geophones. The blog post about that can be found here. I do not expect to have the geophone in place before a eruption starts in Katla volcano this time around. So far the donations are up too 5,410.74 DKK, so I am not far from what I need to collect. I do not have to pay customs of this according to a email I got from the customs office when I did ask about it. But I have too pay 25,5% VAT on this when it gets here. That might be a good amount I think in Icelandic Kronas (ISK).


One of the large earthquakes. This is not the strongest earthquake in the earthquake swarm that took place this morning in Katla volcano. This is also a double earthquake, that is two earthquakes taking place at the almost the same time. That is the reason for the odd looking wave form on this earthquake trace. This picture is released under Creative Commons licence. See Licence web page for more details.


A ML3.0 earthquake that took place in Katla volcano this morning. This picture is released under Creative Commons licence. See Licence web page for more details.


The largest earthquake in the earthquake swarm this morning. Its size was ML3.55 with the depth just short of 1 km. This picture is released under Creative Commons licence. See Licence web page for more details.


A ML2.94 earthquake in Katla volcano this morning. This picture is released under Creative Commons licence. See Licence web page for more details.

So far it has quieted down in Katla volcano. But that does not mean a lot. As magma can go on the move at any time. Without any warning at all. So monitoring Katla volcano is important with that fact in mind. According to Iceland Met Office, this is the largest earthquake swarm in Katla volcano caldera since the year 2002.

I am expecting more strong earthquakes to take place in Katla volcano. But it is impossible to know when a new earthquake swarm might start in Katla volcano and how large and long it is going to last. For the moment, it is just wait and see.

Iceland Met Office has put up a news about this in English. Thanks too the readers how pointed this out!

Earthquake activity in Katla volcano October 2011

Icelandic News about this earthquake swarm.

Snarpasta hrinan í Kötlu frá 2002 (Rúv.is, Icelandic)
Snörp hrina í Mýrdalsjökli í nótt (Rúv.is, Icelandic)
Snörp hrina í Kötlu (Vísir.is, Icelandic)
Sterkir skjálftar undir Mýrdalsjökli (mbl.is, Icelandic)
Um 20 skjálftar yfir 2 stig (mbl.is, Icelandic)

Magma on the move in El Hierro, Canary Islands

This is happening faster then I expected. But it seems that magma is now on the move upwards in El Hierro volcano in Canary Islands. This is evident by the earthquake patterns that are emerging from the volcano. Given the earthquake locations, most likely place for a eruption to take place is out on the ocean based on that. But sometimes magma can find different pathways up the surface without a lot of warning.


Latest earthquake map from Instituto Geográfico Nacional that shows clearly the earthquake pattern since the dike intrusion did start in El Hierro. Copyright of this picture belongs to Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

At the moment it is impossible to know when and where a eruption might start. It depends on many factors. But it is now clear that magma is on the move upwards. So far the magma seems to be around 10 km up in the earth crust under El Hierro. So it is clear that the magma is on the way up and most likely preparing for a eruption.

Earthquake swarm in Öræfajökull volcano sparks interest

The earthquake swarm in Öræfajökull volcano three weeks ago has sparked interest among volcanologist and geologists in Iceland. As the last earthquake swarm in Öræfajökull volcano was only the third earthquake swarm to take place in the last 20 years. But this was a subject of a news from Stöð 2 (Channel 2) this evening.

While a eruption is not expected any time soon from Öræfajökull volcano. It is clear that Öræfajökull volcano has started the long (?) path to a eruption (question mark, as we all know sometimes volcanoes just skip the long waiting part and go strait to the eruption phase as a surprise to everyone).

News about this from Stöð 2 (Channel 2).

Skjálftahrina í toppgíg Öræfajökuls (Vísir.is, Icelandic, Video in Icelandic, News drama)

New earthquake swarm in Katla volcano during the day

Today there was a new earthquake swarm in Katla volcano. This earthquake swarm was in the caldera of Katla volcano, same as the earthquake swarms that have happened inside Katla volcano since July, when this pattern of activity did start.


Current earthquake activity in Katla volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

It has been few hours since the earthquake activity did stop in Katla volcano. If the pattern that has been ongoing for the past week and longer there should be a harmonic tremor spike in few hours time. But that it currently hard to know if this pattern is going to hold up or not. But I have every reason to believe that it is going to do so. For the moment, all that can be done is to wait and see what happens next in Katla volcano. At the moment, I have not seen any harmonic tremor spike during the day or at current time when this blog post is written.

Magma on the move in Katla volcano

While the source of the harmonic tremor yesterday in Katla volcano is not immanently clear. It is has been concluded that magma is on the move inside Katla volcano. It has been suggested that the harmonic tremor yesterday in Katla volcano is a mixture of both hydrothermal activity and water flows under the glacier. But hydrothermal activity has increased in Katla volcano since July and seems to be continuing on that path for now.

The earthquake activity in Katla volcano has been growing since July, when a sharp harmonic tremor spike did take place and was followed by a glacier flood that did destroy the Múlakvísl river bridge. But that flood did peak at ~5 meter high.

Currently the activity is quiet in Katla volcano. But that might be because the earthquakes are not being detected by the bad weather that is currently in this area (and all over Iceland for the fact).

Here is a overview of the change in activity since Week 34.


The earthquake activity in Katla volcano during Week 34. The number is the cauldron in Katla volcano. Notice the interesting earthquake activity in SE part of Katla volcano, well outside of the caldera area. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.


The earthquake activity in Katla volcano during week 35. The earthquake activity in SE part of Katla volcano continues at the same place. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.


The earthquake activity in KAtla volcano during week 36 (current week, last updated today 7. September 2011). Earthquake activity in SE part of Katla volcano continues as before.Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Met Office.

Current activity in Katla volcano is quiet (less detection due the storm is also a factor in this). But that can change without any warning at all and at any time. But there is no reason to scaremonger what is going on in Katla volcano. It is a fact of life and cannot be changed. So the best way is to prepare if people live close to Katla volcano, or if you live far from Katla volcano the best thing is to monitor and learn from what is now happening in Katla volcano. Scare tactics do not any good and serve no purposive at all and never done so.

Icelandic news about the activity in Katla volcano. Use Google translate to understand. But be aware it is not approved by Santa.


Ekki ótvíræð merki um yfirvofandi gos
(mbl.is, Icelandic)
Engin augljós skýring á óróa (mbl.is, Icelandic, 6. Sept, 2011)
Flogið yfir Kötlu (mbl.is, Icelandic, 6. Sept, 2011)
Kvika safnast saman undir Kötlu (Rúv.is, Icelandic)
Fylgjast með aukinni virkni í Kötlu (Vísir.is, Icelandic, Video in Icelandic, 6. Sept, 2011)
Jarðhiti aukist mjög mikið undir Kötlu (Vísir.is, Icelandic, 6. Sept, 2011)

Update 1: According to news the local emergency units and police have started to review the evacuation plans and emergency plans in the case of a eruption in Katla volcano.

News about that can be read here, if you risk Google Translate.

Fara yfir áætlanir um viðbrögð (mbl.is, Icelandic, 7. Sept, 2011)

Blog post updated at 00:43 UTC on 8. Sept, 2011.