Category Archives: Iceland

Current Volcanic Activity; New and Updates.

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Sinabung

Just moments after posting this originally images came through of a pyroclastic flow at Sinabung at 14.05 GMT.
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Fogo

Finally I have found a half decent update from the Global Volcanism Program albeit for about a week or two ago. By the 6th January the lava front had stalled in areas near S Ilheu de Losna where as was still advancing at a slow rate in the northern end of the town. Houses are still being overtake by the flow but decreasing temperatures of the lava means we could be nearing an end to the destruction. For the first few days of the month sulfur dioxide emissions were averaging at 1200 to 1300 tonnes a day.

Etna

Etna saw out 2014 with some pretty explosive activity on the 29th December. The new southeast crater had consistent but small emissions and incandescents. Explosions intensified on the 2nd and 3rd sending material 150 meters above the crater rim and an ash plume which traveled southwest.

Activity has been pretty on going since December 28th and shows little sign of slowing. On January 1st and 2nd, strombolian activity was seen at th Voragine crater, which has been inactive for over two years.

HungaTonga-HungaHa’apai

Based on pilot observations an ash plume rose to just over 10,000 ft on January 6th.  This is the first notable activity at the volcano since 2009. The main caldera is submarine.

Soputan

Darwin VAAC reported that a ‘significant’ eruption began at 14.47 local time on January 6th.  A lava flow has travelled 2 km down the WSW flank although no warnings have been issued. An ash plume rose to roughly 27,000 ft how ever nothing can be detected on satellite imagery due to poor weather conditions. The alert remains at 3 on the four point scale.

Bárðarbunga

As of January 5th the lava flow now covers an area just over 83 square kilometers. although the overall intensity of both flow and seismicity is less then a few months ago, the fissure eruption shows no sign that it is coming to an end.

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Tangkubanparahu

On December 31st the alert d 2 and local residents were warned not to go within a 1.5 km radius of the crater. White plumes has been drifting from the Ratu crater since late November, but an increase in seismicity and ground deformation has led to the apparent rise in threat.

Sheveluch

KVERT reported a lot of strong activity at Sheveluch towards the end of December including incandescent avalanches and fumerolic activity. The aviation code was kept at orange as an ash plume travelled both 60 km westwards and over 370 km ENE. Satellite images indicate a thermal anomaly over a new lava dome on the northern flank.

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Comparing Past and Present

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Over the last 12 months we have seen some amazing eruptions, felt the Earth shake on numerous occasions, and remembered some historic events. But was the active of 2014, both volcanically and seismically, more than any other year? I have read several spam articles recently, scare mongering that fracking has trebled earthquake numbers, God’s wrath has been shown by volcanic eruptions and even one drunken woman tried to tell me that Japans tectonic misfortune is due to the Pearl Harbor attack!

Lava field at Holuhraun, Iceland September 2nd 2014.

1. Lava field at Holuhraun, Iceland September 2nd 2014.

Now straight away I can assure you that karma or religious intervention has nothing to do with the science behind the mechanics of the planet beneath our feet. Fracking is up for debate and its effects on seismicity although even were proven the effects are still negligible. So has 2014 really been worse than previous?

Seismically

I found quiet a nice table to demonstrate this one courtesy of Wikipedia.

Number of Earthquakes Worldwide for 2004–2014

  Magnitude Ranging

Between

 2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012  2013  2014
8.0–9.9 2 1 2 4 0 1 1 1 2 2 1
7.0–7.9 14 10 9 14 12 16 21 19 15 17 11
6.0–6.9 141 140 142 178 168 144 151 204 129 125 144
5.0–5.9 1515 1693 1712 2074 1768 1896 1963 2271 1412 1402 1577
4.0–4.9 10888 13918 12838 12080 12292 6805 10164 13303 10990 9795 14941
Total 12560 15762 14703 14350 14240 8862 12300 15798 12548 11341 16674

2014 actually had the lowest number of strong, magnitude 7 and above earthquakes then in the past 5 years. On the flip side of this we had many more lower magnitude  4-5.9 giving us the highest total of quakes in the past 10 years by about 900 earthquakes. 2009 actually is the strangest year on this list with a good 4000 less earth quakes of any magnitude than any other year. 2007 also stands out with an exceptional number of stronger earthquakes. It could be theorized that the greater release of stress and strain with in the crust during 2007 gave us a quiet period the following years. All though this is a very short time scale it does show that yearly variation is great.

625 people were killed in earthquakes last year with most of these during August 3rd’s Ludian County earthquake in China. 6 lost their lives in the strongest quake of the year in Iquique, Chile which was mg 8.2. Nicaragua and Papua New Guinea also had one fatality each. This is actually quiet low value with over 1500 loosing their lives the previous year or as high as nearly 300,000 in 2004!

Uplift caused by Mg 8.2 Chile Earthquake.

2. Uplift caused by Mg 8.2 Chile Earthquake.

Volcanically

2014 was a pretty explosive year with Sinabung kicking us off with a bang January 3rd as it has done this year. In February the same volcano killed 11 as people began to cross the exclusion zones to take a closer look after the pyrotechnics the month previous.

Bárðarbunga stole the show over the summer. The sleeping giant started a ‘will it, won’t it’ game months before any real activity started in August. Many feared we would see an Eyjafjallajökull 2010 style explosion that would disrupt air traffic at the height of the summer period. Earthqaukes then began to indicate magma was on the move through a dyke heading north-west from the main vent. New fears struck as experts wondered would we see devastation similar to Laki 1783. August 29th saw the start of a large fissure breaking the surface, although it has not reached the status of Laki, the eruption is still continuing today

3. San Miguel

3. San Miguel

 

The next lot a fatalities happened when Mount Ontake surprised all with a phreatic blast on September 27th. 57 lost their lives as hikers and tourists where making their way to a shrine on the mountains flank.

Fogo was the volcano to cause chaos in the final month of the year forcing thousands from their homes. Media coverage of this even has been so light on this event, I am unable to find precise news to if the eruption is ongoing. At December 23rd lava was still pouring from the Pico vent and destroying all in its path.

Obviously these are but a few of the hundreds of volcanoes rumbling through 2014. Others include; Colinma, Etna, Aire, Asonsan, Manam, Merapi, Popcatepetl, Shishaldin, Cleveland, Sabancaya, Zhupanovsky, Sheveluch, Santa Maria, Mayon, Dukono, Turrialba, Poas, Fuego, Ubinas, Tungurahua, Reventador, Pacaya, Karymsky, Kelut, Stromboli, San Miguel, Pavlof, Chirpoi and even all that does not cover them all!

But is this more than usual?

In terms of lava output, last year is definitely high up there as we saw several huge effusive eruptions(with Bárðarbunga probably producing more material than most others put together!). However in the grand scheme of things there were few other major events.

68 people lost their lives which is relatively high thinking that on average maybe one or two die yearly unless there are major volcanic events, but then when thinking like that 68 is actually extremely low.

If we were to pull out any year for increased volcanic activity, for me it would have to be the events of 1902. In a list compiled by Wikipedia* of the most deadly eruptions, although none of the top 5 occurred in 1902, 4 in the list of 40 that occurred did, meaning 10% of the most fatal eruptions occurred in the one year. Well over 40,000 were killed over these four eruptions.

4. Somber scene after Mount Pelee eruption May 8th 1902.

4. Somber scene after Mount Pelee eruption May 8th 1902.

Just over 30,000 of these deaths were caused by Mount Pelee, Martinque on May 8th. Just hours before, La Soufriere a few islands away on Saint Vincent killed 1680.

There will always be years there is more geologically activity than others. The Earth is like a living breathing organism; it is ever-changing and adapting, this is part of the reason predicting events can be tricky.  People always look to blame or find meaning behind tragedy, it’s a coping mechanism, but rarely leads to scientific truth.

Figure 1. http://mashable.com/2014/09/11/iceland-bardabunga-volcano-eruption-photos/

Table 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquakes_in_2014

Figure 2. http://www.sneakymag.com/life/the-sneakington-post-3/

Figure 3.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10541931/El-Salvador-begins-evacuations-due-to-volcano-eruption.html

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_volcanic_eruptions_by_death_toll

Figure 4. http://www.explorevolcanoes.com/Martinique-caribbean-volcano.html

Finally back, and the Earth has not been as quiet as this blog!

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Work, uni, a 7 year old, Christmas and life in general has made posting near in possible the past month or so. The volcanoes around the world have been just as busy as I, so here’s a quick summery;

Barðarbunga

Yes this blogs most talked about lava field is still growing. A press release from the Icelandic MetOffice states the lava flow now covers in excess of 80 cubic kilometres.

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Seismicity continues throughout the length of the dyke and within the Bardarbunga caldera albeit at a reduced rate then earlier in the eruption. Subsidence in the caldera has reached 56 meters in depth, and roughly 1.7 cubic kilometre. Gas emissions continue with elevated pollution warnings still in place through much of Iceland.

On the 29th December the fissure eruption will have been consistent for 4 months, although activity is not as great as in the earlier stages, the eruption shows no indication that the end is in sight.

Kilauea

The June 27th lava flow is still on the move at roughly 300 yards a day. The flow front currently sits less than half a mile away from Pahoa Marketplace where many of the businesses have had to close due to the on coming threat.

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Sections of the flow have been made available, first for students and journalists, and now public to see the lava up close. Eruptions also continue at Kilauea’s summit and East Rift Zone.

Pico Do Fogo

Follow recent events on the Cape Verde island of Fogo has really triggered an anger inside of me in recent weeks and this eruption will have its own post soon after this one is published. However for a brief over view, Pico do Fogo begain eruption back on November 23rd. Since lava flows have devoured local villages forcing over 1500 to flee their homes. Gas and ash emissions have nearly ceased and lava output is now low, although remaining buildings in the village of Bangaeira are still being engulfed by the flow.

Nevado del Ruiz

This Colombian volcano caused one of the greatest natural disasters of the 1980’s. Seismicity has picked up since December 3rd inducing an increased aviation code to yellow. Ash emissions have been sporadic, with a white plume drifting almost 20 km south on December 15th.

Mayon

During 9-16 December white plumes were occasionally observed rising from Mayon’s crater and drifted WNW and WSW, sometimes downslope. Three volcanic earthquakes were recorded on 9 December and one was recorded on 11 December. Alert Level remained at 3 causing PHIVOLCS to remind residents of the 6-km-radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) around the volcano and the 7-km Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) on the SE flank due to recent rockfalls and threat of eruption.

Suwanosejima 

The Tokyo VAAC reported that on 14 December an explosion at Suwanosejima produced a plume that rose to an altitude of 1.8 km (6,000 ft) and drifted SE.

Sinabung

Eruptions at Sinabung have continued and pyroclastic flows and emissions seem to have increased in intensity mid December. Ash plumes have risen in excess of 20,000 ft up to December 16th.

Shishaldin

Poor weather conditions have meant little visual conformation of the Aleutian Island volcano, however due to increased seismicity it is believed that low level lava flows continue from previous weeks. The aviation code remains at orange.

This is just a small sample of the list of volcanic activity in recent weeks, for further updates visit the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program;

http://www.volcano.si.edu/reports_weekly.cfm

Eruption Update; Bardabunga, Mayon, Kilaeua and more

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Bárðarbunga

Yes the might fissure is still going strong in the Holuhran lava field. It is now being coined as one of the largest effusive eruptions Iceland has seen in the past 150 years. In terms of lava production it is only second to Hekla’s 1947-48 13month long eruption, however this title could be taken in as little as two weeks if output continues at the rate it is now. Seismicity has decreased since August but we are still seeing low levels along the dyke and stronger quakes under Bárðarbunga particularly around the caldera rim. The Scientific Advisory Board of the Icelandic Civil Protection is still suggesting the following three scenarios are considered most likely: 

  • The eruption on Holuhraun declines gradually and subsidence of the Bardarbunga caldera stops. 

  • Large-scale subsidence of the caldera occurs, prolonging or strengthening the eruption on Holuhraun. In this situation, it is likely that the eruptive fissure would lengthen southwards under Dyngjujokull, resulting in a jokulhlaup and an ash-producing eruption. It is also possible that eruptive fissures could develop in another location under the glacier.

  • Large-scale subsidence of the caldera occurs, causing an eruption at the edge of the caldera. Such an eruption would melt large quantities of ice, leading to a major jokulhlaup, accompanied by ash fall.

SiO2 emissions are still one of the most pressing concerns for the Icelandic people. Pollution warnings are constant, and the met office has consistently tracked the SiO2 cloud which changes course with change in weather.

1. Map of current SiO2 cloud coming from the fissure site.

1. Map of current SiO2 cloud coming from the fissure site.

 

Mayon

All evidence still indicates to a potentially major eruption could occur in the next few weeks. Phivolcs has said that there has been at least five rock fall events in the past 24 hours and one volcanic tremor. Ground deformation continues with at least 3 mm of inflation recorded in the past 10 days. At times of good visibility white steam plumes are seen drifting northwest from the summit and monitors are recording SiO2 emissions at an average of  308 tonnes a day. The 6-km radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) around the volcano is still in place as well as the 7-km Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) on the southeastern flank due to the danger of rock falls, landslides and sudden explosions or dome collapse that may generate hazardous volcanic flows.

For day to day bulletins visit Phivolcs; http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=70&Itemid=500008

 

Kilauea

The June 27th lava flow is still advancing albeit slowly. The HVO has said it has continued approximately 350 yards since Wednesday and is currently is 1.2 miles upslope from Apaa St. and 1.9 mils from Pahoa Village Road. Although there is no immediate threat to power lines or our facilities, Hawaii Electric light are closely following the flow and have even began installing heat resistant and dispersive materials around utility poles in the Puna area.

2. Working to protect utilities but wrapping poles in protective materials.

2. Working to protect utilities but wrapping poles in protective materials.

 

Now these are just eruptions I have so far spoken about on this page, but where else is hearing volcanic rumblings…..

Sheveluch

KVERT has reported in the past few weeks, Sheveluch in the Central Kamchatka region, has had ash explosions, incandescence, hot avalanches, as well as fumarolic activity. An ash plumes that rose 11-11.5 km (36,000-37,700 ft) after an explosion on September 24th still lingers. An ash cloud 250 by 207 km drifted NNE and the aviation code remains at orange.

 

Copahue

Sat on the Chile – Argentine boarder, Copahue experienced an intense seismic swarm on September 26th with over 140 long period events being recorded. Web cams show increased emissions; mostly white plumes, with some ash rising 200-500 m drifting SE. The aviation code remains at yellow.

Aira

JMA reported 12 explosions in the last few days of September in Aira Caldera’s Sakurajima volcano ejecting tephra as far as 1,300 m. An explosion on the 28th sent a dense ash plume 3 km in to the air. The alert level remains at 3.

 

Popocatepetl

Continuing emissions of water vapor, gas, and occasional small amounts of ash have occurred from the summit. Incandescence from the crater was observed at night. The Alert Level remained at to Yellow, Phase Two.

 

Santa Maria

On September heavy rainfall triggered a hot lahar that descended the Cabello de Ángel River, a tributary of the Nimá I river drainage on the S flank of Santa María’s Santiaguito lava-dome complex. The lahar carried tree trunks and branches, had a strong sulfur odor, and was 18 m wide and 2 m deep. During 27-28 and 29-30 September lava flows travelled down the S flank and steam plumes rose 400-500 m and drifted 600-800 m SW.

 

These just a small selection of volcanoes world wide which are showing signs of activity. As well as the 8 listed here the Smithonian Institution Global Volcanism Program lists a further 9 which show increased levels of activity thus showing how active the Earth is.

3. GVP map of volcanic activity.

3. GVP map of volcanic activity.

 

 

1. SiO2 Map; http://www.vedur.is/vedur/spar/gasdreifing Accessed 04/10/14

2. Protecting Puna; http://khon2.com/2014/10/03/hawaii-electric-lights-contingency-plans-as-kilauea-lava-approaches/ Accessed 05/10/14

3. GVP Map; http://www.volcano.si.edu/reports_weekly.cfm#vn_300270 Accessed 05/10/14

Bárðarbunga Update

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It has been a while since I have given an update on the Icelandic giant, but that far from means all has been quiet across the waters, more I have been tied up with other bits.

Holuhraun lava field at night.

Holuhraun lava field at night. 12/09/14

The eruption at  Holuhraun appears to be going strong, with now an estimated 200 million cubic tonnes or more of material being erupted since the start of the fissure on the 31st August. Seismicity is still going strong in the area with most around the fissure swarming at the northern end. There is still a lot of seismicity in and around the Bárðarbunga caldera including around earthquake over magnitude 5 yesterday morning, leading people to believe a major eruption from the main vent is still possible.

2. People are still coming from all over to see observe, often from unsafe distances.

2. People are still coming from all over to see observe, often from unsafe distances.

A volcanic haze has enveloped eastern Iceland, on the 9th a Norwegian radio station even reported that the smell of sulfur could be detected along their coast line roughly 1300 km away from the eruption site. The dangerous levels of SiO2 in the air has lead to warnings being issued and locals urged to stay in doors with windows shut. Saturday night RUV reported ” unprecedented pollution levels” with atmospheric sulfur dioxide reaching a spike at 4000 micrograms/m³ (1526 ppm) around 11.00pm.

Iceland’s Met Office are suggesting one of the following are most likely to occur;

    • Subsidence of the Bárðarbunga caldera stops and the eruption on Holuhraun declines gradually.

    • Large-scale subsidence of the caldera occurs, prolonging or strengthening the eruption on Holuhraun. In this situation, it is likely that the eruptive fissure would lengthen southwards under Dyngjujökull, resulting in a jökulhlaup and an ash-producing eruption. It is also possible that eruptive fissures could develop in another location under the glacier.

    • Large-scale subsidence of the caldera occurs, causing an eruption at the edge of the caldera. Such an eruption would melt large quantities of ice, leading to a major jökulhlaup, accompanied by ashfall.

The last of these is a major cause for concern. Jökulhlaups (translates as glacial run)  is a glacial outburst flood often caused by geothermal activity and are extremely dangerous and damaging to any thing in there path.

Elsewhere in Iceland volcanic activity is also caused a stir as Gunnuhver mud pool of the Reykjanes peninsula has been cornered off as activity stepped up well beyond normal levels with boiling hot clay being thrown meters in to the air.

Figure 1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/earth/11090113/Icelands-Bardarbunga-volcano-spews-molten-rock-over-the-Holuhraun-lava-field.html?frame=3035222 Accessed 15.09.14

Figure 2. http://imgur.com/gallery/4oqueAj Accessed 15.09.14