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Iceland: something happening under Eyjafjallajökull? 3 March 2010

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Eyjafjallajokull earthquakes, 3 March 2010, 20:10 GMT (Iceland Meteorological Office map)

Eyjafjallajökull in southern Iceland is showing distinct signs of restlessness, with intensive seismic activity being recorded over the last 48 hours. The map above comes from the Iceland Meteorological Office page for earthquakes in the Mýrdalsjökull area, and shows the situation at 20:10 GMT this evening. Eyjafjallajökull, which last erupted in the early nineteenth century, is a glaciated stratovolcano adjacent to Katla volcano (with which it may be connected in some way, although chemically the lavas from the two volcanoes are quite different). A flurry of shallow seismic activity since the beginning of this year, and some inflation detected by GPS monitoring, appears to indicate that an intrusion of some kind is under way under Eyjafjallajökull.

[Thanks go to Boris Behncke for the tip about the current activity. I’m also very grateful to a generous and well-informed source in Iceland who has provided quite a lot of detailed information about Eyjafjallajökull which I hope to post tomorrow.]

UPDATE 4 March 2010. Hugh Tuffen of Lancaster University reports (comment below) that the earthquakes are becoming more frequent and shallower. He also observes that if an eruption occurs at Eyjafjallajökull there is a danger of jokulhlaups/lahars. And another UPDATE, Erik Klemetti has a very full post about Eyjafjallajökull over at Eruptions: Increasing signs of activity at Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland.

UPDATE 21 March 2010. It’s erupted: Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupts.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Eyjafjöll – summary information for Eyjafjallajökull, which the GVP calls Eyjafjöll (1702-02=)

The Volcanism Blog

Comments

1. Chance Metz - 3 March 2010

got to love the volcanoes of Iceland. the names are hard to pronouce and at anytime they can go off. Sooething is going on down there, what is anyone’s guess right now.

2. hugh tuffen - 4 March 2010

preliminary analysis of data – inter-event times are coming down (over 100 events in the last 4 hours) and events are generally shallowing slightly from 10 to 6-8 km.

an eruption imminent? too early to tell yet from the EQ data alone but we’re watching it closely.

an eruption could trigger jokulhlaups/lahars due to the large volume of ice and snow in the crater and on the flanks.

3. admin - 4 March 2010

Many thanks for the information, Hugh. I’ve added it to the post as an update.

4. Stefan - 4 March 2010

On the IMO website, there is an interesting report available about earlier earthquake swarms like the one last year: http://www.vedur.is/media/vedurstofan/utgafa/skyrslur/2009/VI_2009_013.pdf

5. hugh tuffen - 4 March 2010

Yes, earlier swarms at Eyjafjallajokull in 1994, 1999 and 2009 are thought to have accompanied dyke intrusion events. This is probably also a similar dyke intrusion event, but the seismicity is considerably more energetic. Time will tell whether the outcome is similar (intrusion only) or whether any eruptive activity will occur.

6. James - 4 March 2010

Seismicity has been picking up further today – the map for the last 48 hours is positively crazy right now! Seismicity seems much more diffuse than before, but that may well be completely unrelated.

The scientific opinion in other places seems to differ a lot from the Icelandic Met Office. Asking around, the two very knowedgeable sources I spoke to seemed to believe an eruption was ‘definitely possible’ and ‘possible within the next month or so’. I’m not going to quote sources since they weren’t speaking in any official capacity, but there is no doubt they are well-informed and know exactly what they’re talking about when they make such statements.

7. James - 4 March 2010

I should clarify that in my post above, I am not saying “There is going to be an imminent eruption and the IMO are wrong!”, but rather just offering different opinions from equally well-informed sources. The verdict is clearly still out and won’t be settled until either the seismicity drops off, or it blows its top.

Nothing is ever certain in volcano prediction/forecasting – arguably the only rule is that there are no rules – but Eyjafjallajokull is definitely a fascinating case with good POTENTIAL for an eruption in the near future, and one I will continue to follow (not least because it’s so close, and if it goes, I’ll be straight there to watch it!).

8. Chance Metz - 5 March 2010

I would have to say that the chance that it may erupt soon are pretty good. Of course it may do nothing but with all the activivity going on right now I doubt it.

9. Jón Frímann - 17 March 2010

I have a geophone nearby Hekla and I have recored nearly 1500 earthquakes since this did start in Eyjafjallajökull. The distance is about ~40 km.

In regards to Eyjafjallajökull activity. I am sure that this is just the start of a seismic signals that are going to be precursor to the eruption that is coming, but is hard to date for sure. But I am coming down on a time frame finally. That time frame tells me that there is going to be a eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2 to 6 months time if the current (and that is a big if there) trend continues as it does today.

It is also my opinion that we should have seen this coming. Given the unusual long break in Mýrdalsjökull (Katla) volcano, and the early signs of Eyjafjallajökull coming awake. The clues where the swarms in 1994, 1999, 2009 and early 2010 before everything did go crazy in week 8 of 2010 in Eyjafjallajökull.

I am not a geologist. But a well informed amateur in the volcano and earthquake field.


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