A volcano tourist at La Palma

This post was published by the author at
https://peakbook.org/Þróndeimr/tour/437021/Vulkanutbrudd+på+La+Palma.html, and is reproduced and translated) here by kind permission by the author.

Volcanoes have fascinated me since I was little but it was not until the eruption on Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 that I looked at the possibilities and began to reflect on the idea of going to watch an ongoing volcanic eruption. Until now, I had considered Iceland as the most likely destination for seeing an eruption. Iceland is nearby and many of the outbreaks there last a long time, which I need to find the time and to have the opportunity to travel there. Then the volcano must be of a small size. An ashy eruption would close the airspace for flights and such eruptions are usually short and intense. That it became a trip to the charter destination of the Canary Islands came as a surprise to myself as well.

This is for several reasons. The volcanoes in the Canary Islands mostly offer fairly stable small eruptions, but they happen so rarely that I had not listed them as a probable place to see a volcanic eruption. At La Palma, for example, a volcanic eruption occurs about every 50-90 years; the eruptions have a duration of between about 20 and 90 days if you look at the previous six historical eruptions. Teide / Tenerife sees 4-6 eruptions over a thousand years, i.e. much less frequently. Lanzarote sees large eruptions in a series which last a long time, but perhaps as infrequently as 2-4 times per thousand years.

Earlier this year, such a “tourist volcano” started in Iceland. Fagradalsfjall Volcano is perhaps the perfect tourist volcano and with Iceland’s policy around this, quite extensive measures were initiated to secure the surrounding areas so that 50,000 tourists could see it up close every week. Unfortunately it had to happen in the middle of the pandemic, so I was unable to go there. And now that the country is reopening, the volcano in Iceland has gone a bit into sleep mode.

Then the volcano Cumbre Vieja on La Palma appeared, just before the reopening at the end of September. I found fantastic cheap airline tickets, so I dropped all plans and some duties I had agreed to, in order to hop on the plane to the disaster area in the Canary Islands. To make sure I would be able to reach the island, I first booked flights to Tenerife. I had planned out the journey ahead but did not book anything until I had landed on Tenerife. The reason for this was that so much was unpredictable, not only in relation to traveling to La Palma during a volcanic eruption, but also at the airports in relation to the pandemic. I had a stopover in Naples, i.e. in a ‘yellow’ country (Italy). The Canary Islands were also ‘yellow’ while Spain was ‘red’. During phase 1 of the reopening only ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ countries were exempt from quarantine upon return to Norway.

When the plane landed on Tenerife after pandemic delays through chaotic conditions in Naples, I had 40 minutes to take a taxi from the airport down to the port and get on a boat to La Palma. The boat was covered in ash from the volcanic eruption at La Palma, a clear step towards the destination! While on the ferry, I booked an overnight box room in an old building in the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma to sleep in, for NOK 200 a night, something I had not tried before and was really excellent!

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma is a strombolian volcano. Such eruptions are small and stable, reaching 1-2 on the VEI scale (which runs from 0 to 8). The current eruption is VEI 2, with typical tall lava columns and occasionally some ash. It is rare for such volcanoes to produce so much ash that it causes significant problems farther away, but they can produce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other important volcanic gases.

On La Palma I rented a car and spent the night in the island’s largest city, Santa Cruz de La Palma. The city is located on the east side of the island, sheltered from the eruption which is on the west side of the island. From where I was it was about a 30min drive to the eruption. A marked area around the volcano was closed down. The map can be seen under the Risk Assessment at the bottom of this report.

The first trip into the area was already fascinating. I drove the rental car along some narrow, local roads east of El Paso. The roads were covered with 2-3cm of ash, very interesting to drive on! I parked the car and made my way through the woods to a ridge from where there was a view of the eruption. The risk assessment at the bottom of the report describes which assessments I took before going there. The massive sound from the eruption, as well as two small earthquakes made the experience a powerful one. This was the first trip and in a bit of a hurry I had not immersed myself too much in the up-to-date information from the geologists in the area. I turned back a lot earlier than I could have done.

At this time, the volcano had built up an approximately 70m high volcanic cone. An ash-rich cloud rose from the cone, while on the northwest side of the cone lava erupted from a side valve. The lava that flooded out there looked almost Hawaiian, not strombolian.

To get a better overview of the area and the volcano, I took a trip to Pico Bejenado, a peak of 1852m just 8km north of the eruption. Up to this time, the volcano had ben active from two location. On this day, the main crater erupted a thick and dark cloud of ash rising 6100m into the atmosphere, before falling down again. But lava erupted from the west side of the crater, shown in the pictures above. This lava flowed straight into the cities below and was on its way to the sea.

While I went up, there was a change in the volcano. I felt two new earthquakes. Both were short, around 2-3 seconds and measured 2.9 and 3.1. I had never experienced an earthquake before, so I must say I thought it was very exciting every time. Not long after, the pattern of the eruption changed. As you can see in the pictures below, the main crater went from being in a stable ash eruption to exhibiting pure lava columns, in a more explosive form than those of the side vent. It was a typical strombolian eruption pattern. During this trip the lava reached the Atlantic Ocean and a toxic cloud settled like a lid over the entire area, which you see in one picture further down. This fog disappeared later in the evening when the wind dispersed it.

After the trip up Pico Bejendado it was late at night, but I still wanted to drive to the barricades to see the spectacle up close. I, like many others, stood by the barriers about 1900m from the eruption to look at the lava columns that stood 800m up. Seeing something like this from the streets of the city while it is being destroyed is something I probably will never forget. Something significant is still missing from this report and that is the sound of the volcano. The massive and roaring sound makes it almost impossible to talk to the others near you. It can be compared to a fighter plane taking off, only that it takes off constantly!

I slept for no more than 3 hours through the night, no time to sleep any more! I Went out again and observed the volcano from an area in the northwest, near the town of La Punta. The big challenge on that day was that the wind was very strong from the northeast. The falling ash blew around the island and made it uncomfortable everywhere. Around 70% of the island had been covered by various amounts of ash during the previous days. Inhaling ash was annoying but not much worse: the ash particles from this volcano are so large that they do not go down into the lungs (important with lots of nose hair!) But they irritate the eyes quite a lot. Glasses made it hurt worse when turbulence between the glasses propelled the ash particles into the eye. In advance, I bought a cleaner in relation to such particles.

It was thus set for a day with some distance from the areas closest to the eruption, at least for the first hours while the wind was strongest. From the vantage point above La Punta, I could see the lava flowing into the ocean and the chemical process that occurs when the lava meets water and turns into corrosive clouds. An hour after I sat down on the observation post, the volcano changed its eruption pattern again to a more ash-rich eruption from the main crater.

After a few quiet hours at the observation post in the sun, the trip took me to La Palma’s highest peak, Roque de los Muchachos with its 2426m. From here, of course, the eruption was clearly visible!

Then came the darkness and I wanted to take one last night trip and watch the eruption before my journey continued the next day. The wind still blew from the east / northeast, as strong as before with 15-20 m/s. But now it had been blowing for so long that most of the ashes that could be moved had been moved. With the constant wind direction and the stability of the eruption, it was vest to approach from the east, with the wind in the back while watching the eruption. I explored the terrain and for each ridge ahead there was a short stop to re-evaluate the framework and the risk. I was able to pinpoint an area just over 700m northeast of the volcano cone. The cone had changed a bit in character lately, it seemed to have started to sag in the west edge so that the lava columns also went further out, good of me who was on the east side since I had a good margin in relation to falling materials from the volcano. In the dark here I also met two German “volcanic tourists”. They were very secretive but wanted to get very close as they said. I never saw them again, so possible I was closer than them!

The strongest earthquake I felt was while parking the rental car in the parking basement at the airport. The earthquake measured only 3.1, but it felt more violent than the previous ones in that category. The quake lasted about 3 seconds, but all the cars vibrated, as did the pillars that held the airport up.

Risk assessment

Here I will make an attempt to convince you as a reader that I has made appropriate sensible assessments in relation to the three trips I made close to the outbreak. The map shows these three:

Trip no. 1. Distance from photo location to the eruption: 1900m

Trip no. 2. Distance from photo location to the eruption: 1500m

Trip no. 3. Distance from photo location to the eruption: 740m .

This is my first trip close to an ongoing volcanic eruption so the assessments were made accordingly. For many, it will probably seem headless to go as close as I have done, but I have written down the reviews I have made below. You get a somewhat misleading and frightening picture of the volcano in some media. I was more skeptical even when I went into the area before I saw the eruption, the terrain around, the weather and the wind and all the information from the official sources Involcan and Copernicus. Involcan had a very good information channel on Twitter with information and explanations. Copernicus added good maps and satellite images for good help. Wind and weather reports as well as satellite images and radar images, for which I like to use Windy where you can find webcams and the like. Live video was also posted on Youtube which could be checked when I myself did not see the eruption due to terrain obstacles while I was moving around. Yr also works quite well abroad and provides more accurate weather forecasts than any other service.

Trip 1: This trip was only a few hours after the lava reached the sea and high values ​​of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide were measured in the area by the sea and up to the area I went into. I was actually going to drive back to the hotel after the trip up to Pico Bejenado , but quite suddenly the wind increased considerably from the east / northeast. It matched well with the wind message and satellite images of Windy and I could see that all the haze and fog that lay like a lid over the cities west of the eruption blew away. Driving down to El Paso, some low haze between the buildings was blown at full speed towards the sea. I drove through one scch fog and it smelled like a thousand rotten eggs. The air became clearer and I drove to the roadblock in the street in question. The roadblock is about 3km away from the eruption, but from there you can enter a new barrier that is manned closer to the eruption (1900m from the eruption). The biggest challenge with the trip was that the wind started to blow up so much that the volcanic ash started to drift with turbulence around the streets. Many other people showed up at the barricades to take pictures.

The distance to the eruption of close to 2km seemed good and that is probably why they have set the barriers here. All the ash and gas from the eruption itself and the lava flows blew in a safe direction at sea. The lava columns were up to 600-800m in height and threw the lava 200-300m out to the sides. A possible risk apart from lava, axis and gas is that the volcanic cone becomes unstable as it grows and slides down on the western edge as it is constructed on a steep slope. It can trigger landslides of hot pumice, ash and lava that can reach a few hundred meters beyond the terrain at the western edge of the eruption. The pressure from the volcano can blow the mass further out to the west, northwest and southwest depending on how the rift is constructed. The volcano was quite fierce when I was here, with lava columns that stood 600-800m up. GPS track from tour no. 1: Approach 3.

Trip 2: The trip went towards the eruption during the day. The wind direction went from west to east, so I approached from the north. There wasn’t much wind so I was tried to keep to the ridges where air quality was best. At this point I did not know exactly how much gas was coming out so I could not assess it well. Therefore I added some margin and kept my distance and stayed where there was some wind. The area had a good shower of ash from the day before, and there was warm ash on the ground, up to 15-20cm where I stopped (1500m from the eruption). I observed many different birds both high above the ridges and down in the depressions beyond (positive in relation to air quality). This mountain side has an inclination of about 10-15 degrees towards the sea in the west, so it takes a lot for high values ​​of gases to remain in this area. I stopped and observed the eruption from 1500m. It was tempting to walk 300m to the next ridge which is the last high marked ridge before the eruption, but notification of a change in wind by the end of the day meant that I wanted to keep the margins while I still did not feel I had one hundred percent control over all risk factors. At this time, the ash cloud from the volcano rose 6100m into the atmosphere. Lava bombs and such materials were thrown up to 600-800m from the crater and up to 300m out of the crater. After the trip, I read the latest report on the gas measurements in the last few days, which gave me more leeway on trip 3.

A little more about gas: Usually SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide) is the biggest challenge in a volcanic eruption. The gas is colorless, but a small amount of it will smell strongly, with a kind of rotten egg so it is easy to detect. The gas, on the other hand, can mix with moisture and come down as acid rain (sulfuric acid), then it will be able to cause damage to the skin and eyes mainly as long as it is not inhaled in a way. InVolcan measured 7,000-11,000 tons of SO2 per day in the days before the lava reached the ocean, a modest value. By comparison, Pinatubo emitted 20 million tons of SO2 over a few days in 1991. A volcano in Iceland emitted 120 million tons of SO2 that killed tens of thousands in northern Europe in the 18th century. Kīlauea in Hawaii also erupted the day after I went on this trip: it spewed out 80,000 tons of SO2 per day for the first two days which can present health challenges if you have asthma or other respiratory challenges.

CO2 (Carbon dioxide) can also come in large quantities from volcanoes, it is both colorless and odorless and difficult to detect without measuring instruments. Fortunately, CO2 is easily transported away by wind and pressure from the volcano so it usually goes straight to the higher layers of the atmosphere. H2S (Hydrogen Sulfide) also occurs and is perhaps one of the more dangerous gases from a volcano as I have understood it. It is formed when sulfur from the magma reacts with water and is often a challenge in volcanoes that are close to lakes, have a large lake in the crater or are connected to large amounts of groundwater. Water is something La Palma is in short supply, both groundwater and lakes are absent from the island. InVolcan did not mention any hydrogen sulphide in its report on the measurements made. Otherwise, different gases are formed when the lava burns through various organic plants, houses, buildings and materials. The gases are easily carried by wind. GPS-Track from trip no. 2: Approach 2.

Trip 3: The wind that had started the day before had blown strongly throughout the day. Strong wind, 15-20m / s from northeast to southwest was blowing ash and gas to the sea. The biggest challenge was all the ash that blew around. The residents down in El Paso had to walk around with goggles. In the media, there was a lot of attention about the dangerous gases that occur and it probably scared those who read it. From InVolcan, which publishes the official information, very few dangerous gases are measured and those living on La Palma are reassured. There was talk of the formation of larger amounts of hydrogen sulphide down by the coast where the lava flowed into the sea and this formed some fog that was corrosive, but not a danger to those who lived on land even though at one point they were encouraged to stay inside one village near the harbor. Involcan had a boat standing close by at all times and never measured high values ​​of H2S while I was on the island. In any case, this was not a real threat at the altitude I was at (600-1300 masl). There has also been increasing earthquake activity throughout the day and some hobby geologists and fans presented the idea that a new and larger crack could soon open some kilometers south of the eruption. The media bought this and some drama unfolded online. This was written off as a probability from an official standpoint with good and logical counter-arguments a few hours later.

When starting the trip I had no goal of where I could get to. I was looking for a safe area with a good overview, preferably with a canopy north or east of the eruption. There are fairly steep mountain sides above the eruption, so if you want to stay safest closest to the eruption, it is from this angle with good wind direction. The eruption was a bit weaker than the day before with lava columns 300-400m high with some fountains and lava rocks up to 500m. Coming closer, I saw that the lava columns angled slightly to the west rather than straight up as yesterday, an advantage as no lava bombs or materials are fired more than around 50-100m east. I thought this might show a weakness in the volcanic cone, sagging on the west side is logical on a fairly steep slope going downhill to the west. This was confirmed two days later when it was expected that there would be a landslide to the west which could change the volcano’s behavior to some extent.

I got into an area just east of the volcano, with some canopy and with a lot of wind in the back, so much so that I had to search a little around to find shelter. Here I was also not completely alone and some geologists were taking pictures (they had driven up with an ATV). There were also traces from 5-10 others who most likely had been here through the day after the wind turned. From here I had a good overview, some 700m from the eruption, and at least 600m clearance of any falling material. Here the ash was the deepest of what I had walked on, between 30 and 50cm. I dug down a couple of places and found that it was quite warm (50-70c) even two days after it had fallen here. GPS-Track from trip no. 3: Approach 4.

So now I have become a volcanic tourist. Fortunately, that is a healthier tourist than the charter tourist!

Christian Nesset

688 thoughts on “A volcano tourist at La Palma

  1. Looks like the eruption at Kilauea could have just stopped, the fountain is gone and so is the constant tremor. The tilt also has just turned up for the first time since the eruption began. Will be interesting to see if it turns into an episodic eruption, like at Kilauea Iki.

      • The vents will fountain regardless of lava above them really, it seems like the eruption has actually reached equilibrium with the chamber now so eruption rate has probably declined to base rate of supply, not enough to sustain the fountain. The tilt has stopped falling, it is hard to see because of the recent quake signal but it is there.

        Last time this went on for nearly half a year, it is not unlikely the same will happen now. The last eruption ended because the vent drowned though where the vent for this eruption is already below the lake, so it could play different. The vents under the lake might be drowned by lake lava trying to drain into them, so could be dead. Might take a long time to actually create a new open conduit, but the caldera will fill with liquid lava regardless, with considerable risk of a major lake breakout on the far flanks of the volcano. This is just like the early 1800s, or maybe also the decades before 1790. All the supply is going to go to Kilauea pretty much, Mauna Loa might erupt once or twice this century.

  2. In other volcano news Nyiragongo’s lava lake seems to have returned and then started to refill at a quick pace, though it will likely take a few years to reach the level it did again. Had almost forgotten about this eruption, it’s been a busy year volcanic-wise!

    I think Soufriere St. Vincent has near enough calmed down now looking at recent reports after it’s big cough in April.

    Do not like the look of Taal medium-term.

  3. Sunday
    10.10.2021 21:19:22 63.927 -22.188 6.3 km 3.2 99.0 1.8 km SSW of Keilir

  4. 6.1 quake near Naalehu, Hawaii at 11:48!
    No tsunami threat following preliminary M6.1 quake off the Kau coast of Hawaii Island.

    • 6.1 35 km deep, same depth as the Pahala swarm but a lot further south. Must be part of the same fault zone.

      Probably a deep settling quake, like the one at Kiholo Bay in 2006.

  5. Back in Iceland, I checked the FAF tremor graph and noticed a recent uptick in blue spikes, including one that went off the chart. Since it has been commented that these spikes are from nearby earthquakes, I went to the earthquake site; and, sure enough, there was a 3.2 at exactly the same time as the tremor spike, a bit after 21:00 on Oct 10. Probably its not significant, but we will see.

  6. There seems to be a new long-duration oscillatory behavior at Fagradalsfjall. Though the cone does little but steam, there are two modes of activity deeper underground: one characterized by lots of quakes along the dike, and one characterized by few quakes but elevated tremor. It spent over a week in the former state, before spending three or so days in the latter, and as of today seems to have switched back again to the former.

    The quakey stage presumably involves pressurization of the dike, while the tremor stage presumably involves movement of some fluid, perhaps hydrothermal and perhaps magma. So perhaps magma from below increased the dike pressure, something gave (rifting?) and opened some space for the magma to move into, and for three days it did before the new space was filled and pressurization resumed. No sign of surface lava during this time, but then in Iceland much of the magma fills rifts below ground and never reaches the surface.

    Regardless, there is clearly still ongoing unrest along the portion of the plate boundary in Reykjanes Peninsula.

  7. I compiled the development of quakes since the start of the eruption:
    Date Num_Quake Avg_Depth Avg_Magnitude KiloTonsTNT
    2021-10-10 114 17.1 2.86 8.4117
    2021-10-09 142 15.3 2.83 6.5023
    2021-10-08 60 14.4 2.89 4.7223
    2021-10-07 86 13.3 2.84 6.3139
    2021-10-06 54 15.7 2.99 4.3007
    2021-10-05 46 16.3 2.99 3.4650
    2021-10-04 88 12.5 2.82 3.0816
    2021-10-03 34 12.1 2.84 1.4409
    2021-10-02 45 12.4 2.63 0.8361
    2021-10-01 17 13.3 2.74 0.6732
    2021-09-30 10 12.0 2.89 0.4411
    2021-09-29 18 12.4 2.56 0.2641
    2021-09-28 12 11.3 2.92 0.5062
    2021-09-27 10 10.7 2.49 0.0768
    2021-09-26 4 10.5 2.45 0.0204
    2021-09-25 4 11.5 2.52 0.0306
    2021-09-24 2 6.0 2.45 0.0132
    2021-09-23 2 7.0 2.40 0.0099
    2021-09-22 5 6.8 2.26 0.0385
    2021-09-21 15 4.9 2.37 0.1005

    (based on data from EMSC).
    At what point should we start worrying about a flank collapse?

    • Its gonna take significantly more energy than you have tallied up.

      According to Wells-Coopersmith, using the normal mode faulting model, La Grieta needed about a Mag 6.7 to generate the observed displacement. The surface manifestation that was observed, a 2.5 km crack, is much shorter than that size quake should make. (approx 21 km) The 2.5km crack is more fitting of a Mag 4.7 quake.

      Again, referring to Wells-Coopersmith, and assuming Normal Mode Faulting, a Mag 8.7 might generate a 70 meter displacement.


      Further: “In 2001 Carracedo et al. stated that they consider the 1949 crack to be a shallow and inactive surface expression. They do suggest that the crack should be monitored, but consider the possibility that the edifice is unstable as being almost non-existent.

      Carracedo, J. C; Badiola, E. R; Guillou, H; de la Nuez, J; and Pérez Torrado, F. J; 2001. Geology and Volcanology of La Palma and El Hierro, Western Canaries. Estudios Geol. 57, (5–6) 175–273.

      Just a note, in my reading about Canary systems, Carracedo is THE expert that should be viewed as the most authoritative. That crack (La Grieta) has a lot of problems in fitting the earthquake models needed to make it. (as noted above)

      • I agree with your assessment. The amount of tectonic energy is not sufficient for large scale faulting. Also interesting to see how much it has declined over time. But the equations assume a flat surface. A flank failure can happen more easily. The only real risk is at the newly build bench: an earthquake could dislodge this. That is one of the reasons that at Hawai’i, people are not allowed near the ocean entry of lava. Even a small collapse can give dangerous spatter for people in the vicinity.

      • Both, GeoLurking’s and Albert’s assessments very helpful and sober, thank you.

      • Thank you, Geolurking and Albert.

        Agreed that a bench collapse of the newly built land is the real danger. It could indeed, if large and fast enough, create a very localized tsunami, as well as massive steam-driven explosions and spatter (I’ve long wondered if the explosion that injured people on the tourist boat off Puna in 2018 was caused by a small bench collapse.).

    • Thanks for all replies. What do you think of this paper:

      Seems to show where water rich rocks are (red) based on measurements of electrical resistivity. Turn to Figure 2, p4, cross section at depth 2.8 – 3.4 km.
      It looks like the current eruption is going through the northern most edge of the
      yellow zone of the south-western red patch.

      The figure for depth 2 – 2.4km shows fracturing (black squares), i.e. a hydrothermal fracture zone? If we get a substantial hit of lava on these zones should we expect much bigger earthquake activity?

  8. Huge collapse around 11:40 (7:40 EST). Not sure of exact time because no time stamp.

  9. Thanks, I found it starting at 00:44, Canaries time, on the TV Canarias stream from afar TV.

    • I still haven’t got the time differences figured out. The time stamp on the La Palma observatory cam is four hours ahead of me, but some times I see referenced are five hours ahead.

      • The observatory camera is UTC time, but some of the news content is Canarias time which is 1 hour ahead of UTC time which is why you see 5 hours ahead instead of 4 for the UTC clock

      • Canarian Islands are the same time zone as the UK, they are one hour behind mainland Spain. The difference you sometimes see, may be because that video uses either that or UTC. UTC is the same as Greenwich Mean Time in the UK except that it does not have Daylight Saving Time (Summer-Winter time) .

  10. A recalculation of the up axis on the LP03 GPS station shows a 4.5 year extrapolation to return back to its nominal zero reading. I think it is safe to say that we are looking at some months of eruption, if there are no sudden changes in the GPS readings for this channel.

  11. Question for a volcanologist:
    While watching the vent #3 (northmost active) for hours, it changes modality, sometimes it is very gassy and ejects at very high velocity, other times it is a mixture at medium speed of gas/lava and sometimes iit is rather slow lava ejection. Tonight is medium to some episodes of high fountaining.

    Could the quakes occurring at 10-11 km depth be where gas changes in the magma are occurring? We know that gas pressure drives the magma release, but the changes in vent eruption behavior make me wonder if some type of gas release or composition change in the magma is occurring. I do NOT suspect sudden changes in the last minutes of transport to the surface.

    Just curious as to the change in the vent as it seems that gas overall is trying to escape, with or without lava.

  12. The last hour 6-7am CET the vent has been blowing very hot gas through the walls of the cone, not just the vent heating the rock white hot. I watched it work its way around the northwest slope apparently seeking easy escape sort of like a leaky tire. My main thought is where is this very hot gas coming from depth wise? It has to be deeper than just the cone vent. It makes you wonder if the amount of gas arriving to the vent complex is increasing?

    • Etnean style it is.. should be the name of the style that involves all kinds of mafic activity Thats more Viscous than Hawaii. Thats typical of Etna and many many other mafic volcanoes

      Heimeay / Fimmvörðuháls was an Etnean style as example.

      But Etna itself can be quite fluid at times like first paroxysm of 2021. And as well as 1669 was fluid.. and perhaps more of a true Hawaiian eruption.

      • I think Etnean is better applied for very tall fountains right up to the limit of plinian eruption. I guess the definition line could be that lava flows of some description still form from the fountain fallout. Etna has the biggest lava fountains of any volcano, I think that is important here 🙂

      • The lava kind of looks a bit more fluid now the fountains
        Looks acually like Nyiramuragiras fountains.

        Nyiramuragira .. Nyiragongos sister volcano is the worlds 2 th most productive volcano at current after Kilaūea

        Is the Basanite emerging soon?

  13. Big quake in Keilir… not revised yet

    11.10.2021 09:26:45 63.930 -22.200 4.8 km 3.7 50.5 1.9 km SW of Keilir

    • And quite shallow, if 4.8km is correct. Most quakes range from 5 to 7 km.

      • The 50.5 quality is a sure sign that something is not right. Check the drumplots and it’s obviously a teleseism that has tricked the SIL network (shows best in the lowpass drumplots). Check the list of recent global earthquakes and find that there has been an M6.9 in Alaska. Case closed.

  14. Some La Palma news. Including speculation about the worrysome activity at 10 – 15 km depth.


    “According to a post of a geoscience page VolcanesyScienciaHoy on facebook based in Tenerife, the current seismic activity points towards that more magma is moving upwards, as indicated by 3 factors:

    – several earthquakes appeared at depths less than 7-8-9 km;
    – after the 4.2 quake two days ago, there have been episodes of spasmodic tremor with many earthquakes in a row that indicate movement of magma in depth;
    – since yesterday, the appearance of strong volcanic tremor at around 18 Hz frequency thought to be caused by depressurization of fluids at great depth around 10 km;

    If these interpretations hold, there should soon be noticeable ground uplift visible in the GPS stations (which, so far, is not the case). What will next happen, when this new magma pulse reaches the surface, is unknown. In the best scenario, the current conduits will continue to cope with it and the magma will erupt from the existing vents. In the worst scenario, magma could open new fissures in a different area, even after another potential pause of the eruption should it occur. In a scenario in between, new fissures might open near the existing vents, and new lava would erupt onto existing lava fields. …. “

    • Scenario 2, where a whole new vent opens somewhere else, that has not historically happened on La Palma. If we get that then pretty much every prediction of the longevity or volume, and every comparison to the previous eruptions, can be entirely disregarded.

      The eruption rate here is very high too, between 60 and 200 m3/s, around an order of magnitude above the eruptions in the 20th century. The only other Canary eruption in historical time with high rates like this was that of Caldera de los Cuervos on Lanzarote, and that set off the Timanfaya eruptions… i dont know if La Palma and Lanzarote are at all similar internally but something keeps bringing me to this conclusion, that this is going to be something massive. All the comment trolls on the streams are saying the ridge of Cumbre Vieja will erupt along its length, maybe there is an element of truth to that after all…

      • I think this eruption is more like the 2011 eruption on el hierro where successive new “pulses” of magma kept it going for several months (2nd longest eruption after lanzarote in historical times if i recall)
        But lanzarote seems to have other processes involved with higher than usual partial melting below the island, do not think we are quite there here.

        • Lanzarote was a normal if voluminous eruption at first, erupting very alkaline lava at high rates suggesting a magma body feeding it. What is unusual is this triggered rifting and heavy decompression melting leading to much more tholeiitic lava than is typical for the area and prolonged eruption at a lower (though still pretty high) rate, presumably until the rift could not spread any more and melting dropped off. Most eruptions in the Canaries and all other historic eruptions have only been single eruptions, the volcanoes have rift zones but they arent the same as those of Hawaiian volcanoes, little if any lateral movement in the upper crust. But probably there is at least the potential for this process to happen at all of them, and a larger than average eruption is probably a good place to set the process in motion.

          My article on the ‘Hell Machine’ was originally about Lanzarote, I only changed it to Iceland because of similar circumstances there. La Palma might well be a much better candidate, also a much more destructive one.

      • You might appreciate this. Obviously there is nothing like an order in the row of islands:
        “An age progression from the SW to the NE is conditio sine qua non for a fixed-plume origin of the CISP, given that the African plate moves to the NE. The new 40Ar/39Ar ages show that seamounts do not grow systematically older from the southwest (Tropic, 119 Ma) to the northeast (Essaouira, 68 Ma). Canarian seamounts are “old” in the southwestern, “old and young” in the central and “intermediate” in the northeastern province. Even if the African plate had moved in reverse, this would not constitute an appropriate age progression. The temporal and spatial distribution of Canary seamounts is irreconcilable with single fixed-plume models.

        • And while studying this I thought “déjà vu” and here we are, a bit further south:
          “The Hotspot

          The reigning theory for the volcanism on the Cameroon Volcanic Line is that it is created by a hotspot that is travelling in an ENE direction. Only problem is that the time record does not support this at all. To be quite frank, the pattern of age of the volcanic centers is entirely random. Let us repeat the ages from north to south. 5, 32, unknown, 11, 31, 21, 1, 3, 1, 31, 14 and 5. Either I have grown dimwitted or there is just not any time sequence that is associated with a hotspot track 1 600 kilometers long.”
          by Carl

          Same ocean, same continental margin.

          • Yes, Albert, but the subareal stuff is well aligned in the Emperor Chain. Here the islands also are not aligned. The older ones (GC, La Gomera, Fuerteventura) are between the newer active ones (Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma, El Hierro).
            And that is similar to what Carl observed near Cameroon.

          • The islands actually do show age progression, just the magma source seems to be much less focussed than in Hawaii. Lanzarote is very old, it formed in the mid Miocene, its young appearence is pretty much entirely because of the eruptions in the 1730s and because it is a near desert. Tenerife is also over 10 million years old in places too. The crust moves very slow here, and there migth be some other tectonics too, the chain does suspiciously follow the trend of the Atlas Mountains belt where there are also Pleistocene volcanoes, and there are a surprising amount of active volcanic fields in the Sahara. Its not a direct link but it seems there is a few factors of which a hotspot is only one and possibly not the primary.

            The fact that most of the volcanoes seem to trend along a common rift line is maybe telling, in both cases you talk about. The Atlantic is a young ocean so it would be expected to be different to the Pacific.

        • You would find the same problem if analysing the seamounts around Hawai’i in this way. In reality many of those date from a much older phase of volcanism that the current hot spot happens to pass through. Perhaps here too they are mixing different phases of volcanic activity, with different origin.

          • True, but immediately around the current Hawaiian islands there are other seamounts which are not from the current hot spot. As the sequence, I don’t see much evidence for a well defined hot spot: the activity is too wide. There is some focus now on the western side, and I found it interesting it seemed to follow the mid atlantic rift, keeping at a fixed distance from it.

  15. Very dangerous toxic cloud obligates people and media journalists to evacuate. People have to stay inside home. This is breaking news…

  16. Last night I observed something new which I’ve not seen before at any volcano, but apparently hot gas can make its way through porous cone walls. I enclose 3 stills from the video recording where very hot patches appeared on the side of the cone, but without any lava flowing. If someone says “oh it just fell off and exposed the hot material underneath” that hypothesis is negated by the fact that the hot zone was observed to move, in one case, heated up, then cooled down. In one still you can see new hot spots emerge as the cone material slides losing cohesion under the heat and crumbling down the slope. I watched this for about 10 mins satisfied that I indeed was watching very hot gas venting through the cone wall.
    Enclosed are 3 stills https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1DsskTSZcg7o5wLAn-6RifAlj4tfcnP6E?usp=sharing showing this activity.

  17. What an Impressive Canary Eruption!
    The vent is now a gigantic cone

    I guess an Azores basalt eruption woud be very much the same? whats chads opinion?

    Perhaps This is larger than the Azores monogenetic cones ?

  18. Chad,
    I linked a paper from Nature I consider interesting for you and also others under yor comment from 11:53 about the CISP.
    I think Albert and Hector might also find it interesting.
    Paper is by Paul van den Boogard from 2013.

  19. #VolcanLaPalma | The affected area exceeds 591 hectares, 65 more than yesterday Sunday

    The lava of the northern part of #Todoque is 300 meters from reaching the coast

    In the next few hours he could form another fajana on the Playa del Perdido

    • How does that compare to the 1949 eruption? I read that 1949 expanded the land the most out of the eruptions in the last 1000 years.

  20. The north lava arm on the Todoque mountain, near the coast has hold your movement and show cold on the direct cameras. I think dont expect see them reach to the sea. Meanwhile, the lava movement has turn to the Industrial park area and can continue fill the area.

  21. https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015CoMP..170…54B/abstract is an interesting technical paper on the 2 previous La Palma eruptions digging into the makeup of the lava, indicating a formation depth in common of about 20-50 km depth, average 35 km, thus almost matching the deep quake depths. This would suggest that the shallow quakes of 11-14 km is a phase change with gas evolution. I would take that the deep quake activity indicates reservoir replenishment at the shallow depth.

      • well, I will be, WordPress has turned off the link, here’s the link again exactly as it should be “https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015CoMP..170…54B/abstract” and yes, there are dots in the URL line, two dots, then three dots.. strange URL .

        • I think when wordpress sees a “dot” or “full stop” or “period” or “.” it doesn’t recognise it as part of a URL (web address) and so it truncates the link.

          (I was surprised at that link address – but it works!)

  22. I came across an interesting paper called Magma storage and underplating beneath Cumbre Vieja volcano, La Palma, by Andreas Klügel, Thor Hansteen and Karsten Galipp, published in 2005.

    The authors did a barometric study of lava and xenoliths from Cumbre Veija to find out where magma is stored, how the plumbing is and in connetction with the intrusive island growth.
    Pdf link: https://www.cabarrus.k12.nc.us/cms/lib09/NC01910456/Centricity/Domain/8877/Cumbre%20Vieja.pdf

    By analysing glass matrix, clinopyroxene inclusions as well fluid inclusions taken from rocksamples around La Palma, Klügel et al. calculated at what pressure the inclusions were formed. So they could also calculate at what depth magma fractionation had taken place. This lead to following interesting model Figure 6 in the paper.

    Accompanying text:
    Fig. 6. Model of Magma storage and fractionation beneath Cumbre Veija volcano.
    The magma storage systems in the uppermost mantle and lower crust are visualized as a plexus of interconnected
    magma pockets and sills/dikes.They are illustrated by an arbitrary number of blobs, where the active part of the storage system during a single eruption is shown in black and the older, partially or completely crystallized parts in grey gradients. The igneous activity causes uplift of the volcano and underlying crust as is indicatd by fault lines. Major storage levels are indicated: (A) major crystal fractionation level, (B) short-time stagnation/underplating, (C) shallow intrusive core complex as indicated by fluid inclusions in a few samples.End quote.

    Note that also faults are illustrated in the figure, cliffs aroud CV.

    It is interesting to see how the storage of magma is modelled, not in (a) central magma chamber(s), but in interconnected complexes.
    Pondering about the figure (!!!speculation alert!!!) I am thinking the magma pressure is build up not by one ore more short lived pulses, but by a constant slow supply a magma that collects in A, if the pressure in A is high enough overflows in B and if the pressure is high enough in B, pulses in C leading to dike forming and eruption.

    Erupting degassing magma, makes way for new depressurizing magma from B, lots of earthquakes, nothing new really?

    Overlay of the earthquakes covers C and B well. But A seems to be deeper, the quakes are measured 30 km and beneath. Or maybe is A the reservoir, to hot for earthquakes to take place.

    • very interesting model, it is clear that there are two levels of activity, 11 km depth and 38 km depth

  23. Earthquake activity was much lower today compared to past two days.
    No deep quakes anymore.

    Fog is hidding the volcano. Does it look calmer than yesterday to you?

    • Personally I would not use the word ‘fissures’, rather ‘vents’. I might describe all the vents together as a fissure.
      A fissure is a (usually linear) crack with emissions, it has significant length. A vent is basically a hole.
      So I would say three vents and (perhaps) one fissure, although here they are so close that ‘fissure’ is perhaps not a good description. More a volcano with three vents.

      • Issue might come from Hawaii in 2018, where the major eruption center was called ‘fissure’ 8 for the entire eruption and up until 2 years later. The entire eruption took place along a fissure but even at that it is still more like a line of single vents, the eruption focus being restricted only to a part of it at a time with just minor activity elsewhere. It is somewhere in between a wandering eruption and a long curtain of fire, in a sense. Actually it is a very good analogue to Laki, except sort of in reverse and obviously smaller.

        Anyway, the problem of callign singular vents ‘fissures’ seems to begin there and has persisted…

        • Poor use of language, typical americans.
          Something that starts as a fissure and ends as a vent seems to be something incomprehensible. Some end as volcanoes, you know.

  24. Iceland: The swarm at Keilir stopped for now, but a new swarm of small earthquakes occured today in the west of the peninsula. The figure shows only the non-verified events from https://en.vedur.is.

  25. Earths interior is still very very hot for soure
    Inner Core reaches 6000 degrees C

    Does Earth haves enough heat resovairs left for more mantle sourges of flood basalts, and hyperactive seafloor spreading?

    How long will volcanic global greenhouse eras and warm calcite seas happen in the future?
    How many greenhouse eras are left in the future?

    The Pleistocene Ice Age is caused by low CO2 levels because volcanism is sluggish now compared what it was in the Meozoic and before that.

    I know that the sun is getting brigther and brighter all the time, and Earth Will have need of less and less volcanic Co2 to stay warm in the future.

    Volcanic CO2 emissions been reducing alot since the archean – hadean era.. But been episodes quite recent ago with high CO2

    Still Cambrian recently had up 4000 PPM of CO2, as well as the Meozoic Had perhaps 2000 PPM During their active tectonics

    • Volcanism now is the same as before the ice Age, there are other reasons for low CO2, like there being more productive oceans, more algae. The icehouse climate is because Antarctica is a massive continent isolated at a pole, and it wont end until either the continent drifts north or the Drake Passage closes, it got accelerated by the formation of the Isthmus of Panama but the process was already well underway before. It is looking likely our actions will see a temporary release and melting of most of the ice, but geologically this will look like a weird spec, a very significant spec but it will be even more brief than the PETM. It will probably be one of the most persistent remnants of our existence in the geological record.

      The interior of the earth is probably not cooled at all from formation, it is only the outer mantle that has done so, it was probably around 2000 C in the asthenosphere in the Archean, or basically everywhere was as hot as Hawaii. So volcanism has slowed but in the last billion years the effect has been very limited, Rodinia had the same tectonics as exist today and that formed 1.2 billion years ago.

      Remember that the Cretaceous high sea stand was only 85 million years ago, 1/50 of the time the Earth has existed. It is basically almost modern in the grand scheme of things. The difference in the internal heat of the Earth between then and now will be negligible.

      • Chad

        In Jurassic and Cretaceous seafloor spreading where hyperactive.. as the young oceans formed when the continent broke up During trisssic – jurassic. Seafloor ridge cO2 outgassing over long timespanns

        That keept volcanic CO2 high and greenhouse. There where also many major flood basalting events that caused short lived Hyperthermals.

        Cretaceous Thermal Maximum where almost as hot as PETM, sea surface in Equator Avarged 38 C back then.

        The Meozoic Seas where hot crystal clear and blue, almost devoid of nutrients.
        They where called ”calcite seas” and yes not very fertile. Hawaii is a watery clear blue marine blue desert too. Triassic, Cretaceous and Jurassic Seas where dominated by calcium carbonate depositing plankton. Todays colder Aragonite Seas haves difftent plankton

        But Meozoic Seas seemed to have been nutrient poor
        As warm seas always are

        In the far far future .. high CO2 levels again will be very problematic under a brigther older Sun

    • Mars have cooled also because of its smaller mass than Earth. Too small mantle for tectonics .. lost more heat

      But now Mars haves a very very thick insulating litosphere .. and the marsian core is apparently completely liquid. But its because of far lower pressures and more sulfur in the marsian core

      Mars seems to be cooling very slowly at the moment .. perhaps plenty of heat left for sporadic Flood Basalts
      Many Mars flows are young too

    • Future volcanic greenhouse eras will be very bad when the sun is getting brigther… more solar radiation gets absorberd for the same ammounts of CO2 during earlier greenhouse eras.

      When the Sun was formed 4.5 billion years ago it was about 30% dimmer than at present. Earths climate was then warmed by the intense Hadean Volcanism and infalling asteorids and its thick CO2 atmosphere back then.

      But the suns increasing luminosity will also speed up weathering by rainfall and remove CO2 from the atmosphere much faster than volcanoes replace that CO2.
      In 800 million years in the future the sun will be 8% brigther than it is today, and Earth Will be a much hotter place. Intense rainstorms caused by the hotter sun will scrub away the carbon dioxide. Once the plant life dies out because of lack of CO2 the oxygen breathing life dies soon after.
      Leaving only anerobic bacteria as the lords of the Earth.

    • Volcanic CO2 Outgassing can turn Earth into a steamhouse over long timescales. During the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum CO2 may have reached 2500 PPM and and Equator Sea Surface temperature of 42 C.
      That woud be intollerable for most forms of complex life.

      • I don’t get that either, Jesper as most CO2 is coming from human activity. If it is responsable at all for CC is another question. Methane is a suspect two.
        But anyway, as far as I know, only 1% is from volcanoes. And what’s more important is that big bangs from 6 on, even 5 maybe release also sulfur. And so far I was instructed that this factor leads to some years of cooling when the Stratospere is reached.
        The tawing of Perma Ice around the Arctic Circle is a main danger it seems. I saw the traces of the wildfire in Provence recently going up from Grimaud to the highway. They were able to circle the origin in. It started at a parking area on the highway. Cigarette bud they think. This has to stop. There should be laws that people take their cigarette buds with them.

      • Most CO2 today comes from Human Industrial Activities

        Im talking about past greenhouses..

        Read the comments first 😉

        In 200 years If We humans dont stop putting out CO2 we coud have 3000 PPM
        Very very bad

  26. The lava fountains are looking a lot more hawaiian than strombolian at the moment, at least the lower one is, and the lava is still bright in daylight. I wonder if maybe the deep magma has finally surfaced.

  27. Something’s going on at Fagradalsfjall. According to the faf drumplot, tremor is way, way up since yesterday, as well as occasional sizable quakes. But the faf tremor plot is not updating correctly for me, for some reason.

    The Langihryggur cam just shows a closeup of a pile of rocks at the moment. There doesn’t seem to be a current livestream showing the cone.

    Does anyone have any more info? Has the eruption resumed?

    • Looks like the seismometer had a short outage and has resumed. No signs of the tremor climbing on all three bands.
      The drumplot is rumbly but that could easily be bad weather. But there are some signs of stuff moving in it.
      In all, nothing new is happening. Yet. I’m pretty sure we’ll see some activity either at Fagradalir or towards Keilir (the egg stains still cling to my face over my prediction…lol). But it may be a while yet.
      Rotten weather in Iceland. Kind of reminds me why I don’t move there…

      • Today has been very wet and windy. Next 2 days forecast to be a lot better though; may give me a chance to dry out before flying home…

      • The tremor graph is derived from the raw data that is shown in the drumplot, and the drumplot showed no such interruptions.

        The drumplot currently looks like when the volcano comes out of a lull, with extra added bonus quakes up into the M3 range. Unfortunately the view never improved and it’s dark now (already, at 7:30 PM!) so there won’t be anything to see until tomorrow at the earliest. Unless a red glow appears …

  28. Cumbre Vieja is constantly producing volcanic ash. Is that caused by molten magma being pulverised by the enormous gas expulsions from the volcano’s throat?

  29. Is it just because of the terrain’s steepness that the lava flow appears to be rather fast at the upper must part of the flow?

    Ok I think yes it is, since it’s looking almost like a lava fall there. In the mid part the lava already has it’s slow normal velocity.
    Looks like lava heat has carved in that “quasi” lava fall?

      • One must not forget, however, that during the last week a part of the lava also continued to flow through a tunnel system over the main lava field to the cliff. This lava hardly enlarged the lava field. Only the southern arm that reached the lava of the 1949 ocean entry was created by this flow.

    • From volcanodiscovery: Volcanic tremor remains high. It has increased a bit compared to previous days, suggesting continued high effusion rates of magma. No significant ground deformation was detected, meaning that magma arriving into the system is balanced by the magma being erupted as lava. In other words, the eruption seems in a stable phase at the moment.

      I would suggest it’s become more effusive rather than explosive past few days, we’ve seen longer flows. Could be that change to basanite/ more primitive lava that somebody above mentioned.

  30. Another picture of the eruption taken from the International Space State (ISS):

    already a few days old, but still very impressive….

  31. Is that a new lava flow looking like a river flowing down the top right hand side it’s not bright yellow but darker with sparkling balls in it .

  32. Is there an increased chance now with the mega tsunami that will trigger from this? I keep reading articles of this chance being near 100% during this eruption and that would wipe out the entire US Atlantic coast.

    • No. It’s sensationalist scaremongering. If the lava shelf collapses, there may be a localised event, but that’s a big if. The original ‘megatsunami’ hypothesis has been revised with further studies and evidence.

    • Lauren,
      I saw this post, and I also saw your post on the VC facebook page. I was going to reply, but I saw that the links I would have provided had already been posted.

      I have to say that it made me feel sad, and a little angry… Not with you, but with those who panicked you. This is why I detest pseudoscience and conspiracy theories in general. You took the trouble to approach people who may be able to allay your fears, but my guess is that you’re just one of thousands feeling exactly the same.

      Now I’ll be completely straight with you, I’m not an expert. And when the eruption started, the only information I had was that same (now notorious) study that you’ve been worrying about.

      Fortunately I am blessed with … I don’t know what you’d call it.. A fairly forensic mindset ?

      So I went looking for informed, professionally qualified views on it. Not commentaries on those views, but straight from the scientists themselves. I don’t suffer from anxiety, so I was able to read, understand, and fully take in what had been found by peer reviews and further studies.

      I don’t believe you’re at any significant risk of inundation because of this eruption, although I know that in your current state it may take you a while to reach the same conclusion.

      I hope that the information sent your way on facebook will eventually calm you, and I sincerely wish you all the best.

      As for the nut jobs who are trading off your fears ?

      I hold you all in utter contempt.. and out of respect for the readers of this site, I am being as restrained as I can be. Go do one !!

      • Seconded. Its the blind leading the blind, as usual over a cliff whilst completely ignoring the help from those that can see.
        Sadly it seems to be a fact that people are genetically programmed to believe ‘the man in the pub’ and ignore the person who knows.
        Its probably related to envy, jealousy and spitefulness (recent sci am article on this) where 30% of a trial ‘deducted’ money from other contestants just as long as they thought nobody knew. This goes as far as shooting yourself in the foot.

      • Think the story came from / via the BBC who were looking for instances of possible tsunamis, following the Boxing Day tsunami in the Indian Ocean. I remember they used sea-shells found on Cumbre Vieja as evidence for a massive tsunami (I thought it more likely to be the remains of someone’s lunch).

      • There are so many different scenarios with the worst one by now being at the bottom. It’s 20 years old this year and has been contested by many scientists, and still it’s being used for fear-mongering. They make most money with these things. So people who buy into that are the culprits. No clicks, no success with these things.
        In Thailand there was a real problem, not due to the tsunami caused by an earthquake closeby !!!, but due to the fact that many hotels are built too close to the beach.

  33. Three odd-looking quakes of moderate size now on the faf drumplot. Any expert insights? The tremor is down from its earlier peak. Too brief a reactivation to get lava flowing on the surface, it seems; only a few hours.

    • Tuesday
      12.10.2021 23:00:03 63.803 -22.848 7.1 km 1.6 90.03 7.0 km W of Reykjanestá is one of the 3 quakes that you are looking at, so they are located a few miles away from the FAF seismograph, thus you are seeing the dispersion of the jolt, but it’s a small quake local to Iceland
      Take a look at the quake chart for the island and check the table timestamp with the trace on the FAF seismo and they line up.

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