A volcano year

This is the time of the year when people like to look back. What was the year like? Good or bad – or, as is almost always the case, a bit of a mix? And if looking back is not your thing, newspapers run columns where specialists (of varying level of expertise) are given a go at predicting the year ahead, in the safe knowledge that no one will ever check up on their predictions. After all, which newspaper would like to admit that they were wrong? Some predictions were rather easy though. That the UK would end the year in turmoil was always a safe bet. Wars and rumours of wars are also annually guaranteed, although perhaps few saw one coming between the US and Canada. Similarly, that there would be fire in the Ring of Fire was certain. That the main fire would be right in the middle of it was harder to see coming.

Twelve months ago, three volcanologists (Sylvain Charbonnier (South Florida), Katie Preece (Glasgow) & Ralf Gertisser (Keele)) took the plunge and pointed at the volcanoes most likely to erupt in 2018. (To be a bit more precise, they said that these volcanoes were worth keeping an eye on.) It is interesting to see how well they did, knowing that volcanoes act on time scales of a decade, not a year, and if one of their candidates did not erupt, it does not mean that they were wrong -just a bit early. Which ones did they pick?

1. Kirishima, Japan. This volcano was at a state of alert a year ago, so perhaps this was an easy prediction. And indeed, it suffered a series of explosions in the first half of 2018. The events were not severe, which was a good thing.


2. Merapi, Indonesia. They wrote: With a death toll of nearly 400 people, its 2010 eruption is so far the deadliest of the 21st century. One may argue that another eruption of Merapi is overdue, although there are no immediate signs of increased volcanic activity or unrest. They were spot on: on May 11, Merapi erupted and an area up to 5 km from the summit had to be evacuated. The slopes of Merapi are both steep and densely populated: this is one of the most dangerous volcanoes on the planet.

Merapi, 1 June 2018

3. Öræfajökull, Iceland. as the volcanologists wrote: Öræfajökull appears to be waking up. We have all seen this and the awakenings are continuing. But as usual when long-dormant volcanoes come back to live, the process can take years. There are teenagers who wake up faster. The re-activation has continued and 2018 far exceeded 2017. But no eruption has happened: it could be years away, or it could be in a month. With volcanoes, it is hard to tell.

4. Popocatépetl, Mexico. This volcano is the most active in Mexico. Since the early 1990’s, activity has been increasing and a warning for 2018 was entirely appropriate. And indeed, explosions happened, and minor activity was almost continuous. There was a large explosion this weekend. Popocatépetl has only seen minor events in historical times, but also has a history of major events, including a VEI6 around AD 800. There is danger here.

Popocatépetl, 15 Dec 2018

5. Villarrica, Chile. Not many volcanoes in the world have a lava lake. This one does, albeit a small one. The summit is easily recognizable by its shape. There was a significant explosion in 2015, and late 2017 there was an increase in activity. However, it came to nothing. This one did not perform according to expectations.


6. Kilauea, US. What can I say? The team came up trumps on this one, although it did not do what they expected. It is hard to believe now that one year ago, this was the most predictable volcano in the world. It was erupting from Pu’u’O’o, had been for over 30 years, and apart from brief interruptions and rift events, was not going to change. The team wrote ‘There is no reason to expect this eruption will end any time soon.‘ The Kilauea lava lake had been growing but was not dangerous apart from its sulfur emissions. The danger was at Pu’u’O’o, which was beginning to feed lava north, towards inhabited areas. Look at it now. Leilani devastated, Kapoho destroyed, Pu’u’O’o dead (presumably for good), and Kilauea collapsed. Who saw that one coming! The positives are that no one was killed, and the gas eruptions have ended making the Big Island a far healthier place to live. Hawai’i may even look forward to a decade without lava. But I would keep an eye on Mauna Loa. So how did the team fare on this one? The picked out the right volcano – but nothing they expected was correct. That is the way of volcanoes. Full marks.

Pu’u’O’o . Im memoriam.

7. Hekla, Iceland. To be fair, they did not predict activity here. Instead they wrote: Volcanic unrest can also start suddenly at dormant volcanoes such as Hekla in Iceland which, based on its past record of decades of quiescence followed by sudden huge eruptions, may awake with little warning. And that remains true.

So how did they do? Very well, actually, although in the case of Kilauea some luck was involved. Villarrica was the only misfire, whilst Öræfajökull decided to wait. I would grade the result first class.

Other eruptions

One can also look for the ones they missed. For there were more eruptions in 2018, and perhaps more dangerous than the events in Hawai’i. Kadovar erupted in early January, and the island had to be abandoned by its inhabitants. And do you remember Mayon? It was active from January until late March. In the end the eruption remained minor, but for a while things looked dangerous for Legazpi, the major city build in the firing line. Sinabung had significant blasts in February and April, with pyroclastic flows around the summit. It has grown steadily more active since it woke up in 2010.

Fuego was the worst volcanic event of the year. An eruption on June 3 led to pyroclastic flows or lahars. 109 people are confirmed dead and 200 are missing.

The prize for the most photogenic volcano of 2018 goes to Anak Krakatau. It is the most rapidly growing volcano in the world and has been active for much of the year. Being an island to itself, with no one living here (not since the disaster of its famous parent), this is also a relatively safe volcano – as long as you keep your distance.

Overall, this was probably the most interesting volcano year since Krakatoa!

We should not forget the two big earthquakes this year, Sulawesi (where Soputan erupted today) and Anchorage. We are interested in the earth under our feet, and that includes earthquakes. Liquefaction was a major factor in the damage done by both events.

Anak Krakatau

Memory lane

My personal recollections of our volcanic year are dominated by Kilauea. This was an amazing eruption. Rift eruptions are of course not uncommon. Most lava perhaps comes from rifts rather than summits – in contrast, explosive eruptions come mainly (but not exclusively) from the summit. But we have learned a lot about how rift eruptions actually happen, having had two major and well observed events in the past 5 years. They had much in common: the earthquake sequence down the rift, the multiple potential eruption sites until it focusses on one place, the sudden end. Both events combined the rift eruption with a caldera collapse, and in both cases the volume of the collapse and the volume of the eruption agreed well – in the case of Kilauea, very well. Two is too few cases to generalize but let’s anyway. The equivalence between ejecta and collapse shows that the rift eruption is fed by magma stored below the summit:the magma does not come directly from the mantle below. Kilauea first erupted old magma, showing that there is magma stored in the rift, left over from previous intrusions which is pushed out. It is not clear that that happened in Holuhraun as well. As the magma came from the summit store, the gravity model where the weight of the summit pushes it out into the rift works well. HVO has now introduced the concept of ‘magma head’ where the stress in the rift and the magma head counteract each other. A sudden breakthrough in the rift reduces the stress and the magma begins to flow. In Kilauea, the major earthquake reduced the stress further. The sudden end occurs when the summit pressure becomes insufficient to overcome the stress. In Kilauea, there was a phase towards the end where the eruption became intermittent, and restarted after each summit earthquake. This shows the importance of the summit. Finally, both eruptions has a large series of these summit earthquakes, in which the caldera dropped step by step. Calderas are made of layers of solidified lava – tough enough to keep the magma down. As the magma drains out, the layers drop down as solid blocks. Both eruptions caused earthquakes of magnitude around M5.3. The fact that they were so similar suggests that the strength of the rock (solid lava) was very similar in both calderas.

The ghost of Kilauea past

Now that we have a model, we can make predictions for what will happen in the next rift eruption. The only questions that remain are when and where that will be!

The disappearance of the lava lake at Kilauea is regrettable. It provided great, and safe, viewing. One of the endearing images is that of the smile in the lake. As the lava withdrew, the smile too went. This was the Kilauea cat, like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, disappearing while leaving its smile behind. In the case of the Kilauea cat, the image of its smile.

Alice in HVO land

‘Please would you tell me,’ said Alice, a little timidly, for she was not quite sure whether it was good manners for her to speak first, ‘why your cat grins like that?’

‘It’s a Kilauea cat,’ said the HVO, ‘and that’s why. 

‘I didn’t know that volcano cats always grinned; in fact, I didn’t know that cats could grin.’
‘They all can,’ said HVO; ‘and most of ‘em do.’

‘I don’t know of any that do,’ Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation.
‘You don’t know much,’ said HVO ; ‘and that’s a fact.’

And that is indeed how we felt during the eruption – so much to learn!

The remaining conversation of Alice in Wonderland explains why the Kilauea magma came out in such an unexpected location, downtown Puna.

Alice was a little startled by seeing the Kilauea Cat sitting on a bough of a tree a few yards off.

The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had very long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.

‘Kilau Puss,’ she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. ‘Come, it’s pleased so far,’ thought Alice, and she went on. ‘Would you tell me, please, which way magma ought to go from here?’

‘That depends a good deal on where you want it to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way it goes,’ said the Cat.

‘—so long as it erupts somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.

‘Oh, it’s sure to do that,’ said the Cat, and vanished.

Alice was not much surprised at this, she was getting so used to queer things happening. While she was looking at the place where it had been, it suddenly appeared again.

‘By-the-bye, what became of the lava?’ said the Cat. ‘I’d nearly forgotten to ask.’

‘It turned into a hole,’ Alice quietly said, just as if it had come back in a natural way.

‘I thought it would,’ said the Cat, and vanished again. 

Alice looked up, and there was the Cat again, sitting on a branch of a tree.

‘Did you say hole, or pole?’ said the Cat.

‘I said hole,’ replied Alice; ‘and I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy.’

‘All right,’ said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone caldera.

What will next year bring? Perhaps we should leave the predictions to the experts. There is however a fair chance of an eruption in Indonesia, a low chance of one in Hawai’i, and a 30% chance of one in Iceland. And 100% chance of an event in Westminster.

2018 posts

Finally, there has been the usual variety of posts this year. I like writing background stories, about space, history, or geophysics. But there have been a fair number of stories about volcanoes as well, by the other VC writers. We welcome your submissions!

Here is an overview of the posts published at VC over the past 12 months.

Volcanic Organs and Gandalf’s Pipe

The Anchorage earthquake of 2018

Living dangerously: another Grimsvotn prediction

Living Dangerously – Grimsvötn Forecasted

Hell and its angels at Kilauea

Activity at Hekla and The Dead Zone

Iceland in ashes

Sun storm: the Carrington event

Iwo Jima in 45 eruptions

The Sulawesi earthquake

And The Woolly-Winner Is…

The Woolly Mammoth-Sized Eruption Poll

Signs and portents of Iceland – Revisited

The fall of Surtsey

Surtsey – The Birth of the Modern World

The air we breath: the sulfur smell of volcanoes

Réunion Island

Dawn over Ceres: the lonely volcano

Hawaii and the story of the Pacific Ocean

Kelimutu: the magic of colour

Vesta’s volcanoes: Dawn’s blast in the past

Volcano World Cup 2018: The Champions

Volcano World Cup 2018: FINAL

Dawn over Ceres: the journey

Volcano World Cup 2018: Semi Finals

Volcano World Cup 2018: Quarter Finals

Volcano World Cup 2018: Round of 16

Kilauea eruptions

Volcano World Cup 2018: Groups G-H

Volcano World Cup 2018: Groups D-F

Pele’s gift

Volcano World Cup 2018: Groups A-C

Volcano World Cup 2018: the Intro

Fossils of Mount Everest

Volcan de Fuego 2018

Volcanocafe and the GDPR

Lava rocks!

Puna in numbers

When Pele comes to Puna

Kilauea: the lower Puna eruption of 1955

Kilauea – Slump or Slide?

Kilauea: If wishes were horses!

The other Hawaii: observing Haleakala

Puna 2018

The majestic volcanoes of Kyushu, Japan – Part I -Sakurajima and Kirishima

Puna 2018

Ancient foundations: the earth of the bible. Part II: Volcanics in the fertile crescent

Ancient foundations: the earth of the bible. Part I: Tectonics

The goop and the mudcano

Volcanic illusions

The lost volcanoes of Norway

Dissecting Hekla

The Sperm and The Volcano

Volcano Cafe 2.0: Welcome to the Mars Bar

The Bogoslof update

Black Swans and Iceland

When Pinatubo turned the tide

Don’t Panic! – Volcanoes, Overdue & Douglas Adams

The Maya collapse: a history in three volcanoes

Sheet dyking at Skjalfandi

The Kazbek disaster: a cryoclastic debris flow

El Chichon

Once in a blue moon

Black smokers

Lurking in the swamp: the Florida volcano

Sands of time: walking the Grand Canyon

Bárðarbunga… A restless giant

A volcano is born unto us

Jokulhlaup in the English Channel

Volcano at heart

102 thoughts on “A volcano year

    • Got that one… 🙂 Just thinking that flying small planes around PNG/Indonesia must be a lot more exciting than most places. Gotta watch the ash advisories like a hawk.

  1. Keeping an eye on Mauna Loa!

    New northwest flank quakes today, 6 quakes, 5 magnitude 2 and one of them was from the summit. Shallower than previous swarms and closer to the summit area. All the hipocenters were above sea level.

  2. Ref Kiluea; “The positives are that no one was killed” → Despite the best efforts of the local inhabitants and sight seers.

    Edit add: Yes, I already know I’m a jerk. But that doesn’t lessen the strength of my opinion.

    As a former fire-fighter, I took great interest in monitoring the radio communications pf public safety during the Lower Puna events. Many people alive there today are ONLY because of the efforts of local Fire-Rescue and Law Enforcement. It may not be because of direct interaction, but because they were evacuated from the danger zones. This illustrates my mantra of “Don’t be there.” Some of the actions involved advising a person in peril as to the safest path away from an affected property by a Fire-Rescue crew directing him as relayed by the dispatcher to his cell phone.

    • Yes, I fully agree. Some people refuse to see the danger, until other people need to endanger themselves to rescue them. The volcano observatories give the warnings, the police does the implementation and the army may be needed to enforce it. But the scariest moment involved some luck. The encirclement of Kapoho caused no casualties. But if it had gone any faster, or erupted close to Kapoho, the place would have been cut off very quickly. If you live near a lava field, you need more than one escape route, which Kapoho did not have. The predictions were pretty accurate and that helped a lot. But there was no room for error or for unexpected events.

      • It was pretty lucky that enough magma remained in the rift after 1955 to allow precursor eruptions to happen. In 1840 there had been no eruptions in that spot for a long time so there was no magma underneath, and the eruption went full force immediately.
        For all purposes this years eruption really started on May 18, when fresh lava started erupting. Actually, even without the holuhraun-sized fissure 8, this years eruption was already bigger than 1840, HVO said 2/3 of the lava was from fissure 8, which means 1/3 was from the malama ki flows, and those were only erupting for 11 days.
        1/3 of 10 is about 3.3, or 0.33 km3, which is more than the 0.21 km3 in 23 days of 1840.

      • The spooky part is that freight train of lava flowing by has several times the mass of a freight train.

        • That is one of my all time favourite pictures, as well as the ‘grand’ opening of first volcanic eruption to occur within an already existing inhabited area. It is lucky that the big island isn’t densely populated anywhere in an active volcanic zone, mt etna (or rather the people in it) is really pushing it in that latter category…

          I think the scariest part of that picture is that the lava is literally flowing on dead flat ground at an average of 40 km/h. Had fissure 22 become dominant with its steeper southward flow I think the lava would have flowed even a lot faster than that once the channel became well developed, something like mauna loa 1950 where the lava channel reached speeds of over 70 km/h. Really fluid lava is scary, and a lot of shield volcanoes are a lot steeper than they look too (some of the Galapagos volcanoes have outer slopes of nearly 40 degrees, watching the lava flow down the south slope of wolf at nearly 100 km/h in its 2015 eruption is a humbling experience…)

  3. Actually, someone was killed by the lava when kapoho was destroyed, their location signal shut off on June 4 and there has been no sign of them since then. I read it on hawaiitracker facebook a while ago.

    Also, I looked back through the comments around April, and I at one point did actually say an unlikely possibility of the then ongoing uplift at pu’u o’o was an intrusion downrift and activity similar to 1955, I won’t count this much though because it was a wild guess and I massively underestimated the scale (as we all did) but still :>

    I also failed my only true prediction from last year, of an eruption in Iceland this year, there is still 2 weeks left but I think only hekla could save me now 🙁

  4. A LOT of good work went into the site this year….. All article posters should feel accomplished. Gold Stars around…… Best!motsfo

    • Agree! Followed VC for 6years now and the quality of the posts and discussion was always very good and excelled in 2018.
      By the way, Rumble around and under Hekla. Maybe she cannot hold her fireworks untill new year??

    • May I add my agreement, and also my profuse thanks to article writers, our correspondents, to Carl and Albert and our many contributors. VC is unique, and makes part of my daily life!

    • With motsfo here!
      Thanks VC team!
      VC has become a habit. Breakfast, paper, weather, VC….
      Or with a nightcap… 😉


  5. One thing I have been wondering after looking at the videos of the eruption on ambrym now, why is it so explosive?
    The lava in the lava lakes there is like on kilauea, it is almost like a molten metal in fluidity, but whenever lava actually flows there it is viscous a’a flows like on etna or stromboli, and the fountains are the explosive ashy fountains. The main craters with the lakes also undergo violent vulcanian activity during larger eruptions, it is really weird vehavior for a basaltic volcano that seems to have a unique ease of forming lava lakes (which typically imply fluid magma and open conduits). Maybe there is lots of stored cooling magma in the caldera and flank eruptions tap into that, while the main craters are deep fed with fresh lava, but I don’t really know, I have read something somewhere that ambrym erupts the hottest lava out of any volcano in a subduction zone, not far off Hawaii or Iceland and well over 1100 C, but I can’t remember where I read that now.

    There is also reports of a part of the coast being very hot with glowing in some areas, but no further information.

    • It is a curious thing; but Ambrym, last time I checked, was formally classified as a ‘pyroclastic shield’ Oddly enough it shared that category with Rabaul and Billy Mitchell – three very different volcanoes in most respects

  6. It’s been a fantastic year on VC. Thanks go to Albert, Carl and all the rest for keeping us royally informed and entertained.

    • And I quote: “And it’s not just the heat and the acidity that should make the conditions unihabitable inside what has become known as the Shark-ano.” [Sic]
      What a wonderful find, Macusn!

  7. Long-time lurker here, wanting to add my thanks to the poeple behind Volcanocafe for educating and entertaining…. Bardabunga seems to have sprung to life today, a 4.0, 2.4 and 2.0 so far. A surprise finale to 2018?

    Found in the pending queue. New commenters tend to end up in our dungeon. Hereby released and future comments should appear without delay! -minor admin

    • Would surprise me!
      Earthquake trend at B. really is decreasing…

      Credits: IMO

      • The number of events is decreasing, but due to the size of the largest events, the average released seismic moment is about the same. Expect the large events to continue at a similar pace and smaller events to decrease in numbers. The next large one, closer to M5, will probably happen quite soon. Say within a month or two. Nothing strange about that.

        Personally, I think the chamber is refilling after the eruption, which pushes the plug back up. Since the plug gives way, there is not as large increase in pressure as there would be if the chamber inflated in the style of Grímsvötn, like a balloon. This way, Bárdarbunga can accumulate a lot of magma without blowing the top. There will likely be some cone sheet emplacements in the process and some magma may eventually seep out along the ring fault as a small eruption, maybe a VEI1.

        In the end, this will probably turn into a new slow sequence of M5 quakes that can go on for decades before the next rifting eruption happens.

        • Note that the deeper earthquakes have disappeared. The activity is now in the upper few kilometers, and the stress there is not enough for many M4+ quakes. The deeper areas have stabilised.

    • yet Bard is still inflating more than any other place in Iceland. This is from KISA. Similar inflation from VONC. and thanks to Albert, Carl and other contributors. this place is very important to me. daily.

      • Personally (no expert!) I have my doubts about the measurements of the Kisa station being inflation only. I believe the ongoing ‘inflation’ has a lot to do wiith the position of that station. It is on the outer rim and might be very well influenced by the tons and tons of ice pushing against that relatively thin rim. It is pushing it sidewards (north and east components of the graphs not shown above). And locally upwards is possible too. Like rippling a blanket.

  8. Lurker here. Couldn’t agree more with what all others say! Thanks to all the writers and mods that keep this site the best place on the net! Tack Carl och alla andra!

  9. Thank you for another wonderful year. I learned some and laughed some, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Odd how I, some stranger on the internet, stumbled across this site and have become hooked on it. Or is it? It is, as others have said, become part of a daily routine. For years now. Coffee, night cap, or both, and VC. Go figure! Cheers!!!

    • Coffee in the morning with a check of VC, night cap at the end of the day with VC. Hoping that my children retain some the information I shared with them on our trips to the big island, and while I continue to learn on the site.

      Maybe I can convince them our next summer trip could be Iceland!


      • Macusn, our family went to Iceland last summer and it was the trip of a lifetime. btw, I’m visiting your state for a couple of weeks in January. Kauai. Love it, including the chickens.

  10. Homo Stultus lives!

    Jackson County Deputy videos himself planting evidence.

    Much like LAPD did

    Note: My contention is that Homo Sapiens (Thinking Man) is actually extinct. The extant hominid is Homo Stultus (Stupid Man) As the successor to Neanderthal, who had an average brain case of 1500cc or so, moderns have an average brain case of about 1250cc. The social anthropologists claim that we are more efficient in using our brains and don’t need as much mass, but isn’t that actually a species-cetric view just to make us feel superior?

    Along with the fact that we were more gracile and better suited for parkour, we were also stupid enough to try it. In actual practice, we are persuit hunters, able to wear out prey on long sustained treks. Another persuit hunter adopted us and possibly taught us the art of herd management. They later became dogs.

    • Dogs, the domesticated version of wolfs are much less intelligent than their ancestors but much better to read humans and fun tion socially with us. Similar with other domesticated animals. Some reserch points at similar changes in humans. Adapted to large populationgroups and safe environments… High intelligence is only one thing among others that might pay off when it comes to reproduction. The result of this selection: Homo Stultus!!

      • Its more the fact that if it does anything, and the caldera collapses somewhat in the process, then 3 similar volcanoes did the same sort of eruption in a one year time period, and 4 in a 5 year time period, and all of them were on a big scale (not confirmed, but the low altitude and long duration of sierra nergas recent eruption suggests it probably underwent a draining and collapse event too though much less than kilauea).

        That is also why I think this decade (2010-2020) should go down as a particularly notable decade in volcanic history. 10 VEI 4s, 2 (maybe 3) basaltic caldera collapses, one major basaltic plinian eruption (maybe two by 2020, grimsvotn is a real monster) and one major rhyolitic bimodal eruption in the same year, and 2 >1 km3 lava eruptions (3 if you count the amount erupted at pu’u o’o since 2010). There was also the first eruption inside an area that was inhabited at the time.
        Even though there was nothing above VEI 5 I think it far outperforms any other decade since the 1780s, except maybe the individual years of 1815,1883 and 1991.

          • No idea which 3 volcanoes might do a VEI 4 in the next year, VEI 4 isn’t big enough to require long term magma storage, so really any active volcano should be able to do one and with no really obvious warning like a VEI 5+ would show. If I have to pick 3 that are most likely in the near term though it would be manam, grimsvotn and oraefajokull.

          • Yippee! A prediction! For VEI4’s, it is probably easier to pick the country than the specific volcano. I guess Iceland, Chile, Indonesia. Anyone else wants to make a choice?

          • To add onto that, here is a short list of volcanoes that I think are likely to have a VEI 4+ or more in the next 10 years, not that every single one of these will but the potential is there.

            Roughly in order of most likely:
            Nevados de chillan

            *Not really sure if this would actually be considered an eruption separate from grimsvotn.
            ** If following the 1780s sequence, that is a big if though.

            There are obviously way more potential candidates, Kamchatka and Alaska is an obvious area I have ignored due to lack of information. I probably also massively underrepresented Indonesia too.

          • Thordarhyna would be cool just from the way the name sounds. Not as titillating as other strangely named Icelandic volcanoes, but verbally satisfying from the way the name rolls off the tongue.

            Note, the other “strangely named” volcano is entertaining just from the prospect of watching a news anchor blush when he/she/it realizes what the translation is.

          • If you’re looking for a Kamchatkan candidate for a VEI4, I reckon Shiveluch (sp?) is your best bet.

          • Avachinsky and Kliuchevskoi too. Together with Sheveluch each of them have had 3 VEI 4 eruptions since 1800. Which is quite good, same as Grimsvotn if I am correct. Kelut is actually the volcano with the most VEI 4 eruptions since 1800, 6 in total. I have picked since 1800 because not all volcanoes are well studied to go far into their past eruptive history and even then I am probably still not being fair to a lot of them.

            Other volcanoes that have had 3 or 4 VEI 4-5 eruptions since 1800 are Augustine, Colima, Fuego, Puyehuhe-Cordon Caulle and Rabaul. Cotopaxi since 1700 has had 6 VEI 4, but seems to have calmed down since 1877, this actually I am not sure of it being a good thing. And I also wonder if Agung can still ramp up to something big.

            Well I mentioned quite a lot of volcanoes so next time a VEI 4 happens I will go back to this comment and see if the volcano was in this list.

          • Technically if you count any effusive eruption that exceeds 0.1 km3 as a VEI 4 equivalent, then that adds a lot more to the list. For example, kilauea would now have 82* equivalent VEI 4s… Since 1952… However, because of this exactly it is more useful to keep VEI 4 as explosive only.

            *70 of those were because pu’u o’o was average of 0.2 km3/year for 35 years, 35 x 2 = 70.

            Technically VEI 4 is 0.1 km3 of tephra, which is maybe 0.03 km3 of DRE, which means kilauea has actually had 100 VEI 4 equivalents since 1952, and one large VEI 5 this year (equivalent to about 3 km3 DRE)

            I think actually, quite a lot of effusive volcanoes would easily manage this, on this definition pretty much every one of mauna loas eruptions would be a VEI 4 equivalent volume, same with most effusive eruptions in iceland, and nyamuragira.

  11. Ambryms lava comes directly from the subduction zone partial melting region and rises very quickly towards the surface.
    Thats why Ambrym, Villaricca and Masaya are fluid basaltic and almost Hawaiian in eruptive style

  12. Very Very Very fluid Ambryms lava lakes are
    They are generaly small and very churned up and little or no crust at all ( mess of dome fountains )
    Loots of degassing in Ambryms lava lakes
    Extremely gas rich basaltic magmas.
    The lack of crusts means these lava lakes haves a very high thermal emission to space

    • In space, no one can hear your intestinal discomfort…

      I wonder if Beano™ is included in the diet that NASA uses for astronauts?

  13. Another swarm ongoing at Herdubreid. They’re stacking, and the biggest of the day (so far) is a M2+ at just over 2km depth. I don’t think I’ve seen a significant quake that shallow there before today.
    Intrusion, or just grumbling in its sleep ?

      • A couple of weeks ago there was another swarm, with what seemed to be a similar number of quakes, at various depths. But they were weaker (up to about M1.5) and deeper (up to about 4.5 km).

        • Ok, coudn’t remember if there was a swarm with so many quakes in such a short time before.

          • Several more have been recorded since my last comment. It’s getting quite busy.

          • This is a very active area that started swarming around 2005 and has slowly ramped up the activity since. There have been swarms like this almost once a month for the past year

      • Yep, Herdubreid had several swarms that were substantially stronger and longer-lasting than this one (so far). Every time I hope for some fireworks at one of the most picturesque volcanoes worldwide. No lives in danger here neither, the mountain is very remote!

        Here is the corresponding volcanocafe article:

        Will definitely closely monitor Herdubreid the coming days, every swarm means the intrusion gets a bit closer to the surface.

        Thank you everyone behind volcanocafe for another great year!

    • 186 in last 48 hrs. nearly all deeper than 4km. after reading Carl’s article about Herdubreid, this is likely one more of several swarms.

      • I remember Carl saying something along the lines of each individual intrusion might push magma 500m or so closer to the surface, and thus it may take several more before Herdubreid (or somewhere nearby) finally erupts.
        Looking at the range of depths, that may well be right . A year or so back the swarms were topping out at around 5-6 km deep. Now it seems to be 2.5-3.5 Km.
        I would also guess that (as I believe Jon Frimann said on his site?) that quakes prior to eruption at Herdubreid would be significantly stronger as they would have some hard, cold rock that would need to be broken open.

        • I think that is true but I haven’t yet seen evidence that this swarm has a magmatic component. So far it could just be something like increasing tectonic stress or even heat. There have been rifting events both north and south but not here, so there may be some pull.

  14. https://www.rbth.com/opinion/2016/01/05/nuclear-overkill-the-quest-for-the-10-gigaton-bomb_556351

    Volcanic explosions are often rated in megatons, as a comparison with measurable explosions. Often this is used as a way of playing up the biggest eruptions as dwarfing out best efforts. The explosion from krakatoa, the most powerful single eruption in recoded history, was 150 megatons, tambora totalled 800 megatons (though likely none of its individual explosions was as big as krakatoas climactic eruption). Holuhraun and leilani, calculated from their thermal energy, would have been 900 and 1400 megatons respectively had that thermal energy been used to erupt explosively. The biggest release of energy in the holocene were the 3 big flood basalts in Iceland, thorsja, eldgja and laki, which all rated around 10000 megatons. These eruptions when combined released as much thermal energy as every single explosive eruption on earth during the holocene, combined…

    This linked site details plans of a 10 gigaton nuclear bomb. It was never built but in effect this is a supervolcano in a box, quite literally, if the energy could be put into melting rocks you would get a lava flow the size of laki. Setting one of these off underground would blow a hole in the earths crust… There was even a concept of a 1000 gigaton bomb, basically a portable mass extinction.

    • My old physics Prof- when he was a young man and worked on the Manhattan project. under Oppenheimer .Teller, according to my Prof.,was spooky he was the under the idea that :
      “mad science means you never have to worry about the worst possible outcome.”

      • 1000 gigatons is in the range of large scale asteroid impact – mass extinction in a box. A bomb this big would literally be the size of a house, it will never fit on a plane, and would take an orbital rocket to get off the ground, but you could easily put one on any large ship and sail around the world to a coastal port and set it off, actually could sit in international water and set it off… The upside is that a bomb this big would be a lot worse/less effective than a scaled up small bomb, at this point basically all the energy ends up in space, like a real asteroid impact the explosion pretty much blows the atmosphere away at the site of origin. The radiant energy would still do its thing though, these sorts of bombs could probably set an entire continent on fire from orbit…

        • I think that for warfare from orbit multimegaton bombs are a bit passe. The weapon experts are looking at far more precision targeted equipment – beam weapons, kinetic weapons and the like. Still very much in the development stage, though

        • The chicxulub impact must have been a crazy sight
          First there is the impact flash and fireball rock vapour plume rasing from the crater
          An arera 200 km wide and 30 km deep gets vaporized and sent into orbit
          The fireball plume is 100 s of km across and much hotter than surface of the sun.
          17 000 c to 20 000 c is precited for the inital impact fireball flash.
          Everything for 100 s of miles gets incenirated on the spot.
          Blinding it must have been and visible for 1000 s of km.
          At ground zero any unlucky mosasaur gets turned into plasma.

          Up in space the vaporized rock vapour plasma cools and condense into zillions of glass droplets that later reenters the atmosphere.

          The scariest part is all the 1000 s after 1000 s of km3 of hot ejecta thats gets sent into low orbit and reentry trajectories.
          Hours after the impact the dinosaur world skies fill with reentering meteors.
          The skies heats up like a furnace, radiating heat towards the ground like an oven.
          The worlds forests bursts into flames, causing continent sized firestorms specialy in the North and South americas and parts of Euroasia.
          The KT boundary is full of soot particles from firestorms and iridrium from the vaporized asteorid. The KT impactor was little above 10 km wide and thats large enough for heavy dispurtion and chaos is biological enviroments

          larger asteorids pretty much destroys the biosphere completely and go up in size and the oceans starts to boil too.

          • It was actually the small meteors raining into forests that caused the fires (they weren’t moving fast enough to completely burn up), if the entire atmosphere was heated to the auto-ignition temperature of wood (550 C) then there would be total extinction of the surface biosphere.

            Chixculub impact would have been something like 100,000 gigatons but I might be off by a lot, and the exact number also varies by a lot of orders of magnitude.

            I have seen people on documentaries say this is the closest the earth has been to apocalyptic nuclear winter, but looking at the stats, for dinosaurs it would have been even worse. Chixculub was the biggest confirmed impact that complex life has had to deal with, and it landed on an evaporite deposit which released a lot of SO2 and Cl2, and on top of all of this it coincided with the absolute peak stage of an already hyperactive flood basalt to top it off (Deccan traps at K/Pg was erupting the same amount of lava as kilauea does in a year, every day…). To go all the way and land a king hit, dinosaurs likely had the same lungs as birds, which are extremely sensitive to SO2, much more than mammals.

            Basically for an equivalent on how bad this actually was for the dinosaurs but translated to something more familiar, its like having 10,000 skaftar fires for 20,000 years, being nuked 1 million times over and all of that that somehow also turning 1% of the atmosphere into cyanide… The chances of surviving are very small, and the ones that do will be few and far between and functionally extinct

        • One month after the impact the fresh crater steams and belches fumes and there is large amounts of impact melted granite ( impact melt ) hidden under the cooled crust. The sea later submerge it and the leftover heat in the crust.. forms a wast hydrothermal system at chicxulub, thats lasts for many tens of thousands of years.
          Feeding rich submarine bacteria communties and algal mats.
          The parts thats where above the ocean likley had geothermal pools feed by impact energy and not volcanic heat.

          The final crater is around 200 km wide but not very deep as the ground springs back up when the asteorid burrows into the ground and vaporize.
          The force is so huge earths crust behaves like when a stone is thrown in water.

          The surface world is barren and desolate and quite dark months and years after impact killing the remianing dinosaurs with starvation.
          Not a single non avian dinosaur survived

        • @Turtlebirdman
          I knows that nature and natural selection always finds ways

          But I finds its supprising how
          A huge meat eater like Giganotosaurus found enough animals to eat.. to stay alive and fuel their massive bodies.
          Meat is energy rich but not always easy to get.

          I imagines these huge meat eaters to constantly be on the move.. Walking Enormous distances everyday in search of their elusive prey. If they are territorial .. each territory must have been absoutley enormous.
          The population density of Giganotosaurus must have been Very Very Very low Indeed.

          • Natural selection will never find a way to make something living exist above the activation energy of C + O2 = CO2.

            I would almost bet that really big theropods like that were not truly territorial, they probably just wandered around looking for food and likely ignored each other most of the time as at that size even a ‘safe’ fight could result in death if one falls over. Sauropods at that size were probably not found in large heards if they were that big, so unlike in documentaries I think these carnivores were probably more like crocodiles, generally coexisting without conflict unless there is a shortage of food or through breeding rights. Of course if there is abundant food, I think territories would form.

    • Here in California we’re crossing our fingers we don’t get plunged into another drought, with persistant Gulf of Alaska ridges deflecting Pacific storms from making it to the mainland. All depends on exactly where the PV finally decides to set up, as well as the strength of the SSW-tropospheric response (assuming the SSW does propogate into lower levels at all).

      • You’ve nailed it. Not excited for the polar wobble as it’s usually very bad news for the PNW and Cali.

  15. This was taken on July 15, when one of the biggest surges happened. The cone at this time was about 40 meters high, and 60 meters above the pre-eruption ground, and the dome fountain within is at the same level as the cone. This probably would have been a high fountain if the vent wasnt so wide open by this point.

    The lava column is 60 meters high above the pre-eruption ground, and seems to replace itself about once every 10 seconds based on a video, a cylinder with a height of 60 meters and width of about 50 meters has a volume of 118000 m3, the lava here is maybe 1/4 of the density of solid lava, so 29500 m3 DRE, and this divided by 10 is 2950 m3/s. I think I did some calculation wrong, 295 m3/s sounds more likely, but in any case at this point the eruption rate was enormous, I think this date is when the larger caldera started collapsing, which could explain the intensity.

    300 m3/s is roughly equivalent to a 150-200 meter tall jetting fountain, about twice the height of the highest fountain during the cone building stage in early June.

  16. This month’s Scientific American (Dec. 2018) has an article (not scholarly) regarding some “new” thinking on how super-volcanoes activate then erupt (“Hidden Inferno”, Shannon Hall). The article focuses on two setups…one featuring a mantle plume/hot spot as the prime magma feed mechanism (such as Yellowstone) and the other being due to more pedestrian subduction style volcanoes which can also reach super-volcano size (like Laguna Del Maule in Chile) . In general, the article highlights the recent data/research (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262069738_Rapid_remobilisation_of_magmatic_crystals_kept_in_cold_storage) that suggests that cool, shallow reservoirs of mostly mush/crystal (~ 5% liquid) can get activated (>50% liquid) in just a matter of years/decades once a hotter plume from below reaches the bottom of the reservoir and produces an explosive mass of crystal melt and gas that quickly rises towards the surface that further melts/heats the shallow reservoir until accumulating pressure triggers giant eruptions.
    From my readings here on VC, this seems very similar to what Carl and others have been saying, with only 5% (or so) of a shallow magma reservoir being actually erupt-able material…but I’m not sure if the rapidity of the activation mechanism of these shallow reservoirs has been specifically discussed?
    ANNND, does this imply that it is possible we may only get a 20-30 yr. heads up prior to when a Yellowstone or other super volcano may erupt? That’s different from what my impression was, that for super-events like this, it would likely take hundreds to maybe thousands of years of preliminary activity leading up to the “main event”?

    • I think this is variable, for open conduit volcanoes like kilauea, or grimsvotn, the melt fraction is likely a lot higher, on kilauea it might be near 100% for the shallow system above 7 km (my definition of shallow is a bit different from the traditional one HVO uses, and some of their old definition doesn’t hold up to this years observations) and about 30-50% for the deep feeder that extends below 7 km down to the source at 80 km deep, with broadly similar situations at other basaltic volcanoes with similar eruption frequencies.

      However for rhyolitic volcanoes this paper is likely much more accurate, rhyolite is often erupted in places where the crust is granite anyway, which means the magma is largely remelted crust. Most eruptions like this probably happen after an intrusion of basalt, which is very hot and contains at least twice the thermal energy of rhyolite crystal mush, which remelted the mush, and in some cases might even heat it so much it erupts as a fluid lava around 900-1000 C that erupts mostly effusively (eg, puyehue/cordon caulle 2011, 1960).

      Even more rarely, the basalt itself erupts, then you get a scary situation, as the basalt is more likely to be explosive than the silicic magma is. Basaltic plinian eruptions have happened surprisingly often, as recently as 2015 on etna, also that year at calbuco (technically basaltic andesite ) 2011 on grimsvotn, 2008 okmok (not sure about this one actually) 2000 on uluwun, 1974 fuego, 1944 vesuvius, the massive 1886 tarawera eruption, and at least 3 times in the past 500 years on non-explosive kilauea, yet despite all this are still considered impossible by most sources, for some reason… Volcano books typically simplify a lot and use common sense, but downplay basaltic eruptions a lot to the point most people now think they are small and harmless – holuhraun and leilani were some of the the biggest eruptions in the past 100 years, but both rank as VEI 1, same as strombolis daily spattering… That might have changed that this year but we are still very underprepared for laki #2…

  17. A little pop in Japan… I don’t know if this counts as “strong” but whatever.

    Also a 7.3 in the Commodorski Islands (Think Russian Aleutians)

    A strong explosive eruption took place at Mount Shindake, Japanese Kuchinoerabujima volcano at 07:37 UTC on December 18, 2018 (15:37 JST). This volcano, located in the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima, is sporadically erupting since October 2018.
    “After regular small eruptions for many weeks and then a complete pause in activity this appears to be the largest explosive eruption there in quite a while,” said James Reynolds of EarthUncutTV.
    Volcanic ash rose up to 2 000 m (6 500 feet) above the crater (2 640 m / 8 656 feet a.s.l.), and large rocks were seen spewing from the crater. However, some part of the volcanic ash cloud is continually obscured by meteorological cloud, preventing precise height measurement.
    According to NHK, a pyroclastic flow reached a distance of about 1 km (0.62 miles) down the western slope. It is the first such flow to be observed there since May of 2015, when all residents were evacuated.

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