The ballad of Ballareldar: twister in the snow

Volcanoes are nature at its most impressive – and most damaging. The fire and the lava are a deadly alluring combination. Once the flow gets going, it is unstoppable. It may be deflectable: people are currently trying hard to save their road by building a wall. We were wondering, will the wall work? It would be the first time that people have managed to change a lava flow by 180 degrees. We are doubtfully cheering them on.

Tornadoes too are nature at its most impressive – and most damaging. They come in many different forms and sizes, from small dust devils to the massively destructive ones in tornado alley. No wall will help there. And the damage can last: in the city of Utrecht, the cathedral is some distance away from its tower. In 1674, it was hit by a tornado which destroyed the church but left the tower standing. The church was rebuild, but an open square was left between church and tower, a lasting reminder of the power of nature. And not even Iceland is immune. In August 2018, a farm in South Iceland was damaged by a tornado. This was deemed so unusual that it made international news.

A combination of a volcano and a tornado must but the ultimate scare, one step above even sharknado. What are the chances of that happening?

It turns out, that depends on what you mean with tornado. A combination of a volcano and a true tornado is rare. But if you think ‘spout’ or ‘devil’ then the chance is rather high. Luckily they tend to hit where lava has gone before, with nothing left worth damaging apart from an occasional careless tourist.

On Thursday, the still camera covering the Geldingadalir eruption caught an amazing view – amazing, that is, for Iceland in spring. First there was the snow, proving to the world that Iceland never really left the ice age. It is waiting in the wings, and here ragnarok is always just around the corner. But this snow shower had more. It was only seen on one frame, a 1-second snap every 10 minutes. A beautiful spout showed, left of the cone that just at that moment wasn’t spouting anything. The image showed the funnel, the sharp thin edges and the horizontal striping that delineate the rotating winds. Towards the bottom it became fuzzy, clearly showing that it touched the ground and was picking debris – dust, presumably.

Once this was found, the twister was quickly located on other webcams. The still was taken at 11:50am, just as a heavy shower moved in. The Meradalir webcam was in snow, but this was only on its hill. The closer langihryggurNV webcam was in the clear, and showed no snow at the tornado itself. It had formed just after the storm passed through. If you like the full frames, click on these pictures.

The tornado was also seen in the life webcams. This is shown in the video extract below. The tornado forms on the left, over the lava field. Initially it is hard to see. It quickly rotated up the side of the hill, and now it became clear, forming a funnel of cloud. Once it reached halfway up the hill, it fragmented and disappeared. The still frame had, by pure accident, caught it at its best.

How did this form? Why was it in a snowstorm? And why did it end so suddenly?

Before addressing these questions, what are tornadoes anyway? Think hurricane – but with the action packed into one funnel. They are amazingly easy to make: all it needs is some upward movement of air, and something that gives it a bit of spin. And just let it go. We have a tornado chamber at work. It is about 2 meters tall, and creates a vortex of air inside. Add a bit of oil vapour, and you see a beautiful tornado. I lend it once to a science show for primary school children. The teacher was talking about different kinds of clouds while behind her the chamber was being powered up. After a minute or so the tornado-in-a-box suddenly appeared and all the children went wide-eyed.

A tornado forms within a thunderstorm. The storm can contain a rotating vortex, powered by the different winds around it. This is especially if the storm is fast moving. The downdraft around the thunderstorm can take this vortex below the cloud base. Now we have a funnel cloud. If the funnel cloud touches the ground (most don’t) it is called a tornado. Let mayhem begin.

A devil develops differently. They start on the ground, as a bit of excessively warm air begins to rise. The rising bubble can pick up rotation from variations of the wind, either with height or on the ground. A devil starts on the ground and moves up, while a tornado begins in the storm and comes down.

But there is a grey zone: a devil may connect to a cloud above, and it that case it is both a devil and a tornado. This only happens if it touches the cloud base and that is rare: if that happens it probably used both the updraft and the downdraft, a true mix. I’ll leave it up to you whether to call this tornado devil or a devil of a tornado. Strictly speaking, if the devil does not get its spin from the cloud but from the wind lower down it is not a tornado, but this is hard to tell from the ground! So in practice, if it connects ground and cloud it is called a tornado even when strictly speaking it isn’t.

Warm air rises and cool air descends. This is a crucial part of the formation of tornadoes and devils. But the rising and falling is not automatic. To get a column of rising air, you need a fast change of temperature with height. Rising air cools – by about about 1C per 100 meters (less for humid air). The air only continues rising if the temperature of the surrounding air drops with height at least that fast. This works best if either the ground is very warm, or the upper air is very cold (or both). The temperature gradient can be very large near the ground when the ground is heated by the sun, but may be be much less a few meters up. So the devil may grow only to a few meters. At other times the temperature continues to drop fast with height and the air is called unstable: now the column continues to rise. The rising column can pick up rotation if the winds change with altitude, and becomes a funnel cloud reaching for the clouds above. The same can happen with the descending air coming from the cloud above and taking its rotation with it. The direction is different but the physics is the same.

The speed of rotation of tornadoes is enormous. Devils are a bit less vigorous. There is a lot of meteorology in here, but the principle is easy to understand. is something is rotating and it suddenly becomes smaller, the speed of rotation increases. The standard experiment is a victim siting on one those rotating office chairs, holding out their arms and given some spin. Now the victim pulls in the arms – and the chair spins up enough to make the person seasick. Dancers use this: in a pirouette, if you pull in your arms you go faster. It is called ‘conservation of angular momentum’ and it is a basic law of physics. As incoming wind is focussed on a small devil, the rotation it brings speeds up in the same way. In a devil, the wind may come in from 100 meters or so, and is focussed on something a meter across. The rotation increases by this factor of 100, so even an insignificant rotating movement of 10 centimeter per second can become a strong wind of 10 meters per second. In clouds, the circulation is faster. It also extends further: the circulation may measure kilometers across. So the amplification is higher and it gives much stronger winds. Tornadoes really are scary. Even Icelanders would not flock to watch a tornado. Tornado chasers are like rock climbers: admired, followed, but best not copied.

Water spouts form (the clue is in the name) over water. They can develop when the water is warm but the upper air cold, something that is most common in late summer. These are conditions that give rise to thunderstorms, and so water spouts may be true tornados: starting from the storm above and coming down to the water, connecting cloud and surface. Water spouts can also form from the water up, in which case they are water devils. True tornadoes are not that common over water: most water spouts come from rising convection and get their rotation from wind, not the storm above. Tornado may be strong enough to suck up water (and a few fish or frogs), but water spouts don’t normally do this. Forget about shark-infested tornadoes: this is one of the many things sharknado got wrong. However, a water spout can move over land and drop some of its animal load there. The song ‘raindrops keep falling on my head’ would not be the same if the rain included an occasional fish.

On land you may get dust devils forming above heated ground. They are land spouts, and they do not normally become tornadoes. The reason is that clouds stop the ground from heating, so dust devils do not easily form underneath thunderstorms. But they can grow large: on Mars they can become kilometers tall. And they can be dangerous. I know of one person who died when the driver of the car decided to drive through one.

But any ground heat will do. Forest fires are well known for forming ‘firenadoes’. The air over the fire rises, and the forest fire pulls in colder air from all around. This incoming air brings with it a bit of rotation, and the vortex, filled with burning fragments of the forest, rises up. It is not a tornado, though. They should be called fire devils.

Source: wikipedia

Volcanoes also do it. Volcanic eruptions are much smaller than forest fires and their devils may not be as impressive. But air above a hot lava field will rise and if the wind over the lava field brings some rotation with it, it will form a rising vortex. It may even be strong enough to even pull up lava fragments from below. Again, they are not tornadoes as all their energy and rotation comes from below. These volcanadoes are really lava devils.

There have been several reports of such lava devils on the fields of Geldingadalir. They were most common on the hottest part of the lava. Here is nice video of one that tries to make its way to the centre of eruption. The air above the cone is rising, and this pulls in the air around it. The lava devil moves with this flow towards the cone, and probably picks up rotation from it as well.

The vortex can also form around the edges of the lava field, fed by the heat. The air flow can take it off the lava field and up the slopes of the hill (warm air, after all, rises). Now it becomes a real dust devil. There was one visible on Thursday, shortly after the tornado. In true Icelandic fashion it decided to take a good look at the local camera and show off for the world while obliterating the view of the lava fountain behind it.

As an aside, what makes a tornado or devil visible? In the videos you can see that they can sometimes move invisibly. There are two main possibilities. The low air pressure inside the vortex, combined with humid air, leads to condensation. The funnel cloud really is a funnel cloud: it forms a cloud. The other way to become visible is by what it picks up from the ground. This can be dust, or it can be larger debris. Sometimes dust devils have no dust, and become invisible. I once was sailing in a narrow canal, when a dust-less dust devil came of the fields, unnoticed and invisible. The boat suddenly was flat on the water. In a forest fire, the fire is what makes the fire devil visible. And above lava, tephra does the trick. In the video above, the lava devil becomes visible when it hits open lava but is difficult to see otherwise.

But let’s go back to our original tornado. Can we understand what happened?

It started just like the lava dust devil of the previous video. It formed on the lava field, moved to the side and up the hill. But the conditions were unusual. The upper air was very cold and a snow shower was rolling in. There was even a bit of rotation in the cloud: this is visible in one of Virtual’s beautiful time lapses. If you look at, towards the end around 11:40 you can see rotation in the cloud. The snow brought the cold with it, setting up a very large temperature gradient. The rising lava devil, aided by the very cold air above, met the downdraft from the cloud and took off. The rising bubble of low pressure in the cold air caused condensation and formed a cloud, which made it visible at heights where the dust could not reach. It went high enough (150 meters, perhaps) to touch the base of the cloud. And so it became a tornado. This is actually pretty rare for volcanic vortices. On the images you can distinguish both the funnel cloud above and the dust devil below.

But it did not last. The wind took the vortex up the slope of the hill, away from the lava. It lost its source of hot air on the ground. The updraft lost power as the temperature gradient was now much less steep than before. It quickly lost the connection with the downdraft from the cloud above, it survived for a few seconds more after its downgrade to a dust devil, but then disintegrated. But by then it had already become immortalized by the webcam.

The tornado (let’s call it that, even though this name is disputable) happened on the tail end of a snow storm. Snow tornadoes (really, snow devils) are known, but they are very rare. They have been seen mainly during snow storms over warm(ish) water. Wikipedia claims that only 6 snow devils have been photographed, all in Canada. I am not aware of any having been seen during a volcanic eruption. However, do correct me on this!

So this was a very unusual development in what was otherwise a fairly common event. Lava devils do not normally become tornadoes. They don’t normally form during a snow storm. This was, as seems typical for this eruption, exceptional.

The current eruption may be exceptional, it is also a small one. You would expect that anything this adorable toddler volcano can do, grown-up volcanoes can do better. And indeed, larger eruptions can have larger lava devils. There were some very impressive examples seen during the 2014 Holuhraun eruption. Here is one which was caught on infrared camera. It reached a kilometer high. There was a bit of cloud on the infrared camera, but not the kind that would have given any downdraft. And so this was a superb lava devil, but not a tornado. And though it had fire, it lacked snow. But it was a very good try.

And Hawai’i can do it too. How do you feel about a volcanic water spout? Sounds scary? One was seen in Hawai’i in 2008, formed in the cloud of steam where lava entered the ocean. It does connect to a cloud but this is the steam cloud of the lava ocean entry itself, so it does not qualify as a tornado. Our Gedlingadalir tornado remains unique.

Photo is by Stephen & Donna O’Meara

Eruptions are both scary and beautiful. And it is not just the lava. It is also the atmosphere.

What are your stories of volcanic weather phenomena? Please us the comment box to share your knowledge and experience!

Albert, May 2021

And for a bit of volcanic atmosphere, I can strongly recommend the Meradalir camera.

741 thoughts on “The ballad of Ballareldar: twister in the snow

  1. Check out the RUV Langihryggur camera now, 19:14. Lava making a break for it.

  2. Looks like the dam could be tested soon. Really large volumes and high velocity. Going to be interesting.

    • That is MOVING!

      If it’s any consolation, lava still looks to be travelling towards Meradalir in the main channel behind at the moment, and there’s a good stream visible going down into that valley. So not all the lava is going to the MMBB.
      This is going to be fun. (Apologies for any Icelanders affected…)

  3. Flocam. Mini vent opening up. East of cone and just above the lava levee. Smoked for 2 minutes the just appears. Around 19.20 on the clock. Could be a new flow partially obscured by the main raised channel ???

  4. 19:48 — Cone collapse. May have blocked the main exit. Next eruption will be interesting.

    • I missed the collapse but there’s a lot of sloshing over the channel just downstream of the vent exit. Do we think the lava has increased or is it just the extra blocks?

    • 20.15 Continuation of slow slip of inner north wall. It has stayed intact, partially blocking the exit, but the lava is so fluid it just backs up and rolls right over the obstruction.

      It’s probably going to be a good half hour or longer until the lava reaches the defences. It’s going to be quite a show.

      • Another huge one at 20:24. This might change things if they both collapse.

  5. Is there currently a webcam that shows the south end of the MMBB, where the earthmovers built the dam?

  6. Have been away from here for some time, real life has its challenges and so on.

    Anyways, if the sloshing from the vent breaks through the beginning, wouldn’t the lava go straight into Meradalir? Like I’ve painted here? If so, would it be possible to put an explosive thingy there to “help” the lava go that way? (I know how silly/stupid it is and so on and so forth, just “thinking” aloud here 😛 )

  7. Asked this earlier but it didn’t post: Is there a live webcam that shows the earthen dam?

      • The lava is moving pretty quickly along the edge of the lava flow towards the dam. Shame it’s getting dark. I reckon it might get tested tonight.

        Odd music choices to accompany the visuals!

      • If didn’t know any better I would say that nature has set out to test the ‘handiwork’ of the engineers.

        In previous centuries such a “direct attempt” to test the stability of the man-made earthen dam would have been seen as a sign of personality.

        Anyhow, now I have another reason to keep that webcam window open to see what’ll happen over the next few hours…

  8. sorry, i’ve been away…. what’s the best cam for watching the battle of the earthmovers?

    • kind of frightening…. esp to the people standing downstream around the bend that might not be aware.

      • Yes.. And my thinking was look at the hight of the lava river from the base.. if a big breach, it going to be something…. River look like a long lava lake almost

    • Is this the breach that is responsible for the assault on the ‘man-made’ berm?

  9. There seems to be a lot of fountaining in the top lava flow at the extreme right of the ruv2 langihgyrgur cam (sorry for spelling). Is this a new vent? It’s stayed in the same place which is weird for a fast-moving flow.

    • I am wondering the same hopper. I have been watching this for a few days now and it seems to have changed from gases to eruption like. Not only that but in the foreground of the shot below my pet fumerole has some glowing buddies that seem to be linking up. This all suggests a lava lake below the surface crust. I believe several people have commented on the amount of “smoke” initially it was thought to be burning vegetation but now I really don’t think it is.. we wait.. and watch…. and ponder…….

      • Ah I read your comments about your pet but couldn’t work out where it was.Thanks for clarifying! More than happy to watch and wait – who needs tv?

        • Lol! Look at Fumerole’s buddies now! They have made a lava puddle. That is not lava from the vent proper…it seems to be welling upwards.
          Trouble is I am supposed to be going to bed now but like a good mystery drama I can’t wait to see what happens next! I have even given up coffee and am on Horlicks #1 to get me where I should be!

  10. There seems to be a bright new star in the lava field, emerging at 23.22.19 pm right next to Smeagol, or what’s left of it…

  11. And lots of jumpy twisty-turney things going on in the channel right next to the vent, on the Ragnarcam. Goodnight all

  12. Camera 2 is now focused on it as it appears to be a new fissure or restarting of an old one. I am not sure where this is relative the old vents.

      • If I’m looking at what you’re looking at, perhaps that is the edge of the lava lake. Or not.

    • Looks like new lava breakouts. Pretty sure these are not related to any new fissures or old ones reactivating.

  13. A little question.. How close is it until flow cut off walkway to the popular hill for viewing.. Just look on webcam can get little fooled how elevation are. But dont look so far off that it can be cut off. Then it get little longer distance to see. But also little safer maybe..

    • Giggle translate:
      “It was decided yesterday to continue construction on the fortifications that are to prevent lava from flowing from the Anonymous Valley down to Nátthaga.

      Fannar Jónasson, mayor of Grindavík, said that the gardens had reached a height of four meters when it was decided to raise them even more. It had not been decided what would go high, but according to design criteria, gardens up to eight meters high were planned.

      First of all, soil was cleared at the edge of the run-off from the lava field above Nátthaga to delay the progress of the lava. Fannar said that lava fragments had begun to fall over this first defense. “People noticed that these low and small gardens that were cleared up at the edge of the lava kept the lava back quite well. It gave hope that larger and more powerful gardens could work well, “said Fannar. He says that a lot is at stake so that the lava does not flow from the edge down to Nátthaga.

      “It makes a difference in everything that is done to delay the lava. If it continues to erupt for months, the valleys will be filled with lava. Until then, it would be good to protect Nátthaga for the longest tracks and try to direct the lava to the east where Meradalir can receive lava flow, “says Fannar in Morgunblaðið today.”

        • Well, it *could* be the start of a victory garden….or a marker of the death of a valiant attempt.

          So perhaps the giggle translation might not be so far out in left field?


        • Well the Icelandic word is Varnargarður. Garður means garden and here he speaks of “garðarnir” which is plural for gardens.

          Garden has multiple meaning in Icelandic and was also used for thick walls outside homes made from rocks(rockgarden) from where the word defencegarden derives.

          Giggle translate was actually right on this one 😃

  14. One week today since the last 3D model; can we expect a new model today? Flying goggles at the ready…

    There’s been steady leakage overnight down to Meraldalir. The bend in the lava channel and overflows look to be expanding into the MMBB Valley of No Name, rather like a meandering river erodes sideways and downstream on the outside of the curves. Thinks: can you get lava versions of ox bow lakes??
    The huge corniche that slid and blocked the vent exit looks to have ben eeroded/melted in situ, only a vague diagonal line is left, and the jagged edges are being softened by new spatter overgrowth. I really like the zoomed in view from RUV Langihryggur. We can see right into the vent via the exit, which is blocked from Flocam, which seems to be offline most of the night.

  15. Langihryggur camera has been readjusted to watch the Tonka Toys again. Diggi diggi…

    There’s a huge pall of gases over teh middle of the lava field. I can’t figure out what’s going on, whether ther’s a disturbance that allows the lava to dega particularly at that point, or if ther’s some boggy/grassy bit thta’s been over cooked beneath and is finally letting rip.

    • Take a look at the ruv cam Geldingadalir at 4.06. There is defenitely splashing going.
      Strong degassing that splashes up the lava. It doesn’t look like a twister to me. Reaction of lava with water underneath?

      That particular part of the lavafield seems the ‘end’ of the lavariver at this moment, with outbreaks that makes a new layer upon the lava that formed some weeks ago. That is a new development in the past couple of days I think. Earlier we saw that major outbreaks made the already existing field expand at the edges.

    • Apologies for not proofreading that previous post, my ocd is kicking in now *eye twitches* and I’m slightly distracted by Dear Son going to get his Pfizer jab right now (it’s a long story involving a recent concussion, like being a new parent again).

      There’s at least 4 or 5 areas of bubbling. And an inner wall collapse at the vent at the same time! I reckon it’s similar to the first lava pond we had in Geldingadalir, with the degassing/bubbling up of organic combustibles, or the release of gases from voids. There’s no new vent, which has been said on some of the webcam chats.

    • To lose one camera might be construed as careless, but to lose two…

      • Must. Appease. Volcano. Gods.

        On the other hand…if good science was obtained, then it is a worthy sacrifice (of course, that determination might be some time in coming). Too bad camera movements hadn’t happened (as with #1 sacrifice), be interesting (both for science and Samsung) to see what and when they got….gotten.

    • Some good footage of the lava flow before the camera was inundated.

    • Danny Boy Iceland, It seems odd that they treat the cameras as if they were disposable. Did the article explain why they didn’t move it out of harm’s way?

      • They say that the camera was originally 20 meters above the lava and that it must have risen very fast.

        Hopefully they have an arrangement with Samsung which allows them to take chances with the cameras.

      • The helicopter trip to retrieve and/or reposition the camera would likely cost far more than the camera rig itself, so the parties involved might be seeing it as an opportunity to collect some science until the bitter end.

        Just think of the footage that has been achieved during the final hours of both of the expired cams.

        • The first one was destroyed from behind so the footage missed the action!

          • Still got the flow coming past the camera and then expanding steadily closer.

            Would much rather a camera was in that position than myself 🙂

    • It’s the cameraman I feel sorry for. Thoughts and prayers.

    • I also feel sorry for Luis Godinho, whose post about the fried camera was ignored above…

    • That camera needs to be greyed out as deceased now. RIP Ragnar webcam, so man hours of enjoyment…

    • Stop? That must be impossible. Deviate might work. Maybe that’s what you meant.

      • The text is the body of the tweet in the link, not Luis (unless Luis is Kristin Jonsdottir).

        The photo was presented at the webinar, by the SAR representative, explaining the engineering works.

      • Basically they are trying to “stop” it going south through those two clefts by making the northward route into Meradalir the easier flow-direction. Lava likes to take the easiest way

    • Great photo, nice to see an aerial overview. The lava river is getting quite high above the surrounding lava field and extending for quite a distance…I have the feeling something has to give in the next few days. As for which direction though…down the side into Meradalir is looking a bit more likely I think.


    BOBcam still working

    Ragnar spatter cone is getting huge!
    And as always .. are rather steep structures

    On Jupiters moon IO basaltic sillicate Spatter Cones will have a very diffrent apparence because of the much lower gravity .. But pahoehoe lava are very common on IO

    • Where’d that little dome next to Smeagol come from!?

      I only went away to attend an IAVCEI webinar on Fagradsfjall eruption, and cook dinner (chilli con carne, nicely hot ‘n’ spicy), and this is what awaits!

      • Could that be where all the extra supply of lava unaccounted for by the fountains has been coming up? With Diana’s little fumarole acting as a sort of chimney? And the fountaining from Ragnar driven by de-gassing because the solidifying crust over the lava & the two vents in the valley stopped the gas escaping at source? But now there’s more flooding up than can be accommodated under the crust?
        Please forgive a wild & completely amateur guess!

      • Mine was less hot and spicy and a bit bland. The chilli powder doesn’t have the same kick as the crushed chillies I seem to have used up. I’m scared of the dried birds-eye chillies I have, after some unexpected heat from four of them, so I am saving them :P.

      • Three teaspoons of chilli powder for 2lb of mince, that’s one meal in the freezer for later.

        • Thanks, it’s years since I used powder, so the memory has faded (the strength of the powder may have also).

    • I wish they’d fix that camera, or replace it. The lens appears to be decentred, giving bad image to the left.
      Perhaps someone knocked it over?

  17. Looking on the original RUV camera, there is some interesting fountaining going on in front of Stori Hrutur at the moment.

          • Thanks, Doug! i’m hoping to ‘bookmark’ this by making a comment. i want to come back to it and it doesn’t want to be added to my actual bookmark. (something i did, probably) Really enjoy the site.. Thanks again! Best!mots

        • If you go to 20:20:30 you’ll see what it is. A “fire devil” you call them? This one lasts a few minutes.

          • It didn’t really look like a lava devil, but it could be movement of the lava, coupled with compression artefacts, making the motion look odd. It is quite a way from the camera, making details fuzzy.

      • During the original lava river/lake in Geldingadalir itself, there were quite frequent episodes like this. At the time it was said that it was caused by the liquid lava draining into cavities left behind in the blocky, rubbly a’a’ flow underneath.

        Back then I also noticed it quite frequently in relation to crustal foundering, where it could be seen to migrate across the surface. I’m not sure whether that was independent from the draining theory or not, though, as it is quite possible gas will collect under a solidified crust and then cause spatter as it escapes when the crust breaks up and overturns.

    • That’s the area where I saw fountaining on the RUV Langahyggr camera last night.

  18. RE volcanic weather: i got to see volcanic lightening, up close and personal even tho inside. my kids walked home during an eruption from Redoubt and son said he could feel the static on his body…. VERY disturbing. i had no car to give rides home. The lightening in the evening would light up the whole inlet from north to south and was pretty constant. weird. There was no distict bolt… Just the whole air lit up all at once. More like a static discharge in the ashfall. . i can do without another one. i do wonder what kind of sub audible sounds are being made in Iceland and if it is bothering the Icelanders.

    • That must have been uncomfortable Mots. Nothing worse than static associated with thunder. I rarely get headaches but when the air is unstable and thunder storms are possible I get a mild heavy headache. I sometime get a similar feeling under electricity pilons. I am glad I don’t have one near the house. Settling down with Horlicks #1 and hopefully I won’t need a second cup. A pleasant bonus for tonight, I don’t have to make hubby’s sandwiches for his lunch as he has a day off tomorrow. These have been few and far between during lockdown as so many Posties have become ill and people have been buying so much on line the parcels have been increasing. It was interesting watching the diggers still working. I agree with Louis Godinho this is an good opportunity to experiment with damage limitation. As he says, who knows what future eruptions are round the corner? So the ability to save structures and lives in the most effective way will prove invaluable. Goodnight now from me and RIP little MBL camera.

    • Had the same on etna a few years ago. Noticeably the women with long hair didn’t have just a small lift but their hair was pretty well at 90 deg to their head, like a ball.
      They thought it fun, my wife and I moved rapidly to the vehicles, the guides had panic in their voices.
      No lightning struck anyone down…

  19. I think what ever is rising at Taal is getting closer to reaching the surface, which could be evidenced by the constant background tremor, more frequent steam plumes and more gas emissions. Is a change of 11 micro-radians/per day significant?

    • Its elevated but not extreme, background movement at Kilauea is often around 5 microradians, and minor eruptions are usually some tens of microradians. Taal magma system is a bit smaller though more laterally extensive than Kilauea so I suspect a change of 11 microradians is not anything to be particularly concerned about unless this has been going for a long time at this rate.

      I expect though any eruption in the main crater will be strombolian, not unlike in 2020, and probably not that big either, not after having such a big intrusion.

      • The microradian question was for a completely different volcano that has deformed 1500 micro-radians since November of last year. There is still a decent bit of magma, we’ll what Taal can do.

  20. Just had a look,notice a small fire -with smoke arising from the large hill in the background of current eruption vent -to the left half way up.I take that it’s a grass/moss fire and not a new fissure, do wonder how it starts.

    • Great video, but like BillG below, I’m getting very frustrated that we only see so far down the channel, but no further; then circle back to the vent. We need a geomorphologist in charge if a drone to get video of what is going on with the perched channel/pond.
      That said, looking at the channel sides I’m trying to see whether any evidence of sideways migration could explain the degassing, or if the channel is evolving only through breakouts and spillovers.We could do with a permanent barrage balloon camera… Now there’s a thought…

  21. I find it maddening that the Langihryggur RUV camera just cuts off the thing I find most interesting, the second dam, in the lower right corner. Meanwhile, the slaga camera is showing activity for the first time on the right side, just where I imagine the second dam to be. grrr.

  22. The Wall.. 🙂 fit good to listen to.. The best “wall” is the lava river itself. To stop the flow get down the Nátthagi they need little luck also.. If it comes a big outflow from river to the SOUTH no way that digging/wall going to stop it. if so it get like a race track for lava after the theater hill. But if the river brake just after outlet from crater and go NORTH side of elevatet river. River going to act like a backbone and devide flow. Still amazed that the outlet from crater still hold. And can devide flow to south.. Very high pressure on that part when the flow comes..

    • Yes, it is a delaying tactic. If the wall can hold out long enough the eruption may decide to do something else and the lava will stop coming this way. If the eruption keeps going as it is now, the wall will not hold. But the lava plateau is growing higher quite notably now and that is making the slope towards the north steeper. When it breaks that way, it may keep going into Meradalir for a long time. Most of the lava is already going that direction.

      • What about cooling? (Still having Vestmannaeyjar in my mind).

        Fire fighting airplanes, rented from Greece or the U.S., could cool the outmost southern edge of the lava in the non anonymous valley (often called ‘anonymous valley’). Obviously not to stop the whole thing, but to built a anti lava wall consisting of lava?

        • Huge amount of water needed. And because of altitude difference when lava cool it flow above again so little hard i think. If know the erouption was to an and soon or that they know it going to take another path could maybe be option. But need so much water over time. Like Albert write i think it is just to hope time is on there side and flow brake down the Meradalir

          • I agree that it would be only a drop in the (lava) ocean …

            But the region has two assets: 1. a lake closeby (Kleifarvatn) if sea water isn’t suitable and 2. an international airport in the vicinity (for parking, refuling).

            And it would look cool.

          • Yes. It was possible in Heimaey only because the lava was right next to the sea. They used huge pumps (from the US) to soak the lava. It worked but took some weeks and it would not have worked had the eruption not declined so much by then. It cannot be done in the mountains. But I do wonder how this eruption is doing. Is it cooling down a bit?

      • I see there was quite a break-out towards Meradalir overnight. Even caused some expansion of the lava field there. I blame the wall.

      • Albert, did you take part in the Fagradalsfjall eruption webinar yesterday? I cheekily asked if I could join. It was very interesting; I asked about the engineering and got a detailed reply. Having had some problems joining the zoom, I missed the introductions so don’t know who gave the reply.

    • At 04.00 local time it send out some size lava projectiles. Se if it is a one go, or start of a new period of action.

      • Wow, the paroxysm was from the other crater on SEC, not the one that fed all the eruptions from February-April that is at the summit of the cone. It looks like a vent or fissure opened on the far side too but didnt last too long.

        • Yes.. Was not sure if it was the other crater. Haved very tired eys when look at it. (i am the same time zoon as Italy) 🙂 But high fever and pain keep me up so i looked. Etna amazing me that it can load up again and again. Of cource that is good. would be scared if it get totally quiet for 40 year or so.

          • If you want to see Etna not erupt for 20 years that is basically Hekla 🙂

            They both look very similar in eruption style too in recent examples, massive lava fountains and viscous but very fast lava flows, earlier Hekla eruptions were much more explosive and silicic but it seems to have lost these tendencies in the eruptions after 1947. Next eruption there I think is going to be a big one, one of the biggest eruptions Iceland will see in the 21st century, VEI 4 curtain of fire 🙂

  23. Extreme tremor pattern at the moment. Never saw such before.

    Credits plot IMO.

    • Seems to have a temper tantrum because they are building a wall 🙂

    • Don’t know much about reading these…. looks like it’s slowing down….??????

      • Yes, interval between fountains increased to 9 minutes from 8 minutes.

    • Another silk slub knitting pattern! I’m getting a collection of them, this is definitely going to be a scarf.

    • How fascinating it creates a fresnel pattern! Entirely a construct through the chart, but fascinating to see.
      I have been watching the ‘patterns’ in the plots. It’s a shame they can indicate very little, but perhaps there could be a way to use the patterns to monitor changes, given the charts are standardised.

  24. Perhaps the slowing time suggests we may be entering the end phase of this eruption?

      • No. It’s an indication of the horrible withdrawal symptoms that I’ll experience if/when it stops! 🙁

        • Very true 🙁

          I dont think it will stop so easily though, even if this eruption itself stops the pathway must be pretty robust, and it looks like it is also getting more efficient and more open, so another eruption will probably happen in this same area in quick succession. That says nothing of other eruptions elsewhere either, lava floods at Svartsengi and Krysuvik. The vent active now also could stop for a month then erupt a month worth of lava in a day…

      • Its not going to stop now..
        Decompression Machine is turned on

        We just had another high fountain from Ragnar cone

  25. Looking at the wonderful drone video above, it makes me realise this may be the first real “drone eruption”?
    The value of quality images over the lava field makes for good insights into the things going on.
    It’s far better use for these drones than irritating locals or flying them into commercial aircraft….

    • Yes isn’ t it beautiful? The lava comes downhill like a Mexican Fer de Lance with some colouring of a coral snake and might give an idea why snakes got these patterns, maybe volcano mimikry (snakes like it warm).
      The cone has a sort of lava lake that Jesper was longing for in Iceland, but probably not for a long time. I just read Carls piece about lava lakes from Oct ’19:
      So enjoy, Jesper. Clive is calling it off.
      The UK has a lava lake, one of eight in the world, amazing. Really.
      Mount Michael, South Atlantic. People always fall from cliffs in storms in spite of warnings from the Met Office, so a lava lake far away might be a good idea.


      Eruption keeps getting stronger here is the Latest data! The magnesium oxide content keeps going up again and is soon 10% and high ti content too. Sulfur gas output have increased too.The lava is a Picrite Basalt now very primitive. The think steam clouds from the fountains Probaly haves to do with local atmospheric conditions.
      The Some of the lava splashes is almost clear yellow in daylight now ..
      that suggesting well above 1200 C. The viscosity near the vent also seems to be very low. Still not a pahoehoe shield eruption yet .. its going too fast for that and no lava tubes yet

  26. It seems Kilauea has stopped erupting, no liquid lava there on the surface anymore. Really the way it has been behaving it seems like basically all the eruption after Dec 27 was accidental, most of the volume was in that first week with the strong deflation and very high eruption rate, after that it was probably only erupting because the vent was open still.

    40 million m3, and no major rift dilation, we are nearly half way through the year so there is some catching up to do on the eruptions, over 100 million m3. The next few months is going to be interesting thats for sure.

  27. And now the volcano is turning white, hopefully someone here will be knowledgeable to tell why that is, composition change I assume (also is smoking more than before)..

    • It is indeed a very sudden change. The white colour may mean the ejecta are more like pumice. It solidifies very quickly with the gas bubbles still in it. The ejecta also look more gassy than before, so this seems to make sense. Perhaps the lava is cooler than before?

      • Would be a big surprise if the lava erupting suddenly turned into really hot rhyolite and that is what is erupting now 🙂

  28. I was struggling to understand what the locals were up to with their barrier building . Doomed to failure I thought the lava will just bulldoze through it. Then I visualised the MMBB Upper Natthagi as a square ashtray.

    Lava flows in via the NW (top left). and can go out any exit. Put two fags in the SW (bottom left) and SE (bottom right) to block the lava and even if the seal isn’t perfect over time the chance of it exiting out the NE (top right) increases as the lava lake fills.


    • This might help

      RVK Newscast #104: The “Lava-Wall” At Fagradalsfjall

    • Wonderful map!

      The bulge in the anonymous valley is really impressive – and is smoking all the time (as seen from the cam in the west it looks as if the smoke comes from close to Stori Hrutur, but it is the bulge). Yes, and it is also scary in a way.

      • Btw., the above screenshot shows the bulge and the big one from the east.

        • There’s basically a lava lake in the middle of the no-name valley. It is perched up high. At any moment it’s perimeter could burst, then it could cause a quick descent over the wall(s).

    • That map indicates that the lava is close to overtopping the valley to the west of Natthagi. If it flows down the slope there, it has another route to the coast road.

  29. Just noticed the date. Today, the 19th, is the two month anniversary of the eruption.

  30. Just watched the latest (excellent) report from Rekjyavik Grapevine, up close with the bulldozed barrier wall thing. The soil colour and quality is really striking, that volcanic soil looks like a gardeners’ dream. Would love to know if the bleakness of the area is down to centuries of deforestation and overgrazing or it’s just too damn hard for anything to grow – or a combo of both.

    • There aren’t a huge number of trees in Iceland and I think many of the ones that are there were brought in (but Icelanders will be able to confirm that). Also, the wind will stunt the growth of any vegetation, you get a similar effect on Dartmoor in SW England. Wistman’s wood has been cited as a marker of climate change, with the younger tress growing taller and straighter than the ones htat are a few centuries old.

      • Iceland Birch is the most common of the “indigenous” trees, then there were some rowans, aspens, and tea leaved willows.
        Anything else has been imported in the last ~150 years to help with reforestation projects, including banana trees that are grown in one particular greenhouse!

        • How exactly is this banana tree going to help in reforestation? Are they a bit optimistic about global warming?

          • LOL

            Pretty sure that the banana trees are grown in an experimental greenhouse run by a university agriculture program. Do not remember the story of how it started to be honest, but the program is old enough that these banana trees are among the last in the world of that produce Gros Michel bananas

          • Wow, Gros Michel bananas! I bet the plant geneticists want to get their hands on samples from those plants. With the Cavendish bananas being in danger of being wiped out now, they’re looking for anything that can help them to understand those fungi that threaten banana plants.

    • Wistman’s Wood is beautiful. The rest was taken down around 5000 to 6000 BC it says.
      If you google Cyclone Lothar with Cyclone Anatol before and Cyclone Martin afterwards taking down part of the Black Forest in 1999 and add to that some lecture about the big storms between the 14th and the 17th century reshaping the North Sea Coast and creating all the islands in front (Denmark, Germany and Netherlands), better splitting them from the mainland you can figure.
      I would say it’s hard for trees in the North Atlantic which is why the farmers in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset tend to have hedges. In Brittany and Normandy they have more walls.

    • It is a combination of both leaning a bit more towards the just too darn hard side. That area has been known for stunted growth through history. Something to do with Reykjanes being the prime landing-strip for all those Atlantic Lows and Tropical Storm Remnants that make their way up to Iceland (up to 4-5 times a week in some winters)

      • It’s certainly topped by Bouvet Island, Norway. Article by Albert to be found in Archives under Antarctica.

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