The wolf, the tortoise and the plume: a story of the Galapagos

It began on 24 May, 2015. Unannounced, unnoticed and unforeseen, in the middle of the night Wolf Volcano suddenly erupted. For all its fame, volcanoes on the Galapagos are not well monitored. After all, this is far from anywhere, so remote that not even the Polynesians found the islands. Its fame comes from its very isolation: life was given a very small palette here, but also a free hand where species could evolve without having to worry about Darwin’s fitness-for-life battle. Evolution experimented with its usual trial and error, but where in more competitive environments the errors would quickly have found their demise, here they had a second chance. Darwin noticed the range of rather similar finches in the Galapagos, each with a particular type of beak, but only realized its significance after a local pointed out to him that each particular kind would be found on only one island. In this isolated archipelago, even the different islands do not mix much. And so Darwin went on to discover evolution, the struggle for life and survival of the fittest, from an environment where that very struggle had been suppressed.

Darwin’s law has an in-build contradiction: survival of the fittest actually suppresses evolution. Darwinian evolution quickly gets to a situation where no further progress is possible. Take the shark: it has dominated the ocean for hundreds of millions of years. Its perfection leaves no room for a newcomer. It has an unfair advantage. To make progress, evolution first has to remove the fittest from the competition. Stephen Gould propose a ‘punctuated equilibrium’: a sudden change to the environment leaves previously optimised species unable to adjust and frees up room for improvement. Volcanic islands can provide this in an extreme way. They appear suddenly far from anywhere, without any species to provide competition, and only a few animals (or plants) find their way there. A world of opportunity opens up, and anyone can come up trumps. Evolution following a punctuated equilibrium cannot be predicted. In New Zealand, birds became rulers of all. In Guam (after some human intervention) it was the spiders. Australia (a more extreme example of an island) developed a neurotoxic tree. You couldn’t make it up.

In the Galapagos, far from the Madding crowd, evolution again avoided the struggle and worked a miracle. It did not go to quite the extremes of Australia. The most northerly penguins in the world have made their home here in the tropics, but they opted out from further evolution and remained faithful to their penguin life style. Finches evolved to fill some ecological niches unavailable in more crowded places. They aren’t as eye catching as say a moa would have been, but they managed some unexpected adaptations. Who would have imagined a vampire finch, making its living by stealing blood from other birds? Miracles are not easy to notice. In the Galapagos, it required the eye of Darwin to see the wonder.

But the Galapagos is not just a paradise for evolutionary biology. Its volcanoes are also worth studying. For they too evolve, with hidden wonders.

The islands

The Galapagos Archipelago contains 13 significant islands, all volcanic. The currently active volcanoes are found on the western islands. These islands are also much larger, consistent with a frequent supply of new island-building material. In Isabela 6 volcanoes (one partly eroded by the sea) merged into one island; Fernandina with its single volcano may soon join. All 7 volcanoes have a similar shape, looking like a an upturned soup bowl, with a large central caldera (that part is not from the soup bowl), a flat rim typically a few hundred meters wide, and beyond this rim a steep side (up to 35 degrees) which becomes much shallower further out. Eruptions are effusive, and the calderas have formed by collapse rather than explosively.

There is a clear progression among the islands. The eastern islands are older, less volcanically active and less basaltic. The oldest islands in the Galapagos are around 3 million years old, whilst the youngest island, Fernandina in the west, may be less than 100,000 years old. The progression in age and activity fits the movement of the underlying plate, which is running to the southeast at around 5cm/year, or 50 km in a million years. The Archipelago is around 200 km long in the direction of the plate movement. This corresponds to 4 million years of plate movement, approximately the age of the oldest islands. Thus, all islands first formed at roughly the same place. This is exactly what is expected from a stationary hot spot: underneath Galapagos is a region of hot mantle, which causes melt, while the plate moves over this region. Every now and then, the molten magma punctures the overlying crust and builds a volcano. After a while the volcano’s conduit has moved inconveniently far from the source; the magma now reconsiders its fidelity, abandons the old volcano and punctures a new hole. A new volcanic island rises, and the abandoned island slowly erodes and sinks below the sea, taking its unique biological cargo with it.

Two of the islands are much further north, 100 kilometer from the rest of the archipelago. These are mainly seamounts with a top above water and are called Wolf island and Darwin island. Confusingly, Wolf volcano and Darwin volcano are not on those islands, but are on Isabela.

The Galapagos are sitting on a large plateau which rises 3 kilometers above the surrounding seafloor. This also is a strong indication of a hot region underneath. The hot mantle and magma have a lower density than the colder material of the surrounding oceanic plate and underlying mantle, causing the sea floor to bulge and rise. The same effect is seen in Iceland which has risen so far that the entire bulge ended up above sea level.

The most active volcanoes of the Galapagos are Fernandina, Cerro Azul and Wolf. They erupt through several types of fissure: radial fissures along the flank, a ring fissure around the caldera, and fissures inside the caldera. Eruptions seem to alternate between the the flank and the ring. Fernandina erupted through a flank fissure in 1995, from the ring fissure in 2005, and again from a flank fissure in 2009. Wolf had a flank fissure eruption in 1982, and a ring fissure one in 2015. Lava flows tend to be quite short. The rounded, steep shape of the volcanoes were build by short flows from the ring fissures. Both volcanoes have two different magma chambers. The eruptions are fed from a shallow chamber underneath the summit, at a depth of 3 kilometer below the summit. A deeper chamber at around 7 kilometer below the summit inflates before an eruption, and feeds the upper chamber.

The volcano and the tortoise

Wolf volcano is 1700 meter high at the rim of the caldera. The caldera is 700 meters deep and 5 kilometer across. The equator runs throught the southern half of the caldera. Since 1797 the volcano has erupted about once per twenty years on average. The last eruption in the 20th century was in 1982. A decade later the floor of the caldera started to inflated, first by 1.5 cm per year, later by 3 cm per year. This culminated with the 2015 eruption. The eruption began on 24 May, 10 minutes to midnight local time (it is usually given as May 25 which was the date in GMT) when a sudden explosion sent a gas plume (but only a little ash) 15 kilometers high into the atmosphere. Lava erupted on the ring fissure along the southeastern caldera rim. The erupting rift was 800 meter long with 100-meter high lava fountains. The erupting fissure was bisected by the equator: an eruption at a latitude of exactly zero must be rare! If it had occurred a month later, both the Sun and the Moon would have been directly overhead as well (although not simultaneously) – the pseudoscience community would have had a field day. Luckily they didn’t. Later the fissure extended further into the northern hemisphere by another kilometer. The lava reached the sea within three days.

But that was as far as it got. The eruption ended on 2 June (a full Moon), after only 8 days. We have become accustomed to long-lasting fissure eruptions, after Holuhraun, Leilani, Fagradalsfjall and Cumbre Vieja. This was not like that. Was this because it was fed through a shallow magma chamber which lacked the volume for something longer? Would a direct connection to a deeper magma chamber have allowed for something more? The eruption started fast and furious, but rather quickly declined and shut down again.

The 2015 lava flows are shown in red. Grey dashed lines are fissures, black for those involved in the eruption. Light blue are fissures involved in the 1982 eruption, the most recent one before 2015. Source: “The 2015 Wolf volcano (Galápagos) eruption studied using Sentinel-1 and ALOS-2 data” by Wenbin Xu et al Geophysics Research Letters, 2016

On or around 11 June (the date is not precisely known) activity resumed, but now inside the caldera. It ended exactly 1 month later, 11 July 2015, by which time about half the caldera floor had been covered with lava. By the end, two lava fields had formed on the flank covering 17 km2, and one in the caldera covering 3.5 km2. The total lava volume is just under 0.1 km3. This is larger than average for Wolf volcano: the 1982 eruption was smaller, at 0.05 km3.

I wish I could state that no animals had been harmed in the making of this eruption. I can’t. Wolf Volcano has its own subspecies of giant tortoise, an animal not well equipped to run away from lava. Even the Lurking maxim, ‘don’t be there’, would require significant advance warning. However, the tortoises live on the vegetated western and the northern slopes of the volcano. Eruptions are mostly toward the south and east, where they have removed the vegetation and replaced the landscape with a desolate lavascape. The tortoises got the message, or at least those tortoises being evolutionary awarded with an attraction to those fields of cold lava would have found themselves in pole position for a Darwin award. But if the volcano ever changes sides, the tortoises might find themselves in a punctuated equilibrium with plenty of room at the top.

In fact, it appears exactly this has happen before in the Galapagos. There are five complete volcanoes on Isabela. Each has a different species of giant tortoise living on its flanks. One of these species, which happens to be the most numerous, lives on the slope of Alcedo volcano. It is the one that all the tourists get to see, being closer to the settlement on Isabela. This particular species has remarkably little genetic diversity. It appears that there was a severe population bottleneck around 90,000 years ago. And Alcedo indeed had a significant explosive eruption 100,000 years ago which covered the slopes in pumice. Very few tortoises may have survived this – possibly (models say) only a single female was left to continue the breed.

The caldera wall of Wolf, 700 meter deep, cuts through lava flows of the past. These older flows are not visible on the flanks: because erosion here is slow, new flows cover up the past faster than that erosion can reveal the ones who went before. The caldera wall shows two different types of flows. One type is similar to the recent caldera flows: a’a flows between 2 and 5 meters thick, traceable over several kilometers. The other type shows shorter, thinner (0.5-1 meter) pahoehoe flows. Based on recent behaviour, the pahoehoe flows are though to be the ones that have build up the cone, emanating from the ring fissure at the top. The a’a flows are those that filled the caldera. The 1982 eruption also formed such an a’a flow, emanating from the bottom of the wall. These a’a flows are only seen more than 450 meters below the rim, suggesting that either the caldera was always at least this deep, or that it did not have these flows during times when it was shallower. Avalanche deposits on the caldera floor, partly covered by the recent lava, suggests that the caldera wall is not fully stable and is prone to collapse.

The Wolf caldera. Source: GVP

An interesting finding is that the caldera wall shows evidence for dikes that run under an angle to the wall, but these do not connect to the ring fault. This seems common in Galapagos volcanoes: dikes in the caldera stay inside the ring fissure.

The magma in Wolf volcano is basaltic. The Galapagos has a range of basaltic magmas. Near the hot spot, which is probably currently centred near Fernandina, the magma has a composition that indicates an origin in the deeper mantle. Volcanoes further from the centre of the hot spot have magma that is more similar to mid-ocean-ridge basalts (abbreviated MORB), as found at the nearby Galapagos Spreading Centre. Wolf is situated at the northern edge of the hot spot, and it has magma with isotopic ratios similar to that of the spreading centre. Wolf has even been called the most MORB-like intraplate volcano in the world. That suggests that it derives its magma solely from melting ocean floor and upper mantle. It may gets its heat from the hot spot, but it has to make its own magma. The composition indicates low partial melting of a few per cent. In spite of this, Wolf is frequently active with an apparent eruption rate of 0.3 km3/century.

The cause of the hot spot is hotly debated. At the current time, the hot spot is not particularly large. It is located in a very complex region, on a micoplate near a spreading centre. This makes it difficult to study the details. The hot spot has left a chain of defunct islands stretching towards South America where they subduct below the Andes. The length of the track shows that the hot spot is at least 20 million years old. It could be much older. Along the coast of South and Central America lies a feature called the Caribbean plateau. The accretion of this plateau, perhaps 70 million years ago, may be the cause of the very thick continental crust underneath the Andes. The origin of the Caribbean plateau origin is controversial. It may be a remnant of a flood basalt, carried there by the subducting plate. Alternatively, it is also suggested to be the accumulation of all the old Galapagos sea mounts and ocean floor lavas swept up by the subduction zone. In either case, it is linked to the Galapagos hot spot, and this is confirmed by the fact that it has the same isotopic and chemical composition as the Galapagos. One part of this basalt, at the Nicoya peninsula in Nicaragua, is dated to 140 million years old. That would imply that the hot spot is at least that old.

(Why is it present in both South and in Central America? The Galapagos is located close to the spreading centre. Over time, some of the islands have found themselves on the other plate, and taken towards Central America.)

The rocks of the Caribbean plateau are mafic to ultramafic (komatiite) and require high mantle melting temperature of 1550C. The current Galapagos lavas have a melting temperature of around 1400 C. If the two have the same origin, it implies that the hot spot has cooled by about 1 C per million years. Temperatures as high as 1500C are rare, and require a mantle plume. In this model, the plume has been cooling over perhaps the last hundred million years.

The Mermaid and the plume

But is there evidence for the existence of a plume? This requires seismological mapping of the mantle, using information from earthquakes. But seismographs are normally placed on solid ground and this leaves little room for them in the deep Pacific. There are about 11,000 reporting stations on land, but only 500 in the open ocean. Subduction zones tend to be close to the coast and are well mapped. Hot spots are mostly below oceanic plates and they have much less data. MERMAIDs provide a possible solution.

The acronym, somewhat awkwardly, stands for ‘Mobile Earthquake Recording in Marine Areas by Independent Divers’. These are instruments which float freely at a depth of 1500 meters, and come to the surface to report their data by satellite. Their life time is limited to about a year because of the battery. When a P-wave from an earthquake travels through the ocean floor, it causes an acoustic signal in the water. The MERMAID picks up this sound wave. When it detects one, it records the arrival time, surfaces to report it, and dives again to resume duty. The report is compared to the earthquake catalogue to see whether it relates to a true event. About half were confirmed to be earthquakes, mainly M6 and above. The MERMAID system was tested in the Galapagos area in 2014 and 2015, using 9 such instruments. The result of this experiment were reported in a paper in 2019, Nolet et al. Scientific Reports, 9, Article number 1326

The locations of the nine MERMAIDS where each dot represents a surfacing location.

The results from Nolet et al. showed a region in the mantle (in red) where the P-waves have a low velocity. This indicates a high temperature: a plume. This plume extends to 1900 km depth. It does not go down to the core, but it extends well below the 400km and 600 km layers which separate the upper and lower mantle. The plume comes up underneath the spreading centre, at a location north of the Galapagos, approximately where the Cocos ridge crosses the spreading centre. Near the surface, the spreading motion of the plate deflects the hot region southwestward, towards the Galapagos.

The information from the MERMAIDS is not conclusive and needs more work, but it suggests there is indeed a deep mantle plume here extending about halfway to the core.

So what exactly is going on? If we assume that the data is correct, then the plume is located close to where the spreading centre jumps southward, with a short transform fault which connects the segments. The plume comes up at around 91 degrees west, 2 degrees north, which puts it just to the left of the transform segment, and close to the northern spreading centre.

What follows is my own speculation: be aware!

The Cocos ridge and the Carnegie ridge both arise from the Galapagos hot spot, going in different directions on different plates. The two ridges are 20 million years old: therefore, the hot spot has been on the spreading centre for at least this long. But the Cocos ridge has a gap near the spreading centre, and the Carnegie ridge has a gap midway. It appears that the hot spot wasn’t exactly on the spreading centre but spend time on either side, forming each ridge almost in alternation.

The hot spot is supposedly not moving, as it is tied to the deeper mantle. However, spreading centres do move. They are like paper being torn by the two sides being pulled in opposite directions. The paper can tear at any place. Now imagine that glue is put in the tear. The paper may decide to tear somewhere else. Oceanic plates are like that: they tear, but the tears can heal and reform somewhere else. You can see this in maps of mid-oceanic ridges where different parts do not line up and require perpendicular transform faults to connect them. Iceland is an example of a region where the tear moves rather frequently. But even without jumps, the plate on which the spreading centre forms is itself not stationary. The centre moves with the average movement of the plate – often westward.

The Galapagos hot spot thus has found itself on different sides of the spreading centre at different times. At the moment (perhaps since the past 5 million years) it is on the south side. The spreading centre mainly pulls up magma from the local mantle, not from the plume, although it has however been suggested that some magma from the plume makes it to some parts of the spreading centre through faults.

The Galapagos plume now hits an asthenosphere and lithosphere that is moving away from the spreading centre, and it gets pulled along. A hot plume can develop a wide, mushroom-like head. This widening is caused by the lower viscosity of the hot plume. But the Galapagos plume isn’t that hot any more, and it hits a lithosphere which is itself warmed by the spreading centre. So the plume stays narrow as it bends towards the Galapagos; it surfaces in only a part of the Archipelago. Wolf Volcano misses the main plume but captures the edge of the plume, warmed by thermal diffusion. This melts the oceanic crust, and feeds its eruptions.

Here ends the speculation. As all speculation, it should be taken with great caution.

The mantle plume material has been shown to travel much further with the plate. Recent studies (published only a few weeks ago: have found that volcanic rocks in Panama have high amounts of 3He, indicating a link to the deep mantle. The elements and isotopes indicate that the material has the same source as the Galapagos. The mantle plume material appears to have been carried below the Cocos plate, and reached Central America, or at least it did so 10 or 20 million years ago. The authors call it a ‘mantle wind’. It is in fact plume material being captured by the moving plate.

The volcano: hidden diversity

As mentioned, the Galapagos volcanoes in different parts of the island bring up different magmas. The Galapagos Spreading Centre also shows somewhat different magmas close to and further away from the Galapagos Archipelago. Within the islands, there is a core region with plume-like magma, and a half ring around it where the volcanoes are mixed, or more mid-oceanic like. This behaviour is also seen along the trail left by the hot spot: the central line is plume like, the outer lines are oceanic-crust like. This behaviour has been consistent for at least 10 or 20 million years. It has been argued that this structure is inherent in the plume itself, and that the material brought up from the deep already has different compositions in the core of the plume and along the outer edge. The data only shows what comes up, not how the magma came to be. There is more research to be done.

But research has found more diversity in the Galapagos. Even in a single volcano, there appears to be more than one type of magma. This is even so when all the eruptions are of one type of magma only.

The story begins underground. As magma ascends, it evolves. There will be some crystallization as the magma cools, some crust may get incorporated, and some mixing with older magma may happen. There are volcanoes that can erupt more than one type of lava, but many don’t. It is actually surprising that lavas from different eruptions from the same volcano tend to be so similar, in view of everything that can happen to it on its journey. Perhaps all magma travels up in exactly the same way, through a single and uniform large magma chamber, or perhaps any underground reservoirs are fully flushed before each eruption – but both possibilities seem somewhat unlikely in view of what we know about volcanic plumbing.

In the Galapagos, the volcanoes on Fernandina and Isabela (including Wolf volcano) each produce very uniform basalt. Different eruptions from the same volcano produce lava that has a storage temperature that is the same within 30C, around 1100C. The storage temperature is the temperature at which the crystallization happened. (It is not the original melt temperature of the magma which is much higher.) The lava here contains crystals of olivine and of other minerals. Each mineral has a different temperature at which crystallization happens. Therefore, which crystals are seen provides a good underground thermometer. Volcanoes on the other islands, further from the hot spot, show more diversity between eruptions. This has led to suggestions that in fact the hot spot is responsible: volcanoes become uniform if the heat flow and magma input are high enough to create a stable magma layer, which acts as a large buffer for any new magma. Volcanoes further away lack this. The ‘magma zone’ is in fact a mush layer, a mix of solid and liquid material which itself cannot erupt but which interacts with any ascending magmas.

The 2015 eruption of Wolf volcanoes produced extensive lava flows. The earliest, more explosive phase of the eruption also produced some tephra. Analysis of the lava and tephra has shown that about 10% of the material consist of crystals that had formed in the magma, at a temperature of 1160C. When these crystals were analyzed (Stock et al, 2020, Nature Communications 11, Article number 3767), it gave a bit of a surprise. Although the lavas had been remarkably uniform in composition, the crystals from this one eruption were not. As an example, the amount of calcium in plagioclase crystals varied by a factor of 2 between samples. A study of the 1968 lava from Fernandina showed a similar (but different) diversity. Especially the interior of the crystals were highly evolved. They had spend a long time in storage, possibly millennia, but there had been different storage units with different magmas. The crystals show little ‘zoning’ (changing composition with depth in the crystal) other than the rim, which suggests that each storage unit was itself stable. The changes in the outer rim were caused by interaction with the erupting magma.

From Stock et al. 2020. Plagioclase crystals in lava and tephra samples from the 2015 Wolf eruption are shown as blue squares, nodule samples from the 1968 Fernandina eruption are shown as red diamonds and lava samples from historic Fernandina eruptions are indicated by open diamonds. The horizontal axis shows the percentage of calcium compared to Na+CA+K.

The storage contained magma with silicic compositions. (As magma crystallizes, the SiO2 fraction of the remaining liquid increases. This evolves the magma from a basalt (around 50% SiO2) to an andesite (60%): it becomes silicic.) But Wolf has never erupted silicic magma, as far as we know. The same was found for Fernandina: the crystals show the presence of evolved magmas that have themselves not erupted. These are basaltic volcanoes – but with silicic magma in store.

The result shows that Wolf volcano has a series of long-term magma storage units where the magma has a range of evolved compositions. These storage units were accessed during the 2015 eruption, and the crystals carried up with the new, more primitive magma. The crystals and magma were not in equilibrium: they came from different places. The storage had happened mostly at a depth of about 7 km, but the initial explosion ejected some crystals that were stored at around 1 km depth. The storage was initially filled with primitive magma, but over time became evolved and crystal-rich. During this process, these stored magmas had become viscous and therefore un-inclined to erupt.

This happy state of affairs became interrupted during the eruption. New magma ascended, entered some of the storage units and mobilized the stale magma. As phrased by Gould, the happy equilibrium was punctuated. About 10% of the lava erupted by Wolf comes from these old chambers – not enough to change the composition. But the crystals in the lava mostly come from this 10%.

Is there any evidence for this, apart from the crystals? At Fernandina, some submarine lava flows (off-shore, obviously) from flank eruptions show a different, more evolved composition. They can be fitted with 50% contribution from the evolved magma storage, coming only from the magma chambers at 7 km depth.

The cartoon above (also from Stock et al. 2020) illustrates the picture that arises from this. Typically, the evolved magmas are heavily outnumbered by the more primitive magmas that drive the eruption. In the lavas we only see these primitive, basaltic magmas. But there is in fact a silicic mush present. As long as the magma formation rate is larger than around 10-4 km3/yr, the primitive magmas will dominate. Wolf and Fernandina both have rates that are a few times higher than this. But if the melt rate would drop below this value, as has already happened in the eastern Archipelago, the eruptions can become more heterogeneous. Now, a basaltic volcano could suddenly have a silicic eruption.

And the equilibrium is punctuated when the volcano may suddenly explode. The Alcedo tortoise found out the hard way. Never trust a volcano.

The tortoise and the volcano

The Galapagos is a place where evolution has rapidly diversified a few refugee species. It lacks the extremes: by and large, the species look fairly normal, but with very diverse specialisations. But where else can you find a vampire finch? And the volcanoes too hide a surprising diversity. Like the animals, the magmas have traveled a long way to get here: 1900 km from the deeper mantle (but not the core-mantle boundary which is much deeper – thereby making both the ‘shallow and the ’deep’ hot spotters unhappy). The magma traveled twice the distance from the Galapagos to South America. And like the animals, the volcanoes diversified. The volcanoes may look similar, and normal. But they hide diversity both above and below ground. And the bottom line is a warning: be prepared. When equilibrium is lost, a basaltic, effusive volcano may suddenly change and explode in a burst of volcanic evolution. Alcedo did it, and almost wiped out the tortoise that depended on it.


There is one more thing about the Galapagos. Remember the million years of rain? It was caused by the Wrangellia flood basalt. But which hot spot was responsible? It has been suggested that the only one known in the area where it happened, is the Galapagos plume. The isotopic ratios and temperatures of its flood basalt is remarkably similar to that of the Caribbean plateau. It would require that the hot spot is over 200 million years old. There is no evidence that hot spots live that long – but we don’t know that they don’t either.

If this is true, then the Galapagos plume is responsible for more than just a vampire finch. For the million years of rain lies at the origin of both the dinosaurs and the mammals. When the struggle for life is suspended, evolution can go far. Stephen Gould would have approved.

Albert, December 2021

240 thoughts on “The wolf, the tortoise and the plume: a story of the Galapagos

  1. La palma, deformation show a decline on volcano zone

    • Has very plausible the eruption has ended and the terrain return to the previous situation. Now, start to count the next on 50100 years.

      • Been a small amount of uplift on some stations (previous drop recovered).

        Eruption ended, blockage or stalled? Think we have to wait a few weeks for the answer.

        • They turned it off.

          The company which used to deliver very cheap basanite magma have removed that product from their portfolio due to supply chain difficulties.
          Now the only magma that was cheap was rhyolitic magma, but it obviously is incompatible with the volcano on La Palma 🙂
          There are other sources, however, but they are too expensive.

  2. Awsome article, reading it again.

    Wolf 2015 was impressive stuff for soure.
    These Galapagos shields are almost competely made of short lived caldera ring fault eruptions and radial eruptions. The shields lacks rift zones. Many short lived eruptions also explains the steep slopes of the Galapagoian shield volcanoes. Sierra Negra 2005 was even more Impressive at its startup. Indeed close to the vents it woud be very dangerous to be when souch a ring fault blows. Just like Iceland and Hawaii Galapagos displays very very fluid basaltic lavas.

  3. Nice one Albert!
    And thank you very much, you know why.

    Vampire Finch? Oh lord, here comes the nightmares. You just described the only thing that would be worse than the Mosquitos of Northern Scandinavia, large flocks of Vampire Finches flying at speed at you to drive their beeks in like tips of dart arrows, and then the sucking starts… And why is this birg not common in Australia? It seems to be the only nightmare horror animal missing there. 🙂

    • It lives on Darwin Island, isolated even for the Galapagos, where there is not really enough for a finch to live on. It vampirises on other birds. Who now, I guess, change every full moon into weregulls. ‘Werewolf volcano’ – now that would be something

      • Weregulls… that would be sequel to the movie about the vampire birds.

        • Of course oxpeckers in Africa are vampires. It is not just the finches. But oxpeckers got there in a different way – eating parasites, before becoming parasites themselves. I think the animals are still not quite sure whether oxpeckers are there to help or to hurt

        • Having grown up on the south coast of England, the idea of weregulls is unutterably terrifying…

        • Just wait until the weather joins in. Could you imagine ‘Finchnadoes’? Or geology perhaps? ‘Finchcanoes’?

          Hollywood would have a field day.

  4. Interesting that Alcedo has been so inactive for so long, erosion rates must be very slow in the Galapagos. It looks like most of the lava output is at the southern end of Isabella and at Fernandina, Sierra Negra is the only volcano there to have a coastal plain above sea level right now.

    • Galapagos is quite dry.. Thats why
      Galapagos is sourrounded by very cold Sea Currents, that cools things down and lowers the evaporation and prevents cloud formation. The Islands are just high enough to squeeze out from own rainfall

      The cold ocean is also immensely fertile, as cold water contains alot more nutrients than warm tropical one.

      While Hawaii is an clear blue oceanic desert that lacks nutrients

      Galapagos is rich and cold. Its so fertile its more like Iceland than any tropical ocean. Galapagos haves massive plankton blooms, and huge colonies of seabirds and marine mammals. Galapagos ocean is like Carlifonia rather than any tropical ocean. Cold enough to require wetsuit During the cool current season. Temperatures in Galapagos lowers alot too during the cool season

    • They even haves Kelp Forests in Galapagos, they cannot grow in nutrient starved warm tropical waters.
      Very very cold waters along South Americas west coast. Its called the Humbolt Current

    • Huge colonies of seabirds and sea mammals, shows how cold and rich Galapagos ocean currents are

      Had Galapagos been in a warm ocean current, the sea woud be much much less productive, and the marine iguanas coud not evolve their kelp seaweed diets.

  5. Can I just say, what a fantastic and wonderfully detailed article this is.

  6. The wolf erupted,
    the tortoise ran,
    when the plumber
    hit the hot-spot.

    Loved the article, Albert

  7. Wonderful Article

    Do you know the magma supply To Fernandina thats the most active Galapagos Island? I read in some sources that it is the largest in the Island chain

  8. Yet to read the article but what on earth is happening at Vatnafjoll?

    I think we all voted it should sleep.

    • An eruption there would arguably be safer than an eruption at Hekla. The volume would be bigger probably but not violently explosive, and probably also not long lived. Skaftareldar was 8 months of lava flood, if it was only a week it would be a flood of biblical proportions but the atmospheric effects probably would have been less, it was prolonged exposure that made it so dangerous. I might well be wrong about this but eruptions at Vatnafjoll seem to be of similar style to Krafla or Krysuvik, or Mauna Loa, extremely intense erupting most of the volume is a few hours then going on longer at a single vent or stopping altogether, it isnt like Laki or Holuhraun where there is sustained moderate but still high effusion for months.

      Basically, and unsurprisingly perhaps, Vatnafjoll is basically Hekla but basaltic.

    • I never voted that it would sleep.

      It is awakening, but to what degree and when it will be ready is for another day (article) to see. 🙂

      • Yes and no, and at the same time.

        This is Iceland after all. What came first, the magma or the earthquake?

        Now that we have data for the volcano, and with a bit of Black Belt-moves with plotting the data, I am finally after years ready to write an article about Vatnafjöll.

          • I have wanted to write this article for 7 years.
            In my view it is one of the most important volcanoes in Iceland, but it has gotten forgotten. I would even go so far as saying that it is perhaps the most important volcano in that region of Iceland, and that it might explain neatly what is happening in the neighbouring volcanoes, the VVB and the Dead Zone.

            But, alas I lacked the plots to make it visible, and without visibility it is neigh impossible to describe it.

        • Yesss 🙂

          It is hard to find any information of any sort at all about Vatnafjoll, there are not even maps of it in any form, I had to make my own…

    • Not just Vatnafjöll, but Herdubreid as well… seems to be a nice swarm of microquakes going in for a while. It will be interesting to see how much it picks up, or not…

      • That one is caused by an intrusion that happened more than a decade ago at Upptyppingar that slowly has migrated towards Herdubreid.
        We will see what happens with it, but most likely it will take another large intrusion before we have any eruption.

        • Herðubreið was seismically active even before that event, so I have to question the causation there. See for instance:

          “The most active area in the highland outside the ice caps is Askja volcano and Herðubreiðartögl. Swarms have been recorded at Herðubreiðartögl since 1996 (Figures 3 and 4k). The largest recorded swarm occurred in June-July 1998 with earthquakes up to magnitude Ml 4.”

          • This one goes into detail of microseismicity during July-August 2006, half a year before the Upptyppingar swarm started.


            “The dominant cause of this seismicity appears to be plate boundary spreading, as the tension axes of the fault-plane solutions align along the spreading direction, N106E.”

          • It is a good question what came first really.
            For now I would though say that we see no imminent eruption there.

            That being said, it is Iceland…

          • I guess in a general sense the driving force is magma in both cases, so both have the same root cause.

            Wasn’t the Upptyppingar swarm just a dyke emplacement? A failed eruption – the way that Iceland grows most of the time, with the crust pulled apart and filled with magma from below, but without the stunning display of lava on the surface?

            The Upptyppingar sequence reminds me a lot of the dyke formation preceding the Fagradalsfjall eruption (minus the really large quakes, obviously). Activity moved several times back and forth E-W between the two ends of the intrusion, while slowly inching its way upwards. The hypocenters are aligned on a plane. It’s not vertical, but has a 41 degree southward dip, so maybe inclined sheet is a better word than dyke. Due to the dip, the upwards movement went hand in hand with movement towards the north. It’s a very interesting event, but I fail to see how it is supposed to have affected the Herðubreið swarm.

            What the Upptyppingar swarm clearly demonstrates, is that Iceland can throw a magmatic curve ball whenever you least expect it.

          • Exactly, but the surprising part of that dyke is that it is still moving forward, albeit very slowly by now.

  9. On February 14, 1825, while anchored in Banks Bay, Captain Benjamin Morrell recorded one of the largest eruptions in Galápagos’ history at Fernandina Volcano. His ship escaped to safety and his account of the event was preserved.

    ” February 14. In Morrell’s words “The heavens appeared to be one blaze of fire, intermingling with millions of falling stars and molten meteors; while the flames shot upward from the to the height of at least two thousand feet thats 600 m tall lava fountain curtains.” Morrell reports that the air temperature reached 123 °F (51 °C), and as Tartar approached the river of lava flowing into the sea, the water temperature rose to 150 °F (66 °C). Some of the crew collapsed in the heat ”

    That woud have been an impressive sight at the Fernandina volcano! Perhaps as large as Sierra Negra 2018 and appears more intense in the Captains description

    • The 1825 eruption of Fernandina

      ” This “crack of doom” brought everyone on deck, and Morrell described his men standing there “like ‘sheeted spectres,’ speechless and bewildered with astonishment and dismay.” The heavens appeared to be in a “blaze of fire, intermingled with millions of falling stars and meteors.” Flames shot up from Fernandina’s peak to a height of “at least two thousand feet.”

      At about four in the morning, the lava began to flow over the edge of the crater “in a cataract of liquid fire…rushing down the side of the mountain, pursuing a serpentine course to the sea.” The “dazzling stream”, Morrell judged, was about a quarter of a mile wide, “presenting the appearance of a tremendous torrent of melted iron running from the furnace.” The flaming river broke its banks in several places, sending fiery branches in every direction across the landscape, “each rushing downward as if eager to cool its temperament in the deep caverns of the neighbouring ocean.” And when the lava met the water, the uproar was “dreadful indeed”.

      In addition to indulging his talent for prose, Morrell did not miss the opportunity for a bit of science, recording the temperature of the sea and air as the drama unfolded. His baseline measurement, taken an hour after the first explosion and before the lava had begun to spill over the rim of the volcano, was fairly typical for the time of year with the water at around 16°C and the night air a balmy 21°C. Some six hours later, with the eruption “still continuing with unabated fury”, the temperature of the water had rocketed to an incredible 37°C and the air was now an oppressive 45°C. This was clearly alarming because Morrell and his men were trapped. “Not a breath of air was stirring to fill a sail, had we attempted to escape;” he wrote. By the time the atmosphere had reached an unbearable 50°C, the glue-like resin holding the vessel together had started to run, tar was dripping from the rigging and Morrell and his men were struggling to breathe. Stripping off and jumping into the water would have offered them no respite. At over 40°C, it would have been like diving into a scorching bath.

      Thankfully, “a breath of a light zephyr from the continent, scarcely perceptible to the cheek” began to strengthen and at last Morrell was able to weigh anchor. But his only option was to head south in an effort to get upwind of the volcano and this meant passing within a few kilometres of Fernandina’s molten shoreline.

      If you happen to be on a cruise that takes you through the tight Bolivar Channel that runs between Fernandina and Isabela, spare a thought for the Tartar and its men. At the narrowest point, he found the water to be marginally hotter than the air, “almost boiling” at over 60°C. If you step ashore at Punta Espinoza to marvel at the marine iguanas, penguins and cormorants, remember too that this projection probably owes its existence during the 1825 eruption”

    • Carl ever known of the Fernandina 1825 eruption before? It sounds like something that totaly dwarfs Holuhrauns at least in scale of the output

      • I mapped the lava flow that enters the ocean at Punta Espinoza, a lot of the margin is buried by younger lava but the flow is roughly 30 km2, so probably not as voluminous as Holuhraun or even that close really, else it probably would have formed a caldera. I would guess based on the mostly a’a surface and some pressure ridges that the flow is some 10-15 meters thick, so some 0.3 km3 or so. Still a very large eruption to happen so quickly, it didnt last long enough to transition to lava lake and tubes like happened in 1995.

        1968 eruption of Fernandina was though probably as big as Holuhraun if not bigger, happened somewhere in the ocean though an early stage was on land a month before the caldera collapse. Almost 2 km3 of lava in only a few days.
        A similar eruption looks like it happened on the east flank of Sierra Negra, a massive flood lava eruption and apparently under 1000 years old too.

        • I guess the Galapagos volcanoes are a result of what happens if you get plume volcanoes that are not rifting volcanoes. Iceland and Hawaii have long rifts so magma can be distibuted. Galapagos shields are a lot like volcanoes on Mars or Venus.

          Not sure of the supply rate of magma to Fernandina but it is substantial, took only 4 years to erupt again after the collapse of 1968, and eruptions have happened there at least once in every decade since it was discovered.

          • Narrow plumes like Galapagos and Hawaii will have a relatively good rate up into the limited area that they cover.
            Imagine how big the upflow is in a distributed monstrosity like Iceland where volcanoes flicker in and out of eruption all over the place…

          • ?
            1: West, EPR
            2: North, Hess Deep Rift
            3. South, Dietz Deep Rift

          • Iceland is less intense than Hawaii per area, actually only Vatnajokull is directly comparable really, so Iceland is still perhaps a quite narrow structure too. The rest of Iceland is probably above sea level not from direct volcanism but from being propped up by the plume, and is volcanic anyway because of being a divergent boundary. If the divergent boundary wasn’t there I think Iceland would probably be a little smaller than Hawaii, probably similar to Galapagos.

            Denaliwatch Galapagos is near a rift zone but the actual volcanoes don’t connect to it, they are all radially symmetrical is what I mean, no rift zones unless you count the ring fault as a circular rift zone.

          • The mantleplume is definitely the most powerful under Kistufell, but the plumehead spread out under most of Iceland.
            But, you are corrent in that we can see how we get plume derived basalt more intermixed with MORB towards the ends.
            Reykjanes is unique in that it is not really a part of the plume to any great extent.
            On average Iceland is pushed upwards by 54 meters on average.

            My point was more that the amount of pume derived basalt in Iceland is outstripping any other plume on earth in erupted volume (on average). Which is not mean feat since it has it’s fallacies as plumes go.

          • I cant remember the name of the paper but I read that total Holocene output of Iceland for all magma types is about 500 km3 DRE. Hawaii is 0.21 km3 per year, of which about half of that erupts on average. Going to DRE values assuming DRE is half of the volume of lava rock that is still at least 600 km3 of DRE erupted as lava in Hawaii. Both are impressive in different ways, Iceland can do bigger eruptions on land and has more varied volcanism, while Hawaii forces all the output of its plume through a single volcano.

            All in all I dont think the comparison should be Iceland vs Hawaii, they are about the same, but rather those two vs the rest of the world… 🙂

          • You are correct Chad in the numbers of erupted cubic kilometres, even though the number of Iceland is a tad higher.
            Difference lies in the amount of intruded magma since Iceland only erupts about 1/5th to 1/10th of all intruded magma, the rest will stay below to fill in the gaps of the spread.

            It is though those two together with the African Plume that is competing with the rest of the world. The African one (or two) are is/are a real beast(s). I write one or two because it is still a bit of a debate going on if the plume is double headed or if there is one Afarplume and one Tanzanian Plume.

          • I guess the difference between us is that I dont consider passive rifting to be part of the magma supply to an individual volcano in Iceland. In Hawaii it is a bit different because the rifting is within the actual body of the volcano above the ocean crust and is a superficial feature for the most part, so technically all the magma has to end up in the volcano itself and there is a lot of endogenous growth. Passive rifting in Iceland being counted as magma supply is technically the same as counting all of the magma generated in the mantle under Hawaii as being the direct supply rate of the volcanoes, which I am willing to bet is not a number anyone has ever calculated but is more than the rate of growth of the island.

          • Since we are discussing the plumes I think one should calculate all plume derived material that end up in the crust.
            Secondly, I doing individual volcanoes would be misleading when talking about the size of a plume.

          • For Hawai’i, the magma mainly goes to three volcanoes: Loa, Kilauea and that one out at sea. You’d have to consider all three.

          • That image is quite impressive. The transform fault is in the centre (exactly where it say’Transform’) but you can imagine that is being abandoned in favour of the island chain. Very much like Iceland where the spreading centre moves in mysterious ways to stay with the hot spot.

      • But it was with certainly much faster than Holuhraun in output. Looks like stuff of my fantasies What the captain described! With chunks of lava falling 100 s of meters from the Fountains

        Must have been an insane sight.. and most of that in just a few days

        If you are a slow igunana its a very bad place to be.. But luckly the marine iguanas never climb to the summit

        Must be a terrfying death for these slow poor tortoises on Isabela as they are consumed by lava, Leaving only calcinifyed remains left

        • Uhm… seems like you forgot what Holuhraun looked like, it did that too, and had fire fountains raging around.

      • Carl Not as Intense as opening of a Galapagos eruption or fast Mauna Loa eruptions.

        Opening of Holuhraun did a 1,5 km long curtains of lava fountains 50 meters tall, these later merged into 3 250 meters tall lava fountains at Baugur that later built the boiling lava lake bathtub that was Baugur. Holuhraun became large because it lasted 6 months on medium high eruption rates

        Wolf 2015 did an insane curtains of lava fountains many 100 s of meters tall, with eruption rates perhaps a few thousands of cubic meters a second. The maximum paroxysmal at Wolf may have produced a 800 m tall fountain as they merged, then the eruption quickly lost steam.

        Mauna Loa 1950 did a 30 kilometers long curtain of fire 100 s of meters tall during the first hours of eruption and eruption rates greater than any basaltic eruption since then. 1950 was a real tsunami of lava, and you woud be unable to escape it If you where on the slopes

        • Holuhrauns fountains where around 300 meters tall If I remebers correct. There where 3 of them and two became dominant. Later they merged into a boiling lava lake vent called Baugur

      • Baugur was indeed a spectacular sight
        It became a 450 m long bathtub, that was filled by something that is called
        ”dome fountains” very fluid lava upwellings. Holuhraun had very fluid lavas, But Fagradalshraun was perhaps even more fluid.

  10. Our La Palma friend is still quiet- emitting gas here and there. Now that it has broken records it must be feeling quiet smug with itself! Am glad for the locals-if anyone needs a break it’s them.But I know nothing is certain when a volcano is shutting down or is it pausing.

    2021/12/15 15:09:59

    • 2.8 mbLg

      2021/12/15 15:19:39

      + info
      2.3 mbLg

      2021/12/15 15:12:05

      + info

  12. Thank you for the story, as always, fascinating to read and leads to many more tabs open.

  13. And Albert strikes again 😀
    What an article, treatment of the subject is so exhausting, I don’t have any questions left!
    Extremely educating, especially if you’re new to the volcanic/geologic wording!

  14. Is anyone able to pinpoint the time that the site became unavailable this afternoon?

    I am trolling the logs trying to workout what happened.

    • Seems like the last comment was 15:43 by Denaliwatch. I commented before that, 15:41 and when I checked some minutes later if someone had replied it was dead. My sense of time is a bit whacky at the moment, so a few minutes could be anything from 10 minutes to an hour, but the 15:43 timestamp of the last comment should at least be an indicator.

      • Yeah, we also have a spam bot comment in the bin a bit later, but was just trying to narrow it further.

    • It happened yesterday as well (at some point in the afternoon).

  15. Immensely informative – and entertaining too.

    Thanks, Albert.

  16. Eastern Santiago Island contains the largest lava shield of the Galapagos, and produced very nice pahoehoe lavas. This lava shield is a Big one, that eruption lasted slowly perhaps decades perhaps a 100 years or more. The pahoehoe that flowed out from this lava shield in Galapagos is the best example of fluid pahoehoes in Galapagos and one of the best examples of that in the world. You can investigate the lava shield in Google Earth. Very fluid stuff this is with declicate thin pahoehoes.
    Perhaps alkaline too, since they lacks the Thoelitic silvery Shine of the Hawaiian pahoehoes.

    • The lava shield is not seen in these photos, but the lava is, this was fluid stuff, Im curious how long this shield eruption lasted, and strangely it popped up on a off – hotspot Galapagos older volcano

    • This beautiful pic wants to be added to your post.
      Sally Lightfoot Crab:

      Pretty on the pahoehoe

      • Very Beautyful and on Fernandina the hatchlings are black to protect them against sharp eyed seabirds

  17. Darwin was a great volcanologist, he discovered that basaltic magmas coud evolve and fractionalize / diffrentiation into more sillicous melts. He came to these Islands to study the volcanoes in the first place. The Islands geology. Like every great naturalist he wrote a book on his Igenous observations on the Galapagos Islands. But indeed the biology is what he became most thrilled for after being around the Islands.

  18. Whilst posts are slow can I comment that the elevated lava streams we have seen in iceland and La Palma could, with some weathering, look a lot like a river channel with a delta, particularly if gravity were low.

    • They do definitely look like it, but the processes are though quite different in the end.

  19. The bad thing is that giant turtles were ubiquitous. The good thing is that man wasn’t interested in Aldabra, Seychelles, and the Galápagos-Islands. They survived. Not closely related any more, btw. Australia has a horned turtle once, Meaiolania platyceps.

    Wikipedia keeps quiet about what or who might have killed them, so it wasn’t the British. It says 0,003Ma anyway.

  20. Continues eruptive activity on the island of #LaPalma (16-12-2021 09:00 UTC)

    ➡ Since the last statement, a total of 56 earthquakes have been located on the island of La Palma, one of them felt by the population.
    ➡ The maximum magnitude recorded is 3.4 (mbLg), corresponding to yesterday’s Earthquake at 15:09 UTC, at a depth of 14 km. The minimum magnitude of the localized Earthquake was 1.2 mbLg.
    ➡ The localized seismicity continues under the central area of Cumbre Vieja in the same areas of the last few days, with dispersion. Most of the earthquakes (39) are located at depths between 8 and 17 km. 11 earthquakes have also been located at a depth between 33 and 40 km and 6 at a depth between 0 and 5 km.
    ➡ Apart from this localized volcanic-tectonic activity, and coinciding with the disappearance of the volcanic tremor, low frequency signs have been detected in the seismic stations interpreted as LP Events.
    ➡ The broadness of the tremor signal in the last 24 hours has been maintained at levels near the preliminary period.
    ➡ The island’s GNSS permanent stations network shows no clear trend in deformation of stations closest to eruptive centers. The slight deflation previously observed has been stabilized in the rest of the seasons.
    ➡ In view of the image calibrated at 08:45 UTC, no broadcasts are appreciated.
    ➡ The height of the cone is measured getting a value of 1.122 m. above sea level.
    🌋 The IGN continues its presence on the island, where the CAVE (Center of Attention and Eruption Surveillance) has been established, maintaining, denensifying and improving the surveillance network.

    🗞 Full story:
    #IGNSpain #Terremotos #SerieSismica #Canarias #ErupcionLaPalma #volcandelapalma #VigilanciaVolcánica

    • es2021yovat 12/16/2021 13:35:16 13:35:16 28.5681 -17.8407 37.0 3.3 mbLg N FUENCALIENTE DE LA PALMA.ILP

      es2021yourv 12/16/2021 13:24:56 13:24:56 28.5800 -17.8470 37.0 3.2 mbLg

  21. I was wondering why the Galápagos and Seychelle turtles became so gigantic and found some interesting ideas here:

    They can also float:
    Giant tortoises be reported to survive 740 km of floating in the ocean it says in the article.
    So they might have floated between the Galápagos islands and also between Réunion, Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles. With the exception of one island in the Seychelles they “went” extinct though. The British preferred the sea tortoise. Asians haven’t gotten the message yet, it’s about time.
    This is from a recipe of the 18th century:
    “First known (as ‘sea-tortoise’) in Bradley 1728; “Its Flesh is between that of Veal, and that of a Lobster, and is extremely pleasant … They are frequently brought to England in Tubs of Sea Water, and will keep alive a long time.” cf. Mock Turtle. The earliest receipts are for roast or boiled turtle, only later resolving to a soup.”
    The recipe I’m leaving out.

    It’s not only the Asians though although they are often end-consumers. Yesterday I read about the Costa Rica Cocos Island (not aligned btw, that’s why I read about it in the first place). It’s a UNESCO site, but there is an enormous amount of poaching, and the Costa Rican government is looking away. In this case it’s mostly tuna and shark.

    Hope the spam problem was solved.

    • There is both Island Dwarfism
      and Island Gigantarism as evolutionary adaptions of the colonizing animals

    • There has been very strong deep earthquake activity today, much higher than the previous days. Clearly there is still something moving down there. The vent looks dead though.

      • If magma is still rising, a blocked system may not be a good thing.

      • Could all this new activity be a prelude that she is going to open up again in a new vent in a different area like La Mancha where all the new activity seems to be in this area,

      • Hector, what’s sticking in my mind regarding the current lul in activity on La Palma is this quote from your very fine article on the 1949 eruption;

        “On July 22 the activity of Hoyo Negro was down to a solfatara. Llano del Banco was also dying down. By July 26 the eruption had fully stopped.

        Early on the morning of July 30 the eruption suddenly resumed. Duraznero and Hoyo Negro exploded simultaneously. An hour later fluid basanite lavas emerged from the location of Duraznero 1 and poured into an old crater where it formed a lava lake which then overflowed and formed a narrow stream of lava that rapidly sped down the steep slopes of Cumbre Vieja, cutting the road of Santa Cruz de la Palma, and nearly reaching the sea after 11 hours of advance, when the eruption came to a stop. This was the last episode of the 1949 eruption.”

        Could we see roughly the same again; a few days of quiet, and then a final burst of activity – one with little or no advance warning?

        • It could very well happen. The volcano is still not completely calm yet. On the other hand it has exceeded the duration of previous Cumbre Vieja eruptions so should be expected to have run out of magma by now.

    • Thats just the hot interior of the massive cone, it will take decades to cool that mass down.

    • Does not have to be active lava in that hole. The glow is too dark and deep, or it maybe flowing inside below the rubble. Active lava woud yeild a yellow glow, Almost all basaltic lavas erupts at somewhat over 1100 C

    • I think too, it cannot be active lava since it is too dark and the volcano is erased anyways 🙂
      Also there is barely any tremor at all in either frequency band…

      • It can erupt Without tremor If the conduit is open enough
        But its not bright enough glow to be active lava

        The deeper insulated parts of the cone is competely semi molten and out of view

    • Jesper is 100 percent correct.
      Rock is terrible at conducting heat away, so it will take years before you stop seeing glow down in cracks and holes.
      There is no lava flowing down below, at least not any fresh new lava.

      The eruption is over.

      • Lava tubes from Pu’u O’o would still glow for months after becomign inactive. These tubes are probably deeper and more complex given the history of the eruption, as well as probably tephra being an even better insulator than solid rock. There are still some glowing spots on fagradalshraun, right now, and La Palma is quite a bit bigger volume and much larger cone.

        The final (?) height of the cone is 1121 meters above sea level, where the original location of the vent was at between 850 and 900 meters above sea level. So the cone is nearly 200 meters high above the vent, the downhill side is probably over 400 meters tall, this is a bona fide mountain that has just formed right before our eyes 🙂

        Deep seismic activity though shows it is not impossible for a resumption, probably nothing crazy but might be very fluid and fast like the last gasp of the 1949 eruption.

        • The seismic activity at depth is more likely to be resettlement after emptying of magma conduits making the dykes and faultlines move to find a new equilibrium.
          It is quite common after larger eruptions, we see this at for instance Fagradal (that should be renamed to Fagrafjöll).

          • One can interpret it both ways though, as resettlement or as further magma intrusion. La Palma is probably at present uncertain, but at Fagrafjoll the satellite data does actually suggest ongoing magma accumulation, with inflation along the south of Fagradalsfjall and southern part of Krysuvik as well as at Keilir. Probably wont result in anything for a little while, but further eruptions are likely in my opinion.

            I think it is about time the volcano was properly named, for being not a very big eruption the height achieved by the cone is very impressive, something over 100 meters from the original surface and a summit elevation of 385 meters.

    • Its deep red color suggest around
      750 C for that hole, Indeed a natural furnace hole there. If you drill holes down and allow air in at the bottom You can get a ferocious rubbish incenirator there. But waste will not burn clean in a volcano pit, there is rarely enough oxygen in standard Earth atmosphere for a clean burn.. you still get smoke and sooty flames and unburnt toxins

      • No combustion either, so blowing air in would do nothing, probably cool it down.

      • Had you have air holes and lots of wood and waste there You can get a ferocious heat, after running for a few days, it Maybe hot enough to melt the surfaces of the pit interior. A well ventilated feed fire can reach over 1100 C in normal atmospheric conditions

        I can Only imagine how wood woud burn under 1000 atmospheres of pure oxygen 🙂 perhaps like rocket fuel

        • Pure oxygen in and by itself is already fairly potent, doesn’t have to be that much pressure.
          If still not suffices, add 1 atom of oxygen ==> O3 😮

  22. Have read and re-read the article several times now, usually with Wikipedia open in another tab to plug the holes in my base knowledge. Fantastic piece, Albert. The possibility that the hot spot has spent time on either side of the wandering spreading center blows me away.

    • There are two hotspot seamount trails from the Galapagos, another is north of the Galapagos Spreading center. It formed like that when Galapagos Plume was under that spreading center, spreading its volcanic products in both directions. It must have been a tropical Iceland when it was under the spreading axis.

  23. Unfortunately German, absolute must-read
    I’m stunned when reading that reports. Had to cut yesterday, after only 5 h of sleep was left and I was yet way too excited.
    That was times, and that one volcanologist is really amazing. If that was really truth, it would be trice that awesome.
    Seems they were always exactly in the right spot 😮
    Not exactly sure though as to grade of truth 🙂

    • I have found that without coffee many more people would die.
      Mostly around me in the morning obviously.
      Just imagine how many murders have been postponed by a large mug of morning coffee.

      • I think the health benefits to the bystanders were not considered in the article. In Scandinavia this might have been a major oversight. If only the Vikings had known coffee..

        • This is truly why we have become such a friendly and peace loving bunch in our latter years.
          And why we love giant arsed coffee mugs in the morning.

          Coffee is truly the saviour of mankind since it stopped the wrath of the Northmen.

  24. Old videos of the 2008 – 2018 open conduit summit lava lake at Halema’uma’u. Enjoy
    These lavas are so fluid! looks like liquid aluminium. A window into kilaueas summit magma chamber it was. They are very fluid Kilaueas summit lavas. Hawaii coud be the most fluid sillicate lava on Earth

    Carl agree amazing How fluid this Halemaumau stuff is, its probaly so fluid that you coud cast things with it.

    Hawaiis sillica content is higher than many other basalts. Sillica saturated because of the large ammounts of partial melting. But its also very very very hot and Thats why its so fluid.
    Hawaii the sillicate polymerization is broken down by high temperatures. Thats why its so runny in Hawaii.

    Many basalts haves much lower sillica than Hawaii like Etna. But .. They are also low in temperatures and much more viscous. Temperatures seems to be very important in How fluid this stuff is

    • Woud it be possible to cast and pour the very hottest Halema’uma’u lavas into molds if one was very quick sampling it from high standing lava lakes?

    • Woud it be possible to blow glass sculptures with the very fluid Halema’uma’u lavas? But perhaps They are much too fluid for even that?
      Also perhaps too much gunk and too sillica poor. But they are really fluid

    • Well normal soda glass is basicaly a very very very alkaline Ryholite, with elements added that lowers the melting point and viscosity. In glass Furnaces its common to heat to near 1300 C to further lower the viscosity for glass casting. But soda glass at even at over 1200 C still seems very stretchy and more plastic than Halemaumaus sloshy fluid lavas. Glass is quite polymerized to make it strecthy and easy to blow,

      But it seems that all lavas at least with low to moderate sillica gets very fluid indeed at well over 1200 C as the High temperatures breaks down the sillica polymerization

      Still Kilaueas littoral bubble bursts looks alot like liquid glass, because it technicaly is

    • Hawaii is fantastic at producing peles hairs, that requires high temperature very very fluid lava that also sillica saturated to be able to form these glass threads as the lava slosh and fountain. Halema’uma’u 2008 – 2018 lava lake was a real glass wool machine

      Nyiragongo seems to not be able to produce any peles hairs at all, probaly because its sillica content is way too low for that. Not enough sillica polymerization. Peles hairs seems absent in Alkaline low sillica lavas, their chemistry makes them physicaly unable to produce spinned lava wool.

      Peles hairs are common in very Hot Basaltic melts in Hawaii and Iceland and as well as Erta Ale

    • Jesper, I have never said such a thing to the best of my knowledge.

      Could we please stick to me saying things on my own? 🙂

      • I think it was meant as a request ‘please agree’ rather than a claim that you had said this.

        • Phrased as a question I would have been happy to answer it. 🙂

        • I think that was what Jesper meant. English is not the first language for many (most) of us

  25. 13 3+ quakes around Pahala and Loihi in the last two weeks. 3.5 was the biggest. About 97 quakes from 2-4 mag within the last two days between the two areas.

    • Loihi is more active than I had previously thought. In the past few years we’ve seen multiple large swarms at this volcano, likely indicating magma intrusions or eruptions. It seems to be more active than Mauna Loa. That said the intrusions and eruptions of Loihi are probably smaller than those of Mauna Loa.

      • Loihi is way older than I thought it was, 280,000 years if linear and 400,000 years if more exponential. That would make it older than Kilauea?

        Also looks to be that it is quite frequently active, 1996 was sort of its ‘fissure 8 event’ with magma draining out of the summit, though much less voluminous total. I guess the question is if that has got anything to do with Kilaueas activity cycle, though I would guess not given what was also happening on the island in 1996.

        Maybe Loihi is just not going to be a big volcano, like Mahukona. Or maybe a lot of Hawaiian volcanoes reach sea level when their predecessor sends lava over them. If Kilauea grew southwards even a little bit it would flow over Loihi and help bring it to the surface much faster than it would on its own. That all depends on if Kilauea can sustain eruptions in that direction long enough though, the ERZ is still the preferred location for now. Maybe in another few tens of millennia when Kilauea is a towering behemoth it will be more egalitarian in the direction it sends its lava.

  26. I hope this does not sound a stupid question to some and I know La Palma it’s said the earthquakes are settling but why are they still continuing so close together and at deeper depths and middle depths plus the quakes are heading towards open ground one was just at 2km depth.

    Would the quakes not just be sporadic instead of happening sometimes within minutes of each other and still ongoing 24 hours a day.

    Example this afternoon :

    es2021yqxfq 17/12/2021 16:57:39 16:57:39 28.1010 -16.9175 17.0 1.6 mbLg
    es2021yqwng 17/12/2021 16:36:12 16:36:12 28.5952 -17.8546 36.0 2.7 mbLg
    es2021yqwjr 17/12/2021 16:32:05 16:32:05 28.5611 -17.8217 15.0 1.9 mbLg
    es2021yqwdr 17/12/2021 16:25:04 16:25:04 28.5830 -17.8379 35.0 2.4 mbLg
    es2021yquzi 17/12/2021 15:49:42 15:49:42 28.5963 -17.8149 36.0 2.4 mbLg
    es2021yquvl 17/12/2021 15:45:09 15:45:09 28.5704 -17.8552 12.0 1.9 mbLg
    es2021yqtoh 17/12/2021 15:06:30 15:06:30 28.6238 -17.8708 2.0 1.5 mbLg

    • Perhaps they mean the larger earthquakes. Until recently there was too much activity to monitor the smaller earthquakes. Now things are quieter they can.

      Magma is probably still moving at depth. Whether there is enough of it to make it to the surface this time is anyone’s guess.

  27. If Iceland Plume was without a spreading ridge and at cape verdes location, What woud we get for kind of volcanic Island? Since its a slow spreading seafloor, we coud get something really big I guess.

    A similar insane situation woud be the Hawaiian Plume placed in the super superslow Arctic ocean basin seafloor, That woud grow an Olympus Mons very quickly.

    Galapagos plume islands woud also be much bigger if they where in the slow spreading atlantic ocean. Galapagos probaly haves a quite robust output at around 4 km3 every 100 years, Im not soure

    • Iceland would probably be a unique place if the ridge was not there. Probably it would be not as active as Hawaii without the extra decompression from the spreading ridge (it is not negligible, Reykjanes is only ridge and is one of the more active areas), but bigger overall, given it would be growing for millions of years in mostly the same place. Might actually be quite comparable to some of the Martian volcanoes. I really dont know if such a thing would be able to exist on ocean crust though, it might just create a rift regardless.

      Tibesi massif might also be something of a comparison. It is not nearly so active, but is an example of plume volcanism stacking on itself in the same place for a long time. Eruptions at Tibesi seem to be far apart and quite big, and long lived, a lot like Martian volcanoes.

      • Martian volcanoes are quite different from any volcanoes we have on Earth now.

        The surface of Olympus Mons is all very similar in age and very young, formed sometime 150 million years ago or so. It was formed by a continuously lava-overflowing vent atop the mountain. The crater distribution is random across the whole volcano. It was also at the exact same time as flank fissure eruptions that reactivated older volcanoes: Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons, Ascraeus Mons, and Alba Mons. I know cause I’ve crater counted them.

        Then there are Elysium Mons and Alba Mons two big shields that were built at the same time on two distant parts of the planet. They have the same crater density for certain sizes.

        It is also well known that about 3.5 billion years ago there was a volcanic pulse across the the whole planet, with several volcanoes growing in Tharsis, five around Hellas Planitia, plus Hecates Tholus and Syrtis Major.

        You get these planetary pulses of volcanic activity. One or more shield volcanoes grow mainly from overflowing lava lakes at their top, and also have some fissure eruptions from their flanks that flood large areas. The fissure eruptions are massive, Olympica Fossae erupted 3000 km3 of lava and that was a run of the mill Martian fissure eruption.

        • More that Tibesi shows volcanoes that there are some places on Earth that you can get volcanism staying focussed on one location supported by thick crust. I doubt Tibesi is anywhere comparable to one of the big 3 plumes though. It also looks like Tibesi is more prone to longer lived eruptions, there are no major fissure eruptions, only lava shields, and then later on calderas.

          The thing I find interesting about Mars is that it shows flood basalt volcanoes dont have to look like Iceland. Flood basalt volcanoes can be like Galapagos or Hawaiian shields too, it is really only determined by how much magma can be stored somewhere. I guess a rift can make it easier for magma to accumulate, but then it also makes it harder to get it to erupt.
          That being said too, i think possibly the Iceland association is because we know quite well Iceland has got potential for big flows, it is well recorded and notorious. Hawaii was rather underestimated, Mauna Loa did fast but not especially big flows by volume, and Kilauea erupted slowly, it took until 2018 to show the real picture. Galapagos is just so undermonitored that no-one even sees most eruptions at all, even huge ones like what happened in 1979, which was as big as Holuhraun and way faster, one of the biggest lava flows in the modern era.

          That eruption, at Sierra negra in 1979, I think that deserves an article all on its own from this site. It is probably the closest thing to a literal flood basalt that has happened in the modern era.

    • If it was in pacific ocean, than I expect something between Galapagos and Hawaii in size .. where the seafloor is moving very fast.

      Galapagos sits on an insanely fast moving seafloor and the litosphere is thin there too. Pacific been a fast spreader for 100 s of millions of years.

  28. Not sure if this has ever been reported anywhere else yet, or if it is even new, but Ambrym does still have a lava lake. ArcGIS is much better at updating pictures than google earth, it has pictures of Ambrym from after 2018 that include the vents of that years eruption, and pit craters formed, and one of those pit craters has got a lava lake inside it, on the east side of Marum.

      • It also has cloud free Hekla 🙂

        And fully up to date terrain from the Galapagos, so I was able to map out the locations of vents on Sierra Negra that formed in 2018 to near exact locations, it looks like the eruption was quite a big one, probably one of the biggest historical flows in the Galapagos. The lowest vent made a massive cone, nearly 300 meters wide.

        Kilauea still shows a water lake, so I think the pictures are most recent to some time in 2020.

    • Yeiiiiiii!!!! 😀 looks like a very nice Gollum pit for soure. Ambrym probaly is togther with Masaya and West Mata the hottest lava for any subduction zone, about 1150 to 1160 C makes it as fluid as many Icelandic magmas and some Hawaiian ones too. Ambryms lava lake haves a crazy gas supply, Thats why they are always churned up, luckly these lava lakes degassed the whole system. With a massive caldera lid on Ambrym you woud get a basaltic plinian of nightmares with souch gas supply. I dont know the magma supply to Ambrym.. But its probaly high too, althrough it coud also be the massive gas supply that drives the magma To the surface, with a much lower true magma supply. Still Ambrym is an Impressive beast, and one of the hottest subduction zone lavas. Looks like its an enormous ammounts of gas in Ambryms magma conduits.

      But Kilaueas doings are just as intresting

      • Ambrym haves very low viscosity compared to most subduction zone volcanoes, its magma rises very fast from the source and does not have time for it to evolve much. A slow Ambrym vent woud probaly produce pahoehoe because its so fluid

        But West Mata is the hottest subduction melt thats white hot when it erupts it rises directly from the melt zone

        • Only pahoehoe from vents outside the caldera, the 2018 and 2015 fissures, as well as known summit overflows, all made only a’a and were more strombolian, the lakes are open vents but a bit more evolved than flank lava, perhaps more like Etna lava than Hawaii. Flows in 1913 though were erupted outside the caldera, reported to be very fast and fluid, with pahoehoe lined channels.

          Thing is most of the 1913 flows on the only map that exists are just simply not there, heavy vegetation or eroded tephra. Maybe lava flows completely disintegrate on the loose ash after cooling down.

      • Ambrym haves low viscosity look at the videos, perhaps not as low as Kilaūea and Fagradalshraun, But its very low, probaly lower than Etnas avarge

      • A high gas content can make magma in vents and near vents spatters look frothy and puffy and foamed up, while degassed tube lavas like at littoral ocean entries are amazingly smooth and shiney

        The gas content haves alot to do with the spatter texture s in basaltic lavas too.

        But At Halema’uma’u 2008 to 2018 it was so fluid that despite very high gas content it looked like liquid aluminium

        But most Kilaūea lavas are like Ambrym frothy in their spatter because of the gas content

        Gas content also effects how lava looks like when it erupts, near vent lavas are often very puffy and frothy and swollen and looks thicker than it is .. puffy by its own gas

        The lava pour experiments in university of syracuse lava project uses completely degassed basalt, thats why their lavas are so smooth and shiney.

      • Ambrym in its vent is probaly even more fluid than it looks like. But the 2018 fissures looked very Etnean and Strombolian as you say. Perhaps the lava lake drainout pushed out older magma in the rifts

        • If there is older pahoehoe vents in the Ambrym area, then we knows that Ambrym displays very low viscosity, only really really fluid lavas can form pahoehoe at all

  29. According to some of the blogs, Miss Blanco is said to have declared the volcano as off, so it seems deleted for the moment.
    The deep quakes appear to have been just some stress release after all.
    Some days are left, then it is officially erased according to them.

  30. Looks like the Insanity that is the Mayotte Eruption ( the largest effusive eruption since Laki ) is a kind of upscaled version of Holuhraun with a plug piston collapse and drainout of an 70 kilometers deep magma resovair. Mayotte is erupting lava nearly directly from the local astenosphere, so it rises without cooling. This stuff must be seriously hot and probaly is kind of an unique deep litosphere eruption. Mayotte coud perhaps go up to 1300 C in eruption temperatures because its so deep. Its also Impressive in its size. Looks like its a monster sized version of Bardarbunga 2014, and I think its still erupting now? If this happened on land in Iceland it woud be the eruption of the millienia really a fantastic sight

    • This is an insane eruption! Is it still going the Mayotte eruption?

      If it was on land in Iceland it woud be the show of 100 s of years really, and draw enormous ammounts of tourists to this eruption. They should Send submarines down and look at the submarine sheet flows and underwater lava channels thats possible during fast submarine eruptions. But perhaps too dangerous to Send submarines there?

    • And its still ongoing!! Then This is the most insane basaltic eruption in our lifetimes really! So sad its not on land, I think soon 8 km3 of lava have been emplaced since it started, its soon Ionian in scale

    • I wonder why my avatar change
      I type in my gmail correctly

      Anyway Mayotte seems to be feeding from a seriously large chamber and probaly the decompression melting machine have started too. I wonder If Hawaii or Iceland can do this insanity

    • But Mayotte is indeed the big eruption of our lifetime, seriously Impressive stuff thats hidden under the ocean, its probaly much hotter than Fagradalshraun too, because it comes from much much deeper

    • Only now I realise the gigantic scale of the Mayotte eruption, and its still erupting! This is really insane stuff thats ongoing now. It will be the Big basalt eruption of my lifetime

    • Jesper, do you have a source for that 8 cubic kilometre?
      Because as far as I know the last number I saw was around 1.5km3.

      It has a very interesting model of eruption.
      I do though have to correct whoever did the image. It was not an ashtenospheric drainage. This is an intrusion, something completely different.

      What needs to be solved is obviously where that magma came from that injected into the crust?
      Second interesting part is the depth of the oceanic crust. It kind of points towards this being old continental crust instead, which it in fact is.
      There is also talk about a spread center, but there is just no associated features of a spread center.
      There is though obviously quite a bit of faulting between Mayotte and the Comores, and on the Indian Ocean side there is a fairly nice rifting going on, just around where the eruption is taking place.

      But, still nothing that really explain this amount of magma.
      It is had been closed to Tanzania I would have said that it perhaps was a branch of the African Superplume. But, that seems a bit “far”-fetched at this location (pun intended).

      It is a very interesting conundrum, but until we have a true measurment of the seabed I will not go and state that it is a large eruption, or the eruption of the centuries… 🙂

      • 5km3 for Mayotte was the last volume estimation I read from papers 2 years ago. But Im not soure

      • It is a very old spreading centre, part of the break-up of Africa (and it roughly connects to one of the many branches of the African rift). It managed to create oceanic crust, but it died not soon after when India took off. Perhaps there is still some residual heat left, but it was a long time ago. Perhaps still a bit of decompression melting? Meaning, I have no idea.

      • An eruption like Mayotte is perhaps like fagradals tapping from a deep established magma pool
        It will take some time before Mayotte exhaust itself. In the meantime They should Send a submarine! Its incredible that they have not done that yet.. they did that at West Mata eruption

      • It says 1.3 km3 of Magma here:…87C/abstract

        Then here an 820-m-tall, ~5 km³ volcanic edifice on the seafloor is mentioned (new, 2014 flat ground):

        Then here quote: “Then the vessel’s echo sounder, a system that maps out the seafloor using sound waves, detected an underwater volcano measuring about 1.2 cubic miles, Live Science reports.”
        This would be around 5 cubic kilometres, and this grew from 2014 to 2018.

        So, if it is still ongoing, Jesper might be right with his prognosis.

        The nature abstract mentions a large caldera structure underneath the new volcano.
        Another piece I found speaks of a rapid movement of Mayotte itself to the east (around 20cm). India’s history comes to mind.

        • That edifice did not exist before this eruption. The volume is indeed over 5km3 since this eruption started, as all other sources says

    • Mayotte is still erupting, woud not supprise at all If it grows to well over 10 km3 Mayotte have erupted over
      5 km3 since it started and its still erupting without stop today

      • Although your fish is getting bigger by each post you might be in the viscinity of truth.

    • Carl Thats the litosphere thickness not the crust. Oceanic Litospheres far from the spreading ridges can be over 100 km thick. Crust in mayotte is around 17 km thick. While the litosphere is around 70 kilometers thick.. its oceanic, read the diagram again 🙂

    • Leilani eruption is now 1,5 km3 in latest measurements 🙂 it was a very fast eruption from a single dominant vent Fissure 8

      The ongoing Mayotte Eruption is much slower But much faster than Puu Oo was for soure

    • So it has been going on since July 2018.
      Would be some sight if on land.

      So are all the effusive volcanoes removed for now? I’m not interested in Hawaii since it is
      – way too far
      – too familiar, so it looses its magic^^

      I better like the unexpected…like for instance La Palma 😮 , which we could not really enjoy because it was in a poor spot.

      • Don’t worry, something will pop up soon. 🙂
        That is the best part with volcanoes, there is always something beyond the corner.
        We probably just have time to fix a batch of cookies and the next one goes off.

        To be honest, I would like a big explosive one somewhere safe for the locals.

        • Where in Sweden would you like it to be?

          Mauna Loa is about as high as Tambora was before it blew up. I just mention it.

          • Alaska or parts of Kamchatka would be nice and safe. Or one of those iced over ones in Antarctica.

          • Mauna Loa wont blow up 🙂 no evolved magma and not much water. But it is probably the place where the most intense effusive eruptions on this planet happen. The evidence is sitting right above Ocean View estate, 5 km3 of lava erupted in about 1700, creating Mokuaweoweo. The start of that eruption was of similar intensity to what happened in Iceland 83 years later… Iceland has it beat on total volume of eruption but Mauna Loa is 4x the height of any Icelandic volcano, the hydraulic head is beyond colossal. It is perhaps in this regard the lovechild of Kilauea and Nyiragongo, combining extreme height with a massive magma system…

            If though, a stratovolcano of extreme height and long but not total inactivity is desired, I propose Damavand. Nothing to suggest anything is on the way but the setting is nearly perfect, just like old Tambora it is a mostly effusive gigantic cone of basalt and andesite, with some trachyte. It also sits on sediment which has been proposed as a way to allow formation of large silicic chambers fast.

            It is also only 60 km from Tehran…

        • Nyiragongo is trying to get back its lava lake, but only a small spatter vent is present in the summit crater now. Perhaps the 2021 draining did more damage than I tought to the pipe system.

          Looks like there will be No Big lava lake this time?

        • Certain innocent looking mountain next to the entrance to hell possibly? 🙂

      • Thats right the gravity drain potential for Mauna Loa is insane, totaly insane!
        We are talking about over 9000 meters.. its more than a hooverdam burst the 1700 event. Crazy indeed, like the Ice Age columbia floods but lava instead of water 🙂

        • More like 3500 meters, Hapaimanu and Panaewa lava floods were at about 1 km elevation, 1868 was smaller at about 400 meters elevation. But still, Iceland is like 1 km elevation difference, maybe 1.5 km for Bardarbunga and Veidivotn, and Nyiragongo is about the same for most of its eruptions, and these were huge eruption rates. Hapaimanu flows were recorded in a story, it looks like it was comparable intensity to 1950 but lasted a lot longer, raging lava floods flowing faster than you can run. Just the on land part is already as big as Holuhraun…

        • Actually, exact numbers measured from google earth.

          Kilauea 2018 lake to Ahu’aila’au – 770 meters difference.
          Kilauea 1823 lava lake to Keai’wa fissure – 600 meters difference.
          Grimsvotn summit to lowest vent of Skaftareldar – 1060 meters difference.
          Katla summit to lowest vent of Eldgja – ~900 meters difference.
          Bardarbunga summit to Veidivotn 1477 main crater – 1450 meters difference.
          Nyiragongo 1977 crater floor to lowest vents – 1300 meters difference.
          Nyiragongo 2002 crater floor to lowest vents – 1700 meters difference.
          Nyiragongo 2021 crater floor to lowest vents – 1450 meters difference.

          Etna summit to Monti Rossi – 2450 meters difference.

          Mauna Loa summit to Kulani cone – 2670 meters difference…
          Mauna Loa summit to Hapaimanu crater – 2570 meters difference…
          Mauna Loa summit to 1868 fissure – 3430 meters difference…
          Mauna Loa summit to 1877 fissure – 5520 meters difference…

          As can be seen, Mauna Loa caldera formation eruptions are really in a league of their own.

          • Kilauea summit to Puna Ridge flood eruptions: 6000 m 🙂

          • Nyiragongo’s eruptions are still more intense than those of Mauna Loa though. Surface lava lakes are best at draining rapidly.

          • Yes, though anything bigger than 2018 on Kilauea will be visually smaller or not visible at all as the majority will be offshore, Mauna Loa is all on land pretty much. Also that someone thought it was a good idea to build a subdivision at flood basalt ground zero there too, it is equal 1st place of bad locations alongside Grindavik for places likely to be flooded by lava from within in the next few centuries. Leilani Estates was first, but…

            Nyiragongo might not really be very comparable here in general, relatively much lower volume, and no real tectonics involved. Just a really big version of Pu’u O’o, that was allowed to get very tall before it stopped fountaining. There is tectonic effects but probably draining would happen anyway eventually.

            I probably also should have included Holuhraun, which was about 1200 meters lower than Bardarbunga summit. This is within the same range as eruptions southwest, so maybe gravity isnt the only factor after all. Either that or Holuhraun was not tapping its full potential for whatever reason.

          • Grindavik will be ok, I expect. As for worst located towns, Kapoho comes to mind. Destroyed by lava in 1960, rebuild, and destroyed again in 2018. I expect new houses to go up any day.

          • The size of the magma body tapped and how quickly it can be mobilized are important too. A lava lake drains the fastest, although normally it contains a small volume. That is why Nyiragongo makes the most intense effusive eruptions in the planet but are very tiny.

            Magma chambers can also be drained entirely when the caldera roof collapses. The major fissure eruptions of Iceland are driven by volcanoes that at times have the largest basaltic magma chambers on Earth, which are Bardarbunga, Katla, Grimsvotn and Askja.

            The only shield volcano with flank eruptions and a magma chamber comparable to those of Icelandic shields is Sierra Negra in Galapagos.

          • Also it is important where the dike starts. This is something that is understudied.

            For example at Kilauea dikes can start from satellite magma chambers at different elevations. The 1823 dike of Kilauea started up at the summit and reached all the way down to the coast but was only able to drop the magma column of the summit by 100-200 meters. The 2018 dike of Kilauea started from a location where the surface above is at 300 m and was able to drain the magma column by 3 kilometres or so, plus there was a sizable magma chamber ready to collapse.

            We know little about the plumbing of most volcanoes but it is possible that intrusions can start from different locations in the volcano plumbing…

        • We have never seen Mauna Loa in full action during multiple km3 drainouts. As Chad says these events coud be stuff of nightmares, with eruption rates that astronomicaly dwarf Holuhraun during the first days. The year 1700 event must have had some insane lava fountains as the hydralic magma head pushed through the ground. And togther with some serious intense moist pyrocumulus convection over the eruption

          But indeed Nyiragongo is intense drainouts. 2021 was apocalyptic during the first hour, with a massive pyrocumulus that vent almost nuclear as it erupted.

          • Hapaimanu crater had lava fountains 350 meters high, which is very tall for Mauna Loa. These curtains of fire though are not tall usually, only later as a single vent takes over do tall fountains happen. That happened even at Laki and Eldgja.

            Hapaimanu was really quite a frightening eruption, the story describes it as flooding over a village so fast no one could escape, so fast that it could not be outrun. The visible flow is more compound, very similar to 2018 flow structures, the eruption lasted a while but it must have been extreme at the onset, before becoming more stable at one vent.

    • Rewarding in combination with gmaps, jumping back and forth, indeed.

  31. The earthquakes La Palma have started again at 20:36.

    2.3 mbLg
    2021/12/18 21:03:42

    2.3 mbLg
    2021/12/18 20:38:39

    2.4 mbLg
    2021/12/18 20:36:39
    3. 4

  32. Anyone knowing If there is plans for a webcamera on Nyiragongos summit?


    Video insanely insanely close to an F4 tornado
    It amazes me how narrow it can be too!
    That funnel sunction is so narrow.. and yet If it hit the car it woud fly in the air or be thrown. Really incredible video and not clickbait either

    • Normaly souch powerful tornadoes forms massive wedge tornadoes, but this one is very narrow and Intense, perhaps its ”roping” out althrough it got more intense as the video progressed. If this chainsaw of a Tornado hit a small house it coud pulverize it

  34. Albert,

    In the link to the EARS that I put up under your answer to Jesper/Mayotte I consider esp. interesting (besides the brillant pictures and also text) Table 1 on page 2090 which shows an enormous extension in the Pleistocene and the text on page 2099 below the pictures.
    Although it’s a long paper it’s worth reading at some point, and it’s also well written.

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