A Grapevine service announcement Be patient: That eruption is expected to last until 2015
Mag
Articles
EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL ERUPTION, 15 HOURS IN

EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL ERUPTION, 15 HOURS IN

Photos by
James Ashworth

Published March 21, 2010

Grapevine’s volcanologist student friend James Ashworth wrote this for us. He is very smart about volcanoes. Expect more from James soon: It is 1am. My phone rings. My friends’ phones are all ringing. Emails and Facebook messages are flying around. Why? A volcano is erupting, we are volcanology students, and this is the most exciting thing since… well, since the last time something really exciting happened.

Our excitement was pretty well founded, though. We’re all rock-hounds and lava-fiends, and most of us came to study in Iceland at least partially because of this possibility. I realise I’m not exactly selling you on the extreme coolness of volcanologists here, but whatever. When we get a job we have a 1 in 10 chance of it killing us anyway, so we probably don’t care that we’re uncool. But for those of you who are actually cool, and still care what is going on, I shall sum up the events so far – about 15 hours into the eruption.

It started around New Year, when earthquake activity began to pick up in the area of Eyjafjallajökull. GPS measurements showed that the volcano was literally inflating, too – pressure was building up inside. Data showed that an intrusion event was probably taking place – that is magma, molten rock, is pushed up into the volcano from below. Most intrusions never reach the surface, but were hopeful anyway. An ‘acid pulse’ in early February caused the groundwater to become acidic due to gases from the magma seeping up through the rock. Despite these signs, chances are it would just be another intrusion – one occurred previously here in summer 2009, and a few times in the decades prior.

A couple of weeks ago, earthquake activity spiked. It literally went off the chart – a huge ‘earthquake swarm’, thousands of tiny movements, began. Something unusual was going on. Debate within both the scientific and amateur volcanology communities was rife, but as with most things in volcanology, no-one was really sure what was going on.

The earthquake swarm died down a few days ago. It looked like things might be coming to a halt, although the mountain continued to inflate. Then last night, things took a turn for the interesting (if you’re a volcanologist, anyway). Low-frequency tremor, which usually means that magma is on the move, began to show up on instrument readings. The earthquakes being measured were getting shallower.

Then, at about midnight, the first report of light being seen coming from the glacier. Apparently, shit just got real. Information came trickling in throughout the (sleepless) night, but come daylight a better picture formed of what was going on. So, as of right now, the latest is that a 1km fissure (crack in the ground) has opened up on the ridge between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, which is producing lava flows in both directions away from it. The fissure trends roughly north-south (which is a little unusual, actually), and is (was?) producing a spectacular curtain of lava, plus an ash plume rising into the air. Route 1 was closed past Selfoss last night, presumably to aid in evacuations and until scientists knew what was going on, but now appears to be open all the way to Vik (i.e. as normal). There isn’t really any risk of a ‘jökulhlaup’ (glacier run – glacier meltwater flood) right now.

So what will happen in the future? Well, no one can really predict how long this will last. It could be hours, days, weeks, or months long. The activity along the fissure will probably change from a long curtain of lava into more isolated single vents along the line. The fissure could extend, however, or more could open – there is certainly still possibility for an eruption below Eyjafjallajökull glacier, which could produce a jökulhlaup. It is also worth keeping an eye on Katla – last time Eyjafjallajökull erupted, so did Katla. Katla is also thought to have produced a tiny eruption in 1999 following one of the intrusion events at Eyjafjallajökull. The two volcanoes appear to have a mechanical linkage somewhere below the surface, and so it is definitely worth keeping an eye on that.

But, for now, the eruption continues. Weather is poor, which is hampering attempts to actually see it, but hopefully that will clear. I’ll be heading out there tonight for a cursory glance, and again early next week with some luck for a much closer investigation.

Updates will come as I get them (and the chance to write them!). Until then: don’t panic, sit back, and enjoy the show!


Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Police Guns Detained By Toll Authorities Until Proven Gifts

by

The 250 machine guns, recently acquired from the Norwegian army, have been sealed off by toll authorities, who will not deliver them to the Coast Guard until the latter can prove that the weapons were a gift, as its representatives have publicly claimed. According to RÚV, toll authorities locked up and sealed the warehouse in which the weapons are kept, until the Coast Guard can provide such evidence. Whereas the Coast Guard has not provided any proof, toll authorities have a copy of the Norwegian Army’s invoice for the guns, supporting Norway’s claim that the Coast Guard purchased them. If

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Adam Ibrahim Pasha Ends Hunger Strike

by

Adam Ibrahim Pasha has ended his hunger strike. He announced the end of the strike on Thursday evening, his tenth day striking. Pasha took the action to protest against the Directorate of Immigration’s decision not to process his application for asylum in Iceland. In his announcement, Pasha explains that he respects Icelandic authorities and the Directorate of Immigration in particular. He says that he does not want them to feel as if he meant to force their decision, but explains that he took the action out of fear for his own life, if deported. He says that he now considers

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

“To Write A Saga, You Must Kill A Cow”

by

Last night, as reported, director Benedikt Erlingsson and producer Friðrik Þór Friðriksson received the Nordic Council Film Prize for the 2013 comedy “Of Horses and Men”. In his acceptance speech, Benedikt criticized the government for cutting the budget of the Icelandic Film Fund by, he said, 42 percent, this year. Describing the situation as a “catastrophe”, Benedikt announced the presence of Icelandic politicians at the ceremony, and encouraged other members of the audience to pick up the topic in conversations, during the succeeding party. “Talk to them about the Icelandic sagas,” Benedikt said, and continued: “Tell them that we who

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Bishop Blames Immigration For People Leaving The Church

by

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir believes people leaving Iceland and foreigners coming in contribute to the high numbers of people deregistering from the National Church. Addressing attendees at an ecumenical council last Saturday, RÚV reports, the bishop offered a number of explanations for why more people are leaving than joining the National Church. “One explanation I mentioned earlier is that when people move out of the country, they are automatically de-registered from the church,” she said. “So one explanation [for the decrease] are the number of people leaving the country.” However, this is incorrect. People who leave the country

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Most Consider Themselves Unsafe Downtown

by

Over half of those who responded to a poll done for the police said they feel unsafe downtown after dark or after midnight on weekends. MBL reports that, according to a poll conducted by the Social Sciences Department of the University of Iceland (at the behest of the police), 55% of respondents said they considered downtown a very or rather unsafe place to be either after midnight on weekends, or after dark on any day of the week. Only 8% said they believed they were very safe downtown during these hours. Women were 71% more likely than men to consider

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Labour Leaders Prepare For Hard Road Ahead

by

Leaders of several trade unions say they are getting ready to take a harder stance against management this year, with the need for solidarity amongst workers especially emphasised. The temporary collective bargaining agreement that was agreed upon earlier this year is soon reaching a close, and many professions – such as music teachers and doctors – are already striking, or considering doing so. Vísir spoke with several trade union leaders about the negotiations to come, and what their position on the current labour situation is. Kristján Þórður Snæbjarnarson, chairperson of the Icelandic Electricians Union, said solidarity amongst workers is the

Show Me More!