Mag
Articles
Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Published April 20, 2010

As so often happens with volcanoes, a lot has changed in the past day or so, so I will try to sum up the recent activity as of Tuesday afternoon. If something changes before this even gets published, then so be it – volcanoes are often incredibly unstable beasts!

Firstly, it seems as if the eruptive activity was at its most severe around the time we were there on Saturday. I have heard reports of a ‘pyroclastic surge’ on Saturday, and I believe we actually witnessed this, although I sort of didn’t believe it at the time, as I didn’t think this eruption was really capable of producing them. A pyroclastic surge is a sort of ‘blast’ of gas and rock fragments, which can travel very quickly over the ground, and can be extremely dangerous. It certainly looked like the ash column collapsed on Saturday, which could give rise to a surge, so it’s certainly very possible. If so, we shouldn’t underestimate the potential power of this quite small eruption.

In the last couple of days, the eruption column has become much smaller, and the activity has changed towards more ‘Strombolian’ eruptive activity (the name is taken from Stromboli volcano in southern Italy, which erupts in this way). Strombolian eruptions are characterised by intermittent small eruptions from the crater, throwing incandescent blocks and bombs of lava up into the air, and with much lower ash production than the previous phreato-magmatic activity.

This change in activity is definitely a good thing for humans (and animals!), both in Iceland and abroad. In Iceland it means that less ash is being generated, and so a lot of the old ash fall can be cleared up. Route 1 is back open all along the south coast as I write this – the old breaks in the road have been filled in, so presumably the risk of jökulhlaup has been considered minimal (scientists believe any meltwater being formed by the eruption is draining away steadily and not building up beneath the ice). It also means much less disruption to air travel, as has previously been reported – air routes are beginning to reopen as the air begins to clear a little over Europe.

So what’s in the future? Well (you guessed it!) we really don’t know. Strombolian activity can continue for months or even years (in the case of Stromboli itself, over 20,000 years, although this is an exceptional case!) with minimal disruption to surrounding areas. There were theories kicking around in the scientific community that the current decrease in activity could be due to an injection of very thick, silica-rich magma blocking things up as it makes its way to the surface. If this turned out to be true, there would be two possible outcomes. If the magma was very rich in gases, a large explosive eruption could occur if it reached the surface. If it was gas-poor, a passive dome-building eruption would occur, where a new hill of lava would be built with no real explosive risk at all (but would bring with it risks of its own, best discussed elsewhere).

Really, any talk of the future of this volcano is pure conjecture. It may die out tomorrow, Strombolian activity may continue for years, or a large explosive phase could set in. We have no idea. I think the most likely possibility is that activity will continue as it is now for an indefinite period of time, and then simple wind down. Whatever happens, be sure to keep an ear to the Grapevine!

Eruption Report #1
Eruption Report #2
Eruption Report #3
Eruption Report #4
Eruption Report #5
Eruption Report #6
Eruption Report #7
Eruption Report #8
Eruption Report #9
Eruption Report #10
Eruption Report #11


Mag
Articles
Collect ‘Em All: When Reykjavík’s Bums Appeared On Postcards

Collect ‘Em All: When Reykjavík’s Bums Appeared On Postcards

by

Being able to live anonymously is one of the great perks of modern civilisation. In a big city today, it’s

Mag
Articles
A Visit To Quest – Hair, Beer & Whisky Saloon

A Visit To Quest – Hair, Beer & Whisky Saloon

by

To be blunt, the nightlife in 105 Reykjavík leaves something to be desired. So, when I heard that a new

Mag
Articles
That Time The United States Were Thinking Of Buying Iceland

That Time The United States Were Thinking Of Buying Iceland

by

“The population of Iceland is about 70,000, but in view of its pasture and arable lands, its valuable mines, its

Mag
Articles
The Sheer Number Of Tourists

The Sheer Number Of Tourists

by

Last month, I visited Keflavík International Airport for the first time since their recent renovation. It’s nice that there are

Mag
Articles
How The Pirates Are Taking Over Icelandic Politics

How The Pirates Are Taking Over Icelandic Politics

by

If you’ve been online in the past seven years, you most likely know that the world has a minor fascination

Mag
Articles
A Note On Listening To Stand-Up In A Different Language With Advice From Eddie Izzard

A Note On Listening To Stand-Up In A Different Language With Advice From Eddie Izzard

by

If you are reading this, and you don’t speak Icelandic, you probably don’t believe that it could be enjoyable to

Show Me More!