From Iceland — NEW ERUPTION!


Published April 14, 2010

Photo by
Julia Staples

Volcanologist James Ashworth -  2dfedda0f5748ae.jpgSo, after yesterday’s tectonic disappointment, I bring good news! If you like volcanoes, anyway. Our old friend Eyjafjallajökull, who we thought was stopping, is in fact not stopping. At all. News have been coming out of another eruption this morning following a large earthquake swarm overnight, this time underneath the Eyjafjallajökull glacier itself, most likely in the volcano’s central caldera (crater).

The current fissure is believed to be 1-2 kilometres long, located in the southwestern part of the summit caldera (crater). This is melting a nice little series of holes in the glacier, estimated to be something like 600 metres in diameter and following the line of the fissure. An eruption plume, mainly of steam but with some ash, is confirmed to have reached 22,000 ft. Ash-fall is to the east, confirmed in the Fimmvörðuháls area (near the old fissures). The level of the river Markarfljót is increasing as ice melts – a jökulhlaup (glacial meltwater flood) is expected, although the size of this depends on whether water dams up under the glacier or not. Apparently authorities have decided to sever the ring road in order to give the water an easy route to the coast, hopefully saving expensive bridges.

Volcanic tremor is still increasing at this point, so the eruption may be increasing in power a bit. As I write this it is estimated to be 10-20 times more powerful than the relatively small Fimmvörðuháls fissure eruption.

So, what more can we expect? Truthfully, being under the glacier, this is going to be a lot less spectacular for tourists. No easily visible fire fountains here. There is a risk of explosions, but the entire eruption is basically one continuous explosion due to the constant phreatic interactions anyway. The jökulhlaup is definitely the largest threat in my mind, but good preparation and monitoring (of river levels, etc) means that the risk from this should be minimised.

Homes in the area were evacuated very swiftly last night, so I doubt anyone is at any kind of immediate risk. I’m hearing that scientists believe the eruption will be small, although we all thought it was stopping yesterday, so you should always take any kind of prediction with a pinch of salt.

So, that’s about all I have for now. I hear the weather is clearing up, so we should know more soon. And as I hear it, so will you!

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