From Iceland — Goodnight, Sweet Prince!

Goodnight, Sweet Prince!

Published May 26, 2010

Goodnight, Sweet Prince!
Photo by
Julia Staples

And, as with the loss of an old friend, my heart is filled with sadness. Our pet volcano appears to be dead.
Ok, so I’m being over-dramatic. But Eyjafjallajökull does appear to be dead, at least for now. Following a couple of weeks of increased activity, everything appears to have come to a grinding halt. All that remains now appears to be a small cloud of steam. There’s no ash, no lava, no activity at all. Earthquake activity is dropping; volcanic tremor is almost back to background levels. It’s just stopped.

So what does this mean, and why has it happened? Possibly for the last time now: we don’t really know. The supply of magma to the surface has stopped in some way, although at this point it’s not clear if the magma isn’t coming up from deep down any more, of if the volcano has blocked itself up. If the former is true, then this is probably the end of the eruption for the foreseeable future. If it’s the latter, then time may show pressure building within the mountain once again – if this occurs, then the eruption could continue in the future.

We shouldn’t forget that the last time this volcano blew its top, back in 1823-24, it took a few months break in the middle in which it did very little. We could be seeing something similar occurring here – I don’t think we should write off this eruption as totally done just yet. However, the intensity and length of this eruption total something of a reasonable size, and so it’s definitely not unthinkable that it’s just simply run out of steam (well, magma and gas).

In short – keep an eye on it, but don’t be surprised if we don’t hear from it again.

So what next? Firstly I’d imagine airlines will be breathing a collective sigh of relief, and farmers in the area can finally begin to clear up the mess and try to get back on their feet. I wish them the best of the luck with that, and hope it all goes as smoothly as a post-volcanic cleanup can. On the volcanism front, clearly all eyes are focused on Katla, with the occasional sideways glance towards Hekla and Grímsvötn (see ‘The Usual Suspects’ in the current issue of Grapevine). There will almost certainly be another eruption in Iceland within the next few years, if not sooner, so I don’t think we’re going to be without spectacular, if hopefully less disruptive volcanism for too long.

But, as I said in the linked article, I personally don’t believe it’s going to be Katla. Hey, who knows – maybe our favourite unpronounceable volcano will return to action in the near future instead.

If it doesn’t, and this is my last article on the subject, then it has been a pleasure writing for you folks. Until next time!

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