Thursday, November 3, 2011

Continuing Activity at El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain)

The new eruption at El Hierro volcano in the Canary Islands has resumed heightened activity. The southern eruption which produced a submarine cinder cone and fissure system appears to have abated somewhat, with most of the seismic activity now migrating to the north shore of the island. The cone south of La Restinga is now in a degassing/minor eruption phase, with gas still being emitted and bubbling visible on the surface of the water.

The underwater eruption is the only other historical eruption since an eruption in the 1770's.

Seismic activity and harmonic tremor have increased, and some activity seems to be happening on the north side of the island. It is possible that an eruption could occur on the island itself, but it is not known nor expected at this time. There has been a lot of magma movement into the chamber, which is easy to see when looking at seismic maps. A low velocity zone lies under the island that indicates magma is again rising. Over 600 quakes were recorded yesterday alone, bringing the total tremors to over 10,000.

There have been (bad) rumors floating around the Internet on other blogs that say that these eruptions have formed a new island. This is untrue. No lava has breached the surface of the water and it remains about 100m below the surface, or farther. There has been no aerial ash emission, and there is no danger currently to those on land, unless an eruption of a fissure or cinder cone begins on the island itself.

There remains a maritime exclusion zone around the eruption center, and only scientific vessels from Spain's Oceanographic Institute have been allowed to send ROV's down to look at the eruption site (you can see some video of this in the link below).

It is important not to hype up this eruption. Yes, it is a rare thing indeed for this island to experience any activity, however this is not a large eruption, and is merely scientifically fascinating at this point. To recap, NO ISLAND HAS BEEN CREATED. The eruption and seismicity is ongoing, and it is anyone's guess as to what will happen next. I will post some updates if anything more significant develops.

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