Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Activity Strong Today At El Hierro

The Canary Islands volcano does not seem to want to quit. Despite reports around the web and other blogs that say "El Hierro Eruption Stops", it seems again that El Hierro is making fools out of those who try to predict this volcano. Today the activity is quite high, with more lava balloons (gas filled lava that floats on the surface of the water) visible day and night, and a very strong "jaccuzzi" area present during the afternoon at El Hierro (below).

Picture from Movistar/Telefonica webcam.

El Hierro has been in a sort of on-off-on-off-on pattern with its eruptions, probably due to structural adjustments and dome collapse underwater. Once magma pressure builds again, activity resumes. This is probably indicative of a large magma chamber beneath the island. My guess is that the volcano probably has plenty of life in it yet, and that we can't expect it to stop anytime soon.

Pictures posted on Earthquake-report.com from the local scientific expeditions show that there are now two vents active underneath the water. The main vent, lovingly referred to as "Bob", and a nameless vent closer to the shore, but much smaller. The dual jaccuzzis can be seen in the image above. 

The main vent is now a mere 30-50 meters below the sea surface, and if activity continues, we will most likely bare witness to a surtseyan eruption within a couple months. Just last month a similar eruption created a new island in the Jebel Zubair chain in Yemen. Since that area isn't closely watched, and is rather deserted, that eruption was a surprise only identified by local reports and satellites. Scientists did not witness the start of the eruption underwater, and thus only knew of the eruption once it breached the surface, so we have no way of knowing how long Jebel Zubair erupted for. 

We are fortunate with El Hierro to see the precursors to the eruption in the form of a vast amount of earthquakes, along with the underwater cone building phase, and hopefully the surtseyan island forming phase. This will have been a complete record of an eruption, and will no doubt be invaluable to science.

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