Monday, March 5, 2012

El Hierro Eruption Officially Over?

Reports from earthquake-report.com are saying that INVOLCAN will officially declare the eruption at El Hierro to be over today, possibly lowering the overall alert level to "green" and allowing the village of La Restinga to slowly return to normalcy. Tremor for the past few weeks has been at a minimum, with little to no changes, save the very slight increases and decreases in amplitude, and occasional small earthquakes. For now it seems, the eruption of "Bob", the submarine volcano that ALMOST made it to the surface of the water, is over.

This however does not mean that activity on the island as a whole is finished. Indeed, deformation is still occurring, and earthquakes are getting shallower at other locations around the island. So, while the village of La Restinga may be able to breathe a sigh of relief that "Bob" has gone to sleep, the rest of the island as a whole is still on pins and needles. The last eruption of El Hierro occurred in the 18th century, and lasted two years.

While many volcano enthusiasts and scientists alike were watching El Hierro with anticipation of being able to see a well-documented Surtseyan type eruption (which ended up not happening), the island chain of Jebel Zubair in Yemen pulled a fast one on us and had an island-producing eruption behind everyone's back. Quite frustrating if you were hoping to witness the actual birth of an island from start to finish. It's really too bad that the Zubair group of volcanoes isn't really monitored that well, or we might have gotten our wish.

All things said and done, the ending of the El Hierro eruption, and the lowering of the alert level for La Restinga will likely come as a relief to islanders, as they have been hurt economically by the closure of the fishing port, and the hotels/cafe's which were evacuated during the heightened alert. While the local and Spanish governments might have used the eruption as a tourist draw, like they do on Hawaii or Iceland, the local media hyped the story and scared lots of people and tourists from the island. Only bloggers, and locals were actually reporting on this eruption objectively (or close to objectively), which has given me much more respect for bloggers and freelance journalism.

In any case, my best wishes to the residents of El Hierro, and hopes that if activity does resume, or start in another area, it will be as mellow as the eruption of "Bob", and merely be an interesting, not violent, occurrence. Time will tell if the island has gone back to sleep, but as far as the local government and the scientists at INVOLCAN are concerned, it's time to consider the eruption over... but a word of caution, I'm pretty sure volcanoes don't have to follow government law or statements... we're living on their schedule, not the other way around.

Even though the eruption has "officially" ceased, there will be some remnant activity at the volcano, such as degassing, and occasional structural adjustment quakes.

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