Monday, April 2, 2012

Earthquake Swarm and Possible Dike Intrusion at Krísuvík Volcano in Iceland

There is not a whole lot going on in the world in respect to new eruptions or volcanoes at this moment, however Iceland is always fascinating to watch. Today there was a swarm of quakes just SW of the Kleifarvatn lake, just south of the epicenter of Krísuvík volcano. The quakes were shallow, weak, and numerous, but the area is highly active, much like most of Iceland. Most of the quakes registered below a 1.0 magnitude, but were clearly seen on the many Icelandic seismic sensors. The are is home to many thermal vents, as well as hot springs, fumeroles, and fissures.

The last known eruption of Krísuvík volcano was in the 14th century (the 1500's). A few eruptions have taken place at this location after Iceland was settled, but nothing in recent times. It is probable that this swarm will not lead to an eruption any time soon, but Iceland sits on a spreading fault, so it is not a matter of if, but when this volcano will erupt again.

There are several volcanoes in Iceland that are expected to erupt at least within the next 10 years. Those are Katla, Askja, Grimsvötn (or Grimsfjall, Grimsnes), Hekla, and the Reykjanes Ridge, all of which show heightened seismic and thermal activity. However for most of these volcanoes, it is normal to display some kind of activity, and no eruption for any of these, save probably Katla and Hekla, are certain.

Icelands last major eruptions were from Eyjafjallajökull, and Grimsvötn. The Grimsvötn eruption, while spectacular to watch, was nowhere near as big a deal as the Eyjafjallajökull eruption which caused widespread economic damage due to flights to and from Europe being grounded for weeks because of the ash cloud it produced. The ash from Grimsvötn is much more coarse and larger grained than the very fine and powdery ash produced by the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, and thus fell to the earth quickly and did not get picked up by the jet stream.

The activity at Krísuvík can be attributed to a few causes. For one, Iceland is one of the worlds largest users of hydrothermal/geothermal energy, and regularly injects water into hot rocks to produce steam. This does sometimes cause swarms of quakes to occur, and it is rather hard to tell whether or not this could be related, but as the quakes happened on an active spreading fault, I suspect this is not the case, rather a small magma dike intrusion probably occurred.

Around the world most dormant volcanoes are sleeping or slowly rumbling away. Mt Etna did display some nice activity this weekend, but other than Etna's fireworks show, most active volcanoes showed relatively little activity during the month. Not good for us volcano bloggers out there to tell a story, but hey, the Earth does what it wants on its own time with little concern for my Google money! Hopefully this post is at least a good diversion! I'll post more as it occurs!

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