Volcanic Spring & Riddles

The main cone of Nishinoshima Volcano. Japanese Coast Guard photography.

The main cone of Nishinoshima Volcano. Japanese Coast Guard photography.

It is now quite clear how uneventful 2013 were for us volcano-lovers. Week after week we at Volcanocafé had to work hard to find something to write about, so we more and more explored out into long articles about volcanoes. In the end we started a series intended to cover entire North America so that we would be sure to have enough to write about. But, even though Kamchatka did its part 2013 was an eruption-dud.

2014 seems to become a much more intense year and for the first time I feel that I am not able to write about all the volcano news that is out there. It would take me weeks just to catch up, and that if is not yet another volcano starts an eruption or something else that is interesting.

So, here is a short recap of the most interesting activity right now and for the first time in a year or so that list does not contain Etna.


The eruption at Pacaya in Guatemala. Photograph from news.cn.

The eruption at Pacaya in Guatemala. Photograph from news.cn.

I did the most interesting part recently, the resurging caldera floor of Atitlán Caldera, but one should also remember that Pacaya, Fuego and Santiaguito (Santa Maria) are erupting. To top that off Amatitlán has had a few bradyseisms with large scale movements.


Aso seems to have started a cycle towards a new eruptive episode and over at the Aira caldera Sakurajima is still slowly increasing the strength of the short explosive eruptions. But let us not forget Nishinoshima that is happily growing into an ever larger island. Judging from the last confirmed eruption we might see an eruption that lasts for years. Since the Nishinoshima seamount is extensive and not that deep it might turn out to become quite a bit bigger than the old island.


Just from the amount of comments on Hawai’i one can understand that it is time to keep an eye on the active volcano there.


Herdubreid is one of the most beautifull volcanoes on earth. Even though it is said to not have erupted after glaciation the small tuff cone on top begs to differ.

Herdubreid is one of the most beautifull volcanoes on earth. Even though it is said to not have erupted after glaciation the small tuff cone on top beg to differ.

Herðubreið is one of the 3 most beautiful volcanoes on the planet and since a few years it seems to be slowly moving into an eruption. This is a whopper since it is believed to have been dormant since glaciation. It is currently suffering from yet another intrusion of magma from depth, and this time it seems to be moving rapidly at an angle from depth under Herðubreiðartögl towards the central volcano of Herðubreið.

View down the large square shaped crater of Urdarhals.

View down the large square shaped crater of Urdarhals.

It is not only Herðubreið of the age-long dormant volcanoes that is seemingly gearing up for an eruption. During the last few months we have seen very deep earthquake swarms under Kistufell, Trölladyngja and Urðarháls. The only volcano of these 3 to have had an eruption after glaciation is the least known, Urðarháls. These 3 volcanoes are on the same fissure swarm running north from Kistufell. What makes these deep earthquake swarms so interesting is that they conform to IMOs prediction of a pulse coming up via the mantleplume that has its center under Kistufell.

Now for yet another volcano that has not erupted since glaciation, Hagöngúr near Skrokkaldá. During the last 3 months there have been rapid localized inflation at the Skrokkaldá GPS and magmatic earthquakes as a shallow intrusion occurred.

Thankfully the more well known volcanoes of Iceland has taken a bit of a rest, the only more well known volcano that is doing something seems to be Askja that was ice-free on the last good satellite-image (mid December).

In the end

This was just a selection of erupting or otherwise newsworthy volcanoes. The list could almost have become endless… So instead, let us move on to the Friday riddles.


Remember that there is 3 volcanoes, one volcanologist and a volcanic term lurking among the riddles. Pyter is still in the lead for the second week in the row tightly followed by Dorkviking, Evan Chugg and Matt.coffin-car

  1. Mount + Image – Kistufell, literally Coffin mountain (Sissel, 2pt)
  2. Pyroclastic horse feed – Maurice & Katia Krafft was killed by a pyroclastic flow and Krafft manufacturs race horse fodder (Kelda, 2pt)
  3. MHO2 – MOHO or Mohorovičić discontinuity (Evan Chugg, 2pt)
  4. Watered down Na2CO3·10H2O – Lake Natron (Cryphia, 2pt)
  5. Long lasting light of the Pacific – Izalco, known as the Lighthouse of the Pacific due to its 200 year long eruption (Inannamoon, 2pt)
Score board
4 Pyter
3 Dorkviking
3 Evan Chugg
3 Matt
2 Sissel
1 KarenZ



565 thoughts on “Volcanic Spring & Riddles

  1. Thanks for the reply Carl.

    Thats really good news! Hopefully in a near future, we (public) can access seismic data from Iceland volcanoes..
    Just another quick question, any organization stores the whole (even <Ml1) seismic activity in the world updating by hour or even day? IRIS Earthquake Browser only have archives, EMSC-CSEM only have data from some agencies, ISC.ac.uk only have data when a agency uploads a bulletin.

    • Not that I have seen. IRIS provides microseismic events for some regions, e.g. Japan. Probably depends on what arrangements between IRIS and the data provider were made. Right now we can be glad if we find these events at all on the local service website.

    • With time I think more and more information will come online. After all data transfer is doubling in capacity and halving in price every 18 months.

      My main concern are the unmonitored volcanoes out there in the world. There are many tremendously powerful volcanoes out there that lack any sort of monitoring. I hope that we one day might help to solve that.

      • If you can get a power supply in a locked box near a volcano, then there are any number of cheap(ish) smartphone solutions that might give some monitoring – even if not perfect results.

        2 (android) apps I know – one called seismograph which gives xyz components on a trace based on the phones accelerometer movement – and stores the data (it also has some fast fourier transform options on the data)

        and then a more well known app – mapmyrun which tells you of your run including changes in horizontal and vertical movement based on GPS – but that would probably only be accurate to the meter rather than anything subtle – so might only show significant ground deformation.

        if you have a phone plugged in to a charger then it won’t run out of battery, if it is in a locked box it won’t get stolen (probably)

        I doubt the apps are quite set up to send the info – but the first can store it on the micro sd card, which could hold quite a lot of data if someone were to periodically collect it.

        The tech is nearly there to do the job – I’m guessing you need a small solar panel for the phone charger.
        And then you probably need to talk to the chaps who wrote the seismograph app and get them to tack on the missing gps and transmit tech – I’m sure they would love to do that if it was actually being used for real volcano monitoring.

        If the phone had signal you could even have it send the data packets when you asked it for an update (a bit like the ‘where is my droid’ app for finding your lost/stolen phone which will (if you send it the right code) send you an email saying where (based on gps) it thinks it is.

        I guess someone with a real seismo could test the feasibility of this suggestion by setting a phone up in the same spot to get comparison results to see if its even worth thinking about progressing down a crowdsourced volcanomonitoring phone type solution where each person buys one phone sets up the apps and then goes and plugs it into their nearest volcano and sets it up to send the data to volcanocafe 🙂 🙂

        ok I’m dreaming I know, but maybe some group of less well funded scientists might find phones cheaper than posh seismographs and gps sensors – and who knows one day the phones might be accurate and cheap enough to warrant trying that ?

  2. And IMO have worked overtime on the quake at Katla. At first it was a 2.6M, then they removed it and reworked the solution from scratch. I guessed that they removed it due to it being a ghost from the northwestern part of Vatnajökull.
    It appears I was wrong on that (I did though not check the data), IMO has spotted them as 3 tightly spaced earthquakes that most likely opened a conduit from 0.1Km depth to the surface. Probably caused a hydrothermal event.

    Stellar work by IMO (as they do 99.9% of the time)… I guess we complain on them now and then due to us being so used to them being like clock-work so often. 🙂

    • Boris above commented that the professionals are much better than us at interpreting raw waveform data. That is true in every way. If I see a clear signal I can say it is an earthquake. But the Katla signal looked like a fifties dieseltruck with diarhea. Discerning the 3 quakes out of that mess is verging on magical skill.

      I should also point out that my comment about it being caused by or causing a small hydrothermal event is a guess, but it is a known spot for suspected hydrothermal activity.

    • I dont see anything as major as what we saw a few days back. Lots of dust, but no major eruptions or explosions from what I’ve seen.

  3. This shot is a couple of minutes after a large explosion, the plume when straight up at high velocity, winds have taken it now. [IMG]http://i41.tinypic.com/2nhm2s3.jpg[/IMG]

  4. I have had a “day”…
    Every time I tried to sit down and actually write the phone called.
    So, tomorrow it will be a post, I am dead tired now.

    • The ever mysterious IMO (my pun) has put up surprize quake – “qoute:
      Tuesday 21.01.2014 01:51:35 63,963 -19,764 2,7 km 1,0 99,0 5,7 km SV of Heklu”
      (but this strikes as odd, this appears larger at SMJ and GOD, as I was told quakes died out with distance, and none listed for GOD at same time.. *rant*)

      • I would be pretty certain that the PF deposits are pretty thick there. I highly doubt it’s vegetation as any vegetation would have been burned off there a while back.

        With that said, it’s probably just freshly smoking pieces of the collapsed dome. The Pyroclastic Flow deposits from Novarupta’s early 1900’s eruption kept smoking for years after the eruption ended giving the Katmai area the name “the valley of 10,000 smokes”. I think this represents that on an incredibly small scale 🙂 .

    • Hi Sissel, I have looked at that particular spot many times seeing odd things. I believe there are some fore hills, and this is the place where many of the big chunks of the dome land and go on degassing, building the hill up as a rubble cone.

  5. In a world there are things that happen in parralell, like paralell unversal worlds. I think I got mental message from other country on what next post will be on this blog, but as I am not expert, and has taken care of some AAA fire recently, I dare not say anything will happen anytime soon. But obviously some will, just what is anyones guess! *rant, miss miss Diana*

  6. In my continuing effort to better understand tremor graphs, in the last few hours, it appears there is/has been a noticeably sharp increase in tremor amplitude at low/mid frequencies at many Icelandic SIL’s. http://hraun.vedur.is/ja/oroi/allarsort.html

    On some (but not all) affected stations, the LF/MF spikes appear to have ended, while at others the amplitude continues to rise. This would suggest that the LF vibration source may not be originating from a far-away common source (such as waves) since I would think all the affected stations would trend similarly in relatively the same timeframe (allowing for differences in the speed of vibration travel time). Also, the high frequency (2-4 Hz) plot at many of the affected stations does not correlate at all with the other two, in particular the LF 0.5-1.0 Hz band. Judging from the storm on the 13th/14th which basically showed an increase in amplitudes across the entire spectrum (presumably from elevated wave activity + local winds/gusts), the current data doesn’t look the same; so I guess that local weather does not appear to be a factor? I know that marine-generated noise can be detected on land far from the ocean (as Carl wrote in a long-ago post)….and there IS a potent low to the SSE of Iceland, so I guess marine-generated wave noise may still be causing the LF/MF spike despite the inconsistent data at the affected SIL’s?

    However, given the recent increase in multiple seismic data and related events (such as glacial floods), which many here at VC has mentioned as evidence of possible magma movement, is it also possible that real hot-spot-related seismic tremor deep under Iceland proper is occurring that SIL’s over a wide area are responding differently to?

    Anyway, to try and summarize my rambling, I guess my basic question is how to distinguish spikes in LF/MF amplitude that originate from vibration sources such as ocean waves (and the ambient), vs. LF -tremor from magma movement (as Lurking and Carl is so found of mentioning…especially related to El Hierro)?
    Thanks for any insights or comments?

    “Today is a better day than yesterday to Learn”

    • Red (lower end of spectrum) is from Waves hitting shore or such, Green is medium distances but Blue is nearby sources (like whats happening under the station in case of FED). Matleplume lava movements do not appear in these plots – its combined movement in these spectrums (formula that I do not know which is arrived at – It was not explained when I did visit the IMO last time around) but single spikes are (all colours) quake or quakes.
      Row of quakes then form thicker spikes or makes up general term “unrest”.
      Bottom of Blue lines tends to escalate in a curve upwards (and can be seem in all eruption starts) but Grimsvötn 2004 ths was also preeceeded by glacial flow, and this is quite visible. Basically the “allsorts” version I quit use long time ago, I use other data, but then each SIL as iindividual referance. Weather influences these plots quite a lot, but affects Blue the most.
      *rant explanation, not expert, and knows that*

    • And on “hearing” a mantleplume…
      It is my own personal pet project. It is impossible with todays equipment to do that directly. That is why I am actually spending a bit of time at pondering if it would be possible to build something that actually could do that.
      What in theory would be possible with off the shelf technology would be to hear the end point of the mantle plume if it has larger than normal activity, and I suspect I on occation have done that at El Hierro. But that might be a mistake on my part.
      In Iceland I am hoping to get a very specialized plot done one day that might let us watch as the heralded (by IMO) plume pulse unfolds.

      There are ways to detect anomalies of this type in a secondary fashion, and that is to make anomaly maps out of data from large earthquakes at other spots on the planet. This has been done a lot lately and given stellar results that seems to have proven the mantleplume models viability as a scientific model.

      • I hope your correct. Wimpy eruption if so. I just have that chart bookmarked on my computer and wanted to take a look at it. It was updated last September but I think it was before then that I last looked at it.

      • @Mike G and Boris:
        Before the 3 last eruptions at Grimsvötn there has been a certain value of pretty much the same cumulative seismic moment from earthquakes before that volcano has erupted. I theorised before Grimsvötn 2011 that the amount of CSM might equate to the level of “readiness” for the volcano to erupt. And made a prognosis that most likely was dumb luck and got it spot on as Grimsvötn erupted half a year later at the month I had said.
        There is though differences between volcanoes, especially when comparing with a volcano that has not erupted for 96 years like Katla and a steady blower like Grimsvötn. We just do not know if the same goes for Katla, or even if so what the CSM number would be.
        Personally I think we would see the mother of all earthquake swarms before a Katla eruption and that we still are a good long way away, and so does IMO think.

        Personal musings from Your very own Psychic Reader of Cumulative Seismic Moment at Grimsvötn :mrgreen:


  7. The word “busy” is now defined as = Hekla has earthquakes and Carl can’t find a minute to comment it.

    Well then, Kata nothing to worry about, at least yet. Nothing pointing to anything there more than a few small quakes.
    Hekla… God only knows. Once again we see a M1ish quake and after that a string of microquakes. All at the same spot, all at the boundary for where the column of magma meets sollid rock according to Sturkells modell.

      • Also hear the doorbell…
        *not expert, but have read every paper and book on Hekla whilst sitting on the toilet*

        • Ah.. … there you been …
          *must readjust hearing aid
          as I am not shure me hears
          full 100 km, except downwind * 😉

          • Had one of “those” days… Quite unexpectedly too.
            Completely knackered today. I almost threw my phone out into the ocean due to mass of calls. Only thing that kept me away from it is that the ocean is completely covered in ice so the phone would not have disappeared… 😦

  8. The latest set of Airpano panoramas shows Kuril Lake in Kamchatka. Stunning as ever!
    You start off with a bear standing in a sea of bright pink salmon – what’s not to like! And there’s the wonderfully named Diky Greben volcano to look out for.

    Kuril Lake is a huge VEI-7 caldera with a couple of resurgent domes forming islands (remember the folk tales of the ‘Heart of Alaid’ from the Alaid post?)


  9. And… earlier whilst walking around chattering on the phone I caught this sight… This is purely for those who do not have real winter in here. It is an ice sculpture of a gargantuan Hedgehog. Happy winter on you!

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    • At 60 tons it set a small bunch of world records when they lifted it into place. It is amongst other things the heaviest single piece movable statue, the largest single piece ice sculpture and to date the most expensive piece of human-made ice.
      The tradition started with a 15 ton rat that scared the living bejouzus out of me one night.

      • I’d be interested in hearing the rat encounter…

        Right now the prevailing imagery that I have constructed around the tale is that of walking around the corner and seeing a massive rat. Whether alcohol was involved or not is the detail that is in question.

        • Right infront of the rat (now a hedgehog) is a pub, and somehow I had missed the rat on my way there. On the way home I all of a sudden looked up at the massive arsed highly realistic rat and figured my days on the planet was over.
          The thing is that this is the city I was born in, so I have this map in my head detailing what is supposed to be where and I kind of amble on autopilot here. So, when you get something new you get surprised. And if that new is a huge arsed rat baring its grin at you in the middle of the night you jump… literaly jump straight up.

    • Jättebra!
      I recognise that place – isn’t it where they put the giant chickens at Easter?
      (there’s a very embarrassing picture of me with those chickens, but it’s certainly not for here 🙂

      • You are quite right!
        They usually put the chickens infront of the hotel duringe Easter.
        Wish you had been here right now so I had a good reason for going to a Pub.

        • Hopefully one day … it was the time spent in the pub next door to the hotel that was the reason the photo was so embarrassing! For a few minutes the entire chicken family was wearing Russian flags, but that is another story that had better stay between me and 1.Div/F21 …

          • Ah, you where out doing weird things with my good friend Flyboy. No wonder weird photos happened. Whenever I end up going out with Flyboy it ends up with enormous weirdness happening.

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