What’s up with Iceland? Hekla Edition

Hekla 1980

Hekla eruption in 1980. Photograph by Eggert Norddahl, used under exclusive agreement to Volcanocafé. Photographs of Hekla by Eggert is commercialy available via Volcanocafé.

This article on Hekla is my personal birthday gift to Mike Ross on his big day. Congratulations Mike!

About once a year I write a piece about which five Icelandic volcanoes would be the most likely to erupt given the signals they have fired off during the last year. This list normally contains roughly the same volcanoes, but the order of them tends to change due to activity levels. This year I thought I would write five individual pieces so I could go a bit more into depth at how and what I look for and what to look for when an eruption would start.

A couple of months ago I would have put Grimsvötn as number one on being the most likely to be next to erupt. But with the activity lately at Hekla it is time to take yet another look at things there. As Boris Behncke noted, this is a volcano with a following in here, undoubtedly it is in part my fault since I can’t put a sock in my pie-hole.

Spring of Hekla

Hekla eruption 1980. Photograph from Wikimedia commons.

Hekla eruption 1980. Photograph from Wikimedia commons.

From a historical standpoint a majority of Heklas eruptions has started in the spring, somewhere between January and May. So it should not be any great surprise that she is starting to show activity in March would it?

I believe that the statistics is a bit off due to a forgotten reason. Hekla used to have a glacier on top of her. Not a big one like Vatnajökull or the other great Icelandic Glaciers, but enough to probably give a seasonal stress load imbalance on the volcano. As the glacier melted in spring the load diminished and that set it off.

The eruption of 1947 put an effective end to that Glacier. Before that eruption the glacier had sufficient time to grow back between eruptions, and indeed the glacier started to show signs of returning before the 1970 eruption, but it never formed fully.

Later on the rapid series of eruptions kept the mountain to warm for a glacier to form, and to top that off, climate changes has by now most likely put Hekla below the height needed for a glacier to form anyhow.

I do not expect the “Hekla spring” pattern to hold in the future. This said, it still seems to be more unrest in spring to early summer, so there might be something else affecting the volcano, perhaps it is available water causing hydrothermal effects. Here more research is needed.

Hekla is not a volcano

Map from Icelandic Met Office. Red line is the rough direction and shape of the Hekla Volcanic Fissure. Note that fissure eruptions has occured throughout this line.

Map from Icelandic Met Office. Red line is the rough direction and shape of the Hekla Volcanic Fissure. Note that fissure eruptions has occured throughout this line.

No, I have not gone crazy. What I mean is that Hekla is not a proper central volcano. Hekla is an over-grown fissure volcano on the road to form a central volcano. This gives her a few rather odd characteristics for a volcano.

Hekla most likely started as the most eastern of the Icelandic Sprungur on the Southern Icelandic Fissure Zone. As such it is situated over the rift between two micro plates that rotate apart from each other. This explains two very odd things, the first being the rapid growth of the volcano. One should remember that Hekla is just 8 000 years old.

It also explains that unlike other fissures in Iceland it erupts at the same place. Veidivötn, Laki and the rest does not do that, they erupt in a series of parallel fissures. The reason for Hekla continuing to erupt at the same place is due to the fissure being continuously kept open at dept by the slowly rotating adjacent plate.

As the plates move apart there is a continuous lowering of the pressure at depth causing melt to form. That melt goes up through the fissure silently since it is moving through already existing melt-material and this causes no new earthquakes. One would now think that this would be a noisy process, but since there is a large sheet of melt material covering the fissure from the MOHO up until just a couple of kilometers below the surface this process is by now quiet. The only noise is at the ends of the fissure, about 15 kilometers SSW and 7km NNE of the outer edges of Heklas edifice.

The rest of the noise is happening in other places as the micro plate rotates, and in the case of SIFZ, is being ripped into small ribbons of ground with large fractures in between. So, in a way the Hekla earthquakes are the same as the Sprungur earthquakes, and even other earthquakes much further away. It is after all a dynamic interdependent system. But it does very well explain why Hekla herself is so quiet. It also explains why almost every Hekla-earthquake we see is at the outer ends of the fissure.

Erik Sturkell in his brilliant 2013 paper favored a model with a more classic approach, he used a tubular conduit going down to a magma chamber at 4km depth and a second conduit to a deep magma storage around 15km that intriguingly could be open at depth. His paper was based on the best data available and is as highly accurate. All I ever did to get to what I wrote above was to over-lie an obloid-model to account for Hekla being a fissure.

In the end the obloid-model yielded the endpoints of the fissure, and gave endpoints that I could check against earthquake data. The modeling gave the same endpoints where we see the earthquakes. Otherwise it yielded exactly the same data as Sturkells point modeling. In the end I really love when modeling yields the same data as reality. I should here point out that Sturkells modeling yielded data that exactly fit reality to, but he had asked the model a set of slightly different questions. No shade on Sturkell here!

Also, it gave an intriguing lead to why Hekla is so explosive. In a wedge shaped obloid the heat convection would be higher, so the cooking off of lighter high cilica minerals would be much faster, also the internal transportation of light materials would be significantly faster. In effect it would become a colon-refinery, working in the same way as a petroleum-refinery. It would also yield the famous bimodal lava of Hekla where you first have very explosive lava that changes within a minute or so into effusive lava. I am though not by far a good enough petrologist or petrochemist to do something with this. It just fit neatly into what we can observe during an eruption and general chemical processes.

GPS at Hekla

Image from oregonstate.edu

Image from oregonstate.edu

Fissures operate different in comparison to real central volcanoes like Eyjafjallajökull. Before Eyjafjallajökulls 2010 eruption all of Iceland started to move rapidly as the mountain inflated in a so called bradyseism.

We will never see that at Hekla since the magma is produced as the plates are pulled apart, the net increase would be very small and produce just a steady minute uplift. Also, the E/W and N/S motions would be fairly stable and be more related to earthquake swarms at other places as the plates rub against each other.

Minute changes might be seen as magma is squeezed from different places in the fissure, but there will most likely never be any big changes. It will most likely not be on the GPS we see a coming eruption. Yes, there will be a significant and very brief motion on the two closest stations in the hour leading up to the eruption, but that will most likely have reset at the next visible data point. In other words, you would need minute by minute updates to get anything useful out of the GPS to predict Hekla. It does though give data on the plate motions causing Hekla to exist to begin with.

Strainmeters at Hekla

Timeline of the 2000 eruptions showing earthquakes and strainmeter drop. Note that the straindrop today would look more brutal due to different graphical representation. Image from Icelandic Met Office.

Timeline of the 2000 eruptions showing earthquakes and strainmeter drop. Note that the straindrop today would look more brutal due to different graphical representation. Image from Icelandic Met Office.

The activity at the strainmeters at Hekla have been very low so far this spring, no large sudden drops have been recorded at Búrfell strainmeter as it has been during other episodes of high activity. One can see these sudden drops as failed eruption attempts by the mountain as it tries to rip apart.

The lack of these drops actually speaks against Hekla being on the way to erupt now. But, in reality all it takes is one big drop and we are on the go. If you see the Búrfell strainmeter drop in a few minutes below -1e+05 and it continuous to drop, well then you can start holding on to your hat. Brutally fast, and brutally sharp, that is the Hekla way. If you see that starting set the timer, 30 minutes or so later the explosion will occur. This is the premier warning sign.

Tremor at Hekla

Any tremor at Hekla before an eruption would be minute and we will probably miss it due to noise caused by wind and waves. There is really no big reason for Hekla to be tremoring before an eruption. The noise will not come until the “cork” is pulled from the champagne bottle and the entire top of the magma column transform into gassy foam and it all squirts out.

So watching tremor at Hekla is a rather futile thing to do.

Earthquakes at Hekla

Plot showing earthquake activity from after the eruption up untill September 2013. The hubbub in 2001 is believed to have been a failed attempt to restart the 2000 eruption. Image by Icelandic Met Office.

Plot showing earthquake activity from after the eruption up untill September 2013. The hubbub in 2001 is believed to have been a failed attempt to restart the 2000 eruption. Image by Icelandic Met Office.

Hekla is famous for being aseismic. New equipment at Hekla have though proven this to be either slightly wrong, or Hekla has been unusually active in the last 3 years.

I think it is a combination, we are seeing more of the small earthquakes due to all the new SIL-stations around Hekla. But, we have also seen a couple of earthquake swarms at Hekla that is out of sorts. Especially one year ago we saw a significant swarm that looked a lot like what we would see before an eruption. It is at this point unknown why that swarm did not lead to an eruption. So, seeing a swarm at Hekla should be seen in the light that she once upon a blue moon can have a swarm without an eruption happening.

Up until the 2013 March swarm Hekla had suffered 53 earthquakes in 13 years since the last eruption. For being such a large and active volcano that is a totally unheard of silence. Just to put it into perspective, in the last two weeks we have seen 15 earthquakes at Hekla, 4 of these at Hekla proper. And the March 2013 swarm contained more earthquakes than had happened in the previous 13 years.

So, a single earthquake is not much to jump up and down from. If you see 3 or more in rapid succession below Hekla itself and they are ranging between 15 km and 2 km, then it is time to make popcorn and wait for the strain drop to happen. If an eruption will occur from the small swarm you have seen, it will most likely happen somewhere between 60 minutes to 120 minutes later. Anything much larger than a M2 earthquake is highly unlikely. These few earthquakes would be all the notice you get before the strainmeter at Búrfell drops.

What you will never see at Hekla

You will never see Hekla steaming before erupting; also you will not see any other normal signs of an upcoming eruption like spine-extrusions and dome building. Hekla holds her cards very close to her rocky chest indeed. Also, again… Do not expect to spot something on the GPS.


2 significant Papers on Hekla

http://www.lsndocuments.info/Documents/wp0062.pdf (Big thanks to Boris Behncke for finding this)

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0377027313000462 (Erik Sturkells 2013 master-piece. Main pay-walled paper for below)

http://www.unavco.org/science/snapshots/solid-earth/2013/sturkell.html (Short version of above)

http://kortinu.info/test/pages/Hekla.php (On the March 2013 unrest)


166 thoughts on “What’s up with Iceland? Hekla Edition

  1. Come think about it writing about an Hawai’ian volcano would have been a better gift for Mike 😉

    • yes now the ‘sudden’ onset with little/no warning has a mechanism that makes sense to my tiny brain – previously I’d attributed it to previous failed observation, I see now that was incorrect (apologies will have been sent via time machine once I’ve invented it).

  2. Thus Hekla is a very unpredictable volcano? That makes him very dangerous!

    Is it possible that a Yellowstone-type magmachamber will form under the Vatnajökull region, capable of producing a VEI-8 Eruption? I think that the underlying hotspot would supply enough magma for building such a big magmachamber.

    • Hekla is a very unpredictable volcano. It is on of the few I would never climb since the volcano could have a first sign of eruption while I was at the top and there just would not be enough time to run down.

      In regards of Vatnajökull and growing a chamber that large. No. The crust is just to thin to produce a chamber of that size. Yes, the magma is produced at sufficient rate, but there is just no space. A potential small VEI7 caldera event is possible though. The magma comes out as the large fissure eruptions that we see at Veidivötn and Laki instead of pooling in chambers.

      • But could a small VEI-7 eruption in the Vatnajökull area produce tsunamis by collapsing of the volcanic edifice or by pyroclastic flows hitting the Atlantic Ocean?

        • No, the volcanic edifices are all below the glacial surface and the distance is to great. And even if a pyroclastic base flow would be generated (which is almost impossible) it would not generate any large tsunami wave. Remember that there is a large ocean and that the wave would have dissipated into almost nothing before it had gotten anywhere.
          But in reality, no chance.
          In most places around the world a tsunami is the least worry when it comes to volcanoes.

        • Unlike massive trust faults (megathrust) any tsunami generated by a point source will initially propagate with an energy density that roughly drops off at an R2 rate. The megathrust tsunamis form from a large planar uplift of the seafloor and begin life as a planar wavefront with very little loss due to range.

          If you really want to get into the nuts and bolts of it, apply Pappus’s centroid theorem to a sinusoidal wave representing the tsunami volume and then take a representative section of that wave front and calculate the volume. That will be your ad-hoc energy density. Redo the calculation with a larger radius from the point source and calculate how large a section can contain that same volume of water. Compare the two. That will be the energy fall off rate for the modeled point source tsunami. I ran this model several months ago and don’t really feel like dredging it back up again, but that’s how you do it if you want to give it a whirl. A planar wave, on the other hand, would behave similar to a coherent radar beam that forms from a phased array antenna. You can play with the idea by considering two point source radiators. Where the individual radiating wave fronts are in phase, they reinforce each other and do not loose energy as a simple function of range from the point of origin. Their actual loss would be calculated from the virtual point of origin established by the relationship of the point source radiators.

          Now… in RF wavefronts, local effects tend to be manifest in something called the “near field” and normal propagation rules do not take effect until the wavefront transits to the “far field” The Far Field is where the wavefron has had all of the local effects phasing/focusing and interference issues have been resolved/occurred and the resultant wavefront is effectively in free space. What the range would be in an ocean environment is beyond me, but in RF, it’s usually about 10 wavelengths.

        • No, not in Iceland. Most likely places fpr that is the Pacific, in island-volcanoes, like Krakatoa which went caldera and caused a tsunami in 1883. I guess the next candidate should be there in Indonesia, Tonga or something like that. Anyways the Pacific suffers way more tsunamis caused by large earthquakes than caldera forming volcanic eruptions situated by the sea.

      • The main reason Iceland doesn’t behave like Hawaii is that there are some crustal components down there in addition to the standard hot-spot volcanism, correct?

        As for mid to high VEI-7+ eruptions, from what I know, you almost always see some sort of crustal assimilation in those instances. In layman’s terms, crustal assimilation is what happens when you take a blow torch to continental crust, then heat it up until it turns into eruptible magma (typically rhyolite). Eventually, an injection of fresh magma from depth will set off the magma chamber that has been enlarged and mixed with now-melted crust (usually a half-crystallized mush), resulting in a huge and very explosive eruption.

        Realistically, in order to get large VEI-7+ style eruptions, you need two things; an extremely large heat source, and continental crust. There are a lot of other factors at play, but without these two, you probably wont get anything that’s of a ridiculous size. If I had to add a third primary factor, I would venture to say that the third factor is probably the depth of the main magma chamber (deep magma chambers can grow much larger than small magma chambers since the lid above the chamber is much stronger).

        Now, for Iceland, the heat is absolutely there. But unlike most normal land masses, there really isn’t much continental crust to melt, and the existing crust is mostly just old basalt stacked on top of itself. Now, you will see Rhyolitic Icelandic volcanoes that form from fragmentation, but I presume that the overlying crust isn’t strong enough to keep the very large and very high pressure magma chamber in check for a long enough time to get a good sized VEI-7 eruption.

        • Very good summary there 🙂

          I would just like to add that Iceland is far more likely to throw a very big effusive eruption than a VEI-7 eruption. Iceland has previously thrown several eruption in the hundreds of cubic kilometers region, but these have all been effusive. There have been several instances where very large basaltic sheets have stacked ontop of each other in eruptions far far larger than anything Veidivötn has spat out. The mountains up at Gjögurtá formed that way as eruptive layers stacked up in a small trap formation. It is though not likely right now that an eruption of that size would occur, but sooner or later the next hundred thousand years or so it will most likely happen.

          • When Eyafjallajökull erupted in 2010, I had a telephone call with Pául Einarsson. I asked him why evolved magmas like andesite, dacite and rhyolite occur in Iceland. He told me that these magmas are generated by partial melting of the Icelandic basaltic crust.

      • The crust at Yellowstone is between 30 to 55 km. In vatnajokull the crust is around 37km. It doesn’t seem like a big difference, albeit a bit thinner. Elsewhere in Iceland the crust is way thinner, something like 8km average beneath Krafla and Reykjanes, away from the hotspot.

        I think the reason why a VEI7-8 is difficult in Iceland is because of the constant rifting and draining of the magmatic chambers through dead zone eruptions like Veidivotn, Laki, Edgja….

        • A VEI-7 eruption in Iceland will spell disaster for Europe and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere due to the enormous quantities of volcanic ash spewed into the troposphere and stratosphere. Air traffic would grind to a halt, causing economic hardship and a food shortages. Crops will fail by a volcanic winter, etc.

          • I think this would be largely true of a VEI-7 anywhere in the world outside maybe the extremely remote Andes, and perhaps Alaska / Kamchatka.

          • No, food can still be transported by vans, lorries, trains and ships. Generally everthing with dust filters or Electric powered will continiue run. There maybe hardships as if fuel or medicine runs out (due mismangement) and cars can immobilized due unavailable of air-filters or machine spare parts (wear and tear on unprotected brakes will increase).
            Electricity grids can become unstable due static and Lightning strikes, but likrly not more than during normal Thunderstorms.
            Outside work will halt or slow down, but proper cloathing and face masks will take care of that. And travel will just slow down as people will be in less need for private travel (as it will be in many cases be impractical by increase in travel time, ie no airplanes flying). But most serius, Miltary jets will (mostly) be grounded… *not expert

            • I think we’re also much better equipped in the digital age to deal with this since we’re not nearly as reliant on air travel for communication across international boundaries as we once were. Also, farming & crop technology has come far enough where legitimate starving is not a concern among first world nations. At the very worse, eating canned spam for a little while would get people by even if it’s not the most desirable food. When famines occurred due to the Laki eruption in 1783, there were no refrigerators, no such thing as processed non-perishable food, and everyone was extremely reliant on locally grown & produced food. These days, relief, shipping, and the ability to transfer resources much easier has largely prevented such disasters from having the same affect as they used to.

              The massive typhoon that devastated the Philippines last summer/fall would have likely killed thousands if it weren’t for how effective relief was. Just 70 years ago, that would have been a mega disaster, and while it was still a big deal, relief was able to stem the bleeding before starvation and other problems became a major issue.

              Would there be some economic hardships and problems? Sure, but it wouldn’t likely cripple any first world nation. Iceland would definitely be hard-hit however, and I would worry about fluorine and gas poisoning, but they’re a pretty resilient bunch there.

              Note – this would be for a hypothetical *small* VEI-7 eruption. Any mid to high VEI-7 eruption becomes a completely different story. There really is a big big difference between a small VEI-7 and the mid to high VEI-7 eruptions that we haven’t ever really seen historically.

            • The only recorded famine during Laki was in Iceland.
              The other european countries had surplus food that year.

              Locally the effect would be large (in Iceland), in the rest of Europe and northern hemisphere it would just be a small cold-spell at worst. The main issue with Laki was not ash, it was the gasses killing people. Nowadays we have the means to protect against that.

            • The Laki-eruption had very large effects in Europe. A haze full of volcanic gases hit Europe causing many victims.

          • No, it will not.
            Yes, crops will fail in the northernmost countries, but we are relying on food being shipped in anyways.
            To be brutal, the very little amount of food that is shipped via air is only a few select luxury items, all the rest of the food moves on trains, lorries and ships.

            And the weather? If we have learnt anything about large eruptions in the last few years it is how short span a large eruption affects the weather. And to top it off, how small the impact really is even from the largest eruptions. For instance the Toba Catastrophe Theory is now thoroughly discredited. And there we are talking about the largest eruption in the last 10 million years. If that did not whack us a small VEI-7 would not.

            In 1628BC Europe was hit with two VEI-7s in the same summer. Thera went off that year, and at the same time Aniakchak (Alaska) had a twice as large eruption. No effect on the climate at all. Local downfall had an effect and it blew away the island of Santorini. But it did not cause the downfall of the Minoan civilisation. That was most likely caused by a 50 year long period of very large earthquakes.

          • Dust and volcanic ash is hard on turbines. Not so hard on piston / prop engines with proper filters. Vesuvius in 1944 did not stop the Allied air in Italy. They used essentially the same filtering systems used previously in North Africa. I would think any nation with experience in desert operations would do just fine after getting dusted. Cheers –

    • Others here have stated that the heat (magma) from the hotspot likely wafts up agaist the undulating keel of Iceland and focuses at different locations.

      I don’t think the influx is great enough to generate one humongous reservoir. Different locations along the rift allow the release of the heat energy and keep it from become really large.

      I think the only plausible scenario would be the one outlined by Carl a few articles back where a large rift eruption drains a central volcano’s chamber and allows the bottom to drop out of the Grimsvotn lakes into the central chamber. Then you get a phreatomagmatic detonation.

      • Apparently that happened in Askja, but the fissure opening in 1875 was not big enough and only caused a nice explosive VEI5 and digged a bit more of its caldera, having now the deepest lake in Iceland. So far the only other big ones,all of a sudden eruptions I know of, are Hekla pre-historical VEI6 eruptions and Oraefajokull 1362 eruption. Veidivotn was a VEI6 but it was spread over a rifiting eruption.

        There are some signs of past very large eruptions in Iceland such as Vedde Ash at Katla, one at Grimsvotn in early Holocene, and one at Hofsjokull, Tindfjallajokull and Krafla some several dozen of thousand years ago. No idea how large those were but those are our likeliest candidates for a VEI7 in Iceland. Little data available to form a clear conclusion.

    • I think I will have to write a post to diminish your fears of a VEI7 in iceland (or for that matter anywhere on the northern hemisphere).
      For the time being, trust me on this one, a small to medium VEI7 would not be a big catastrophe, it would though be a nuisance. No need to loose sleep 🙂

  3. China has released satellite images showing 3 large objects floating in an area near the area where contact with the missing plane was lost. The largest of the objects is 79 feet by 72 feet. Photos were taken on Sunday. Can this get any weirder?

    • 22 by 24 meters? That is an awfully large chunk to be bobbing about in the ocean this long… One would suspect a piece like that would have sunken quite some time ago.

      • I’ve heard the same said by “professionals” on the news channels. It will be interesting to find out what this debris is. Also, it will be too bad if this takes the searchers back to what could be the wrong area.

        • Re: Professionals.

          It doesn’t really take a professional to come to the same conclusion. Think about the “stuff” that makes up an airliner. Above a certain size, you have to have structural members as part of whatever it is. That means metal. Metal doesn’t float of it’s own accord. Seat cushions and life preservers do. Sealed wing sections with trapped air pockets can do it, but that still reaching for answers.

          A Pratt & Whitney PW4084 (typical engine) doesn’t float so well on it’s own either.

          However, you can still find really weird stuff at sea. While in the Adriatic off the coast of Montenegro, we had a tree and several pairs of tennis shoes drift by.

          While off the coast of Japan the Officer of the Deck called me to the bridge one morning to address an issue that he discovered with one of my antennas. It had what appeared to be a Kimono wrapped around it. And we hadn’t had a storm or even entered port yet. Beats me where it came from.

          • Never be surprised at what a naval captain might be wearing at night 😉

            Things floating around in the ocean is normally not a problem for the size of ships Lurking was on. But it is the biggest hazard around if you are on a sailing ship. Dunking into a tree at 7 knots in the middle of the night is the most common reason to find your ass in a liferaft all of a sudden.
            That is why you always should have a survival kit with water-purifier, survival food compass and a sat-phone hanging where you can grab it as you hastily abandon ship.

            Other more amusing things you can run into in the middle of the ocean is a floating marina-dock with two small fishing boats attached. I would have sunk it if I had anything good to sink it with. I though docked with it briefly to check if there was anyone on board the boats. If I had hit it I would have sunk. Or found myself sitting on the dock myself waiting to be saved.
            A friend of mine had a wave breaching the boat leaving behind a stinky lump from the anus of a whale, also known as grey amber (umbra). He made quite a lot of cash out of it from a company dealing with such items. Turns out that most women smell of whale anus (perfume).

            • Dunno Carl, we had to take our evaps offline because we were in the Persian Gulf in the early 1980’s and they didn’t want mess them up with the crude oil from the rig that the Iraqis had shot with missiles. The rig belonged to Kuwait, and when the Iraqis tried to go repair it, the Iranians shot at them, when the Iranians tried to repair it, the Iraqis shot at them. When the Kuwaitis tried to repair it, they both shot at them. The crude had the consistency of large pale brown congealed wads of shit by the time it got down to where we were operating.

              As for physical damage from debris, you can easily rip a sonar dome wide open on debris if you go blowing through there are normal speed. 16 to 30 knots can mess a ship up if you hit something.

              Quite a while back, we ran over an unmarked long-line net and messed up our shaft. We had divers cut it loose when we got back to port, but it seemed to cause an oscillation at certain speeds ever since that.

          • Horizontal and vertical tails of the 777 are composite. And the most survivable place to be in a crash is near the tail. Detach the tail section and it can float for a while, properly situated. OTOH, composites all but vaporize upon impact. I bet the story from this is as interesting as the Airbus that went down off Brazil some years ago. Cheers –

        • Whatever happened I am looking forward to getting a good explanation for it.

          Thing is that we are having a weird take on it as westerners. We think of this as a remote technology deprived area. In reallity it is one of the most trafficked hubs on the planet. The airplane went down in a well covered part of airspace. There where tens of ground-based radars, hundreds of airplanes, and thousands of ships with radars in that area.
          Loosing an airplane there without trace is like loosing a Jumbojet in Queens, New York or Soho, London, without anyone seeing something. The plane would have dunked down within a few nautical miles of a ship. Someone should have seen something. Where are the witnesses?

          • Personally, I think the whole thing smells fishy. The Malaysian authorities haven’t been very cooperative. Is it pride or do they know or suspect something they don’t want known?

          • Timely said, saw on Sky-News channel, there possibly was witness, oil worker, off SE-coast of Southern-Vietnam, seeing flame in the sky. If at 35.000 feet, and person on Oil rig (some height abowe ocean), possibly 150 miles away might not be impossible (SkyNews after 00:00 hrs today)

            • FIrst thing that makes sense. The airplane droped out of radar off the SE-coast of Vietnam. So it would have been well within his line of view. By the time the plane droped it had been hailed by the Vietnamese are control and not answered, second time it did not answer, the first was in Malay airspace.
              If he saw a flame in the sky it might be bad news indeed.

            • Boeing 777 makes a piss poor sea skimmer. Exocets are much better suited for that sort of profile.

          • KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—No signs of the missing Malaysian jetliner have been found at a spot where Chinese satellite images showed what might be plane debris, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said Thursday, deflating the latest lead in the five-day hunt.

            “There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.


            Something for those unfamiliar with it. Aircraft carry transponders that are used to send coded responses back to radars that are equipped with an interrogators. (usually that smaller bar looking antenna on an ATC radar. It’s actually a stacked feedhorn or a slotted waveguide antenna) In these response codes are a number assigned by ATC and entered in by the crew, and the altitude. The altitude data is used to assist those sites that only have 2D radar. (range and bearing). In a hijack or emergency situation, the manually entered code is switched to a pre-determined code that signifies the sort of emergency that they have. The only way that those codes were turned off or not set is if someone with knowledge of the system did it intentionally from within the aircraft. I have, on occasion, seen aircraft that could only be seen via the IFF response when the radar could not pick off a strong enough skin return to get a valid contact.

            TGMCoy may have better info, since he has actually used this system in the field. My personal experience was sitting at an 3D airsearch console, amazed at the sheer volume of traffic going up and down the eastern seaboard.

            (one of the reasons I don’t fly. It’s like a multilayered interstate up there… which is why you have sectored control regions with an attendant ATC operator, mandatory check in points and other controls.)

            The one on top. Everything underneath it is the reflector and feed mechanism for the 2D radar. Sometimes the interrogator antenna will be dangling off of attached to the bottom of the feed mechanism. (that arm jutting out from the reflector)

          • Ref Carl’s “The plane would have dunked down within a few nautical miles of a ship. Someone should have seen something. Where are the witnesses?”

            Even if it went as far as the straits of Mallaca, it’s a monster busy stretch of water. So busy, that one tactic for getting through unscathed is to wait for a large fast moving cargo ship and then to drop in behind it so that you lessen the chance of having to dodge the oncoming traffic.

            Despite all nautical rules of navigation, the law of gross tonnage rules the day. You may be correct and within accepted international law, but if you get run over, you’re screwed if they are bigger than you. That little 3,400 ton Frigate I was on wouldn’t have stood a chance against the 52,191 ton Mathilde Maersk container ship.

            K.E. = 1/2(M V2)
            KE → Joules
            M → kg
            V → m/s

            • Now imagine sitting in a 52ft yawl and Esso Atlantic comes around the corner barging down on you with its 407 meters and 517 000DWT… According to maritime law as a sailing ship you have the right of way. One can either get the hell out of their way, or debate maritime law with it. One will save your life, one will kill you.
              The captain of the ship will most likely feel very miserable as he runs you over, but on the whole he couldn’t do much since he has a turning radius of London and needs 20 nautical miles to stop.

              In a sailing ship you can easily have the argument about “Right of Way” with a dork in a speedboat, he will after all be the lighter object compared to you. But do not even try that with a small freight ship, you will just loose.

              This is what gives captains on the Kruzenshtern gray hair in just a few minutes. It is a sailing ship 114 meter long 3065DWT sailing ship cabable of doing 17knots. It is about as agile as a mountain compared to most ships. It is even less agile than a supertanker. If you have a supertanker in the same water as Big K you are in for an interesting afternoon. On an open sea lane it is though the best thing on earth. I did my shipmaster test on her. That piece of paper is always interesting to show at ports-captains, customs and coast guards around the world. “Dude, you are allowed to do what with what wherever???”

            • To expound on the Shipmaster (Captain’s Letter).
              As a young lad I had this crazy notion of becoming a Shipmaster (Captain thingamabit) on a Sailing Ship. So I spent my youth learning to sail, voluntered in a youth navy program and got every single license I could get my grubby hands on in navigation, radar-operation, radio, and ship mechanics. In the end I even attended Naval School. After years of chasing that particular dream I finally got to do the final test, being 1 week as Shipmaster Ascultant on Kruzenshtern (only ship on earth you can do it on as a civilian).
              Proud as a bee I stepped off after a week with my Letter. It gives me the right to Master a motorised freight ship of 5 000DWT (no passenger), or an unlimited Sailing Ship (passenger).
              By then the reallity kind of struck. How many sailing cruse ships have you seen? Bet it is none, because there are almost none. I was for a time on the shortlist for Star Clipper, but it ran afoul in the end.
              So, my only use of it is that it gives me a way lower rate on my boat insurance, the right to marry people on international water and the right to a maritime burial. Now they even want to revoke the two last rights for Shipmasters.
              Oh, and it probably makes me a far better sailing person than most when it comes to actually knowing where the hell I am going. GPS down? Just flip out the sextant.

        • Yes, I see the changs you speak of Jamie. They are minor and nearly lost within normal variation of data /noise. I think its very much similar to the GPS movements we are seeing now, which happen sometimes but now seem a bit more offset. Its not easy to be very confident to say that this will lead to an eruption, but if the 2000 eruption GPS data shows something, this small movement as of early 2014 could point to an eruption within weeks in Hekla (March or April 2014). Time will tell.

          However SOHO is way further away than stations around Hekla.

          I still think Hekla behaves similar to Grimsvotn in some points. Little clear evidence of swarms prior to an eruption. Just shows more ocasional earthquakes than usual, then goes silence for a few days, then boom (earthquakes start within a couple of hours before the eruption). It was like this in past Grimsvotn eruptions.

          Hekla seems to behave similar but with an increase in ocasional earthquakes in months before an eruption which are almost too tiny to be detected, Perhaps now they are being detected for the first time, since measurement is way better than before 2000.

    • I think I see line errors in the IMO graphs:
      26 Feb to 29 Feb is FOUR days (inclusive) – before end of month marker – yet its MUCH SHORTER AFTER March has begun, EIGHT days (inclusive).
      This alters placing of the datapoints into: before, during and after. My take is that first line (begin of eruption) is too early and second (end line) also “too early” (should be 1/4 into march).
      *not expert

      • You are right, the lines are wrong. And that goes well hand in hand with the official scientific conclusion that there is no bradyseismal activity before the eruption.

        One thing I forgot to mention about Hekla is that the actual edifice of Hekla is subsiding due to the edifice slowly going down as most likely a Graben is forming along the outer edges of Heklas edifice. After every eruption there is a “cavity” that Hekla slowly sinks into untill it is filled up. Nobody in general thinks about this as the general elevation of the volcano increases quite a lot during every eruption (up to 50m per eruption).

      • Ah, reason – IMO use decimal units – graph is in Year Tents (.decimal points per 1/10th of the year) not “12 month calendar”.

    • Nice article, but the editor should be strung up by his private parts for that tagline.

      “California earthquake: 6.8 temblor erupts from hot spot off northern coast”

      It was a quake, not an eruption, and the Cobb Seamount, the location of the purported hotspot in that area, is 825 km away, west of the Juan de Fuca microplate.

      Note: The current estimated location of the hotspot is the Axial Seamount.

      Axial Seamount Bathemetry → Wikimedia Commons.

  4. Excellent article on Hekla Carl.
    A nice read!

    I like the concept of the twisting Hreppar microplate keeping Hekla open and then it erupts with little tension because it it open. It could also help to explain why Hekla has changed patterns of eruption. I would go further and try to correlate Hekla frequency of eruptions with earthquate data at SISZ, at Hengill and surrounding, and a bit further of the edge of the microplate, with activity at Torfajokull, dead zone, and the volcanoes on south of Iceland. It’s a very complex puzzle but it could possibly explain the patterns of eruptions more clearly for all these volcanoes.

    For instance I like to observe the fact that now that Katla has been having its longest dormancy period, several volcanoes around her, have had activity unseen in past millenia, like the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and the two eruptions at the Westman Islands. Likewise, a bit northwards, Hekla has been much more frequency active in this period than in past millenia.

    Data is still very little to take conclusions, but this can be linked to something happening with either the microplate at Hreppar or further northeast in what regards the rifting.

    Then, one event in Iceland can change dynamics of another spot in Iceland. I give an example. A big earthquake at M5 Bardarbunga in 1996 triggered a Grimsvotn eruption. Eruptions at Veidivotn trigger nearly always activity at Torfajokull. Just months after Laki, the largest historical earthquake in southwest Iceland happened near Thingvellir. Activity in Reykjanes 4 volcanoes seems to be grouped from a time perspective (last time just after settlement), then go silent through periods of centuries. There are a lot of these patterns across Iceland. One should think what tensions, movements or relief of tension causes what in the nearby region.

  5. on the airplane, yes it is rather myserious this story. Because its such a hub of activity of boats and airplanes.

    I have a few theories, all rather crazy.
    First one, and the most crazy one (this one is partly a joke), is that the airplane entered a scenario similar to the one in the series Lost. Like a Bermuda triangle.
    Second one, and it helps explaining the first one. Someone used a new sort of weapon to completely wipe out the airplane and this explains the weird sort of relationship now between Malasya, Vietnam and China, regarding the airplane. Not good if there are war intentions in the heads of these governments, now that Europe is facing a crises with Russia. Humans seem never to learn
    Third one, and also explains the weird behavior of Malasya, Vietnam and China regarding where did the airplane went west or not. It’s the classic UFO crash with the airplane. Then, of course authorities would know what happened but no one wants to talk about it. Still dont understant why governments refuse to talk on this topic. I myself have seen a UFO once (Spielberg movie style), and I have no problem talking about it.
    Fourth one. Easier one. Someone did a terrible mistake, most likely Vietnam or Malasya, and does want to admit its mistake. This creates a weird talk between the 3 countries involved, and China takes opportunity to step in and do something of its own, most likely move boats a bit more into new territorial waters (something China has been doing for years now).
    Fifth one. Some terrorist grou hijacked the airplane and threatened something, and no one wants yet to talk about it. The situation is still in secret.
    Sixth. Airplane just exploded like a normal accident and no one yet saw the remaining of it. But they will eventually be found. Governments are just overreacting now.

    • Early on it was mentioned in the news that Rolls Royce are in constant telemetry contact with all their modern engines worldwide. I never heard any more about this. I just wondered if they might have evidence that the engines continued to function for some time after contact was lost. Mind you its possible that this communication might be able to be turned off by the pilot while he is turning off the transponders. Anyone heard any more about this?

    • I have no problems with UFOs, it is extra-terrestrial aliens I have a problem with. The most widely reported UFO was David Gilmours pink Blimp equiped with lighting and a PA… Imagine a huge pink cigarr of a rock stage sliding by and you can kind of understand why he got that record.

      I do not believe in the terrorist angle. The two famous pasports are now accounted for, both individuals were trying to go to relatives here in Sweden and become refugees. On any given international airliner you will have one or two of them. You will also have a bunch of governmentally employed operatives on fake passports and a few company employed former government operatives with fakes. In truth, nobody really cares about the fake passports, they are counted as a problem for the country you go to and their customs and boarder guards.

      In the end there are only two options that are viable.
      1. The plane suffered a sudden a violent desintegration in the air after having had all of their communication equipment fail hours before it crashed. I think most captains would have gone down at nearest airport if they could not communicate. But TG is the one who would know that.
      2. Someone took the airplane mid-route and took it down below radar level and landed it somewhere in a secluded spot for ransom of either the entire passenger-list, or they killed most of the passengers and are ransoming for one or more individuals. The latter becomes more probable as time goes by.
      3. Hm… A third bonus version… Kim Jong-Un decided that he wanted a new stateliner and he put operatives onboard that threw everyone out of the airplane in mid-air and then it flew to North Korea. The airplane is now flying back and forth over the peoples republic as he tries to become a member of the 10 000 meter club, to achieve this he has to take a lot of Viagra, the lowered airpressure and the Viagra gives him a stroke and he dies.

      • Regardless, this is turning out into a big mystery. Not many of those around any longer. It is the same as with Amelia Earhart, but on steroids.

      • Hi Carl-yes, 1. you try to land ASAP. Once we lost our rudder fabric on the DC7 -a piece of wood ran though it from a smoke column. caused the fabric to blow off. so no rudder control. had the vertical stabilizer so we decided not to land at the nearest Airport (Eureka Ca.) and flew home to Redmond, Oregon. That was not what I would’ve done, but I wasn’t the Captain. Did ok with differential power and lots of aileron . Landing was interesting though.
        2.Yep I concur as a possibility.
        3. Appropriate demise for the little twerp 🙂

        • In regards of 3, I am totally convinced that Kim Jong-Un is the twerking bastard DJ Psy… Looks the same, moves the same, and has the same haircut :mrgreen:

        • I knew a contemporary of Amelia Earhart who was a member of the women’s pilot group the 99’s
          that Amelia founded. She was not impressed with her navigation skills. Good pilot though.
          She was not surprised her disappearance..She knew her well and was a Test Pilot for several
          smaller aviation companies and a air racer of some note. She and Jaquelyn Cochran were good friends..

          • And that would be Jacquelyn the friend of air legend Chuck Yeager?
            Hm, that would give you a Chuck-value of 2. Impressive!
            Chuck value 1, you have flown with Chuck, Chuck value 0, you are Chuck… and so on.

            • To expound on Chuck-values.
              There is Viggen pilot here with Chuck-value 1. My friend Flyboy has the Chuck-value of 2, and that gives me the Chuck-value of 3 since I have flown with Flyboy. UKViggen might have a Chuck-value of 2 or 3 depending on which Viggen-pilot he flew with when he was here. He might though have ramped up a Chuck of 2 on another occation that we do not know about.
              More or less everyone who has ever flown has a Chuck-value :mrgreen:

            • Yes that Jacquelyn -I met Bob Hoover-in my earlier-days. Never met Chuck. would’ve liked to .
              Hoover was up there in the “Who’s the Best Pilot You ever saw “. Universe..

            • Personal favourite that I met was Buzz Aldrin. Huge shaking his hand.
              He also had a very good idea about how to treat an asshole denialist.
              That schmuck got every inch of what he deserved when he called a hero a coward and a liar.

            • He was a bit younger when I met him. And I can say that just by the way he moved that he could throw a punch or two. It is a disgrace to see that twerp harass him like that. But good ol’ Buzz took care of that in an epic style. 🙂

            • I have met Chuck twice over the years – he is what we might call in the UK a “Marmite” figure. You either love him or hate him.

              Of course, we could (and maybe should) be talking of Wheaties-value (the nickname of George Welch, a genuine US war hero who maybe broke the sound barrier before Yeager – the jury’s out on who really was first)


              @TG – totally agree about Hoover. His Shrike Commander displays were one-of-a-kind

  6. Brilliant article.
    a very clear explanation why going trekking on Hekla is to be avoided. Now nobody will be able to tell he was not warned.
    Also it points out many specificities of this volcano. The rapidity of this volcano setting up is reaaly impressive. Also you explain very well why it is nearly aseismic.
    Now I understand much better why it is watched by many volcanophyliacs. There is probably a new one now 😀

    • I ran a plot of the Hekla 2000 quake set and it scared even me… and I’m not in Iceland.

      In general, humans can not detect quakes below about mag 2.0 that are directly felt by the human body. That is pretty much the where the threshold is at and you have to be in close proximity to the quake to do that. Hekla 2000 didn’t cross Mag 2.0 until about 15 minutes prior to the eruption.

      • Now, that is fine. But an overlay on map (photo) grid, or such, be much, much nicer 😉
        I know, I am a bore “demanding” …

          • Now that you point it out, could we have the small balls in the El Hierro plot exchanged for My little ponies? :mrgreen:

            Jokes aside, an overlay so one sees where the volcano is situated is never wrong if it is possible. Makes things clearer.

      • Hi Lurking
        To the point. Makes one want to train again running (even if it would be useless in that precise case)
        Do you think the movement has to see with the plate rotation Carl is speaking about in his article ?
        How did you plot the line ? Centroid ?

        • It is actually moving around the volcano, most of the earthquake activity seems to have occured on the eastern hang wall of the volcanic fissure. Why that is so, is though beyond me.

        • That line (in the plot) is just a manually entered segment with an arrowhead. The line represents the locus of where the apparent center of the swarm traversed.

            • Not really, at the time it was the best way to represent the idea and no automated tool that I had could render that.

              It’s not like I was pinging the satellite for four hours after I disappeared from existence.

  7. Note: I don’t put a lot of stock in paper hangers. Some of them can be quite destructive if left unmonitored.

  8. Now, hold your breath.
    I was looking at the GPS data of Iceland for the past few weeks and found out something even more interesting than just a few odd movements at Hekla. I was biased to look at Hekla GPS stations as I often follow them.

    However I now had a look at how stations behave in Iceland. Basically, everything seems to move west, on the west side of Reykjanes, and east on the east side of Reykjanes. All moves west west of Hekla-Torfajokull-Veidivotn-Bardarbunga line, and east of it, it moves eastwards. And the other line of demarcation of west-east movements is the SISZ (south Iceland seismic zone) between Bláfjoll, Ingolfsfjall, Selfoss, Saubaer, southwest of Iceland and then Hekla.

    So, if you look at Hekla long-term GPS data, everything west of Hekla, it moving west long-term, and everything east of the mountain is moving eastwards.

    The interesting thing is this: all stations west of Hekla are now moving eastwards, contrary to their long-term movement. Interesting no?

    But it’s not only that:
    – BUDH which is north of Hekla, on the west side of the demarcation line, is moving also east.
    – Jokulheimar and Skrokalda, which are west of Veidivotn and usually moving westwards, are now moving east as well!
    – STKA, a station south of Hofsjokull (also on the usually westwards motion) is also moving east now.
    – More interestingly, these stations showed also a sudden east motion around the 11th January this year (all of them). I already posted here that Grimsvotn exhibited a strange motion around that day, moving suddently down, westwards (contrary to its east movement), and those movements were in the range of several cms, well away of noise. Carl, some days ago you told me this is noise or ice on the antennas, now I really don’t think so.

    Another one, Saubaer, usually exhbits a west movement, since it is north of the SISZ “line” is now moving eastwards in the past few weeks. Also HLFJ, the station near Geysir, which moves west long-term, is now moving clearly east, and also exhibited that same east sudden motion on the 11th January.
    – Many other stations on the west side of Iceland also exhibited both a strange invertion of their west movement both around the 11th January this year, and in the last couple of weeks since early March.

    Question is what happened around the 11th January? Was this just noise due to a storm. If so, why it only affected the east/west motion and not the other motions. Was no big storm was recorded then. Was there a significant earthquake event? There was on the 13th a swarm at Reykjanes with largest quake of M3.5 but I don’t think it explains what was observed then. I also dont think it was an adjustement by the IM; why would they adjust many stations at the same time, without going on person to them, and not all of them and only the east motion. Another event happened on that week, a glacial flood the following days from Grimsvotn region. Also increased conductivity at Múlakvísl river from Katla a few days before. But this doesn’t mean those events are connected to what it seen on the GPS data in many stations.

    What is remarkable is that the same type of event is happening Iceland-wise again, since the last days of February, and is detected not only at Hekla, but in stations far away from it, near Hamarinn, near Geysir, near Reykjanes, Reykjavik, etc.

    I can’t give a reason. Similar movements were observed in the vicinity of Eyjafjallajokull a few weeks before the eruption. I can’t say whether something unusual was also observed in other stations well away from Eyjafjallajokull. I also can’t say whether this happened prior to the 2000/2008 earthquakes in south Iceland, or prior to the 2011 Grimsvotn eruption. The long-term data is difficult to read for such small variations. But from what I have seen from data, the only time I could see such movements switching their usual east or west movement was prior to the Eyjafjallajokull eruption.

    Please comment.
    Maybe this could be an idea for a future post 🙂

    • Wow, well that’s a really interesting and astute obvervation. I wish I had more to comment on, but I don’t know enough about that area to even begin to speculate.

      • If the entire movement would be westwards, then I would say we were having a hotspot pulse, with plenty of magma pushing under Vatnajokull or Grimsvotn, but this is not the case. It’s the opposite.

        It is like most of Iceland started moving eastwards, it could mean that the center of activity is located along the southwest Reykjanes-Langjokull rifting region. Or it could mean something else.

    • Irpsit, let me start with Grimsvötn movement. THAT IS FALSE movement due to ice on the antenna. Nothing real in that signal. End of that discussion now.

      The rest. Remember that what you are seeing as changes are within the noise level and that these changes happen often around Hekla. To see the accurate motion you have to compare many years. The plate motion trend is only visible that way.
      Regardless of that, any motion that are a few millimeters would not affect a 20km long fissure that is wide open and is up to a few km wide at the bottom. Any squeezing of an open bottom system results in toothpaste going down. To get the dynamics, cut away the bottom of new toothpaste and try squeezing it without removing the cap. All will go out at the bottom and the cap (volcanic plug) will stay in place.

      Also, every station on Iceland uses REYK as reference station, so motions of REYK has to be taken out of the equation. Reading large scale GPS motion requires quite a lot of math to make sense. Especially since REYK is not the most stable station on the planet, so you first of all need to calibrate REYK to 3 individual stable stations on the continental US craton (that in turn is moving, but very stably so).

      Repeating myself again to be very clear. You will not see Hekla or any other rifting fissure volcano priming for an eruption on any GPS anywhere. And just to be blunt. Nothing happened at GRF in mid January.

      • I am not as sure about that as you are that’s its noise (for most stations) and ice in the antenna (for Grimsvotn). I don’t discount the possibility that the motion is significant, as well as I don’t discount the possibility that the motion is just noise.

        • Well, the ice on the antenna is proven since a long time. IMO has just not changed the colour on the plot to white.
          If you can still see a clear trend of that motion in let us say five years time it would be real. It would also imply that the entire plate tectonic of the planet had shifted direction. Untill someone can overwhelingly prove that has happened I will say that you are seeing ghosts.

    • I am, well, not certain, here goes.
      Yes, this is (beginning ~ connected) to “The Event”. We refer to this as “The Nibiru-event” (Codeword: Dead Zone).
      I am not saying “Men in Black” will knock down your door, only some dressed up in Red Rescue Uniforms might check if you are allright or not.
      Quakes can happening along Hreppar-Microplate, or on edge of that, or Hekl, Vatnafjöll areas.
      Now the 63 Million Dollar Question, is Hekla not part of Dead Zone … but I think answer be strain buildup to future Mid-South-Icelands quakes, then some m3 of stuff might go flying before or after.
      – The Press say “Laki” (Skaftár-fires)
      *not expert
      **Conspiracy-theory ehf

    • Thank you very much. Very grateful. Good work, Excellent!
      I have the answer now in my head. Why Hekla shifted pattern in 1970 onwards. I think Vatnafjöll (and Lambafit area, to south and east) is using Hekla conduits.
      Eruptions are “Hekla” explosive type in begining, cause that has to go out the plug first.
      That also be reason why they are so relatively “small”.
      *Not Expert (just in case Daily Fail claims otherwise).

      • DING!
        Yes, the conduits there are from below the highly silicic part at the top of the magma refining colon. Mundafit was also from the fissures other end.
        As I noted above, I cracked the thing with the bimodal lava by assuming the fissure to be an obloid wedge open at the bottom. 🙂

        • My first Point – Yess!
          but is yours solution, mostly, I think.
          I put Lurkings arrow and that began in Vatnafjöll direction, rest was hard work.
          But the 180 USD question why there was no eruption in 2010-2011 time slot. Cause the real Hekla stuff (coming deep from within Hreppar-Microplate) is due in any day.
          About 66 years since last “Big” Hekla (normal) eruption. This might be tug-of-war and thus cancelling each others pressure out, untill the top cork pops.
          *Hekla Bang Theory
          **(c) Solutions inc, Lausnir ehf division etc.

          • If you look at the map that I just posted below you can easily see why Hekla is behaving like it does. I think that Vatnafjöll is an aborted Hekla that got draged to the side and lost the Oomph.

      • Thanks. I (looking in the archives) realize now that I have only made 2 plots on the Hekla zone (the other one being set in 2013, so not relevant to the present subject). I think I should redo some plots with different settings (ie time span….) .

    • I am going to leave a present for you at the den with the field that would be Hekla quakes. I noticed that the plot did not cover the entire length of the Hekla fissure, and that it also contained quite a lot of Vatnafjöll quakes.

  9. And thanks to the ever vigilant Shérine France we have an image of Keluds beautiful crater floor!
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    • I think that would be the most accurate AREA MAP of Hekla around.
      What is it with volcanoes and banana-shapes?

    • I just realised that this is the best piece of artwork I have ever managed… To call me drawingly challenged is an understatement.

        • Actually, it should be very clear on where things are at. It is actually amazing to see how small part of the fissure is occupied by Hekla and how much is not covered. If one now just imagine that you have an obloid keel structure with the centre at Hekla Mountain and widening downwards both in lenght and width you get the shape of the magma refinery-colon (magma-reservoir dyke, but I prefer to keep the word refinery-colon for Hekla since that is how she works)

    • This mag. 5.2 occurred near the eastern edge of the Gorda micro-plate. Also, several other smaller jolts have occurred near the MTJ as well as one inland of the Cascadia Subduction Zone to the ENE. The quakes on the Gorda are possibly related to stress transfer from the earlier mag. 6.8 (IMHO), however the quake east of the CSZ is a mystery as to any possible physical linkage? One thing I notice though, if this is indeed an aftershock pattern, it’s bit unusual for aftershocks this size to occur so long after a main shock..especially when zero aftershocks anything near this magnitude occurred immediately after the main (6.8) shock.

      One thing I’d like to mention regarding stress transfer as related to the focal mechanism:
      IN GENERAL (nothing is absolute) In a strike slip event, the fracture zone is both pushing and pulling away from land both “upstream” and “downstream” along the axis of movement, where released pressure from the earthquake is directly coupled or decoupled to the surrounding land area(s). As a result, if a nearby section of fault is almost ready to fail, the sudden additional strain will cause it to fail fairly quickly after the main shock…but rarely release more energy than the main shock. In California, we get these strike-slip “swarms” frequently, with all the events fairly uniform in size and magnitude.
      By comparison, in a large thrust or normal fault event, much of the energy is efficiently released vertically (Z axis), and is lost to the more pliable upper mantle, or in the case of a surface rupture, to the open air/water above. Therefore, less stress is transferred directly to adjacent land along the X and Y axis, so less aftershocks typically occur. Now, this is not to say that thrust or normal faulting cannot produce aftershocks through “stretching” or “compression” mechanisms, (which they certainly can and do), but on the whole, a shallow 6.0 strike slip event frequently produces a higher abundance of aftershocks (usually in declining magnitude) than an equivalent vertically-oriented event at depth.
      But, just to cover my ars, in a mega-thrust event (such as Tohoku), all bets are off since land is slipping in the tens of meters over hundreds of miles, and there will always be “pockets” of the fracture zone that need to catch up, (i.e. aftershocks)…plus the faces of the just-moved fault have been crumbled and weakened so their “stiction” (i.e. tensile strength) is much less than before, and therefore prone to future movement even if stress is lower than before. Hope I haven’t babbled my way into oblivion.

      41.867°N, 126.893°W
      Depth: 10.0km (6.2mi)
      Event Time
      2014-03-13 19:11:34 UTC
      2014-03-13 11:11:34 UTC-08:00 at epicenter
      2014-03-13 12:11:34 UTC-07:00 system time
      Location 41.867°N 126.893°W depth=10.0km (6.2mi)
      Contributed by USGS National Earthquake Information Center

        • Thanks Lurking! Will try to return the favor one day. Will definately try to run some ideas through and see what I get.
          Note: A quick review of recent activity shows not a single aftershock has occurred near the mag 5.5 (revised) W of Gold Beach. Note that this quake had a mostly “normal” style of faulting as compared to the oblique strike-slip of the 6.8 (along with it’s rich aftershock sequence), Regardless of the large differences in magnitude/energy released, a 5.5 strike slip event down here in the Bay Area would be crackling with aftershocks.

    • Ours was an absentee senator…

      … usually, when an issue came to vote, if he was present, that’s how he voted. “Present.”

  10. And since it is Friday now…
    The latest gadget from Google is the Google Attenuated Sensory Seat. It will give you the abillity to feel the movements on Google Earth and any earthquake via the Google Earth Earthquake App directly up your…
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

  11. *cough*
    2 quakes at Hekla.
    First one at 23.19 local time at the same location as the one below. It was an M1.8 at 90 percent confidence. Unclear why it is not listed. It looked like a wet one.
    It has now been followed by this smaller quake.
    14.03.2014 01:17:14 63.939 -19.920 10.2 km 0.6 71.09 13.6 km WSW of Hekla

    This is at the SSW end of the Hekla fissure at the Mundafell eruption site 800 meters SSE of the Selsund Camping Site.

  12. Well, at least somebodies thinking… Unfortunately, the engines were still pinging the satellites four hours after it “disapeared.” “about one and a half hours” is a bit early to be it.

    BEIJING, March 14 — Chinese researchers have detected a “seafloor event” near the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, an area suspected to be linked with the missing Malaysian jetliner MH370, a university announced on Friday.

    The event occurred at about 2:55 a.m. local time on Saturday, about one and a half hours after the plane’s last definitive sighting on civilian radar.

    The area, 116 km northeast from where the last contact with the Boeing plane was recorded, used to be a non-seismic region, according to a research group on seismology and physics of the earth’s interior under the University of Science and Technology of China.

    The seafloor event could have been caused by the plane possibly plunging into the sea, the research group said.


    And remember, the mass and speed of the aircraft would likely have left a definite seismic signal, somewhere from Magnitude 2.0 to 3.2 range (as a rough guess).

    BEIJING, March 14 — Western media reports began to suggest Thursday the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 could be a “deliberate act” rather than a catastrophic failure as the possible whereabouts of the missing jetliner still remained a mystery.

    U.S. official sources speaking with the ABC News said they believe the data reporting system was shut down at 1:07 a.m. Saturday Malaysia time, while the transponder — sending out location and altitude data — was shut down at 1:21 a.m.

    In other words, the shutdown of two separate communications systems from the missing flight happened at different times, which indicates the disappearance was more likely caused by a “deliberate act” rather than a catastrophic failure, the report said.


    Despair will be on them when the Chinese figure out who they are.

    • Somebody will figure it out in the end.
      Cudos for you who figured out that the airplane should show up on a seismometer. Now comes the big one, Did someone leave the airplane before it crashed?
      And why crash an airplane in the ocean?

      • Well, my rumination: One of them findings of ´data system story abowe´ is wrong: It was sending “history signal” every 30 min (according system info news items several days ago),
        on FR24 replay of flighttrack it first shows shortly after liftoff (about 17:41 UTC), so two batches were sent, I read somewhere. One from engine start (I guess) and next one after applying full power (on Runway) at about 17:37 UTC.
        Shutdown of ADS-B at Saturday morning March 8, at 01:21 local (or Friday March 7 17:21 UTC), I think only prevented next info batch go on air, not deliberate shutdown.
        And ACARS system pinging sattelite five hours suggests what ? … was it orbiting (trimmed, not on autopilot, as all power was off?) I think it must be on autopilot, despite losing ADS-B signal.
        Did it fly on autopilot, heading for Major City (= destination), not responding, and someone ordered it shot at? How many turnpoints was there possible program into autopilot?
        Is five hours hours not enough to reach certain airspace..
        Dismiss info from China on this, they might indeed be key players.
        Malayian officials are showing increadibly signs too.

        • “Dismiss info from China on this, they might indeed be key players.”

          Well, it does give them a reason/excuse to saturate the area with warships…. and they have been trying to make inroads to the South China Sea. Hell, we parked a CVBG within striking distance of their coast under similar pretenses following the Japanese quake and tsunami.

          • This is pure speculation on my part. No real info behind it.
            I guess World Affairs are at delicate state these days. Especially Sunday onwards.
            Globally (Europe vs Russia – EastAsia vs China) nobody benefits.
            There is aways danger of it going out of hand.

            • Well, it won’t be China that looses face and fires first. It would though be them who fired last… In reallity China is the least aggresive empire to ever have existed. At least from a military standpoint, economically is a completely different story altogether.

              In my opinion the South China Sea would benefit greatly from a couple of hundred Chinese warships. It is a hellhole of piracy and I think the Chinese would happily put an end to that to protect their trade routes. Previously it was the Royal Navy (UK) who policed the waters, but as they withdrew no other power did the job and crap followed.

  13. Thank you Spica for the post on Cleveland. .A proper Volcano with the right shape! Non of those messy caldera or Rift thingies!
    Not quite into rumination mode yet only one coffee imbibed yet. So here I sit smelling of Whale’s A**se and joining the wonderings of many millions about the great airplane mystery. Some very serious and frightening possibilities. The Titanic was hailed as unsinkable ,this plane is being haled as impossible to lose track of, yet both happened. I just feel so sorry for the relatives and the victims if they are still alive.. A tragic crash with bodies or wreckage would be hard but understandable. No fallout equals no spiritual rest for passengers or relatives.
    Carl, a great post that explains clearly the possible reasons why nothing happens at Hekla . I sit and continue happily watching Nothing happening.
    Dr Boris. Thank you so much for the link to a good read. You come over so well on Camera that I think Hollywood should offer you lead role in the remake of Dante’s Peak. At least you could get facts and activities more accurate 😀 :D. Seriously, as always, your enthusiasm is infectious and your professionalism earns respect for you and your colleagues.
    dfm.. I looked for ponies. I was expecting Icelandic ones. I saw nothing but a very good plot. Thanks again 🙂
    Irpsit. A morning of mysteries. How observant. Well spotted.
    <<<<<<Waves at everyone else….Hugs Ursh because……I identify with her and her animals and ..well I do good hugs 🙂 OK! Hugs all round so nobody feels left out.

    • Good morning Diana!
      And TGIF, even though I have a very long friday infront of me. But saturday will be filled with a Jazz festival so all is not lost.

  14. updated 11 AM

    This is a view of the very recent quake swarm which began on March 14th.

    For the first 2 views, the title bar shows datespan, date and hour of the events as well as magnitude.

    The color bar shows as usual, date on the left and terrain elevation on the right.

    The first view is a fixed view from the south, the second view is a fixed view from the east , both with an event by event animation.
    On each view there is a forward tilt of 10°.

    The following views are rotations with all events since the beginning of march, and views from the top and back.

    The last sequence is a zoom on the last event, combined with a general rotation.

    The localization of the small swarm can be clearly seen. Many of the quakes are located at a similar depth. Magnitude is also in the range of 2+.
    Data from IGN and NOAA, made on Gnu Octave 3.2.4 (Linux)

    It is still a bit early to give an opinion.

    • the funny thing is that Ign has already hidden the data. This morning the histograms and quakes localizations were up to date and now (@11h40 UTC) it has disappeared.....glitch, no glitch ?
      The update is at 38 events since this morning.

    • Seems like this intrusion is coming up through “uncharted” territory. This area has still not had an intrusion. Interesting that soon the entire Island will be resting on fresh or semi-fresh magma.
      Now we can just sit and wait the 5 days untill we get a reliable trend on the GPSes. I do not think this will cause an eruption before that, if one occured it would take several days up to months before it started.
      What has me worried is that so much magma have come up from depth by now through so many intrusions and so little have been erupted during Bob. In reallity the rate of magma intrusion is staggering. 15cm of magmatic uplift in 2 years is a whopper, at least if it continous and it is looking like it will.

      Keep up the good work DFM!

      • I’m running an update now (@38 events). I’ll post it before 2 PM. Then I’ll not be available before this evening.

        • I should be working… So, please stay away untill evening with your juicy plots :mrgreen:

          Hello! My name is Carl, I am a volcanoholic!

          • Hello Carl !

            Yes I was probably too hard on them, as there is new activity they probably want to refine their data. I wonder if they use the new and more precise algorithm, well I would.

  15. Interesting swarm located in a region between Oraefajokull and Grimsvotn/Laki.

    The swarm is located in a placed not known for any volcanic activity, it is a glaciated valley aligned SW-NE, which cuts through the ice cap, under the thick ice. These quakes started a few months ago, very rarely and now we have the first swarm. Quakes are small but pretty deep, 12 to 16km, guess they could be magmatic intrusion rather than tectonic fault. Quakes have been at 99% quality.

    Could be the first signs of the birth of a future volcano, a new rifting area, or a old volcanic/tectonic area.

    • Friday
      14.03.2014 05:20:28 64.061 -17.220 15.7 km 0.2 99.0 12.5 km WNW of Skaftafell
      14.03.2014 04:50:13 64.198 -16.967 15.7 km 0.1 99.0 20.2 km N of Skaftafell
      14.03.2014 02:14:57 64.138 -17.394 1.4 km 0.5 99.0 24.1 km NW of Skaftafell
      13.03.2014 18:06:40 64.134 -17.001 14.6 km 0.2 99.0 13.0 km N of Skaftafell
      13.03.2014 17:19:11 64.141 -17.023 14.2 km 0.4 99.0 14.0 km N of Skaftafell
      13.03.2014 14:34:51 64.125 -17.020 18.4 km 0.8 99.0 12.2 km N of Skaftafell
      13.03.2014 14:14:57 64.052 -17.264 12.3 km 0.8 99.0 14.2 km WNW of Skaftafell
      13.03.2014 12:41:38 64.060 -17.265 1.6 km 0.3 99.0 14.5 km WNW of Skaftafell
      13.03.2014 08:33:23 64.164 -17.001 4.2 km 1.2 99.0 16.5 km N of Skaftafell
      12.03.2014 17:33:46 64.055 -17.240 2.1 km 0.4 99.0 13.1 km WNW of Skaftafell

  16. Also another quake just a few kms from Hekla, at the very edge of SISZ. Three other earthquakes occurred previously in the region in the past 2 days.

    14.03.2014 08:14:24 64.016 -19.981 10.4 km 0.8 99.0 12.2 km SW of Búrfellsstöð

  17. The Airplane…

    And in a twist closing in on James Bond.
    I had a fun discussion with the same source in the loop who told me about the passports belonging to two Iranians on the way to their Swedish relatives. Now he came up with this tidbit. They have 7 minutes of telemetry from the airplane picked up yesterday via satellite. This would then be the reason for the US to send an entire carrier fleet to the area and for several other states to send troops specialised in airplane hostage situations. Apparantly ours went to Vietnam since we are among the few who can send armed people there. At the same time the Chinese have gone very very cryptic in their comments.

    Now we can sit back and wait for the next bizarr thing to come up in regards of the ill-fated flight.

    Now I am going to shut up and write the friday post!

    • I did… sadly in the end I could not go for personal reasons. Something I am regreting terrible for two reasons.
      I do though hope that we will do it one day.

  18. here is the update on El Hierro up to 3 PM

    Carl is right, it is a new intrusion zone. As HI00 is back online, it will be interesting to see the effect on the GPSes.

    See my explanations on my previous comment up.

  19. I would like to mention that snow/glacier thickness on Hekla peaks in spring and does not start to diminish until summer. Peak skiing season on Hekla is in April and May. So this does not fit with the statement that in spring pressure from snow/glacier diminishes triggering eruptions.

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