Bárdarbunga – The Elevator to Hell

Icelandic BBQ. Photograph copyright by Eggert Norðdahl.

Icelandic BBQ. Photograph copyright by Eggert Norðdahl.

Due to me having had a couple of hectic weeks at my day job and catching this year’s influenza I have not gotten around to writing as much as I have wished. What I had wanted to do by now would have been to explain more in detail what is happening at the Icelandic eruption, but perhaps mostly why it is happening as it does.

The advantage is that we have seen volcanic history unfold and a type of eruption never witnessed before in the age of instrumentation. Early on Icelandic scientists tried to use modeling from the Krafla Fires eruption sequence and to be honest that led them quite astray. The Krafla Fires came out of a shallow dyke, whereas this one is much larger and deeper, skirting or breaching down to the mantle. Also, the size of the eruption is quite different.

As we look at the eruption via webcams, or look at pictures it is easy to think that this is a small eruption. But nothing could be further from the truth; it is just that the sheer scale of the Icelandic landscape is fooling us all.

In reality this is a major eruption, not on the brutal scale of let us say the Lakí eruption, but it is still massive. By now the lava flood covers 50 square kilometers, the edges are reported to be between 6 and 10 meters high, but that is not the average depth of the lava, that is more likely to be 30 meters and that would put the total output at around 1.2 cubic kilometers if we allow for the lower edges. Now, let us start comparing with other large eruptions.

Tolbachik eruption in december 2012.

Tolbachik eruption in december 2012.

Eyjafjallajökull is an eruption that has etched itself into our brains. That eruption coughed up as little as 0.15 km3 of lava equivalent. The lesser known Grimsvötn 2011 was the largest eruption in more than a hundred years in Iceland. It erupted about 0.4 to 0.5 km3 in lava equivalent. No, we must go further back and further out.

In 1975 the Great Tolbachik eruption took place, it erupted 1.2 km3 and it used to be the standard that every later effusive eruption was measured against. It was even called “The Great Tolbachik eruption”. But now Holuhraun is busily surpassing that figure.

Instead we have to go for the VEI-6 1991 eruption of Pinatubo to get figures that are larger. In lava equivalent that would be 4.5 km3. So far there is nothing saying that the Holuhraun will reach that large a figure, but on the other hand there is not much actually saying that it will not.

Pinatubo's eruption in 1991, the second largest eruption of the twentieth century.

Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991, the second largest eruption of the twentieth century.

If we instead look at Iceland we will have to go back to the 1874-1875 cataclysmic Askja eruption to find a bigger eruption. That would place us at 1.8 km3 of lava equivalent. To get a larger Icelandic effusive eruption we have to go back to the 14 cubic kilometer Lakí eruption. I find it rather improbable that we will see something on the scale of Lakí.

At the current stable eruptive rate of 350 m3/s Holuhraun erupts 0.9 km3 per month and at that rate it will become a pretty large eruption soon, and remember that it is the world’s largest eruption in the last 23 years and Iceland’s largest in the last 139 years. Next time you wonder when the “real eruption” will begin, think about it again.

The caldera plug

I have used the word plug for the huge lump of rock that sits inside the circle of earthquakes that form the ring fault around the caldera floor. But plug is not a good description really, so perhaps we should come up with a better name. On the other hand it kind of describes it quite well.

This plug has been dropping at an even rate since the onset of the eruption, but there have been a couple of misconceptions about it that I wanted to explain better. I did so in a comment earlier today, but I thought it deserved to be expanded into a proper article.

The dynamics of the plug

Image by the Icelandic Met Office. The image shows the earthquakes outlining the ring fault and the dyke leading all the way to Holuhraun.

Image by the Icelandic Met Office. The image shows the earthquakes outlining the ring fault and the dyke leading all the way to Holuhraun.

There is a huge lapsus in thought running around concerning this eruption. I will try to correct that now.

We know that magma is leaving the system at a rate of 350 m3/s lava equivalent and that it ends up at Holuhraun. We also know from GPS evidence that this is creating a system less pressurized. I am not using the word under pressured since this would implicate something else. I will now try to tie the knot on the sack.

Now, if a pressure of 1 is needed to keep the caldera lid(s) in place (the plug) we now have less than 1, it would probably be possible to calculate how far below 1 we are, but that would take quite a bit of calculations and contain a great bit of uncertainty at best. For now <1 is enough to know.

At the top it has always been assumed that there was a pancake shaped layer of magma, or a set of pancakes. The depth for these pancakes was assumed to be 2 km by the Icelandic scientists. Remember that this might not be entirely correct given new data. But, if we assume it to be correct this would most likely be stale magma that is unlikely to be eruptible and form a rhyolitic mush.

Below that there is now believed to be a secondary magma reservoir between 5 and 6 km depth (source: IMO), I think this forms another set of pancakes, or it might be a more solid “chamber” like structure. This most likely contains hotter eruptible material.

At about 10 km we have a larger chamber and between 16 and 20 km you have the start of a boat hull shaped reservoir stretching down to the mantle.

Image by the Icelandic Met Office. This is the station BARC residing on top of the ice on the Bárdarbuna caldera, notice the very steady drop.

Image by the Icelandic Met Office. This is the station BARC residing on top of the ice on the Bárdarbuna caldera, notice the very steady drop.

And it is also believed that the entire shebang is connected via a permanently open conduit. Since we are talking about connected pressure vessels the pressure should be pretty much the same equilibrium of 1 everywhere, or in our case an equal <1.

Now, if it was higher somewhere in a single part of the system it would rapidly equal out to be the same all over. So, if we get a pressure below 1 at the deep chamber that feeds Holuhraun we get lowered pressure in all reservoirs causing a cascading chain of readjustments.

The magma at the top is most likely not going to go anywhere since it is stale rhyolitic mush, but magma from reservoir two is most likely going down to reservoir 3 to feed Holuhraun, magma should also be moving up from the “hull” into the feeding reservoir number 3. Basically, the system is at <1. This makes it pretty impossible for magma to move upwards and form new intrusions since the easiest path would be to continue out towards Holuhraun. At least until a path opens that goes straight to the top, then the resistance of the dyke might be greater than the extra height to reach the surface at the caldera floor.

Now, the general belief seems to be that the pressure is greater than 1 however impossible that would be. This would mean that more magma is entering into the system then is going out. This would at the very least leave the plug where it is. But it is more likely that it would either push the plug upwards, or that magma would move up from the “hull” into reservoir 3, onwards into reservoir two and then up into reservoir 1 were the rhyolite would be reheated, and we would have noticed that at least. But even if the rhyolite didn’t blow up we would be seeing inflation and a GPS permanently moving upwards and not down.

By now any good physics student should be raising their finger to say “but won’t the system be striving to achieve equilibrium in the pressure, i.e. 1?” But of course! And the only way to achieve that is by the lowering we are all following on the GPS at Bárdarbunga. It is equally marvelously linear as the output of at Holuhraun is stable.

Now one last thing that seems to have swept past everyone, the missing magma. Seemingly twice as much magma is either residing inside the dyke leading to Holuhraun or have been erupted at Holuhraun as is seemingly leaving Bárdarbungas magma reservoirs if we calculate it from the drop.

First, a small part of that differential is what is giving the <1 value of pressure, but it is a rather small part. Initially when I noticed this I thought it was magma from the initial intrusion that took place in the months prior to the eruption. But, with time it became apparent that this seemingly missing magma is also ridiculously linear.

350 m3/s of lava equivalent goes out, and the caldera plug drops 175 m3/s in lava equivalent. Now, the solution is to be had by the pesky pressure differentials. Not only is the plug dropping, there is also decompression melt running at the bottom of the “hull”.

Now, when I speak about “low pressure” it should be understood that the pressure is still tremendous. It is just lower then what is needed to keep the caldera plug up and lower than is necessary to keep the mantle material in a semi-solid. With decompression melt in this case it means that the pressure drop makes the semi-solid mantle transition into a more liquid state (magma).

Now some people seem to think that it is the dropping plug forcing the magma out, but this would just create another pressure level of 1 and we know that the drop only equates to half of the erupted lava, so there just simply has to be pressure below 1 at play, and it also pans out with the decompression melt model.


Sheepy Dalek Update (The bar is open) :

New riddles are up!!!


Answer on that page only, please!

1,190 thoughts on “Bárdarbunga – The Elevator to Hell

  1. OT – Yesterday we UKViggen were commenting on JAS Gripen (of proud Carl Gustaf and Swedish Saab manufacture), Bear hunting or not beer hunting. I think we will loose this war. Why?

    Czech Gripen (D128857)

    Beeing late! Icelandic prees announcement said they were coming over 8th Oct, Nato officials said 9th October, but truth the came 10th Oct. Maybe better late than not.
    BTW. I was there, waiting, was there cause of other more real lifa domestic business …
    but suffered heavy SO2 (“poisioning”) and will not recover properly until after the weekend.
    Just like having had too many …. at the Dalek… It was real PAIN just be outside, for a whike … even at edge of SO2 cloud. First time I also found sulphur smell, was today.

    SO2 cloud yesterday sunset (ungraded) screenshot

    Sun this morning was so spooky >RED< it will not be shown
    *PG rated*

  2. ok, time to laugh. i was trying to make the Blinis from Spica. However i’m not familiar with the European measurements. Looking up on line i was assured that 400 g of flour is the same as 3 and 1/3 cups of flour. i no longer believe that. After adding the rest of the flour as directed in the recipe, the form solidified in one solid mass like cement. So i figured….. add more milk…. because it said “the dough will be very thin” and this so wasn’t … i added another 2 cups of milk and the yeast became something alive and i mean “ALIVE” like in the monster movies of The Blob…. i would dip the cup into the mixture to pour into the pan and the dough said..”NO” and literally climbed from the measuring cup back into the bowl…… i should have stopped there……….. i even had trouble throwing the stuff out….. it wouldn’t leave the bowl… It made me scrap the whole thing at one time into the trash… Apparently it wasn’t going unless it all went. i think i created a new life form…. Warned my DH to be careful when he took it to the dump… Don’t do it alone or in the dark. So i should have asked here before i even started===== how much is 400 g in “cups” ?? i should just be Thankful that You guys even let me read this blog. 😉 Best!motsfo

    • Oh, Motsfo, you poor thing. I am laughing so hard, I have tears rolling down my face. Maybe you should have used a red spoon!

        • I’m wondering about the amount of yeast you used? I know nothing about European measurements either, but I know that a little bit of yeast goes a long way.

        • Since you are in Alaska maybe you have Canadian flour? Canadian flour has a higher gluten content and it is like US bread flour. My quick measurement (of US bread flour) gave 130 g/cup, but my package of Gold Medal unbleached all purpose flour says 3 1/3 cups per pound on the side of the bag. That is 136 g/cup. Anyway, try adding the flour to the liquid measure until you get the right consistency of batter, don’t over mix (to keep from developing the gluten). Using some cake flour will lighten the batter also.

    • I get confused with cup measurements all the time, and its not helped by the fact that 1 cup = 5 oz; 1oz = 28 grammes, however this is always rounded down to 25 grammes. So while technically 1 cup = 5oz = 140 grammes, the actual conversion is 125 grammes. Thats just for flour…one cup of granulated sugar is 225 grammes and the weight changes every time depending on what you are measuring…..sorry if this confuses matters!

    • If you have kitchen scales, 400g is 14 ounces – (454g = 1 pound).

      But I think you encountered divergent evolution and just failed to take the next step – if you had tipped the blob onto a baking tray and stuck it in the oven you would have got a loaf of bread…

    • LOLOLOL.

      400g is a weight measurement, so the volume (cups) that translates to probably depends on the density of the flour, how it’s handled, the moisture level of the flour, and a few other factors. A baking scale isn’t all that expensive and comes in handy for a lot of things. Also, your water (minerals, salt, level of acidity, etc) and/or the type of milk can affect the yeast. Sometimes adding a bit of wheat gluten to flour can make a huge difference in results, because many standard store bought flours are a bit lacking in gluten. (No, gluten is not evil, unless you have a genuine intolerance for it.) Gluten makes dough softer and stretchier and easy to work.

      I recently moved from 1100 feet to 6000 feet in elevation, as well as switching from a cheap electric oven to a fancy gas convection oven. And I went from a well that was so full of table salt that it actually tasted salty to one that has zero salt in it, though it has an interesting mix of other minerals. I’ve had a few baking misadventures while adapting recipes to the new environment. Yeast is MUCH more “active” here and the first time I tried to make bread, the result looked like a giant mushroom, because it poofed up so big and spilled over the edges of the pan. I’ve also cussed out more than a few batches of waffles, too, that refused to crisp up right. And other misadventures. It’s all a learning experience.

      • But also keep in mind.. four quality varies from country to country ( how fine it has been grinded)
        I normally don’t weigh my ingredients… just make a thick pancake dough ( which would be 1 and a half finger thick in the pan even if you tried to make thin pancakes) and add the yeast ( and the spics).. and you should be fine.
        I will take pictures when i cook…

    • dear motsfo
      Your request for a recipe gave me the idea o make blinis again ( it one of my mates favorite foods) and i was lucky and was able to buy fresh salmet caviar at the local market yesterday.
      So i will be preparing Blinis in a few hours. I will do it with cups this time and a “cup” version of the recipe will be added later today

      • For all the cooking enthusiasts… here is another recipe
        Salmon Mousse

        200 g smoked salmon,
        200 g curd ( cheese),
        50 ml cream
        1-2 Shallot, (or 1 tiny onion)
        Salt and freshly grinded white peper
        Lemon juice ( just a little bit)
        Smoked salmon or salmon caviar for decoration

        Mix all the ingredients in a blender. If the curd is rather liquid use less cream.

        Fill the mass into tiny glasses ( using a pastry bag or a simple plastic bag ( fill the mass in the bag, cut one corner off and press the mass into the glass)) and decorate them with salmon and dill or with salmon caviar.

        The image above was taken at the AE Xmasparty last year and the decoration is not dill but cress. ( I prefer dill)

            • Well, it’s sure to be better if i don’t contribute! 😉 Altho i do have a killer carrot cake recipe. Best!motsfo
              and also a pretty good salmon soup

            • ooh now your talking i have volcanic chilli and nacho recipie and same with a family chutney which i will re name after our fave volcano…will try add them later 🙂

            • That would be nice!!!
              And like my reply to motsfo, please give VC the permission to publish the recipes

            • Very good idea! Looking forward to it (for securety reasons I will not contrbute 😉 )

          • I just made 6 bottles of my Bardarbunga hot and smoky chili sauce-it’s still in the experimental stage but if it worked out the way I planned, I will send the recipe 🙂

    • Mostfo – pancakes and blinis need eggs – you did not mention them in your attempts!
      Also essential for decent pancakes and blinis is to sift them (in my bistro we sift twice in order to make the
      flour as light as possible) and dry yeast should always be used – and softened first. Have an excellent
      beetroot blinis served with mascarpone and caviar recipe if you are interested. Recipe made for 10 year olds.
      By the way Geo lurking – believe it or not we are working on your Jalepenos pickled in Tequila, stuffed with cheese, battered and quick fried – so far its looking good – will send pics when the recipe is finalised – need
      suggestions as to what we will call it on the menu –

      • i didn’t mention the egg… cause i really didn’t want to take up too much space on a kinda ot topic, but i did have one in there, and i did fluff up the flour. i just wanted to share my laughter as i tried to throw the stuff away. i will be trying it again and a Recipe for 10 yr olds? i’m interested. All the Best! and i do hope You enjoyed my sharing, motsfo

      • On second thought, is the beetroot blinis made from beets? cause i’m allergic to beets… ( i know, i live a sad life when it comes to the long list of things i’m allergic to)

        • Weirdest allergy (if one could call it that) that I have encountered was a chap allergic to happiness. For some reason he reacted to the signal substances that creates the feeling of joy with falling asleep as the brain shut down.

          • OO that is terrible. Makes one contemplate his life: his first kiss/his wedding/ the birth of his children/ and (ahem, cough, cough, polite pause, ((motsfo raises a discrete hankie to her mouth and whispers))………… You, know; the thing that led to the birth of his children… cough. 😉 Best!motsfo

            • None of that, at least when I met the dude. I hope they found a cure for it, otherwise it will be by necessity the dullest life on record.
              And, since he would fall asleep long before getting to any *coughing* “activities” he would pass out… I do not think I guy passing out every time he sees a woman would be considered hot dating material.

    • Thank you for the alert – Bard 2 is also very bright. The eruption plume (how many kinds of plumes are there in volcanology? They really make words work extra hard in this branch of Science) seems very high too. Wonderful to see those clouds lift. 🙂

  3. Hi

    Here is one week earthquakes’ summary. The caldera activity is the main source of action (there’s a zoom on that zone in the making right now)
    However there seems to be some activity also in the vicinity of Heridubreid….

    • It certainly was glorious – great screen shot, Simi! 🙂

      I recall 2 days ago Carl talking about an M5.2 earthquake that he thought might be right near the intrusion site and he said, if so, it might have obstructed the dike opening in which case the Holuhraun eruption would subside in 2 days’ time. It’s been 2 days and Irpsitadyngja seems more effusive than ever. I don’t know if that ‘quake had anything to do with it but it does occur to me that all the little ‘quakes in the rift zone may have finally shifted enough rock out of the way so the magma is moving more freely through there now. Certainly there are far fewer ‘quakes in the rift zone now and Irpsitadyngja is looking stronger than ever. 😀

  4. Hi

    Here si the hour by hour animation of the events around the Bararbunga caldera from 3 to 10th Octaber 2014.
    The activity is still happenning mainly on the north side of the caldera.
    Dot size is relative to event magnitude – see scale on one side.
    Dot color is date dependent – see colorbar left
    Terrain elevation is shown (see colorbar right and values on the top
    First view is from the East. At the end of the video I have left the whole area summary
    Data from IMO, All quakes over 99% quality, Terrain data from NOAA.
    Made for Volcanocafé on Gnu Octave

    • The picture depicts the fire giant Surtur, the destroyer of the world (of all the nine worlds), an Icelandic volcanic demon, most likely inspired by the the 934 AD Eldgjá eruption, who will fight the god Freyr and destroy the world at Ragnarök.

      image credit “https://sampaxton.wordpress.com/tag/surtr/”

      • And since Tolkien was an expert on ancient Nordic languages and Sagas…
        That’s what I love about this blog, you always learn something new, thank you! 🙂

        • Indeed! 🙂 Tolkien’s stories were greatly inspired by the Icelandic Sagas and the Edda by Snorri Sturluson. Also, he was fascinated by the Finnish language 🙂 The language he invents in TLOTR is based on the Finnish language.

        • It looks remarkably like a Balrog, such as Glorfindel slew during the fall of Gondolin. What a scary sight it must have been.

          • Well I remember it and it is a memory I care not to dwell upon, for the day was as evil as the Nirnaeth Arnoeidad

            (By the bye – The Halls of Mandos are not all what they are cranked up to be. For one, there is no running water and Fëanor is as boring as old Mandos himself as he sits there brooding about his lost gems, Nirnaeth Silmarillion I name them, the Gems of Tears Unnumbered.)

            • Best not to let him know what is going on in Iceland at the moment. Maedhros threw himself and his Silmaril into a fiery pit. Who knows what may be spat out of Baugur…

    • When you name Surtur, you have to mention this band with very powerful kind of music.
      The album is about Surtur and what he is doing in his daily job. 🙂

  5. Earthquake count for the past 24 hours:
    Magnitude less than 1 in all: 68
    Magnitude 1 to 2 in all: 99
    Magnitude 2 to 3 in all: 39
    Magnitude more than 3 in all: 15
    Total: 221

    Source: IMO

    An increase in smaller ‘quakes has pushed up the total. I think this may be the highest it’s been for a week or two.

      • I think that the long term plot isn’t updating either. A pity. I had been comparing the subsidence, to the previous fits It seems to have been speeding up a bit. The red line below shows the previous fit and the black line the GPS measurements . After the M5.5 on Oct 7 the GPS started going down a bit faster than predicted. In the next few days it should become clear whether that is a blip or a real change.

        My impression was that the M5.5 had reduced the pressure a bit. That was the earthquake where the depth was so difficult to fit, changing between deep and very shallow. (More likely deep, perhaps. It is difficult to get such strong surface quakes.) Perhaps it opened the dyke a bit further. It could also have caused some sagging of the glacier.

        • The M5.5 seems to have been a non-double couple with a zero volumetric change. In other word that is one of those where a large body of magma rapidly switches places within the system.
          Those have historically been monsters to fit a depth to since they affect the entire height of the magma reservoir system.
          Just as a reminder of the scale difference of this eruption and others, a single M5.6 non-double couple in 1996 caused the Gjálp eruption, and that one was not small in any way. Gjálp was a VEI-3 with if memory serves a total output of magma of around 0,5km3 (almost all effusive obviously).

          • ‘non-double couple’ must be one of the weirdest names for an earthquake, suggesting all kinds of legal issues.. I had been wondering whether a reflection of the seismic waves off the liquid magma had confused the signal but your suggestion may be simpler. Isn’t M5.5 stronger than usual for a complex quake?

          • Oh! A non-double couple! (Sounds like platonic friends… “oh no, we’re not a couple, just friends”) Are there double couples without the “non”?

            • ‘double couple’ is a technical term for a normal (!) earthquake, one where you have a sideways motion along a fault plane. ‘Couple’ actually means torque. If you have a force which causes two planes to slide past each other, it will also cause a torque (rotation). To counter that, you assume two such forces with opposite torque, so that the rotations cancel. If my memory serves me right.. So a ‘non double couple’ is a quake which is not caused by motion along a fault.

          • Well, I do not think anyone will take a big honking earthquake to court (well, obviously except in Italy).

            The Bárdarbunga has suffered from a drawn out chain of NDC earthquakes larger than M5 that started in 1973 and continued to 1996 with the M5.6 that caused Gjálp to erupt. If memory serves the series contained 20 earthquakes of NDC type.
            From 1996 to 2014 there was no recorded M5 NDC earthquakes in the system, untill this hubbub started at least. Quite a few of the large ones follow this pattern, and almost all of the initial earthquakes as the dyke started to rupture was of the NDC type. As soon as the dyke started to propagate this changed into the requisite type for dyke propagation.

            Here is a write-up about it, and there are a couple of papers out there too.

            Now, the fun part is that this probably gives us a starting point for this eruption and that it is likely to be 41 years ago. At least as much as we could ever find a starting point for Bárdarbungas current eruption.

            • I’ve been thinking all along that pulses of magma from the mantle were being drawn into Bárðarbunga then most or an equal amount diverting into the dike. When I realised that the bung was dropping, this became a problematical idea for me. But the concept of triple or quadruple reservoirs solves that beautifully, especially your explanation of mantle-sourced magma and older magma from reservoir 2 all moving into reservoir 3 and from there into the dike. That explains how magma can be moving in from the mantle at the same time that deflation is occurring.

            • Most of the drop would still be from reservoir number 3 due to it being the weakest structure (larger structure, less structural strength combined with larger “void” that is magma filled).

          • …….The M5.5 seems to have been a non-double couple ….were do us mere mortals obtain this info? ……with a zero volumetric change. In other word that is one of those where a large body of magma rapidly switches places within the system…….and, can anyone speculate approx. or point to a paper…… how much magma “rapidly swiched places within the proposed multi chamber BB system?”……..also its infered that almost none passed through the 35km rift to the erruption site.

  6. Good morning everyone! Finally I’ve got the chance to view what’s going on at Mila’a cams. I must say I do not quite understand what I’m looking at. Do we have Carl’s lake to the right or is it a snowfield that formed during past snow storms? Definitely, snow + lava is not a good mix, at least for us poor cam-watchers! 🙂

  7. Hey.

    Can someone do a cool thing for me so i can see better on how much lava that is actually erupted?

    If you can, can someone of you take this picture and take the lava area that is erupted so far and place it over the city / place i’m living in?

    Just take the lava area out and make it a little transparent over the city area so you can see how much of the place that would be in lava here if it had erupted here.

    Here is the city i’m living in that you can use as a measure: https://www.google.no/maps/place/Troms%C3%B8/@69.6686718,19.0032116,15379m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x45c4c4526c3b71fd:0x23dca858e6ebed3

    If someone could do that, it would be great 🙂

  8. I took a plot of recent EQ activity from IMO and overlayed it on Google Earth, then rotated it to see how close the epicenters were to the edge of Bard. I was wondering if the shortest path to the surface might be out to the side.

  9. Just a quickie! If the eruption at holuhraun stopped now, how long would it be before the entire lava flow cooled to ambient temperature? I wouldn’t have a clue!

    • I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have to wait for two young ladies to finish advertising hamburgers, and then wait another five minutes when nothing happens, and then the video starts. It is worth watching (but perhaps not for Carl – I’m afraid I see no lake…..)

        • The eruption seems much more calmer on this video than in the past weeks.

          The lava fountains are not being ejected to the great heights that I have seen. Eruption losing a bit of intensity perhaps. Still, that lava lake is amazing.

          • As the edifice rises higher the lava fountains turn into lava streams. This was noted by IMO after a couple of weeks, but the amount effused is still the same.

            • Also, the edifice has a much wider bore now that is filled with lava, and that also dampens any fountaining.

            • alternatively, the lava pool actually dampens the fountains,
              I think,
              but I think too its not “hot enough to melt” wider conduits
              else we whould see much wider conduits
              = more material coming up
              = no decompress melt (as suggested by Páll Einarsson )
              but a “geological accident” might change all

            • It seems that most often the lava in fountaining now falls back inside the crater – does this eventually build up and result in wider or higher fountaining from time to time which then ‘expels’ the build-up?

    • I’ve seen the description “highly active lava lake” in a tweet or somesuch from one of the scientists onsite, this video shows that really well… Just awesome; thanks for posting Alison 🙂

    • For many times Katla erupted every 50 years.

      One time Katla has a break of 100 years (prior to Edlgjá) and a break of 200 years (after Edlgjá)

      Obviously it is just one instance, but it shows that Katla can change patterns of eruptions. Thus, we have a slightly tiny more elevated probability of having an unusual eruption at Katla the next time around. Like a repeat of Eldgjá and Holmsá fires. And we have seen ocasional quakes in Edlgjá.

  10. Arrived from a nice morning/ afternoon 5 hour hike.

    Quite plenty of gas pollution but likely not much near the mountain we went. Anyways me and most Icelanders actually don’t care much for this pollution, as long as we don’t feel it that much in the lungs. Well, it’s just nature, and you can’t do much about it.

    Its quite a thick haze here in south Iceland, the strongest so far, and plenty chlorine smell everywhere. It’s like I am in a swimming pool at all the times.

    I wonder why this volcanic haze smells more often of Cl rather than SO2.

    It could be Cl, HCl or Cl02, I am not sure which gas is it. But it definitively smells like bleech, swimming pool, sort of thing. And perhaps is what gives the blueish haze. While the SO2 gives the yellowish haze.

    Are volumes of Cl really high?
    How can I clear the chlorine gas from inside my house? Also baking soda?
    I keep my windows locked, but the bleech-smelling gas slips indoors.

      • Surely this ought be Icelandic nature response to the Ebola crises.

        With so much chlorine in the atmosphere it surely kills the bugs! I can open the window and sterilize my house, I can go outside and bleech my t-shirts, if I am lucky enough, maybe the next rain will have sodium chloride and will taste salty!

        Caveat: all are jokes.

          • I’ve had my lungs irritated by bleach before while cleaning. I was worried because I was expecting my third child. Dr. said it’d go away and baby would be fine. That was minor but it was very uncomfortable. My son was ok. He has since grown up to be a great dad himself. I know you can’t compare this to cleaning. But be careful.

        • Carl I am surprised at your comment about oceans and chlorine gas. I have never heard of this before. Do you have any links regarding this issue? Chlorine is highly reactive and should react with organic matter, for example creating organo chloro compounds.

          • Just maybe it has something to do with NaCl, you know the salt also in seawater?
            The salts (in plural) may extent for some km from the ocean front inland with sea breeze. (Read it in some silly book, which is in some silly bookshelf or somewhere.)
            Also may cause corrosion or rust in metal objects very near the sea. (and in cars when the roads are salted in winter)

            • Well I guess I am just fussy. Free chlorine is almost non existent in sea water as it will react with a variety of compounds to form chlorine derivatives. The sea of course is loaded with chloride ion Cl-1 (damn I wish I could use super and subscripts) which is a very different beast from elemental Cl2.

              I have spent moderate amount of time near seas and oceans and have never quite figured out what the characteristic smell is. Part of it I think is, are, organic sulfur compound(s). Sodium chloride has a very characteristic taste but essentially no odor as it is very poorly volatile and for that reason is described as being odorless.

            • In the earths violent geological history, chlorine was probably produced in massive amounts and since it readily interacts with the water vapour in the air it falls back as Hydrochloric acid (HCL). There must have been alkaline Sodium compounds to leave us with the levels of common salt (NaCl) we see today in the worlds oceans. Acid + base = salt + water

              What I find interesting is that we have always looked at the SO2 as the main cause of acid rain since it interacts with water vapour in clouds to give us Sulphurous (not Sulphuric) acid H2SO3. This is an unstable acid that is only observed in a gaseous state.

              If Chlorine were a larger part (historically) of ‘acid’ rain since it would be Hydrochloric acid in the rain, this would fall over land as well as sea and would dissolve the most reactive compounds it came into contact with. In turn it would explain the number of compounds that exist in todays seas. For common salt to exist in such quantities in the sea it must have existed in gaseous or acid form first, likewise sodium in metallic or alkaline form.

          • Don’t make the confusion between chlorine (Cl-) ion and Chlorite (ClO-). What you get in the volcanic gases is hydrogen chloride gas (HCl). It is extremely soluble in water and of course very acidic. It’s a strong acid. Bleach contains the chlorite ion. Chlorine gas is Cl2, is yellowish in color and very agressive to the lungs. (It was the first chemical weapon used during WWI). When in contact with water it will transform into chlorite ion

        • So my white clothing will get a nice bleach if I hang them on the railing of a ship in mid ocean? Would a black ship cat become grey after years on such a ship? 🙂

          • The black cat would be black since the hair grows out anew all the time. On the other hand, everything on a ship bleaches out quickly due to chemical effects and UV from the sun. I once had a pair of pants going in a 3 months from black to medium brown before desintegrating.

    • Don’t think it would include ClO2 – chlorine dioxide is (a) a bright yellow gas, and (b) explodes violently with little provocation. VERY reactive.

      • I do not know the answer to that. A question would be how would possible precursors to chlorine dioxide be formed in sea water?

        I do not know what give sea water its characteristic odor. Odor seems to be slightly different in different world locations but is always there. The odor probably is a composite of several different odors.

          • Yes, and Iodine has an odor typical of halogens such as chlorine and bromine. It is also known that certain seaweeds such as kelp concentrate Iodine. It is obviously present in the thin dried seaweed sheets one roasts over a flame for use in Sushi. Also, Iodide ion is easily oxidized to Iodine, plus Iodine is very volatile as a solid as it sublimes at room temperature.

            I had not thought of that, it is a likely source of some of the odor of the sea. Good suggestion – but not chlorine for reasons outlined earlier. lol

            I wonder if the odor of the sea is less when mid ocean a long ways from seaweeds? But I suppose the nose would be desensitized to sea odor by the time one travels that far in a boat.

        • You know that you always paint the ships cat before the ship sinks. In that way the cat will float due to trapped air in the fur. This has lead to cats coming bobbing unto very remote islands setting up colonies utterly destroying all native wildlife.

    • Thank you Ursula. It brings up good memories. The best moment is to go in the morning, you get to see the fumaroles better.

  11. After days of fog and loosing connections, the wait was well worth it.
    This tmelapse starts on the night of 6th of OCtober and then continues on the 10th to 11th October

    Credit for the music:

    Jack Wall and Sam Hulick: “Vigil”

    Ólafur Arnalds: “Sudden Throw”

    I hope you like it,

  12. Taking a pole…………… how many here are a little uncomfortable when volcano films/utubes etc are backed with music and not the natural sounds that volcanoes make? me for one………. Best!motsfo

    • This bothers me as well,becuase it also distracts. However I thought you can always mute it. Alaska’s Redoubts soundfiles though are tempting material.

      • Yeah, you can always mute it… if you get to see the video at all. If there is music you are very likely not allowed to watch it here in Germany. Sorry for sounding grumpy… well, I am, but not at you.
        On the other hand… I really like volcanoes better without music, and I guess, some others with restricted band width would agree too. 🙂 But, thank you anyway for your good work, Virtual!

      • yes, i always mute it when i hear the music start………… for me the visual of the volcano is plenty… and to me there is a monty python effect of …”Wondering where the orchestra is sitting during all this eruption.” It just breaks the reality of what i’m seeing… wondered if anyone else didn’t care to canned music during the vids, that’s all. Best!motsfo

    • I think natural sound is best, at least if you are up and close to a volcano.

      I am though not going to dance around the pole with this, I leave the pole dancing to others.

    • good point. aerial shots and them from airplanes, the sound be ruined
      close up, we will use the natural sound. I got that recorded on a few clips.

      • braindead
        bring out the typo dragon. please

        Edit: Ya know, technically a stroke does result in partial brain death.

        • Oh my, my apologies. Hope you have recovered fully.
          We need your “navy” perspective here on this blog
          – was meaning my own brain, feels like dead
          better hit sack , that viking Classic did not work all that well

    • I visited White Island in New Zealand. Impressive, scary, smelly and fabulous.
      However my abiding memory was the Noise. The Earth Roaring defiance at the sky.

      Music is definately not needed. I always wonder if each volcano has its own Voice

    • I guess I don’t understand what kind of sound track someone is supposed to provide for a time lapse web cam view of a volcano from miles/km away. Speeded up volcano sounds from a different volcano? Speeded up wind noise? Sheeesh….

    • Depends on the music. Tazieff used ‘Ride Of The Valkyries’ (I seem to recall) on the closing credits of his ‘Volcano’ documentary and it fitted right in. Speaking of which, does anyone know if it’s available anywhere on video or DVD? Never been able to find it.

    • Under ordinary circumstances I LOVE natural sounds…and sounds-of-volcano are at the top of the list of natural sounds I enjoy. Watching one without sound is kind of like watching a thunderstorm without sound. It just seems “empty”. but given the choice of complete silence or music on a video, I prefer music. Proper soundtrack adds life to the MIla broadcasts..which are otherwise silent movies. And anybody who has ever watched a silent movie knows that music is an important part of setting up mood or tension in a scene.

      I would love for ANYBODY affiliated with IMO or MIla to chime in and tell us how the event ‘actually’ sounds from the camera location. At such a distance, I imagine a dull roar..like rumbling thunder over the horizon, but more constant. Maybe one of them could even get us some sound recordings for dubbing.

      And Virtual…keep doing what you’re doing. They’ve been enjoyable for me so far.

  13. took an image from the mbl.is video and noted the webcam location. The lava river and water river meet in front of the cam. It makes you realize how long the lava river is. Amazing.

  14. I did a size comparison of the lava field with the Craters of the Moon Monument in Idaho. Makes me realize that it was probably fed by one of the Yellowstone calderas. not an expert.

      • Just watching a programme about Katla, Hekla & Laki. Very interesting. It’s currently talking about the effects of the vast quantities of sulphur dioxide that Laki chucked out in 1783 eruption. There are people who think that the effects of the eruption at Laki led partly to the French revolution in 1785.

    • yea, live lava

      Released you from the dungeon, good thing you had a blanket! 🙂 #DraGra

  15. I posted this above but it may get missed
    Carl October 11, 2014 at 12:35 …….The M5.5 seems to have been a non-double couple ….were do us mere mortals obtain this info? ……with a zero volumetric change. In other word that is one of those where a large body of magma rapidly switches places within the system…….and, can anyone speculate approx. or point to a paper…… how much magma “rapidly swiched places within the proposed multi chamber BB system?”……..also its infered that almost none passed through the 35km rift to the erruption site?

    • Beach balls 😉

      Do note that for all points and purposes the dyke works as a magma chamber. So, with a bit of unluck all of it.

      • Carl thanks for your answer, were can we see these beach balls for the bigger eqs linky?

        If this is the EQ
        07.10.2014 10:22:27 -17.404 -64.619 -17.404 0.1km 5.5 99 6.3 km ESE of Bárðarbunga
        M5.5 = 180,000t of TNT equ,
        a) the energy expended is huge, ……so the quantity & volume of magma & super hot fluids …..must be equally massive,
        b) the eq was over quickly….. instant up ramp & no long tail…….so the magma & fluids had to also move quickly,

        However, this all poses some basic physics & fluid dynamics questions:
        if the massive volume of quickly moving magma & fluids move down & out of BB along the rift to the eruption site,… M x A = F…. there has to be resultant M0.5 -M2.5 eqs & magmatic tremors between BB & along the rift to the eruption site ,……of which there are none present……

        so it stands to reason ……. the depressurising buoyant magma & super hot fluids & gasses…… moved solely in BB ……where there’s plenty of the request quakes present. …..and rapidly upwards and/or into a opening sill or dike……..

        OK shoot me back to the stone ages

        • Remember, the drumplots were rescaled at midnight, so quakes that may look large might not be, but again I’m no expert, so I could definitely be wrong. Something could easily have been changed without my knowing. :p

          • I am not really looking at the big one but the others. They look different, almost like the quake was far away and the wave was split into two sections, however, when I,look for quakes elsewhere I cannot find any. The ones after 1:15 on the green line are the ones that stand out to me

            I know very little about this but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last year

        • best time is a “screen shot” of von before IMO collapses the line spacing, …..i’ve seen spasmodic today & harmonic tremors over the last week on von,……. belive events are building at BB …..keep well back & your hard hat on

          • Hi DT

            I know what you mean when you see them blown up. What do you mean by spasmodic , are those the ones that look like multiple quakes stuck together?

            • Is the an example of a spasmodic quake?

              The largest signature was on the VON plot so it looks like this is where it originated, it is not listed at this time on the IMO list but it’s night shift time

            • Heres your handy EQ ID chart…… to hang around your neck 😉 — also google image the tremor name for more examples

              When your at http://hraun.vedur.is/ja/drumplot/vatnajokull.html & http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes/vatnajokull/#view=table look at chart von unimpeaded & the closest to the big BB quake swam, from the IMO quake table look at times & quake drum plots identify those listed at BB, look at its shape & look at the same quake on other drum plots, then by its shape you can also tell which station the eq is closest, when the quake looks like (LP) above but sharper onset & tail off its realy close, when the quake looks like (VT) above but longer onset but more rounder, its farther away.
              Now when IMO lists the eq at BB looks like T1 T2 T3 VT ………bingo! noch up a likley magma or liquid movement at BB………you can see lots of T1 in the first hour at von OK their small >M1.0…but impotantly they exist……also look at von for the regular eq pulses up to 10 every 15min

            • Here’s the official EQ ID chart, as issued by the US Air Force.

              (Dragons, please remove if deemed inappropriate)

  16. Sunday morn brain food…….great read
    The rate of propagation of dykes is controlled by the rate of the fracturing at the tip and by the
    flow rate of magma inside the dyke. When high energy is needed to fracture the host rock and
    magma viscosity is low, the rate of propagation is controlled by the rate of fracturing (fracturecontrolled
    regime).When the energy to fracture the host rock is low, propagation is controlled
    by the magma flow rate (magma-controlled regime).

    The gas pressure in the cap opens the dyke in front of the magma and allows
    magma flow rates that are significantly higher than predicted by models that ignore the gas
    cap. The maximum propagation rate is obtained at the transition between the fracture- and
    magma-controlled regimes. If the gas mass in the gas cap is high enough, a gas pocket can
    separate from the magma as a distinct unconnected pocket and propagate as a gas-filled crack
    at a constant velocity. Pressure decreases during ascent leads to higher vesicularity and faster
    gas filtration through the magma and into a gas cap. Gradual increase of the mass of gas in the
    cap is important in accelerating the propagation rate of dykes.

    The propagation of a dyke driven by gas-saturated magma– Vladimir Lyakhovsky May2014

  17. This is an amazing way of opening up a crack in rock. If there was an existing fracture in the rock the gas would make this a very fast way to propagate opening up this existing crack as the gas could move into a very small opening

      • Also, since there is a sharp temperature gradient a lot of the seismic wave is cancelled out as it moves into the old stale magma. The way it cancells out is by transforming from a seismic wave into heat energy so ever so slightly the amount of eruptible content should increase in the magma body as previously stale magma moves above melting point.

        • with all the 1000+ EQ’s circling BB it must feel like a punching bag
          5,000,000t of TNT equ so far = 20,920,000,000,000,000J = 500,000,000,000,000 calories
          To heat 1 mL of water by 1 degree C 1 cal of energy…….so if 10% of the EQ energy is turned to heat
          50,000,000 m3 or 5% of km3 raised 1 degree C

  18. A Canadian here lurking since mid Aug, wonderful discussions and I have learned tons. Thanks, everybody! May I pitch in with some news I haven’t seen posted here yet? Mt. Bona-Churchill White River Ash from Yukon/Alaska border also appears in the Greenland Ice Sheet and across northwestern Europe:

    Radio interview (CBC Quirks and Quarks Oct 4):

    University of Alberta release:

    Paper in Geology (journal of Geological Society of America): http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/42/10/875.full

  19. Please excuse if this has already been posted. This was on Jon Frimann’s blog:
    The eruption fissure is now one 400 meter long fissure and all the craters that where in that area have merged together into one crater.

    • To debone that a bit…
      The fissure is still its original length of more than a kilometer. But the individual vents has as time gone by closed down and the activity has concentrated towards a single vent that has grown in size. I think that was what Jón intended with it.

      • Here is what I noticed, I am posting the picture again down here, the old one is too far up to refer to

        On the IMO list

        12.10.2014 01:00:44 64.677 -17.540 7.3 km 1.4 99.0 4.1 km N of Bárðarbunga

        Then the next quake on the list

        12.10.2014 01:15:38 64.636 -17.342 1.1 km 0.9 90.01 8.8 km E of Bárðarbunga

        So it looks like the automatic system does not pick up the magmatic quakes at all, since some of those between 1:00 and 1:15 are clearly higher than the ones listed which look like normal quakes. This is why I was confused in thinking they came from somewhere else, also it was difficult to figure out the magnitude due to how early on it was in the drumplot

        So since the one at 1:36 was listed as a 4.1

        12.10.2014 01:36:11 64.628 -17.502 4.6 km 4.1 99.0 1.8 km SE of Bárðarbunga

        I would say the others at 1:06, 1:10, 1:16 & 1:25 are at least 2+ and magmatic in nature

        • some of detail lost on the contraction …..all of these came from BB red pulses bubbling? blue liquid movement?

          all the small blips looked like the spiky green ones before the eq at 44min

          • If you are correct with the blue ones then there are very similar ones on the plot right now meaning they must be a fair bit stronger in magnitude. There are many long tremor like quakes and a fair size one right before the big one just now

            • unfortuneatly……….they all got flatlined by the M5.2…… as I said ….get you marshmellows out ready

  20. I read on Jón’s blog, the plots indicate that there are more than only hydrothermal events now taking place under the glacier. (03:23h) Any more on that? Or where?

    • Did the same for me. I used tinyurl a lot back in the day, and even though tinypic is a division of photobucket, pb images open with no problem. Nonetheless I’ve had to do some scrubbing after using tp. Maybe it only affects Macs.

      • “MacKepper” is a nasty virus/trojan/spyware program. As the name says it is only for macs, but I’ve seen many Windows PCs infected with similar programs, don’t count on them to not host any ad from windows trojans. It does not infect you without you clicking on something, but abuses a bug in Safari so that you can not go back or do anything with it except forcedly closing the browser, it was tinypic as well.

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