The Sciences

Eruption Update for January 30, 2011: Popocatépetl, Santorini, El Hierro, Etna, Grimsvötn

Rocky Planet iconRocky PlanetBy Erik KlemettiJan 30, 2012 4:34 PM

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Let's start the week with a bevy of new volcano news - the slow start to 2012 seems to be gaining some life. It isn't all new eruptions as such, but a number of well-known volcanoes are potentially rumbling.

Popcatépetl, Mexico Activity at Mexico's most famous volcano seems to be picking up over the last few months. This week saw another ~3 km / ~10,000 ash plume from Popocatépetl and CENAPRED has been reporting increasing seismicity at the volcano. There has also been consistent glow at night from the summit region - all signs that magma is very close to the surface. You can see some footage of this eruption and evacuations in an oddly captivating Indian news story (that seems to have gotten a little carried away with the use of moving arrows and zooms). CENAPRED's latest report has Popo on Yellow Alert status and they expect more small explosions like the one from this week to continue. There is a 12-km radius around the crater that has now been declared "off limits" The viewing isn't great right now, but you can also watch Popo via webcam as well. In another story related to Popo, the volcano has apparently now lost 5 of the 7 glaciers that used to be hosted on its edifice. This might seem inconsequential, but many of the local communities near the volcano rely on the runoff/meltwater from these glaciers for their drinking water, so the loss of the glaciers could have implications in local water.Santorini, Greece The seismicity at Santorini in Greece continues - however, the situation has become confusing as there have also been a number of earthquakes nearby between Santorini and Crete that have gotten people's attention as well. However, regarding the volcano in question, the most important news was some of the first pieces of information about what might be happening at Santorini. An article in a Greek newspaper this weekend has information from Greek scientists watching the volcano. The article mentioned that the caldera has seen ~1 cm/yr deflation between 1993-2010, but since then, the caldera has inflated slightly. The inflation is to the north side of the caldera and seems to be correlated with seismic swarms. Carbon dioxide emissions are currently at 39 tonnes/day, which is relatively low in the grand scheme of volcanoes (usually we think hundreds of tonnes/day), but is a change for Santorini. The seawater in the caldera has also been warming, although the extent of this warming is not mentioned. Finally, in the most ambiguous piece of information, an intrusion has been inferred at 4 km depth north of Nea Kameni where the seismicity is centered. The volume has been listed at "107 cubic meters", however I am fairly confident that it should be 10^7 cubic meters, which is a fairly small volume. Take all of this news in total, and it does appear that magma is intruding under Santorini - the question remains: will it erupt and if so, how large of an eruption might we expect. El Hierro, Canary Islands The activity south of El Hierro in the Canary Islands continues to bubble along (see below) - new lava blebs ("cononuts") were spotted on the surface this weekend, some of which were upwards of 3 meters in size. There has also been a slow increase in carbon dioxide emissions at El Hierro since the start of 2012, which current readings creeping just above 1,000 tonnes/day, up from ~650 tonnes/day in early January. AVCAN posted a great summary of what might be going on behind the ocean's surface at El Hierro, including some speculation on the location and shape of the vents on the seafloor.

Etna, Italy Italy's most active volcano has kept it up in 2012 with a new series of strombolian explosions on January 27-28. Unlike many of the paroxysms over the last year, including the January 5 events, this appears to have had no lava flows associated with it, only explosions from the new Southeast Crater (see image at the top of the post). Grimsvötn/Grímsfjall, Iceland Finally, Grimsvötn/Grímsfjall in Iceland produced a jokulhlaup over the weekend. This glacial outburst flood appears to be associated with heavy rainfall and high temperatures (near 15C/60F) rather than anything truly volcano, although the water was reported to have a "sulfur" small, which isn't too surprising considering its source. You can see some images of the water passing under reinforced bridges that go other drainages from the volcano. This is the first volcanically-related (althought not volcanically-induced) action in Iceland during the new year and it was closely followed (coincidentally) with a small earthquake swarm at Katla as well - business as usual in Iceland.

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