Icelandic fissure eruption triggers worries

A unique Iceland volcanic eruption covered  by BBC. Video clips follow.
The eruption split a 1km chasm in the ice

The eruption split a 1km chasm in the ice

Volcano erupts near Eyjafjallajoekull in south Iceland

An Icelandic volcano, dormant for 200 years, has erupted, ripping a 1km-long fissure in a field of ice.

The volcano near Eyjafjallajoekull glacier began to erupt just after midnight, sending lava a hundred metres high.

Icelandic airspace has been closed, flights diverted and roads closed. The eruption was about 120km (75 miles) east of the capital, Reykjavik.

What volcanic scientists fear is the fact that this eruption could trigger an eruption of Katla, one of the most dangerous volcanic systems in the world.

Eruptive events in Eyjafjallajökull are often followed by a Katla eruption. The Laki craters and the Eldgjá are part of the same volcanic system. Insta-melt could occur:

At the peak of the 1755 Katla eruption the flood discharge has been estimated between 200,000–400,000 m³/s; for comparison the combined average discharge of the Amazon, Mississippi, Nile, and Yangtze rivers is about 290,000 m³/s.

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katla

Video of the eruption:

Volcano Eruption in Eyjafjallajökull Iceland 20 Mars 2010.

The volcano near the Eyjafjallajoekull glacier began to erupt shortly after midnight, leading to road closures in the area.

No one was in immediate danger, but 500 people were being moved from the area.

It is almost 200 years since a volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, 120km (75 miles) east of Reykjavik, last erupted. The last volcanic eruption in the area occurred in 1821.

Taken from C-FQWY / TF-SIF DHC-8-314Q Dash 8

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Volcanic eruptions at high latitudes have a large cooling effect on climate (http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008JD011222.shtml)
Icelandic volcanism has been relatively quiescent during the past few decades duting which apparent warming has taken place. Co-incidence, correlation or cause-and-effect?

Luc VC

I know this is off topic but i dont find a topic where I could post this. A surprising result of algae research. “Devarenne explains, “The fuels derived from B. braunii hydrocarbons are chemically identical to gasoline, diesel and kerosene. Thus, we do not call them biodiesel or bio-gasoline; they are simply diesel and gasoline. To produce these fuels from B. braunii, the hydrocarbons are processed exactly the same as petroleum is processed and thus generates the exact same fuels. Remember, these B. braunii hydrocarbons are a main constituent of petroleum. So there is no difference other than the millions of years petroleum spent underground.” He is almost making a new explanation of the formation of fossil fuels – which in this process wouldn’t be “fossil” at all. Interesting.”
http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/newenergyandfuel/com/2010/03/16/the-algae-that-makes-petroleum-story/

ron from Texas

Excellent question, ammonyte. It is thought that the year without a summer, 1816, suffered extra cold conditions because of a large volcanic eruption in 1815, putting aerosols in the air that reflected heat away from Earth. It also put out huge quantities of CO2, as an interesting aside, but not relevant, as CO2 has very little, if anything, to do with global warming or cooling. It seems that CO2 primarily feeds plants, which feed us and the animals that we eat.

HereticFringe

WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!
(well, eventually, when we get old, sick, or have a very bad accident, but don’t let that stop the doomsayers from saying it…)

rbateman

Volcanic activity has an increased frequency of occurance & intensity in times of Solar Minimum.

wmsc

eruption is misspelled in the title…
[Thanx, fixed. ~dbs]

Cyber

Eruptuon? 😀
[Already been fixed. ~dbs, mod.]

Charles. U. Farley

The great climatologist Danny Glover will no doubt procrastinate on how man caused this to happen via co2 emissions…. rollseyes.

P Gosselin

So turning off the lights and putting up windmills has not appeased the climate and geological gods at all.
Man is foolish if he thinks he can control and regulate these forces. It’s such a folly.

Wilson Flood

Volcanic activity in Iceland in second half of 18th century caused major climatic cooling in N Europe which was a contributory factor in the French Revolution – crop failure, let them eat cake – remember all that? Interesting to see how this one develops.

Pops

Any bets on who is the first to blame it on AGW?

Andew P.

ammonyte (10:15:37) :
Volcanic eruptions at high latitudes have a large cooling effect on climate (http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008JD011222.shtml)
Icelandic volcanism has been relatively quiescent during the past few decades duting which apparent warming has taken place. Co-incidence, correlation or cause-and-effect?

Coincidenece, and in any case there has been no statistically significant cooling for 15 years…

Doug Hansen

How many carbon credits will Iceland have to buy for the emissions from this eruption?

Tom Jones

You pretty much have to assume that this is due to CO2 emissions, because everything is.

Mike J

Glad I’m not an Icelandic taxpayer at the moment. All that carbon tax to pay for an errant volcano.

Sorry if I am missing something but: what’s so “worrisome” about a Katla eruption? Katla erupts every 40-80 years and has erupted at least 16 times since the year 930.

Andew P.

Coincidenece, and in any case there has been no statistically significant cooling for 15 years…
sorry meant warming…

maz2

TimesUK:
“That has to be on the table at the moment,” Dave McGarvie, senior lecturer at the Volcano Dynamics Group of the Open University, said. “And it is a much nastier piece of work.”
Icelanders agree. “This could trigger Katla, which is a vicious volcano that could cause both local and global damage,” Pall Einarsson, from the University of Iceland, said.
Tremors around Eyjafjallajokull were first recorded in early March, but precise prediction of volcanic eruption is difficult, even with the high-tech equipment available to Icelandic geologists.
Now that it has happened the only basis for prediction is history — and that does not look good.
“Eyjafjallajokull has blown three times in the past thousand years,” Dr McGarvie told The Times, “in 920AD, in 1612 and between 1821 and 1823. Each time it set off Katla.” The likelihood of Katla blowing could become clear “in a few weeks or a few months”, he said.
Iceland is built on a volcanic rock on the Atlantic’s mid-oceanic ridge and it has grown used to eruptions. The southern village of Vik, close to the current eruption, has for centuries had an escape plan in which everybody runs up to the church, which is built on high ground. They know that if Katla erupts flooding will follow.
The island’s worst eruption in modern times was in 1783, when the Laki volcano blew its top. The lava shot to heights of 1.4 kilometres and more than 120 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide was released into the atmosphere.
A quarter of the island’s population died in the resulting famine and it transformed the world, creating Britain’s notorious “sand summer”, casting a toxic cloud over Prague, playing havoc with harvests in France — sometimes seen as a contributory factor in the French Revolution — and changing the climate so dramatically that New Jersey recorded its largest snowfall and Egypt one of its most enduring droughts.”
“Iceland prepares for second, more devastating volcanic eruption”
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article7070239.ece

AJB

Follow-up article in the London Times:
Iceland prepares for second, more devastating volcanic eruption

The original fear was that the volcano had erupted directly underneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, which could have caused glacial melt, flooding and mudslides. Instead, the volcano blew inbetween Eyjafjallajokull and the larger Myrdalsjoekull glacier.
However, the danger is that the small volcano is just the beginning and that it will trigger the far more powerful volcano of Katla, which nestles beneath Myrdalsjoekull.
“That has to be on the table at the moment,” Dave McGarvie, senior lecturer at the Volcano Dynamics Group of the Open University, said. “And it is a much nastier piece of work.”
Icelanders agree. “This could trigger Katla, which is a vicious volcano that could cause both local and global damage,” Pall Einarsson, from the University of Iceland, said.

Watch this space it seems.

ammonyte (10:15:37) :
“Volcanic eruptions at high latitudes have a large cooling effect on climate…”
Guess we’ll find out if that Katla system goes off.

Paul

This will help enforce cooling, according to Joe Bastardi of Accuweather.

tty

A fissure eruption – that is really worrying. A large fissure eruption is very bad news. The last one (Laki 1783) killed a quarter of the icelandic population and caused several years of atrocious weather and famine around the northern hemisphere.

Kitefreak

As one place (or several lately) subducts, some other place must weep the planet’s blood (magma forcing its way through the crust to the surface)..

R. de Haan

Some more Icelandic wild Card Volcano surprises:
Based on an assessment of the internal pressure build up, Hekla is ‘due’ to erupt and could do so at any point in time. Grimsvotn is fast approaching pre-2004 pressure levels and so an eruption there within a year or two would not be unexpected.

ammonyte (10:15:37) :

Volcanic eruptions at high latitudes have a large cooling effect on climate (http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008JD011222.shtml)

Your reference is only an abstract and says nothing of the sort. It makes no mention of the model output due just to high latitude eruptions. The only reference to climate is due to tropical volcanoes. The most important long-term impact is the cooling of the high-latitude NH produced by multiple tropical eruptions, suggesting that positive feedbacks associated with ice and snow cover could lead to long-term climate cooling in the Arctic.
Perhaps you were thinking of a different paper – this paper only looks at models and cites only weak empirical evidence and admits available proxy records are insufficient on their own to clearly assess whether this transition is associated with volcanism.

P oleward A ccumulating L ava E vents always begin after the winter solstice and follow latitudinal lapping directions toward the new longitudinal summer

MattN

I’ve got my popcorn ready.
We live in intresting times….

nc

Ah come on folks with the unprecedented globull warming we are having any possible major eruption will have little cooling effect. In fact this eruption may delay the unprecedented warming giving us more time to fight fight climate change.

Luc VC (10:24:48) :
I know this is off topic but i dont find a topic where I could post this. A surprising result of algae research. “Devarenne explains, “The fuels derived from B. braunii hydrocarbons are chemically identical to gasoline, diesel and kerosene. Thus, we do not call them biodiesel or bio-gasoline; they are simply diesel and gasoline. To produce these fuels from B. braunii, the hydrocarbons are processed exactly the same as petroleum is processed and thus generates the exact same fuels. Remember, these B. braunii hydrocarbons are a main constituent of petroleum. So there is no difference other than the millions of years petroleum spent underground.” He is almost making a new explanation of the formation of fossil fuels – which in this process wouldn’t be “fossil” at all. Interesting.”
http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/newenergyandfuel/com/2010/03/16/the-algae-that-makes-petroleum-story/
———
REPLY – watch this space, I just filed an advanced algae biofuel process patent about a week ago.
The US government dumped many $millions into this, and there are a variety of startups, but they all make the same technical errors.
Alternative energy is not fundamentally bad IF the economics are sound. Algae might work, methane from waste is very good, but wind turbines are a disaster. Other stuff like fusion and solar panels are a long way into the future. Build nukes.

After the rash of large quakes around the globe, I wonder if this is the precursor to a massive spreading event? I’m not talking about a massive Al Gore type event, but something that is not expected, such as the plate spreading in fits and starts in a way we don’t expect. Lets face, we’ve only known about the connection of the mid Atlantic ridge to plate movements for about fifty years. There is still a lot we don’t know about the behavior of the tectonic system.

Rupert

@ Wilson Flood
Interesting that the “let them eat cake” exhortation (which actually predates Marie Antoinette) is a useful piece of advice for the starving sans culottes.
The actual phrase was “let them eat brioche” and brioche requires less wheat to make than bread and thus allows limited supplies of corn to go further.
A difficult point to get across in times of famine – a bit like trying to explain to Al Gore that CO2 is not going to turn the globe into Gobi.
Pip pip!

ron from Texas (10:25:13) :

Excellent question, ammonyte. It is thought that the year without a summer, 1816, suffered extra cold conditions because of a large volcanic eruption in 1815, putting aerosols in the air that reflected heat away from Earth.

1816 may be a very poor comparison.
The 1815 eruption was Tambora in Indonesia. This was by no means a high latitude eruption, nor did have an impact long enough to be considered a climate change. The eruption was likely the biggest of the last 10,000 years, but the effect was confined mainly to 1816. 1816 was not that bad a year at lower latitudes, I believe the main effect of the sulphate haze was to push the storm track further south than usual. There were a number of warm days in New England in 1816, it was the killing frosts that devastated the wheat and corn crops. Apple and pear crops did quite well thanks to the lack of insect damage, so there was no freeze during apple blossom time.
http://wermenh.com/1816.html

dearieme

And to think that the financial world thought it a grand idea to build a huge pile of debt on the sound foundation of the Icelandic banks.

kadaka

Magnitude 5.6 – CUBA REGION
2010 March 20 18:08:09 UTC
Magnitude 5.3 – GUATEMALA
2010 March 20 21:55:49 UTC
Iceland?
Lots of little seismic events, see “last 48 hours” list, nothing all that big.

JimAsh

Hmmm…Let’s chuck a nuclear weapon in there and see what does {shudder}

Curiousgeorge

Interesting to note that Iceland straddles the mid-Atlantic ridge. The separation of the North American and Eurasian plates is interrupted by Iceland, which would be under terrific strain as the plates continue to separate at several cm/year. Something’s gotta give. My bet is that Iceland will separate into two or more pieces eventually. Take a look at the underwater topography in Google Earth.

Antonio San

tty writes: “A fissure eruption – that is really worrying. A large fissure eruption is very bad news. The last one (Laki 1783) killed a quarter of the icelandic population and caused several years of atrocious weather and famine around the northern hemisphere.”
The famine was due to lavas rich in fluor that deposited in the grass and poisoned most cattle.

James F. Evans

Iceland is volcanic as a result of being an above sea level expression of the Atlantic mid-ocean spreading ridge, which runs the length of the North and South Atlantic Ocean.
40,000 miles of mid-ocean spreading ridges are present the world over.
These spreading ridges are active, dynamic, and easy to recognize, although many stretches are hard to reach because they are deep below sea level.
There is nothing subtle about mid-ocean spreading ridges, Iceland being a prime example.
On the other hand, so-called “subduction” zones are anything but easy to recognize, nowhere close to 40,000 miles have been identified, and a number of scientists question their existence, altogether.
Study Iceland and study the physical markers of the Chile earthquake.
The pieces of evidence don’t add-up to support the status quo opinion of the geology community.

Jeff

CO2 shouldn’t even be a concern… re: 1783 Laki eruption…. the eruption was slow and no deaths were attributed to it, but this was the result of the noxious gases… “… crops and pastures yellowed and died. Soon livestock began to sicken… More than 75% of the island’s sheep and horses and 50% of its cattle succumbed to poisoning or starvation… fish migrated temporarily from the polluted coastal waters. In the resulting famine, 10000 people- roughly 1/5 of Iceland’s population- starved”
In Europe….. ” In Scotland (crops) became brown and withered…across Europe… many plants became dried blackened. Insects fared badly, and aphids and other species were exterminated in huge numbers. People fared little better… Recent research of parish records in Britian has revealed a higher than normal death rate” Raging Planet Bill McGuire 2002
CO2 should be the least of our concerns if a major event was to happen.

Anu

ron from Texas (10:25:13) :
It is thought that the year without a summer, 1816, suffered extra cold conditions because of a large volcanic eruption in 1815, putting aerosols in the air that reflected heat away from Earth. It also put out huge quantities of CO2, as an interesting aside, but not relevant, as CO2 has very little, if anything, to do with global warming or cooling.

———————-
“huge quantities” is not very precise. That’s why scientists use measures like “tons of CO2”:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide#In_the_Earth.27s_atmosphere
Up to 40% of the gas emitted by some volcanoes during subaerial eruptions is carbon dioxide. It is estimated that volcanoes release about 130-230 million tonnes (145-255 million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. This is about a factor of 1000 smaller than the sum of the other natural sources and about factor of about 100 smaller than the sources from human activity.
But the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 was “super colossal”:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcanic_Explosivity_Index
Perhaps it, by itself, put enough CO2 into the atmosphere in 1815 to compare to recent human contributions – 1 ppm ? 0.5 ppm ? 0.25 ppm ?
It doesn’t really show up in the CO2 record, since measurements weren’t as precise back then:
http://www.stuffintheair.com/images/Carbon_Dioxide_Concentrations.png
Interesting aside: CO2 is the main driver of recent global warming, since the small delta radiative forcing effect accumulates year after year after year, whereas the cooling effect of large volcanoes is a single pulse, that dies down in a few years:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/global_warming_update4.php
Similarly, the periodic forcings of the tiny Sun variations in TSI have no longterm effect. Only the inexorable rise of CO2 in the atmosphere have a non-pulse, non-periodic effect on the planets temperature in the 100 to 500 year time frame of interest.

J. D. Lindskog

Anyone…
What implications if any, of large fresh water injections on Arctic and NH thermo/haline flow structures?

Jeff L

ammonyte (10:15:37) :
Paul (11:13:10) :
You might want to refer to a primer on Icelandic volcanism before jumping to conclusions. See:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V9X-4MBCBP7-1&_user=10&_coverDate=01%2F31%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1260109448&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=50e290e1f9fda8313d1c4fc3c87448f3
Note that nearly 80% of Icelandic volcanism is basaltic, which isn’t unexpected given it’s association with the Mid-Atlantic ridge spreading center. It is important to distinguish this type of eruption from intermediate & acidic types in that it is rarely explosive & would have a very low chance of introducing stratospheric SO2 & effecting weather / climate. Note from the news release & video that the eruption is coming from a 1 km long fissure – a very typical style for a basaltic eruption, so it is likely it falls within the 80% – so don’t hold your breath this will effect the climate.
As for a katla, a quick scan of the web indicates it is also dominantly a basaltic volcano :
http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/en/volcanoes/europe/iceland/katla/
However, there are also indication of explosive modes of eruption :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katla
“It is thought that Katla is the source of the Vedde Ash (tephra dated to 10,600 years BP[2]) found at a number of sites including Norway, Scotland and North Atlantic cores.”
So, Katla appears to be a potentially unique beast, with multiple modes of eruptions – that could potentially be more interesting from an eruptive standpoint, as far as climate / weather goes.
In the short term, based on what we are seeing reported right now, nothing to get too fired up about wx-wise at this point.

R. de Haan

Luboš Motl (10:57:43) :
Sorry if I am missing something but: what’s so “worrisome” about a Katla eruption? Katla erupts every 40-80 years and has erupted at least 16 times since the year 930.
Because Katla is a serious “party spoiler” with the potential Global effects.
Because of the size of it’s caldera an eruptive event could be quite a beast.
The Laki craters and the Eldgjá are part of the same volcanic system, so it can be regarded as one of the most powerful in the world. It is thought that Katla is the source of the Vedde Ash (tephra dated to 10,600 years found at a number of sites including Norway, Scotland and North Atlantic cores.
An eruption could trigger another “year without a summer” and reduce drops over a very large area, including Western Europe, North Africa, Egypt, India and the USA.
Another aspect is the fact that this volcanic system releases large amounts of poisonous hydrofluoric acid/sulfur-dioxide that left people dead in the fields from England, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and even Poland.
In short, this volcanic system, if it erupts big time has the potential to poison the entire NH for several years.

We are all going to die !
I live in Scotland. Preparing to pack car and drive south.

John Phillips

There is a robust correlation between Icelandic earthquakes and financial crises.

Methow Ken

Edited snippet from thread start:
”…. 1755 Katla eruption the flood discharge …. estimated between 200,000–400,000 m³/s; …. discharge of the Amazon, Mississippi, Nile, and Yangtze rivers is about 290,000 m³/s.”
Just to give y’all a feel for how huge that flood was:
First note the Amazon is the ”mother of all rivers”, cfs-wise; and that 300K m3/S = 10,780K cfs.
I rafted the Colorado River thru Grand Canyon when it was running right around 10K cfs (highest cfs in Grand Canyon after Glen Canyon dam was built = 92K cfs in 1983).
That means the 1755 Katla flood was approximately ONE-THOUSAND times the cfs in the Grand Canyon when I rowed it. Astounding. . . .

Antonio San

Curiousgeorge: “My bet is that Iceland will separate into two or more pieces eventually.”
Sure let’s bet… My bet is that baring a significant plate motion change, Iceland will simply remain a single main island with a constant surface as it has done for millions of years. The magma that is added through the mid Atlantic rift will be compensated by the cooling and resulting sinking of the oceanic lithosphere on both side of the rift. Of course locally, erosion and sedimentation will alter the coastline…

CRS, Dr.P.H. (11:37:43) :
…but wind turbines are a disaster.
In more ways than one. Wind turbines interfere with radar — both NORAD and the FAA have filed for and received “stop-work” court orders against several dozen planned sites because they’ll compromise air traffic safety.
Not looking good for DoE, which has been chirping that wind turbines will be supplying 20% of US energy needs in the near future.
Ummmmm — there’s also a pretty gloomy way of interpreting that prediction…

Mike McMillan

+63° 38′ 0.00″, -19° 36′ 0.00 for Eyjafjallajoekull in google Earth.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Eyjafjallaj%C3%B6kull.ogg
for pronunciation