Volcano shocker

By Phil Plait | May 6, 2010 9:45 am

This is amazing footage of shockwaves erupting a week or two ago from the volcano Eyjafjalajökull (which I believe is pronounced Gugliucci):

Amazing! There is a lot of gas trapped inside the rising magma under the volcano. When it gets near the surface, the gas can escape violently, exploding and creating shock waves. These waves travel through the smoke and ash already in the air, compressing them, and you can see this as a darkening in the plume. This volcano is still erupting and still causing massive screwups in air traffic over Europe. The last big eruption lasted for two years, so we may need to sit back and think about that for a while.

Tip o’ the lavabomb to Fark.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff

Comments (49)

  1. That is cool. Scary, but cool.

  2. David Peterman

    Correction: The actual pronounciation is “buttafuoco.”

  3. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    IT IS NOT GAS… IT IS PLASMA!!!11!1! :P

  4. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Bet the photographer was .. um .. in need of a good dry-cleaner for his underwear afterwards. :-)

    That looked pretty close up.

    Dramatic imagery. To state the obvious but .. yup.

    @2. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE Says:

    IT IS NOT GAS… IT IS PLASMA!!!11!1

    Looked like a lot of gas and ash and steam to me.
    Plasma? I don’t think so.

    @ 1. Todd W. Says:

    That is cool. Scary, but cool.

    That molten lava and searing ash and steam “cool”? Nah, I’d say it was pretty hot myself. ;-)

  5. Gary Ansorge

    Ah, that’s nothing. Just wait until Yellow Stone goes blooy, THEN you’ll see some air traffic problems.

    I still remember when Mt St. Helens went off. Now, THAT was impressive.

    That’s(one of) the problems with planets,,,hurricanes, tornados, earth quakes, floods, volcanos, uncomfortably high/low temps,etc,.

    Which is why I promote space colonies. The only thing you need worry about there is vacuum, hard radiation and meteor strikes and if you stay “indoors”, you have nothing to worry about(as long as you keep your anti-asteroid lasers well tuned).

    Cool pics.

    Gary 7

  6. Pi-needles

    Who took the footage here btw.?

    Have they got vulcanologists up there now?

    I did see one TV news item a few weeks ago where a team landed by helicopter on the other side away from where the stuff was falling but right on the crater rim. They stayed there literally five minutes and not a second more.

    As for pronounciation, I chicken out and just pronounce it as “that Icelandic volcano.” ;-)

  7. alfaniner

    Wow, a natural event that I have never seen nor heard of before. Fascinating.

  8. Pi-needles

    @4. Gary Ansorge Says:

    Which is why I promote space colonies. The only thing you need worry about there is vacuum, hard radiation and meteor strikes and if you stay “indoors”, you have nothing to worry about(as long as you keep your anti-asteroid lasers well tuned).

    Unless that is your space colony is located on Io … or Enceladus .. or Venus! ;-)

    PS. Nearly forgot Triton there too – plus any short-period comet.

  9. John Baxter

    Amtrak lost a locomotive to Mt St Helens. Deliberately: it was already seriously stressed by having had its crankcase filled with diesel in the Los Angeles roundhouse and been run that way before the problem was caught. Operated with about 1/2 power. It was sent to the Northwest as a sacrificial engine.

    I’m still waiting for the big volcano next to the small Eyjafjalajökull to let loose. Air travel? I remember that. Warming? We get a second chance.

  10. Mother Earth, trying to shake off a few too many fleas?

    I’d offer to toss myself in as a sacrificial virgin, but, uh…errm…

  11. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    A certain individual here, with his sock-puppet(s), does not seem to understand sarcasm! ;-) :P

  12. ggremlin

    Cool, that’s the second time I have seen a visible demonstration of shock waves. Can you imagine what the Mythbusters can do with an active volcano? :)

  13. @ggremlin ,

    I like the way you think. Did you hear the myth about how you can stop a volcano from erupting by dropping a ton of C4 into it? Sure, it’s not a real myth, but who wouldn’t want to see the Mythbusters do this? Excluding anyone living near the volcano, that is. ;-)

  14. Great GooglyMoogliucci!
    Awesome video, even more awesome pronouncification!
    She’ll get a laugh outta it like I did when she sees this!

  15. the volcano Eyjafjalajökull (which I believe is pronounced Gugliucci):

    Actually, it’s pronounced “Throatwobbler Mangrove”.

  16. @IVAN3MAN

    Wow…it’s been a while since I’ve seen an electric universe reference!

  17. Matt T

    15 comments and nobody’s said it yet? Shocking! Oh well:

    It’s spelled Eyjafjallajökull but it’s pronounced “throat warbler mangrove”.

    Oh and: holy crap that’s awesome. ggremlin, I assume you’re thinking of the recent rocket launch video? A friend of mine apparently saw that live and first-hand. Well, ex-friend, really, because obviously I now have to hate him for getting to see that live and first-hand.

    ETA: D’oh! Ken and I think alike… But I type slower.

  18. Brian Hart

    It may be spelled Eyjafjalajökull, but it’s pronounced Thrush-Warbler-Mangrove.

  19. Guysmiley

    Can’t we just call it Island Mountain Glacier? Since that’s what it means in Icelandic tongue (and throat) twister speak.

  20. ggremlin:

    Cool, that’s the second time I have seen a visible demonstration of shock waves.

    Since you mentioned Mythbusters, I guess you haven’t seen too many of their episodes? Several of their “blow it up” endings clearly show the shockwaves.

    TechyDad:

    Did you hear the myth about how you can stop a volcano from erupting by dropping a ton of C4 into it?

    “When in doubt…”

    So, what do they use to put out oil well fires? Use the same stuff, only a bit more. :-)

  21. I had to learn how to pronounce it, I felt really daft calling it “that volcano” at briefing after briefing.
    “Ai-ja-fe-ay-la-yo-kultltlt” is about as close as I’ve gotten.
    And yes, if Katla goes off as well (it’s fed from a different magma chamber and statistically overdue, so who knows how much extra pressure has built up) we could be seeing some interesting times ahead.
    Hasn’t helped matters that the ash is coming out more concentrated now ( http://tinyurl.com/33borue ).

  22. ggremlin

    @Ken B:

    Actually, I was thinking of the show where they were testing a myth about stock waves. In WWII, a gunner falls out of a bomber without a parachute and survives because a bomb goes off and the stock waves cancel out his fall. They can’t confirm the myth by the experiment, but it was fun to watch, especially in slow-mo!

  23. Pronunciation: (for real) “j” is pronounced like “y”. “jokull” is ‘yokel”: Means “glacier.” Tjunafyelsjokull (near Reykjavik) is Tuna-fish-Yokel.

    Interesting fact: There are no trees in Iceland.

    @#9 John Baxter
    I assume you mean the volcano Hekla. Last time it went off, it caused such devestation that the island held a referendum to abandon the country!

  24. jrpowell

    the volcano Eyjafjalajökull (which I believe is pronounced Gugliucci):

    Actually it’s pronounced, “īsˈlandik välˈkānō.”

  25. Moxiequz

    That’s incredible footage.

    #2, @David: If that’s a “Newsradio” reference kudos to you sir!

  26. Larry

    OK, OK. I’m impressed. Y’all can turn it off now.

  27. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    @ Todd W. (#16),

    Man, you’ve really been missing all the ‘fun’ at Universe Today!

  28. John Paradox

    When it gets near the surface, the gas can escape violently, exploding and creating shock waves.

    I know the feeling.

    @TechyDad Did you hear the myth about how you can stop a volcano from erupting by dropping a ton of C4 into it?

    I recently found a copy (online) of Crack In The World, where they used a nuke to break through the Earth’s mantle, starting a series of cracks that wound up forming a second moon (yeah, not the greatest sci in sci-fi, but it was in the 1960′s). Trying to stop the ‘crack’, they then nuked a volcano to ‘activate’ it and reroute the ‘crack’.

    J/P=?

  29. Adam Morgan

    Is this an effect that has been seen before? I don’t recall seeing this in eruption footage before. Have vulcanologists been keeping the coolness to themselves all this time?

  30. davem

    Pronunciation: We can drop the ‘jokull’ – we’re talking here of the volcano, not the glacier on top of it. ‘ll’ is pronounced ‘tl’, but with a soft ‘t’, close to a ‘d’.

    So we have ‘eh? yaff yatla’ volcano. Simple. Need the glacier too? – add yakootl’, stress on the ‘a’ of the first syllable.

    Graphics of the ash cloud are here: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/aviation/vaac/vaacuk_vag.html

  31. Illanoy Gal

    Absolutely awesome pictures!!

    And I happen to support Jon Stewart. When he first did a bit about the volcano on its initial eruption, he struggled with the pronunciation for a while and then said he was now going to call it “Kevin”. I like that and now that’s the first thing I think of when I see any story about it. Might just as well. Looks like “Kevin” is going to be disrupting air traffic for some time to come. :-)

  32. Floyd

    Am I the only one who’s reminded of the Jules Verne book “Journey to the Center of the Earth” while looking at that hot lava flow?
    The book of course is set in Iceland, but it’s a different volcano (Sneffels I think) that they enter. I’ve read the Jules Verne book and seen the James Mason/Pat Boone movie at least three times, though not the Brendan Frasier “Journey.”

  33. Don Gisselbeck

    Not only shock waves but mushroom clouds. You can see lots of shock waves in WWII bombing footage, shots of large cannon firing and atomic explosions. I have also seen and photographed a shock wave over the wing of a commercial airliner.

  34. I think the language of Cthulhu is completely unpronounceable by mere humans and should thus be avoided.

  35. jcm

    Hey, Phil,
    here is a way how to pronounce the name of this volcano.
    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2257

    Listen to the last tree audio clips.

  36. Doug G.

    A few months back, Phil posted a video of a rocket leaving the Cape, wherein some sort of shock waves were observed visibly propagating through the cloud deck as the ship punched through it. An argument ensued between those who believed the shock waves were caused solely by the rocket traveling supersonically, and those (like myself) who thought they were the result of acoustic pressure waves becoming visible as they passed through the clouds. I invite supporters of that first theory to check out this video, because I’m pretty sure this volcano isn’t moving faster than the speed of sound.

  37. S. R. Nethergael

    That’s as awesome as any EOD video out there.

  38. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @11. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE Says:

    A certain individual here, with his sock-puppet(s), does not seem to understand sarcasm! ;-) :P

    Aha! An emoticon – or two! Now I see it was meant as a joke! ;-)

    Would you believe me if I said I got your sarcasm and was playing along with it? ;-)

    Yeah, my sense of humour and personal quirks and nature are ..um ..different.
    I wouldn’t say what I do with using multiple usernames is “sock-puppetry” exactly, honestly, but I can see why you might think so. Yeah, I’m messed up & sorta human. But, hey, y’gotta laugh. Besides I’m sure I’m not the only mentally ill person posting here. ;-)

    - StevoR

  39. Messier Tidy Upper

    @38. Doug G. Says:

    A few months back, Phil posted a video of a rocket leaving the Cape, wherein some sort of shock waves were observed visibly propagating through the cloud deck as the ship punched through it.

    I think that would be launch of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) rocket which blew away a sundog or “mock- sun” fairly recently. See :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/02/17/rocket-launch-blows-away-the-sky/

    One of the most spectacular videoclips I’ve seen blogged about here – and that’s saying a lot I know. :-)

    - StevoR (Yes, some variety in usernames so you’re not seeing the same one a 100 x’s among other reasons. ;-) )

  40. Don Gisselbeck

    @38 Doug G.
    Watch some YouTube video of bombs exploding.What you will see are clearly shock waves, gas forced into the surrounding air at faster than the speed of sound, the same thing that happened in the volcano. Sometimes the shock waves will cause moisture in the air to condense.

  41. To be irritatingly correct: the glacier is named Eyjafjallajökull (with two l’s in fjalla) and the mountain is named Eyjafjalla. Jökull is Icelandic for glacier.

    Koos (not an Icelander, just a fan ;) )

  42. @ civean
    I stand corrected! When I was in Iceland, it was 1988. Our guide told us that all the trees had been chopped down for firewood years ago. We made a journey during the summer (the month of July) across the interior, and didn’t see any.

    Those trees may be new growth, 22 years old, and probably heavily protected.

    Another fact: Icelandic women are beautiful, but they have flat bottoms. (generalizing)

  43. Doug G.

    @42 Don Gisselbeck

    I think we’re saying the same thing from different perspectives. I used the term acoustical pressure waves, you say shock waves. In either case we’re speaking of energy in the form of pressure waves created by explosive releases of gasses. In the case of a rocket energy, it’s a barely contained and directed explosive release. In the case of a bomb, not so much. In the discussion on the Solar Dynamics Observatory launch (thank you @41) the opposing point of view was that the observed condensation waves were caused by the supersonic shock waves resulting from the rocket’s velocity as it transitioned through the clouds. I think they are caused by the sound pressure waves from the rocket’s engines. Of course, even my explanation involves at its root the near-explosive process of the exhaust (to use your words) gas forced into the surrounding air supersonically. So we’re fundamentally talking about very similar processes.

  44. Yes, somebody beat me to the punch on Throatwobbler Mangrove, but I’ve got the link to the video!

    So there. :-p

  45. Fabian

    Have you seen this other video?
    Eyjafjalajökull
    http://vimeo.com/11673745

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