Eruption at El Hierro Creeping Towards the Surface

By Erik Klemetti | November 9, 2011 10:49 am

The moderate explosion that occurred at El Hierro on November 8, 2011. The ash content of the explosion is clearly visible. Image from Television Canaria.

A brief update today on all the events at El Hierro – it looks like the eruption continues to work its way closer to the surface of the Atlantic as periodic explosions continue off the southern coast of the island. So far, there hasn’t been any sustained explosive activity that would make the eruption truly Surtseyan in nature, but the last few periods of heightened activity did see larger explosive “bubbles” in at the surface, some potentially as high as 25 meters (see above). The video of the activity clearly shows that the materials reaching the surface are very ash/tephra rich and in the photos of the chain of “jacuzzis”, you can see the clasts of volcanic debris floating (see below) on the surface. Some of the most recent estimates I’ve seen is that the vent is ~70 meters from the surface now, so close to that ~50 meter depth needed to truly get Surtseyan explosions to start occurring regularly. However, latest reports from El Hierro suggest that activity has subsided at the vents (via @teideano) – but government officials have still closed beaches near the eruption due to “toxic gases” (although the articles mentions copper sulfate as the gas, which is confusing to say the least).

View of the plume from the submarine El Hierro eruption, as seen on November 6, 2011. Note the volcaniclastic material in the water, especially evidence in the streamers at the top of the image. (Courtesy of IGN/Gobierno de Canarias)

One important aspect to this eruption is how the activity is affected the lives of fisherman on El Hierro, especially at the southern town of La Restinga. The eruption itself has killed some fish, but the magnitude of these kills are not going to be large enough to really affect the fish stocks. However, the inability for fisherman to use the waters south of the island due to safety concerns means that many people’s livelihoods are at stake if this eruption goes on for weeks to months. We all love watching these eruptions, but the longer it goes on, the more assistance many fisherman on El Hierro will need.

(N.B., you might notice a green bar in the bottom right-hand side of the main Eruptions page. Wired is testing a chat system for the blogs and Eruptions is the guinea pig. Not sure how well it is working right now, but if you don’t want the chat to be open, you can select to close it by clicking on the “XX people here” and selecting “turn off” from the top right hand menu. In the future, the chat will likely be used for live Q&A or discussions on ongoing events!)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Eruptions, Science, Science Blogs
MORE ABOUT: El Hierro, volcanoes

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Rocky Planet covers all the geologic events that made and will continue to shape our planet. From volcanoes to earthquakes to gold to oceans to other solar systems, I discuss what is intriguing and illuminating about the rocks beneath our feet and above our heads. Ever wonder what volcanoes are erupting? How tsunamis form and where? What rocks can tell us about ancient environments? How the Earth might change in the future? You'll find these answers and more on Rocky Planet.

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