La Palma, Canary Islands: eruption Sep 2021 - updates

Updated: Jan 14, 2022 19:17 GMT - Refresh


eruptive episode ended after almost three months

Update Sat 25 Dec 2021 21:30
Degassing activity at La Palma volcano on 19 Dec (image: INVOLCAN/twitter)
Degassing activity at La Palma volcano on 19 Dec (image: INVOLCAN/twitter)
The Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN) volcano observatory confirmed that the activity at the volcano ended on 13 December at 22:21 local time.
The eruption that started on 19 September, lasted exactly 85 days and 8 hours.
The activity was dominated by strombolian activity and lava-fountaining episodes (paroxysm).
The low-level seismic activity continues including no signs of tremor signals although quakes are not ruled out.
The newly born basaltic scoria cone has reached 1,121 meters altitude with an estimated volume of about 200 million m3 of lava and tephra.

Volcano remains calm, but small quakes continue

Update Fri 17 Dec 2021 16:45
View of La Palma's new volcanic edifice from the Llano del Jable Astronomical Viewpoint at 11.00 am Canarian time (image: INVOLCAN / Twitter)
View of La Palma's new volcanic edifice from the Llano del Jable Astronomical Viewpoint at 11.00 am Canarian time (image: INVOLCAN / Twitter)
Depth vs time of quakes under La Palma showing an apparent increase of quake numbers, especially at depth
Depth vs time of quakes under La Palma showing an apparent increase of quake numbers, especially at depth
3D-View of quakes under the island since 14 Dec (image: info.igme.es)
3D-View of quakes under the island since 14 Dec (image: info.igme.es)
Quakes and combined seismic energy past 30 days
Quakes and combined seismic energy past 30 days
Current seismic signal at La Palma's TBT station - absence of tremor makes tiny quakes visible and detectable (image: IGN)
Current seismic signal at La Palma's TBT station - absence of tremor makes tiny quakes visible and detectable (image: IGN)
Current tremor amplitude - near zero (image: IGN)
Current tremor amplitude - near zero (image: IGN)
For 3 days, no eruptive activity has taken place, and the likelihood that the eruption is actually over is clearly increasing. The cone only shows mild degassing and no lava flows are active any more.
Official confirmation when the eruption is declared over will likely need to wait a little longer. Some doubt remains as to the significance of the continuing earthquake activity: although of low energy and overall on a decreasing trend, it remains significant, and could indicate that magma at depth is still able to pressurize and fracture rocks at depth and create intrusions that might eventually allow it to rise further. However, this is far from certain - it could also be adjustments of the system triggered by the massive shifts of masses that has occurred during the eruption. In the latter case, the quakes should slowly die out.
During the past 24 hours, there were 3 quakes of magnitudes 3.3-3.5 at 35-36 km depth, in addition to many more smaller quakes (22 quakes of magnitudes 2.0-2.9 and 48 quakes below magnitude 2.0). If looking at the various maps published of recent quakes, it might seem that there is a a strong increase of quakes. This apparent increase, however, is mostly in the number of quakes, especially for those in the deeper region around 30-40 km. This is mostly an artifact caused by the absence of volcanic tremor, which acted as noise during the eruption and was simply hiding smaller quakes in its signal. Now, the very sensitive seismic devices are again able to pick up very small quakes below magnitudes 2, as well as quakes deeper down (whose signals at the surface are much weaker). In other words, most of the apparent increase of quakes is only an increase in detection sensitivity. Still, a weak increase in the total energy of the seismic activity remains visible for the past 48 hours or so. With most likelihood, it is part of a normal fluctuation, but nobody can be sure.

No new activity - pause of eruption or end?

Update Wed 15 Dec 2021 18:15
Scientists at the crater on La Palma today (image: INVOLCAN / Twitter)
Scientists at the crater on La Palma today (image: INVOLCAN / Twitter)
Depth vs time of quakes under La Palma
Depth vs time of quakes under La Palma
No new activity has been reported at the eruption site since it ceased yesterday. Chances increase that the eruption is over, although this is far from certain (read below for more background).
The calm allowed scientists to actually approach the crater to take gas measurements and film the craters from close:

Is the eruption over?
Whether the eruption has ended or not will depend on whether magma still stored in the reservoir beneath the surface is able to ascend or not, which in turn is likely depending on two main factors:
First, whether the shallow reservoir is being re-supplied by magma from the deeper source, which should become visible with the occurrence of deeper earthquakes - lately, these have been mostly absent, suggesting that supply from the deep source has ended.
Second, the ascent of magma from the shallow reservoir is driven by gasses dissolved in the magma and forming bubbles to increase volume and pressure and eventually make the magma rise to erupt as lava.
If, and this is maybe a likely scenario, most of the gasses have already left the system or if the remaining gasses can separate efficiently from the liquid (magma), and rise and degas at the vents and through the surface, the magma will slowly start cooling down and eventually crystallize over a very long period of time.
It is also very much possible that the current pause of the eruption leads to a blockage of the upper conduits, which disables the degassing process and generates conditions that could lead to sudden explosions and allowing probably smaller batches of remaining magma to erupt in short phases of re-activation.
Nobody knows for now - the situation remains volatile and care should be taken to make any predictions of whether activity will resume or not.


La Palma volcano: activity drops sharply, eruption might have ended or is pausing

Tue, 14 Dec 2021, 15:11
15:11 PM | BY: T
No activity seen at the cone on La Palma this afternoon (image: Canarias TV live stream)
No activity seen at the cone on La Palma this afternoon (image: Canarias TV live stream)
Seismic signal at TBT station (image: IGN)
Seismic signal at TBT station (image: IGN)
Aerial view of the area this morning (image: Government of La Palma/ opendatalapalma.es)
Aerial view of the area this morning (image: Government of La Palma/ opendatalapalma.es)
Current tremor amplitude past 7 days (image: IGN)
Current tremor amplitude past 7 days (image: IGN)
The eruption might have stopped or is pausing today, which is day #87 since it started on Sep 19, 2021.
After a temporary strong increase yesterday producing lava fountaining and tall ash plumes, visible activity decreased drastically and more or less ceased today. No significant explosions or lava flows can be seen on any of the available images from the vents or on this morning's drone surveillance flight. Volcanic tremor has dropped to its lowest levels since the eruption began, and is close to absent now.
The absence of tremor in the signal in turn allows to detect tiny quakes of magnitudes below 2, which leads to an increase in the number of total detected quakes - IGN reported 129 events, but only 5 of them were at least of magnitude 3 and none above 3.2, which is among the lowest-by-energy combined values counts since the beginning of the eruption.
Whether or not the eruption is now already at its end is hard to say, but it is most likely at least close to it.

La Palma volcano eruption update: eruption intensifies intermittently

Mon, 13 Dec 2021, 23:10
23:10 PM | BY: T
Lava fountaining and ash emissions this afternoon (image: INVOLCAN / Twitter)
Lava fountaining and ash emissions this afternoon (image: INVOLCAN / Twitter)
Current tremor amplitude past 7 days (image: IGN)
Current tremor amplitude past 7 days (image: IGN)
Seismic signal TBT station since yesterday (image: IGN)
Seismic signal TBT station since yesterday (image: IGN)
Aerial view of active lava flows in the area south of Todoque this morning (image: La Palma government / opendatalapalma.es)
Aerial view of active lava flows in the area south of Todoque this morning (image: La Palma government / opendatalapalma.es)
Time vs depth of quakes under La Palma during the past days
Time vs depth of quakes under La Palma during the past days
After yesterday's large explosion at noon, the eruption gained in intensity, both explosive and effusive, during the evening and night. After being quieter most of the day today, it increased again in the evening, shown by the strongly fluctuating volcanic tremor signal.
Phases of strong ash emissions and lava fountains have been alternating with quiet periods when only steaming could be seen at the craters:
Ash plumes reached 4,200 m above sea level this morning, and reportedly up to 7,000 m in the afternoon, and drifted southeast. Absence of wind near the ground created very high SO2 concentrations in El Paso today, with values surpassing 2.590 micrograms per cubic meter this morning.
Lava continues to flow from the (hidden) vents on the western base of the cone into the tube system and crate breakouts in the central part of the flow field. One of the more active surface flows began to eat away one of the remaining islands of so-far untouched land in the area south of Todoque and east of Las Norias, as can be seen in the aerial drone image attached.

The number of quakes has again increased in numbers: During the past 24 hours, there have been 4 quakes of magnitudes 3.0-3.4 and 46 quakes between 2.0 and 2.9. Most of these occurred at the shallow layer around 10-15 km depth while only very few ones occurred at the deeper layer of 30 km or below.
The decrease of seismic activity in the deeper layer might indicate that magma supply from that area is less now than during previous weeks when lots of magnitude 4+ quakes occurred there, but this remains speculative.
No significant changes in deformation has been recorded.

Sudden large explosion today sends ash to 5,000 m altitude

Update Sun 12 Dec 2021 17:21
Eruption plume from today's vulcanian-type explosion at La Palma (image GEVolcan / facebook)
Eruption plume from today's vulcanian-type explosion at La Palma (image GEVolcan / facebook)
Ash column at the vent seen on the Canarias TV live stream
Ash column at the vent seen on the Canarias TV live stream
Around noon local time, a sudden large explosion occurred at the main crater of the cone, producing a steam and ash plume that quickly rose to estimated 5,000-6,000 meters altitude.
The event was likely a so-called vulcanian explosion, typically caused when a larger plug in the upper conduit has formed and is suddenly thrown out when gas pressure underneath overcomes a threshold (comparable to a cannon-shot mechanism).
Today's explosion likely might be due to the fact that the conduits have gradually been closing up / filling with debris in their upper parts as supply of rising material is less abundant. This fits with the model that the eruption has entered its final waning stage, but also creates highly dangerous conditions, because such explosions could (and likely will) repeat in the days to come.
Apart from this, the eruption - now on its 85th day of activity being the longest in recorded history on La Palma Island - has continued at low levels similar as in the past days. There is now mainly steaming, with only occasional smaller explosions, at the main cone, while lava effusion continues at reduced rate. The arriving lava first goes into the tube system, and feeding flows in similar areas as during the past days overlapping older flows.
Seismic activity has been low, with only 24 quakes detected during 24 horus, the maximum being only a 3.2 event. Deformation and tremor remain basically unchanged at low values, although the explosion earlier resulted in a short-lived intense tremor peak.
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