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Latest update from Volcanoland

So I did not get off the rock this morning as intended, as both my flight to Copenhagen and the connecting flight to Brussels had been cancelled. Which is just fine — to be perfectly honest I would have been slightly nervous about flying even if it had gone ahead. Seriously, I prefer remaining here with both feet on the ground to taking off in an airplane where there is even the smallest safety risk. Particularly as my situation is about as ideal as can be – i.e. I am snug and warm in my little hobbit-hole with no pressure to be anywhere else. Unlike those poor people having to camp out in airports or who urgently need to get to their destination for some reason or another.

I sat down to write an update on the situation, but as I typed out the above paragraph – PING! – a comment came through from our resident volcanologist Mike, who can explain it even better than me. So I’m bumping his comment up, yet again [I could get used to this letting someone else write the content for me!]:

Latest volcano update.

The mountain is deflating – the magma which has been pushing it up and causing it to expand (by a few centimetres, you couldn’t tell with the naked eye), has either been erupted or is retreating deeper in the Earth.

The eruption today appears to be less energetic than before and might be becoming more traditionally Icelandic with fire fountains and cinder rather than lots of ash.

This doesn’t mean the eruption is over, or even that there won’t be another ash eruption, it’s just changing. And it might mean the end to the ash haze over the Atlantic.

In the meantime – here’s another awesome photo. This must be one of the most photographed eruptions in history.

Thank you Mike!

So yes, it has been confirmed that there are changes to the eruption and that great magma “bombs” [that’s what they called them on RÚV] have been shooting out from the crater and landing on the glacier. Apparently they’re not instantly disappearing, either, which probably means that the crater is forming sides [slopes?] around the area of the eruption.

With any luck this will mean less ash – both for the sake of air travellers and the farmers in the area. Judging by photos in some of the media there is a thick layer of gray mud over everything and farmers are worried about their livestock. However, touch wood: there have been no reports of injuries to livestock as they are being kept indoors, fed with hay and given clean water.

Fingers crossed that the ash will soon subside!



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ann April 19, 2010, 2:49 pm

    The Mike/Alda team is incomparable. Really appreciate all the information and insight.

  • joeinvegas April 19, 2010, 4:48 pm

    But the photos make it look so pretty . . . (well, I’m not the one stuck in an airport with no way home)

  • Nancy April 19, 2010, 4:57 pm

    1. Agree on the Mike/Alda combo. Alda’s awesome all by herself, but thanks Mike for the additional education! 2. msnbc.com has added new pictures to its slideshow – amazing how the volcano creates its own weather! http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36553710/ns/news-picture_stories/displaymode/1247/?beginSlide=1

  • Mike Richards April 19, 2010, 5:33 pm

    Yup ‘bomb’ is the word. It’s a blob of molten lava that’s thrown high in the air and solidifies before it hits the ground. They’re often streamlined and can be very beautiful. Of course one falling on your head is still a dirty great lump of rock.

    By the time this is over, you can all become experts in volcanoes. just remember, I expect 10% of anything you earn 😉

  • fleet April 19, 2010, 5:33 pm

    Here is a great collection of images from the eruption: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/04/more_from_eyjafjallajokull.html

  • Mike Richards April 19, 2010, 5:56 pm

    More gorgeous photos from boston.com here:



  • Joerg April 19, 2010, 5:56 pm

    “traditionally Icelandic with fire fountains and cinder”

    Sounds good, perhaps another “tourist volcano”?

    It’s a wise decision to refrain from outbound flights, unless they are indispensable, as long as the situation is like this. I have some experience with being stranded and I hate those long hours of waiting in long queues surrounded by uncertainty. And there is an enormous economic pressure on the airlines, which is forwarded to air-traffic control and which might unspokenly lead to compromises at the expense of security. Nobody would admit this officially, it’s just a personal opinion. In Germany they are about to recommence air traffic partly, flying at a height of 3000m, below the volcanic cloud and operating under visual flight rules.

    I could see on the vodafone webcam that the cloud above Eyjafjallajökull has diminished (This webcam is no longer available from outside Iceland but they upload a picture every ten minutes to http://picasaweb.google.com/102175391233488315229 )

  • Mike April 19, 2010, 9:31 pm

    And for the Icelandic crowd, New Yorkers have been trying to get to grips with Eyjafjallajökull :

    ‘Iceland Volcano Spews Consonants and Vowels’

    ‘New Yorkers with suddenly dashed European travel plans were not the only ones in town inconvenienced by the eruption of a volcano 2,800 miles away.

    ‘All across this fair city, thousands of people, some of them highly paid television and radio newscasters, found themselves tumbling down the vowel-and-liquid-consonant-lubricated slopes of Eyjafjallajokull, the mountain’s 16-letter, six-and-a-half-syllable, 47-Scrabble-point name.’


    That’s a thought – is it possible to play Scrabble in Icelandic if you’re only allowed seven letters? Or do you just need a bigger board?


  • alda April 19, 2010, 9:36 pm
  • Simon Brooke April 19, 2010, 10:17 pm

    Hi Alda!

    I am listening to your voice on Radio 4 as I post this – it’s rather nice hearing someone I ‘know’ on the radio.

  • alda April 19, 2010, 10:28 pm

    Argh! I forgot to listen to it. Was it OK?

  • Mike April 19, 2010, 10:48 pm

    Alda – you didn’t tell us you’d be on the BBC! I hope you’re not going to let this sort of media exposure go to your head 😉

    The whole world should be able to hear you at:


    in a couple of hours.


  • alda April 19, 2010, 11:01 pm

    D’oh!! — No, my intention is to listen to it first and see if it’s presentable – THEN publish a link. Maybe.

    And speaking of media exposure, did you get my email earlier about the Australian TV crew who want to interview you?

  • hildigunnur April 19, 2010, 11:46 pm

    haha, Mike getting famous all over via IWR 😀

    Yep, you can play Scrabble with only the seven letters here, but the most fun is when you can make a longer word out of a previous one!

  • Simon Brooke April 20, 2010, 12:07 am

    (Radio 4 10 o’clock news)

    It was fine. You sounded clear, competent, informed and relaxed.

  • Ann April 20, 2010, 12:24 am

    Alda, the interview was great! Very well spoken, clear and professional. No worry about that, honestly.

  • Chris April 20, 2010, 1:14 am

    There is another very informative website: The eruption weblog, http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/

  • Frank Lynch April 20, 2010, 9:48 am

    Apparently Gordon Brown was caught shouting down the phone to the Icelandic president: “No, No. I said, ‘Send me your CASH!'”

  • alda April 20, 2010, 10:56 am


    [Sorry Frank, but we’ve heard it about two hundred billion zillion times over the past six days.]

  • Mike Richards April 20, 2010, 4:06 pm

    Hi folks,

    The latest on the eruption is that it seems to be settling down to a more ‘Icelandic’ style of eruption. The huge ash falls of the last few days are dwindling and most of the stuff coming out of the crater is falling locally. Which means Alda might once again be able to fly to Europe.

    In the last couple of days the magma reaching the surface has become more fluid, allowing the gas inside to escape quietly without exploding the rock into ash. At the same time, it looks like less water is reaching the vents, which is reducing the number of steam explosions that were also throwing ash into the atmosphere.

    The volcano is now changing between two quite well known types of eruption. The first is called a ‘Surtseyan’ eruption – named after the island of Surtsey which appeared not too far from Eyjafjallajökull in the Westman Islands between 1963 and 1965. Surtsey began life as an undersea eruption marked by violent explosions as seawater crashed into the open vent.


    These eruptions continued right up until Surtsey’s vent cleared the sea and began building a mountain. During this time, Surtsey was quite capable of throwing ash several kilometres in the air – but of course in those days there was much less air traffic to worry about.

    Eyjafjallajökull’s ice is still melting and water is pooling around the vents. Every now and again it comes into contact with the magma and there is a filthy explosion of ash and ice. You can see one of them in this video:


    (If you’re in Reykjavik there is a superb exhibit about Surtsey at the museum – erm can’t remember the name (Alda???) it’s next to the opera house)

    The other type of eruption which appears to be happening at Eyjafjallajökull is called ‘Strombolian’ and is named after, Stromboli an active volcano West of Italy which has been more or less continuously active for the last – wait for it – 20,000 years. Strombolian volcanoes throw out glowing cinders and lava bombs at short intervals of minutes to hours to altitudes of tens or even hundreds of metres. They are the result of very fluid magma and are rarely dangerous. In fact, if you ever go to Stromboli (there’s a ferry from Naples), you can climb the mountain and sit on the edge of the crater and watch the eruption.

    There’s a webcam at Stromboli here:


    If you’re lucky you can see explosions towards dusk.

    All of this means that Eyjafjallajökull is in a new phase of its eruption – but that does not mean that the eruption is over or that it will not return to explosive activity. It’s possible there is more sticky andesite deep under the mountain which can’t currently find its way to the surface, or that a new fissure might open under the ice cap.

    One question for Alda or any other Icelanders out there. What’s going on on the Westman Islands? From the look of it they’ve been under the plume for the last few days. I understand they also get their drinking water from the mainland.


  • alda April 20, 2010, 4:15 pm

    Thank you Mike! I shall bump this up forthwith. 🙂

  • Julia April 21, 2010, 6:01 am

    Thank you for all this information!