Glance at the news lately and you might see these headlines that would make Kent “ACTION NEWS” Brockman proud:
Let’s set some thing straight. No, we’re not around the corner from VOLCANIC APOCALYPSE
A volcano can show many signs that an eruption might be brewing. These include, but aren’t limited to:
Now, this is great, right? We have “warning signs” before the eruption … except two things that are important aren’t known:
If we look at the two volcanoes in question from the recent news, we can see how much hype there is versus actual volcanology.
In Iceland, there was a brief earthquake swarm near Bárðarbunga, some of which were larger earthquakes over M4. Now, this volcano just had a year long eruption in 2014 (see below) on its flanks at Holuhraun that was one of the biggest effusive (lava flow) eruptions in the past few centuries. It did not, however, cause “travel chaos” across eruption — that was Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 and to a lesser degree, Grímsvötn in 2011. They produced explosive eruptions that sent ash and debris high into the atmosphere. If Bárðarbunga were to have another eruption like Holuhraun, we should expect lava flows. If it follows the less-likely path of an explosive eruption like it experienced inn 1477, then we might see more travel problems. In either case, the earthquake swarm does not mean the volcano will erupt at any minute. Swarms are common at many volcanoes — and often times, there are related to hot water moving the volcano or faults.
The same can be said about Teide on Tenerife. An earthquake swarm occurred on the island — one of the first in decades — and it lead to speculation that we might be headed to the first eruption on this Canary Island since 1909. However, that eruption might not occur for years and these earthquakes are likely not even precursors for the next eruption. So, all the media shouting that an eruption might happen “at any moment” are pure fear-mongering at an event that is common at most volcanoes. INVOLCAN, the group that monitors volcanoes in the Canary Islands, hasn’t changed the status from “green”, its lowest level, due to the earthquakes.
So, always take any media source shouting that a volcano is READY TO ERUPT and that eruption is cause TRAVEL CHAOS or DESTROY CIVILIZATION with a grain of salt the size of a Buick. Volcanoes can often show signs of eruption, but the likelihood is that the eruption, if it happens, will be smaller than the media hypes it to be.