La Palma/Cumbre Vieja Volcano in the Canaries (2 Viewers)

bjdeming

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There is an intense seismic swarm (Spanish) ongoing here, and they just raised the alert level to Yellow this afternoon.

There's special excitement on the Internet about this because of featured news back in the 00's about a megatsunami hitting the US East Coast -- particularly Florida -- after potential flank collapse at this volcano.

Actually the whole island of La Palma is the edifice, with the southern volcanic center of Cumbre Vieja currently the most active. Here is the Smithsonian GVP page.

This volcano erupts frequently, last in the 1970s, and there has been no collapse. If it erupts now, there will probably be no collapse.

Even if there is, as I understand this, it most likely would be small and occur in a stepwise manner, per the sources I checked for writing about the nearby Decade Volcano Teide, on Tenerife, not as a big splash.

Such things do happen in the Canaries, at Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and elsewhere on land and island volcanoes. Only they happen at very long intervals. And it can happen without warning, too.

There's just a lot of public concern about this one volcano now, I suspect because of that BBC special 21 years ago.

The volcanologists are on it, as always. This restlessness will be closely followed internationally, I'm sure. Hopefully, after scaring everyone, Cumbre Vieja will roll over and doze off again. If not that, then the eruption will probably be something along the lines of 1971, though perhaps at a different vent.


For anyone interested in the technical details of tsunami risk at Cumbre Vieja, here's one of the papers I found via Google Scholar.
 

bjdeming

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According to Luca D'Auria, there are not yet "many elements to make a forecast in the medium or long term, but we will have to wait for the next few days to see how it evolves." However, he has admitted that, "without a doubt, on Saturday there was a change in Cumbre Vieja that indicates a process of magmatic ascent to shallower depths compared to previous years . "

Source via Google Translate

Dr. D'Auria is the director of INVOLCAN, the Canaries' volcanological service.

Just a layperson's opinion, but it does look like eruption precursors. The IGN (Spain's National Geological Institute) reports today (Spanish) that seismicity is more frequent, displacing westward, and rising toward the surface, though still some 6 miles down. They also note ground deformation.

INVOLCAN sets the aviation codes (currently Yellow, second on the four-color scale), but I haven't been able to find a website with updates and information like those maintained here and in many other countries. Their Facebook page might be the best bet. (That's Teide Volcano on the banner; Cumbre Vieja is on another island.)

There's nothing to see yet, but Meteoblue has some webcams/weather info in the volcano's vicinity (yes, the Canaries are gorgeous and a major travel destination).

The cams face the sea, but if there's an eruption maybe they will be moved to face the nearby volcano.

Here is a satellite imagery portal.

This is an interview with the IGN Canaries director. I can't follow spoken Spanish (feel free to translate, anyone), but am guessing the shots are of potential eruption sites if the magma reaches the surface. Also, that looks like gas monitoring equipment they're installing.

 
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bjdeming

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Yay! Smithsonian volcanologists are doing outreach on the "megatsunami" thing. Excellent links in the thread, too.


Also, Canary Island officials held a meeting and, among other things, noted (via browser translator):

The scientific committee has also spoken out regarding the news that appeared in the media about a possible great collapse of the western flank of Cumbre Vieja and consequent formation of a mega tsunami, highlighting that there is no data to support this hypothesis and that it lacks a proven scientific basis.
 
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bjdeming

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It's good to be a volcanologist.

It erupted this morning afternoon, per El Pais (English).

Here's the seismogram, per Italy's volcanology office:

242292670_4223103177738209_1130485492744751991_n.jpg


From this video tweeted about 20 minutes ago, it might become a spectacle, as in 1971.

 
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bjdeming

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Live video link.

Also:


EDIT: This is spectacular but not live anymore, so here is a live feed from Canaries TV:



Sigh. Lots of very expensive infrastructure getting trashed isn't pretty.
 
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bjdeming

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For nerds :) , here's the preeruptive seismicity plot, with the star marking eruption point (two lava-filled cracks at first, per El Pais; at least seven vents in a fissure eruption, per volcanologists):


What they saw on the ground at that "star":

 
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bjdeming

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Just an update:
  • Per some reliable Twitter sources, there are now two fissures and at least eight vents.
  • No injuries reported, but homes and property are burning/getting buried. At least two towns have been evacuated, and more are in the way as the lava heads to the coast (fortunately, AFAIK, lava here isn't as speedy as at Mauna Loa, where some communities may have only a few hours' warning).
  • Per EFE (Spanish), INVOLCAN estimates total magma volume available is about half the size of that erupted in 1971; I didn't see anything about that on INVOLCAN's Twitter and Facebook feeds.
  • The AFP quotes a regional official saying that no new eruption points are expected.
 

bjdeming

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Not much new, though it's devastating near the volcano, of course. But COVID in the Canaries has claimed more victims (1) than Cumbre Vieja thus far.


That silver lining is difficult to see when hundreds of buildings are gone and thousands of people are evacuated. They're losing whole towns and associated infrastructure.

The 18-foot-high front is rumbling along at about 0.4 mph and is expected to reach the sea at about 8 p.m. (2 p.m., Birmingham time). Cumbre Vieja seems to have a taste for dramatic visuals.

From a look at online news, there seems to be a little "Jaws"-like bickering about the need to take tourism into account. There are COVID restrictions, but the Islands are open to many countries. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they've got an Iceland-like capability to take advantage of the lucrative volcano tourism market yet (a factor emergency planners now must take into account in many places, like Vesuvius up in Italy, when planning evacuations).

The megatsunami thing is still making the rounds, unfortunately, and it's always about that old "worst-case" study, which draws a lot more clicks than the GVP's "minimal risk" factual assessment.

I like what this one guy said when tweeting about an interview with a local university member about the eruption (via Twitter translation):

Let's imagine that we continue with the example and we begin to bring people who know what they are talking about to televisions. Perhaps one day we will learn that sometimes journalists should limit ourselves only to asking questions.

Here's an official information source (Spanish).
 
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bjdeming

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Another nerd moment:


This is part of the reason why volcanic eruptions are so difficult to predict.

  • The final rise happened rapidly.
  • The lava erupted some distance from the main swarm.

By the way, it appears to me that no one really knows exactly why or how eruptions end, so take all predictions of duration with a salt shaker handy.
 

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Within the hour, I think, an M3-4 quake (different sources give different values and none are official yet) and a new vent opened up in or near the municipality of El Paso, town of Tacande.

This El Pais article about the lava flows from the ongoing fissure eruptions has a graphic that shows the neighborhood. EL Paso is down a ways, not near the initial fissures. One of the Meteoblue cams above is there, but it was down even before this.

More details as I find them.

EDIT: No, this appears to be an unfolding emergency. I've just started to follow Cabildo de La Palma (Twitter handles translation) for that. There are probably other reliable sources, too, including this one. INVOLCAN remains the best choice for scientific information updates.

Per a local news station, via browser translator, the new vent is just shy of a kilometer north of the ongoing eruption, and they are evacuating Tacande as a precaution.


This is it earlier today; don't know if the nighttime fountaining shot circulating now is the same or recycled from the initial eruption vents. If it is the same, that not good at all.
 
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bjdeming

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Nice satellite interferometry from September 14-20 -- source -- of the dike feeding the eruption (I circled it). Experts can see a lot of detailed information, but this layperson thinks it shows little to no ground deformation north of the initial fissures. Reassuring, that, after the new vent opened.

20210920_1624484473800655552550421.jpg
 

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Nobody was injured during the evacuation of Tacande, reportedly. The flow did go through town, and per an announcement about three hour ago now, it has joined the main lava river, which is still inching its way to the coast.

There is infrastructure all along the way, per this El Pais article's graphic.

And swimming pools:

 

bjdeming

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The eruption style is evolving. It went from lava fountaining to strombolian (imagine big bubbles of gas popping in a lava pool) yesterday, and today INVOLCAN has tweeted that things have gotten more explosive.

I don't know if that was just a big burp, so to speak, or a harbinger of things to come, but it produced a serious amount of sulfur emissions -- much higher than before.

They haven't released results of initial lava sampling yet, AFAIK. I wonder if they might eventually report that Cumbre Vieja's initial eruption just vented remnant lava from 1971 (don't laugh: when Kilauea's East Rift fired up in 2018, the first lava that came out was identical to that of the 1955 eruption).

It's not impossible that the more recently evolved magma is only now approaching the surface. If so, hopefully it won't involve any more of the volcanic edifice and will come out at the current fissures.

What bothers me a little is that the volcanology sources I follow are no longer tweeting with enthusiastic abandon, as is usual with eruptions (it was a regular blizzard of tweets when the Reykjanes Peninsula volcano in Iceland went off this spring!). Yet they appear to be watching it closely.

This is something that might just settle down, or possibly might get worse. We'll just have to wait and see what happens next.

Meanwhile, the lava still hasn't reached the sea and reportedly slowed down to about 4 m/h overnight: this is quite consistent with the change in eruption style. It's wreaking havoc, since it's passing through inhabited areas now. Sigh.
 
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Tennie

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For what it's worth, the volcano blog Volcano Cafe has an article talking about the 1949 eruption of Cumbre Vieja:

 

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