60 year cycles, Iceland, Quakes, and Atlantic Ridge

North America and Atlantic Quake Map 26 October 2010

North America and Atlantic Quake Map 26 October 2010

OK, I was looking at that quake map and noticed the “string of pearls” on the Mid Atlantic Ridge where we have 4 quakes. Got me wondering: Do quakes on the ridge mean Iceland gets some more action?

That lead to this article:


which finds just such a cycle…

Volcanologists say the fireworks exploding from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano on Iceland, which is responsible for the ash cloud that is grounding all commercial flights across northern Europe, may become a familiar sight. Increased rumblings under Iceland over the past decade suggest that the area is entering a more active phase, with more eruptions and the potential for some very large bangs.

“Volcanic activity on Iceland appears to follow a periodicity of around 50 to 80 years. The increase in activity over the past 10 years suggests we might be entering a more active phase with more eruptions,” says Thorvaldur Thordarson, an expert on Icelandic volcanoes at the University of Edinburgh, UK. By contrast, the latter half of the 20th century was unusually quiet.

Along with increased volcanism, more seismic activity has been recorded around Iceland, including the magnitude-6.1 quake that rocked Reykjavik in May 2008.

Hmmm… That’s not encouraging… Maybe it’s time to invest in passenger ships out of England and Ireland to the mainland.

Rifting strain

In 1998 Gudrún Larsen from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and colleagues used 800 years’ worth of data from lava layers, ice cores and historical records to show that Iceland’s volcanism goes through cycles of high and low activity. The peaks of these cycles seem to be strongly linked to bursts of earthquakes, which release the build-up of strain on tectonic faults near Iceland caused by the rifting of the Atlantic Ocean.

So we’ve got Iceland linked to the rifting strain. A long period of low activity, that’s now shifted to more active, and a historical pattern of that period spanning the (roughly) 60 year cycle… rather like the PDO / Pacific cycle. Well, looks to me like folks in the EU ought to start watching the activity on the Mid Atlantic Ridge a mite closer.

Wonder if that timing might also match the timing that was predicted by the Russians for the deepest part of the predicted cooling. About 2040, IIRC.

As well as becoming more frequent, eruptions seem to get more intense during the high-activity phases. A number of Iceland’s most devastating eruptions – including that of the volcano Laki in 1783 that killed over half of Iceland’s livestock and led to a famine that wiped out about a quarter of its human population – have occurred when the Atlantic rift system has been active. “If we are entering a more active phase, these bigger eruptions will become more likely,” says Thordarson.

Judging by recent volcanic and earthquake activity, Thordarson and his colleagues believe that Iceland is entering its next active phase and estimate it will last for 60 years or so, peaking between 2030 and 2040.

Oh dear…

That’s gonna leave a mark…

We seem to have a constellation of things coming together and pointing to the same mechanisms, the same timings, and the same outcomes. A cold dismal 2020-2040 with increased volcanism as well. Along with probable loss of crops and disruption of travel systems.

Probably not a good time to be buying insurance company stock… or airlines.

There are times when it’s really annoying to have clue about what’s coming.

Live Map:

North America and Mid Atlantic Ridge Quake Map

North America and Mid Atlantic Ridge Quake Map

Original with clickable details

Iceland Seismicity Map

Iceland Seismicity Map

Iceland Seismicity Map

Original Image

Present quake map at link: http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes/

Unfortunately, I’ve not figured out how to get a live map html from their site, so you have to click the link to see what’s up now.

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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21 Responses to 60 year cycles, Iceland, Quakes, and Atlantic Ridge

  1. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    Interesting, is this related to the ENSO cycle as well? There is a correlation between the Pacific rise earthquakes and El Nino

  2. Keith Hill says:

    The excellent link David supplied pre-empted my post on the latest earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. Three Tasmanians were among the “lost” surfers but they have now reported in shaken but safe. A Tasmanian also owns the resort where the bungalows were wrecked. Interesting to note that the 7.7 quake on Monday has been followed by a 5.2 quake in the same area today.
    The erupting volcano, Mt.Merapi is apparently Indonesia’s most active and has been sending out warnings for some time.
    New Zealand is known locally as the “Shaky Isles” but I think the islands which make up Indonesia have become more deserving of that dubious honour.
    The devastated villagers in those remote places who had little to lose in the first place, have now lost everything. The survivors are deserving of the greatest sympathy and help.
    As you say, there is “a constellation of things coming together”. Makes one wonder what is coming next !

  3. Paul Hanlon says:

    Here we go with another sixty year cycle. It’s amazing the way it keeps popping up.

    And yet, there’s no physical phenomenon that we know of that causes it. Yes we have the PDO and AMO, which are roughly sixty year cycles, but these are effects which then cause other effects.

    We have the sunspot cycle at 11 or 22 years, the lunar cycle of 18.6 years, the deVries sun cycle (Grand Minimums) of 210 years, but none of these seem to coincide in any meaningful way with the major ups and downs of the temperature datasets.

    The Saturn orbit takes 60 years alright, but what could be the mechanism that could cause it to have an effect on Earth, when we pass between it and the Sun 60 times during that time.

    I wonder is it an as yet unknown cycle in the interior of the Earth. That would go some way to explaining the increased vulcanism and earthquakes and possibly even the PDO/AMO. I think if we can find the source of that 60 year cycle, we’ll go a long way to understanding what drives the climate.

  4. Malaga View says:

    We seem to have a constellation of things coming together

    And that seems to apply to your last few postings… because the same sort of thoughts were running through my mind when I was grounded in the UK by the volcanic ash earlier this year… perhaps this was a flavour of things to come… a flavour of how much society will have to adjust… just how flawed the UK governments computer models are regarding climate change, foot & mouth disease, volcanic ash, the economy…. the list just seems endless these days… and government stupidity seems to know no bounds.

    The problems with the volcanic ash computer models were evident on day one as I listened to the no fly news report on the car radio while driving westward into the sunset… the problem was clear to see because the was no beautiful sunset… simply no colours in the sky as the sun sank through the clear northern air over Yorkshire… but government and the media are so far removed from reality that they literally can’t see the evidence.

    Now the changes aren’t all bad… this I discovered as I travelled from the UK to Spain overland… travellers talked of their experiences and shared news and knowledge… especially in the hotel bars during the overnight stops… so instead of a few hours flying I experienced a four day adventure across Europe. The lights on but nobody home people stayed at home… there was no travel for the worker ants… while the rest of us had a good time exploring the planet.

    So perhaps western society will have to adjust significantly in the next few decades… with volcanoes and a colder climate being the main drivers… unfortunately the governments responses will probably make the reality far worse… like the needless death and destruction inflicted upon the UK farm animals in the face of foot & mouth disease… which brings me to your Doctor Strangelove moment which may become increasingly relevant as the American Empire peaks and moves into terminal decline… and the possibility of riots, revolts and revolutions… which takes me back to the late 60’s while I was interned in a Military Boarding School and watched the very British film If… which depicted a savage insurrection at a public school – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If…. (include the dots in the URL)

    Although the years have ticked over I am still not ready to roll over…. the adolescent in me still listens to Mountain playing Rollover Beethoven and I still remember the concert where the Who blasted out Wont Get Fooled Again… which brings me right back to the present day as Iceland begins to Rock ‘n’ Roll and I keep the adrenalin flowing by ramping up the volume….

    Lou Reed – Sweet Jane from Rock n Roll Animal

    Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

  5. Malaga View says:

    Perhaps this is a good time to express my thanks to E.M.Smith for all the hard work, experience and insight that goes into Musings from the Chiefio… for me E.M. is a fellow traveller who lived through the Summer of 68 and learnt from the experience… it was a time of contradictions… a time of War… and a time of Love & Peace… so little seems to have changed in that respect over the years… the contradictions still endure… but so do the travellers… we still strive and endure… we still try to walk down that Country Road while the world around us retreats to the Urban Jungle… so I bow and say thank you to my fellow travellers who continue to make my journey so enjoyable.

    James Taylor – Country Road

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @Malaga View: Strange you would choose “Country Road” as a touchstone. I grew up in a little farm town. About 3 miles across. (the long way) For 2 years I worked summers on a cannery “line” packing fruit (stacking boxes, running label machines). The “start time” was something God Awful like 6:10 AM, so I was “out the door” at 5:50. And EVERY SINGLE MORNING the radio station tape ran the same series. As I was dreading the day to come (12 hour work day peak season), I’d be hearing the John Denver rendition of “Take Me HOOOOOOME Country ROOOOads…” and I never wanted to go home quite so much … Yeah, not the same as James Taylor “Country Road”, but still, to this day, the phrase “Country Roads” sets off 2 years of “longing”…

    FWIW, the story of “frozen on a motorcycle” was from about ’68 as I was trying to reach a “Woodstock west” event near San Francisco. Didn’t make it (too cold and too slow); but the effort makes up part of my own ‘precious moments’ store.

    Glad to be a ‘fellow traveler’ and happy to swap stories and “moments”…

    @Scarlet Pumpernickel & Paul Hanlon:

    There is also a 60 year Length Of Day change that is in sync with the PDO cycle. What I think is happening is that the planetary motions cause a change of the earth spin (spin-orbit coupling?) which causes the fluids to slop around and the spin rate change also changes the crustal loading. So then you get quakes and magma slop too… and it all ends up in the weather system. That’s the working hypothesis at least. Basically, the orbital / rotational motions have some wobble in them and wobbling a sloppy ball of magma causes some spots to leak…

    Do you have a link for the ENSO / quake connection?

    @David: Yeah, I saw that quake (and put a comment in the “Mexico 6.7” posting – but was too busy / lazy to make a full posting about it… though earlier in some other posting I’d said I was bailing from Indonesian investments for a while when they had 18 volcanos on warning status…) I’ve just got a “Baaaadd Feeeeeling about this” on the Indonesian volcano front. Too much history of “big ones” there during major minima events… and trying to suppress that emotional response by under-reporting it, I guess. Had thought of making it 1/2 of this posting, but resisted mixing two sides of the planet.

    Good link, BTW. Nice coverage.

    @Keith Hill: The price of living in a Volcanic Paradise.. Be it New Zealand, Indonesia, or a dozen other Pacific Islands. And perhaps even California and the Pacific Northwest…

    I don’t think I need to point it out, but the North Island is on a Giant Volcano. Super Volcano scale. So we’re all 3 “near” the biggest scale of risks possible. (Mammoth Mountain / Long Valley for me, Taupo in New Zealand, Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia).

    http://www.armageddononline.org/known-super-volcanoes.html has some nice pictures, in an over excitable kind of way.

    Why it pays to watch the quake maps… so you can get on an early flight out of Dodge.

    Not paranoid about it. Just keeping an eye on the “few thousand year event” Grumpy Gus to make sure he’s staying asleep for this century…

    But having gotten interested in volcanoes at an early age watching our local ones (and climbing Lassen to the peak), I’ve been waiting 1/2 a Century now for one of them to erupt… After Mt. Saint Helens, I’d be happy to keep on waiting… But maybe a little eruption would be nice to watch ;-)

    FWIW, went to Hawaii a few times. Volcano was dead silent. Gave up. It started erupting. Been erupting for a couple of decades now. Any time folks in Hawaii would like it to stop, just buy me a ticket for a visit. I’ve got a 100% negative correlation between my presence and volcanic eruptions… Must be my calming influence.

    All together now “OOOOOOoooommmmmmmMMMMM”

  7. Pingback: World Spinner

  8. Malaga View says:

    What I think is happening is that the planetary motions cause a change of the earth spin (spin-orbit coupling?) which causes the fluids to slop around and the spin rate change also changes the crustal loading. So then you get quakes and magma slop too… and it all ends up in the weather system.

    If you throw into that mix the Expanding Earth theory, as articulated by Neal Adams, then I personally think we are on the right track… it is a 3 minute video that really opened my eyes and my mind to lots of possibilities that had previously seemed crazy… … like the concepts of abiogenic oil, abiogenic natural gas and especially abiogenic water because we have a lot of water in our oceans… and what I really like about this approach to science is that it is based upon the simple sort of observations and thought processes that I had as a child… before I was indoctrinated by settled science at school and university. The video makes perfect sense to me… but where it leads us to is another huge can of worms…. enjoy the challenge!

  9. Malaga View says:

    The Expanding Earth theory also probably implies that the earths atmosphere is abiogenic in origin… that would mean that the atmosphere has basically been outgassed since the earth was formed… and that the composition of the atmosphere may change over time in line with the production of abiogenic gasses.

    Another thought to ponder is the impact an Expanding Earth might have upon the earths speed of rotation and, thus, the length of day… so perhaps there are some simple explanations for the earths geologic history of temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations… let alone an explanation for our varying cycles of warming and ice ages…

  10. Malaga View says:

    And perhaps lots of other planets have gone through a abiogenic phase of expansion that had the potential to support life forms… but when the abiogenic phase is complete then the atmosphere and oceans evaporate off into space leaving us a dead planet to look at through out telescopes.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Malaga View: I first ran into the Expanding Earth thesis when I was about 5? and we got a Reader’s Digest World Atlas (that i still have!). Loved that book.

    The problem I have with the thesis now is the same one I had with it then. Conservation of matter.

    Where does all the extra “stuff” come from to make an expanding earth?

    If it were meteors, we would not have the nice neat continental outlines to fit together, as 1/2 a globe of mass in-falling would make a mess of it.

    If it were chemical realignments (i.e. changing one mole of dense compound into 2 moles of lighter compounds) we’d have a different chemical history in the rocks (though you can make a case for the CO2 making limestone causing “growth” as air becomes land… but the quantity is too small).

    So in the end, I embraced the continental drift / subduction model.

    Yes, all the edges match, as they have all broken apart from each other (and rejoined) at various times…

    BTW, for that “perfect match”, it would be better if they used the continental sub-ocean edges rather than the present shoreline. Then South America has a much fatter “tail”…

    The other “issue” with the expanding earth is just that we don’t see it expanding now. We see subduction. Expansion at the mid ocean ridges, subduction under my feet (an making volcanoes as it does so…). We can detect the subduction products in the land above that zone. In fact, the predictive ability pretty much tells you where to find gold and other minerals…

    So in the end, as much as I think it’s an interesting alternative hypothesis to kick around (and you can learn things from thinking about it) the “issues” with it (especially when compared with how well plate tectonics works) cause me to figure it’s got it wrong.

    If someone can show me where the extra “stuff” comes from to make the world expand, and explain why we see subduction today and not expansion, I’d be open to a re-visit. FWIW, at various times I’ve calculated the rate of mass gain from meteorites. It’s not much. You would need to have a MUCH higher rate of mass in-fall. And that “has issues” for things like the evolution of life.

    One final note: The video has an issue or two with the fossil record too. It shows the Himalayas and the California mountains as existing for most of the history. But they both are sedimentary rocks full of marine fossils. Where’s the uplift? If there IS uplift, where does it come from in an expanding stretching world (where things would tend to sink instead… like Death Valley where the expansion is pulling it apart, so it’s sunk way below sea level… Eventually it will join the Gulf of California as that sea spreads inland through the Salton Sea…)

    Not wanting to rain on your parade, but it’s that kind of stuff that caused geologists to walk away from the Expanding Earth thesis. (In the age of that Reader’s Digest atlas, it WAS the ‘settled science’ of the era. Yeah, a very old book…) I never could quite get past the ‘missing stuff’ problem and when I finally ran into the Plate Tectonics theory, it just covered so much more and had so much less ‘issues’, it was just a very pleasing “fit’ that got rid of most (all?) of the loose ends for me.

    Oh, one other minor problem. We know life began in the oceans. The fossil record is pretty clear on that. So how does life begin in the ocean that does not exist for most of the history of an expanding earth? You could postulate it was in some shallow sea instead, but then you have a planet covered in almost all dirt, and life only plays in the mudpuddle for a few billion years? Odd, that.

    It’s that kind of ‘every turn is an issue’ vs the plate tectonics where ‘every turn is an answer / fit’ experience that turns me from one thesis to the other…

    But the edges do fit together nicely and the video is interesting to watch 8-)

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    Per ‘dead planets’: I think that’s part of the reason plate tectonics works. It explains the CO2 / water recycle. Cooked out of rocks in the subduction. Without it, the air and water ought to eventually end up bound in hydrates and oxides / nitrides / nitrates / nitrites and related.

    So we have volcanoes venting the stuff like crazy, right over the subduction zones where the hydrated nitrogen rich sediments are being pulled down in subduction trenches, and we have evidence for water / solvent separation of minerals in the plumes over the zone (like gold and silver deposits).

    If there were no subduction, what keeps the gases and water recycled… We’d end up like Mars in no time. Water and CO2 ice at the poles, everything else solids, air mostly gone or bound in rocks. We’re not massive enough to hang onto an atmosphere forever and we’re reactive enough to bind it into solids. That’s a problem… (but one I hope we don’t face for another billion years or so, depending on when the U and Th run down in the crust…)

    In a very real sense, the Volcanoes keep the planet alive. We are the planet Vulcan…

    And they are powered by molten rocks, powered by radioactive decay, that also powers the convective currents that give us drift and subduction. But that same power, through keeping things melted down below, tends to prevent the changes needed for an ‘expanding earth’ via recycling bound water and air in light rocks, precipitating out the heavy basalts.

  13. Malaga View says:

    I personally would not rule out subduction… especially where new ocean floor is expanding outwards and being pushed towards and underneath older continental plates… which perhaps explains the ring of fire… and the compression needed to generate mountain ranges.

    I would not rule out the possibility that a smaller earth would support lakes and seas… so there is plenty of opportunity for sediments to develop on the original continent plates.

    I would not rule out the possibility that the earth slowly gains mass via meteorites, asteroids and dust… although a big one might cause some moon sized damage.

    I would not rule out the possibility that the forces causing the earth to expand from the inside work in three dimensions… so the older continental plates could be pushed upwards as well as apart… especially as the earth is not a perfect sphere.

    I suspect most of this comes down to understanding the internal physics of stars and planets… so the expanding earth probably fits with the theories of Professor Oliver K. Manuel, Professor of Nuclear Chemistry, University of Missouri-Rolla who views the sun as a giant plasma “diffuser” that sorts ionized atoms by weight… so perhaps there is a similar process in the core of the earth.

    Click to access The_Suns_Origin.pdf

    I look for answers that fit the observations… and that need not be an either / or process… I still understand the we can have a bit of this and that.

  14. Malaga View says:

    we don’t see it expanding now

    I am not so sure about that… we have Ridges in the Pacific and the Atlantic… and both the oceans seem to be getting wider at a snails pace. From what I have seen there are examples of expansion… but I haven’t come across examples of shrinkage… not that I am saying that can’t exist… it is just that there seems to more examples of expansion… its a bit like football… the score may be 5-0 in favour of expansion at the moment… but that is not to say that the other side can’t score a few goals as well…

  15. Malaga View says:

    The arguments for and against put a lot of good observations and theories on the table… the challenge is to fit and adjust the theories so they fit together and support all the observations… in which case we may find that some settled science isnt so settled after all… and that would be no surprise based upon the flawed settled science of some climate scientists…

  16. Keith Hill says:

    Thanks for the interesting Armageddon link Chiefio. A few years ago I stayed with a dear old friend (now deceased) who had a lovely home overlooking beautiful Lake Taupo. He blithely told me that it was not a matter of if, but when the super-volcano would blow again and that none of the locals were particularly concerned, all apparently willing to pay the “price of living in a Volcanic Paradise” .
    German scientists at that time were operating in a miniature submarine researching and monitoring the activity underwater.
    It was quite an experience playing golf on one of the two championship course at Lake Taupo. Walking down the fairway where little fumeroles were smoking away (free drop if your ball landed on one) was novel to say the least and one smoking fenced-off hazard was definitely a no-go area for ball retrieval, unless you wanted a real proverbial “hotfoot” !
    Re Malaga View; whilst I have travelled down the “Country Road” much longer than either you or E.M, the erudite posters on this site and the wonderful links they provide have given me so much pleasure in my latter years.
    I’m a mental pigmy compared to the intellects on show here, but share many of the thoughts and feelings you express and am very grateful to be still learning at 77.
    The one thing that continues to astound me is the gullibility of those who believe that with all the major known and maybe unknown physical, cosmic and universal forces at play in influencing our climate, infinitesimal levels of CO2 are the major factor ! The power of propaganda !

  17. GregO says:


    Here’s a link on cyclical phenomena I found interesting:


    I have always been interested in cycles – the business cycle – the climate cycles – attitude and public opinion cycles ( I mean, what ever happened to “Love and Peace”?).

    The CAGW crowd does not seem to have any feel for natural cyclical phenomena. It is very interesting to see if the recent moderate warming will be followed by a time like we had back in the ’70s when it got cold.

    Maybe a little OT, but I read in one of your other blog posts you are a language fan. Are there common sayings in languages you have studied for “seven years of bad luck” and other such common observations?

  18. Paul Hanlon says:

    @GregO. Very interesting link. I was forgetting about the eccentricites of orbit and the fact that those orbits are not on the exact same plane. There could be something there alright.

    @Keith Hill. I’d join you in saying I’m a mental pygmy, but if I can still say at 77 that I’m still learning, I will have considered myself to have lived a life less ordinary.

  19. Bruce says:

    “Maybe it’s time to invest in passenger ships out of England and Ireland to the mainland”

    Nah, just buy Brit activated carbon mask making companies. Activated carbon masks do quite nicely for all kinds of volcanic smellies (SO2, HF & H2S) and dust too!

    Admittedly, Laki was very very smelly when it went off.

  20. Chuckles says:

    OT, but related to matters earth scientific – just got a call from youngest daughter in St. Lucia. The hurricane warnings are out as Tomas trundles in from the east, expected to hit later this afternoon 2-3 hrs time.
    It’s a Cat 1, so should be quite exciting, but relatively safe compared to the larger options…

    I was also inspired by the Readers Digest Atlas in my misspent youth, also still have it, and much read and equally treasured by the children as they grew up.

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