Volcano Watch Metric

Grimsvoten Cumulative Seismic Moment

Grimsvoten Cumulative Seismic Moment

Original Image

This is from the Iceland Met Office. Main page: English or Icelandic (At least, it looks like Icelandic to me..)

h/t to SSam in: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/23/will-global-warming-survive-a-strong-la-nina/#comment-581292

Well, this is a very interesting graph. I’d not heard of a ‘cumulative seismic moment’ before, but it looks like a formal mathematical way of doing what I’m doing “intuitively” when I watch for a ramp up in number and size of quakes. This, as they say, will bear more investigation / learning…

But back at this volcano… When it goes, things are going to be messy in Iceland and probably “a bad day” in Europe as well.

What SSam had to say:

Grímsvötn along with Bárðarbunga, are the two dominant central vent volcanoes that sit under the Vatnajökull icecap with the five other volcanoes quietly biding their time.

The wiki is none too soothing either:



The Grímsvötn lakes (Icelandic: vötn, singular: vatn) are lakes in Iceland. They lie in the highlands of Iceland at the northwestern side of the Vatnajökull glacier and are covered by its ice cap. Beneath them is the magma chamber of a volcano. The location of the lakes is 64°25′N 17°20′W, at an elevation of 1,725 m (5,659 ft).

Grímsvötn has a southwest-northeast-trending fissure system, and the massive climate-impacting Laki fissure eruption of 1783-1784 was a part of the same fissure system. Grímsvötn was erupting at the same time as Laki during 1783, but continued to erupt until 1785. Because most of the volcano lies underneath Vatnajökull, most of its eruptions have been subglacial.

Harmonic tremor was recorded twice around Grímsvötn on 2 and 3 October 2010, potentially indicating an impending eruption. At the same time, sudden inflation was measured by GPS in the volcano, indicating magma movement under the mountain. On 1 November 2010 meltwater from the Vatnajökull glacier was flowing into the lake, suggesting that an eruption of the underlying volcano might be imminent.


Subglacial eruptions regularly give rise to glacial bursts as jökulhlaups. Eruptions may melt enough ice to fill the Grímsvötn caldera with water, and the pressure may be enough to suddenly lift the icecap, allowing huge quantities of water to escape rapidly. As a result, the Grímsvötn caldera is monitored very carefully by scientists. When a large eruption occurred in 1996, geologists knew well in advance that a glacial burst was imminent. It did not occur until several weeks after the eruption finished, but the monitoring let the Icelandic ring road (Hringvegur) be closed when the burst occurred. A section of road across the Skeiðará sandur was washed away in the ensuing flood, but no-one was hurt.

Last eruptions

A week-long eruption occurred at Grímsvötn starting on 28 December 1998, but no glacial burst occurred. In November 2004, another eruption of about one week began. Volcanic ash from the eruption fell as far away as mainland Europe and caused short-term disruption of airline traffic into Iceland, but again no glacial burst followed the eruption.

So this guy definitely needs some watching. One can only hope any new eruption will be a small one like 2004.

Now I’m wondering just how commonly used and reliable this metric is for predicting volcanic activity… and it gives me even more reason to worry about the increased non-fault located earthquakes showing up on the quake watch pages. The prediction of the ‘common cause for cooling and quakes’ thesis is that they all come together when they come. This ought to manifest first as some cooling and some increased quake activity. And we’ve got some cooling and some increased quake activity. Then we ought to start seeing minor volcano news (check, got that..) and then some very significant cooling (maybe have that, need about a year to know) and then a Big One volcano lets loose. But that ought to be preceded by some proximal earthquake storms.

This is going to be “interesting times”…

Both Hemispheres

That’s a lot of quakes on the map as I’m typing this. 158 in the Northern Hemisphere.

North Polar Earthquake Map

North Polar Earthquake Map

Original Image with Clickable Details

A view of Earthquakes from the South Pole

A view of Earthquakes from the South Pole

Original Image with Clickable Details

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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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30 Responses to Volcano Watch Metric

  1. E.M.Smith says:

    Well… It looks like the weather can cause earthquakes:

    Click to access EPSL-VolcanoSeismicity.pdf

    We examine 20-yr data sets of seismic activity from 10 volcanic areas in the western United States for annual periodic signals
    (seasonality), focusing on large calderas (Long Valley caldera and Yellowstone) and stratovolcanoes (Cascade Range). We apply
    several statistical methods to test for seasonality in the seismic catalogs. In 4 of the 10 regions, statistically significant seasonal
    modulation of seismicity (N90% probability) occurs, such that there is an increase in the monthly seismicity during a given portion
    of the year. In five regions, seasonal seismicity is significant in the upper 3 km of the crust. Peak seismicity occurs in the summer
    and autumn in Mt. St. Helens, Hebgen Lake/Madison Valley, Yellowstone Lake, and Mammoth Mountain. In the eastern south
    moat of Long Valley caldera (LVC) peak seismicity occurs in the winter and spring. We quantify the possible external forcing
    mechanisms that could modulate seasonal seismicity. Both snow unloading and groundwater recharge can generate large stress
    changes of N5 kPa at seismogenic depths and may thus contribute to seasonality.

    So if water and snow can cause more earthquakes, and more earthquakes preceed volcanic release….

    Perhaps it isn’t a very hard question to answer “Why are their more volcanoes when we enter a cold trend?”

  2. Malaga View says:

    From the you thought you had worries department.

    Violent Seismic Activity Tearing Africa in Two

    Their slide show is amazing: http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-63771.html

    Some of the comments from the slide show:

    Erta Ale, a volcano in the deserts of Ethiopia’s Afar Triangle in northeastern Africa, erupts. The volcano’s crater had always had a bubbling soup of silver-black lava. But, in November 2010, it started erupting again after decades of lying dormant.

    Northeastern Africa is no longer like it once was. The earth there is in upheaval.

    The desert floor is quaking and splitting open, volcanoes are boiling over, and seawaters are encroaching upon the land and slowly forming a new body of water.

    Indeed, Africa is starting to split apart. The first tear came in the last million years, resulting in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. And now the earth is opening up in a massive expanse of land stretching south from Ethiopia to Mozambique.

    Scientists have also been startled by the kind of magma itself because it belongs to the type otherwise only found spewing forth from mid-ocean ridges in deep waters.

    Indeed, the entire region is starting to resemble an ocean floor more and more — just one without the water.

    A massive fissure in the Ethiopian desert. Such fissures are normally seen on mid-ocean ridges far out at sea.

    The new burst in activity began in 2005, when a 60-kilometer-long fissure suddenly formed in the Afar Depression.

    In recent months, geologists have discovered volcanic eruptions near the earth’s surface at 22 places in the Afar Triangle.

    Since 2005, roughly 3.5 cubic kilometers of magma have gushed forth onto land say scientists — enough to cover the entire area of London to an average person’s height.

    According to Tim Wright, a fellow at the University of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment, over the last five years, the spread of the sea in northeastern Africa has been “unbelievably accelerated,” and everything is going much faster than anticipated.

    Oxford University’s David Ferguson predicts a considerable increase in volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the region over the next decade and ones that “will become of increasing large magnitude.”

    Now is something expanding or are the plates just moving?

  3. Malaga View says:

    From the Spiegel Online you thought you had worries department: Photo Gallery: Derelict Detroit

    Thirty-five per cent of the inner city has become uninhabitable. When the last tenants move out of an apartment house, the heating may simply be turned off and the electricity disconnected. The result is an almost gothic vision of decline.

    Stunning photographs… haunting images… stunned.

  4. George says:

    So if water and snow can cause more earthquakes, and more earthquakes preceed volcanic release….

    Perhaps it isn’t a very hard question to answer “Why are their more volcanoes when we enter a cold trend?”

    Some of this was addressed recently on the Eruptions blog. In Iceland, there is a lot of water under these glaciers that live on top of a lot of the volcanoes there. When the weather gets extremely cold, the water can freeze at depths greater than normal. This freezing can fracture rocks causing small earthquakes.

    Now maybe some of this rock fracturing could weaken the rock above magma chambers enough to allow for an exit but I believe that in order for that to happen, the pressures would have already had to build up enough to where it was “ready” to blow anyway.

  5. tckev says:

    Just to keep you up-to-date an earthquake, rated 6.1 to 6.3, has hit eastern Tajikistan. It said the quake occurred at a depth of 55.6 miles (89.5 km), 66 miles (106 km) southwest of Karakul at 0245 GMT. It appears to have affected a wide area – Edge of China to Pakistan – but no reports of casualties or damage.!
    A couple of links


    And now earthquakes are measured differently – the Richter scale has gone! Now the readings are based on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale, now used by US seismologists, which measures the area of the fault that ruptured and the total energy released.

  6. tckev says:

    I don’t know if you use this if you don’t you may find it useful –


    Nice tabulated lists of the latest event linked to global and local maps.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Malaga View:

    Those Detroit pictures are very creepy…

    I believe that one of the contributors to that kind of thing is the dramatic rise in repair costs from Lead Paint and Asbestos mitigation. It became far far cheaper to just walk away from a building that to try to keep it in repair and use.

    So take an economy in decline (so little reason to invest at all) and add in stunning liability and unknown repair costs. “Take the money and run”…

    I’ve seen film of the Ethopian location. But this isn’t really a new thing. Look at Madagascar and then look at the Africa coast next to it. Chunks have been getting split off of Africa for a rather long time. So yeah, Africa will eventually be split from Ethopia down the whole “rift valley” system and a new Madagascar or three will form. Repeat… Africa eventually gets turned into a series of stripes and islands. (Unless the continent starts drifting the other way and off of the rifting zone)

    Same problem for California. The Gulf of California will eventually run up throught the Salton Sea and on into Death Valley (that’s already below sea level due to rifting). The whole thing has been splitting for ages and will continue to spit and spread.


    Interesting page. I’ve not seen it before. Thanks!


    As I read the paper, its not just ice, it’s simple water intrusion. That process can be far more widespread… So with the ice fracture like you described in the cold places and simple water intrusion effects in the warmer places; it looks like plenty of ‘drivers’ available.

  8. Pascvaks says:

    Ref – Malaga View
    “From the Spiegel Online you thought you had worries department: Photo Gallery: Derelict Detroit”

    And here I’d been thinking that Hollywood spent a fortune making all those old bombed out city scenes, and all they did was drive into an upscake Detroit neighborhood.

    I’m begining to think that there really is something stupid about “Globalism” and “International Corporations”, it’s like a Bigger and Better Roman Orgy and things (not just the morals) are really beginning to slip through the cracks. (No pun intended;-)

  9. PhilJourdan says:

    @Pascvaks – I have a couple of occassions to visit Detroit. It is a Hollywood shooting lot ready made to the latest disaster flick. It is sad in a way as what was once a thriving area to many folks, is now a back lot for the latest disaster movie.

  10. Laurence M. Sheehan, PE says:

    I have been on this planet for 75 years, and watched “it all” happen.

    The hugely destructive yellow journalism driven lead and asbestos panics certainly significantly increased the cost of maintenance needlessly, but it was a huge exodus of businesses and willing and able workers that actually happened, leaving behind, well, probably best not say it on line.

    About 1/2 of the population left Detroit, and we know which half. The employable half.

    As of now, Earth is in a state of rapid geologic upheaval around the globe. Strong earthquakes and volcanic events began happening again in about 2005. Ice ages have rapid onsets when this happens. Climates can change dramatically and quickly.

    Climate is no more than a compendium of relatively recent weather events for a local area. The world turns and things change.

    I have been a really optimistic person during my lifetime, and never would claim that I could foresee the future, but analysis of the present indicates that world-wide famine is upon us.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    Just to document the particulars on the Tajikistan quake:

    Magnitude 6.1 – TAJIKISTAN

    This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.Magnitude 6.1
    Date-Time Monday, January 24, 2011 at 02:45:30 UTC
    Monday, January 24, 2011 at 07:45:30 AM at epicenter
    Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
    Location 38.461°N, 72.753°E
    Depth 98.6 km (61.3 miles) set by location program
    Distances 90 km (55 miles) SW of Karakul, Tajikistan
    145 km (90 miles) SSW of Sary-Tash, Kyrgyzstan
    150 km (95 miles) NE of Khorugh, Tajikistan
    350 km (215 miles) E of DUSHANBE, Tajikistan
    Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 13.4 km (8.3 miles); depth fixed by location program
    Parameters NST=407, Nph=413, Dmin=475.3 km, Rmss=1.09 sec, Gp= 36°,
    M-type=”moment” magnitude from initial P wave (tsuboi method) (Mi/Mwp), Version=9
    Source USGS NEIC (WDCS-D)
    Event ID usc00018gr

    FWIW, that set of ex USSR countries of the form xxx-ikistan (and similar) are a group that I’ve found hard to cannonically list as the names are long and cumbesom, but with no decent ‘group lable’…

    So I’ve coined the term “Ickystans” for the group.


    Haven’t really decided if Afganistan and Pakistan ought to be or out of the group lable…

    So it’s looking like the Ickystans are entering the “more activity” envelope too.

    I have no idea what the volcanic history of that region might be. More to explore…

    It’s mountains and looks like a lot of uplift, on the fringes of where the India island whacked Asia in the butt. I know that there are a load of fault across Iran, so I’d expect these folks to be similar.

    Probably ought to follow up on what kind of damage was done but don’t have the time right now…

  12. Pingback: TWAWKI » Earth changes speeding up

  13. Pascvaks says:

    Ref – Laurence M. Sheehan, PE at on 24 January 2011 at 12:57 pm
    “I have been on this planet for 75 years, and watched ‘it all’ happen… analysis of the present indicates that world-wide famine is upon us.”

    I get the impression you are not just talking about caloric intake. That old saying about ‘not living by bread alone’ came to mind. Agree with you. Guess it’s time for another Empire to Fall. We need to thank our lucky stars that there’s a bunch of folks waiting in the wings ready to take our place. Once they were called Barbarians, today they’re the Third, Fourth, and Fifth World. With nearly 7 billion of us on the planet, I imagine several million of them ought to make it through the ‘famine’. Detroit may be the first ripple of a huge tidal wave. Ain’t life a beach;-)

  14. George says:

    Looks like a significant eruption in Japan.

  15. E.M.Smith says:


    Nice, very nice.

    Glad they say it’s not a life risk to anyone.


    FWIW, I’m expecting a bit of a ‘time of troubles’ but also expecting that we’ve got so much more available to us in the way of technology and resources than ‘the last few times’ that it ought not to be too horrid a transition.

    China has been the globally dominant empire before, and it was not too bad. They tend to be China Centric so other than sucking the riches out of wherever they can (usually via smart trading) they generally leave the “barbarians” out in the cold to fend for themselves. That is, they are not of the Roman “Dominate, occupy, and enslave” style.

    So I’d not go too ‘all maudlin’ about it. Most likely just some manageable troubles for a generation or so. Something like a ‘great depression’ but with “poverty” defined as $40,000 a year income, basic cable, and meat only ‘every meal’ 5 days a week…

  16. boballab says:

    We got another volcano waking up, this time in Japan:

    Officials in southern Japan have urged more than 1,000 residents of a town near an erupting volcano to evacuate amid reports of large rocks falling in the area.

    Mount Shinmoe’s first major eruption in almost 200 years is sending plumes of ash and rocks kilometres into the sky.


    They got a real good photo of Volcanic lightning from the eruption, make sure you click on it and get to see it full size.

  17. George says:

    Bulusan in the Philippines has erupted:



  18. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, things certainly are “warming up”… Thanks for the heads up George, and nice pictures Boballab.

    FWIW, the live cumulative seismic moment (red line) in the above graph up to continues to climb… I suspect we are pretty much locked in to another Iceland event at this point as it looks like we’re entering the “gone vertical” part of the process.

    I think I’ll make this posting ‘sticky’ for a while so folks will notice it…

  19. RuhRoh says:

    Hey Cheif;

    “Something happened” to the grimsvoten link.
    It was previously having daily updates, and the peak value was up around 4 e**n.

    Now we are looking at older data, and the verticality is not so conspicuous, and the scale changed.

    I flogged the suggested source page again, and went the same non-productive places.

    So, perhaps you will point out the obvious…


  20. RuhRoh says:

    OK, now it is updated, but this is a different graph than before, with less verticality.


  21. E.M.Smith says:

    That is really annoying…


    1) They looked closer as it was aproaching equal cumulative values and found an error. ( And I don’t speak Icelandic so I’m not going to be very good at finding the notice, if they put one up, about the re-write).

    2) They looked closer and decided tourism was falling off …

    3) Nobody looked at anything but some automated process has had a cough… and they now NEED to look closely…

    4) I don’t remember that ‘step’ at the start of the blue curve. Perhaps they set the start date back a bit and added an initial ‘step up’ to the blue historical line… or I just wasn’t watching the ‘toe’ much.

    5) The graph as more ‘headroom’, I think; perhaps in changing the right hand scale it caused differential compression of the two presentations? Adding more headroom as you rise past the prior data would be reasonable, doing it before is a bit, er, disconcerting… doing it in a way that changes the relative heights? At any rate, as an excercise in ‘wiggle matching’ it will be very sensitive to exact start and end dates along with changes of scales; and it looks like they fiddled with the scales at a minumum.

    But in any case, we’ve gone from ‘nearly matching curves with endpoints approximating rapidly’ to “new curve very offset to the right and flattened, far below the old curve.”

    Somebody has some explaining to do (and I wish I’d saved an older copy…)

    OH, and the lines don’t start at ZERO days… perhaps some kind of ‘frame dragging’ artifact as the days prior to the 2004 quake are a set number while the ‘after days’ changes and some data got clipped / added as the frame alignments were shifted?

  22. RuhRoh says:

    The signals from those strain meters seems to have some of every kind of sensor problem;
    Noisey, railed out, dead, intermittant, weird triangle wave, spastic, …
    Kinda like the seven dwarfs…

    Maybe Icelandic scientists are all related to each other…

  23. RuhRoh says:

    OK< the Elvis in the Night did something to fix up the shoes.

    We're back to the prior graph appearance, with the dramatic vertical stuff and the 4 e+14 'cumulative moment' axis.

    Is this an integrated strain measurement, or what?

    Maybe this translates into 'Rumpelstiltskin' ;

    the 7th dwarf?

    Zug der Zwerg?


  24. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, now the endpoints of the two lines are almost equal.

    It’s time to find out if the total siesmic energy has predictive power or not…

  25. MarkinAustin says:

    Any news?

  26. E.M.Smith says:


    Not that I’ve heard. Looks like it’s just slowly climbing up.

  27. MarkinAustin says:

    It is blowing now right?!

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, it DOES look like the line has entered the straight up phase, and it’s at about the same total cum energy.

    Guess it’s time to take a closer look…

    says it is. This one too:


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