Volcano Time Again?

Looks like Iceland finally let ‘er rip. Or gently burble…


A long dormant volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland has flared to life, spilling lava down two sides in that area’s first volcanic eruption in nearly 800 years.

By Associated Press, Wire Service Content March 19, 2021, at 9:21 p.m.

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND (AP) — A long dormant volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland flared to life Friday night, spilling lava down two sides in that area’s first volcanic eruption in nearly 800 years.

Initial aerial footage, posted on the Facebook page of the Icelandic Meteorological Office, showed a relatively small eruption so far, with two streams of lava running in opposite directions. The glow from the lava could be seen from the outskirts of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, which is about 32 kilometers (20 miles) away.

Nearer to me, Mount Lassen last erupted in about 1914. If the ‘few hundred years’ silent volcanoes start lighting up, this could get very interesting locally.

The Fagradals Mountain volcano had been dormant for 6,000 years, and the Reykjanes Peninsula hadn’t seen an eruption of any volcano in 781 years.

There had been signs of a possible eruption recently, with earthquakes occurring daily for the past three weeks. But volcanologists were still taken by surprise because the seismic activity had calmed down before the eruption.

So for your educational benefit: IF you are near a volcano and it rumbles a LOT, then goes silent, maybe that’s a good time for a fishing trip to the beach…

Then there’s that little detail that while the AREA is having the first in 800 years, that particular volcano was dormant for 6000 years. Oh Dear!

There’s a cinder cone next to Mount Shasta of about that age.


Black Butte is a cluster of overlapping dacite lava domes in a butte, a satellite cone of Mount Shasta. It is located directly adjacent to Interstate 5 at milepost 742 between the city of Mount Shasta and Weed, California. The highway crosses a 3,912 ft (1,192 m) pass, Black Butte Summit, at the western base of the lava domes. The lava domes were extruded at the foot of the cone of Shastina following the period of its major eruptions about 9,000–10,000 years ago.

So if were getting into the 1000s of years reactivating, that’s going to be interesting. (No, I don’t expect it. No-one expects the Volcanic Inquisition! ;-) But there’s similarly aged volcanic events in Southern California out in the desert and near the Salton Sea (that has a volcanic feature under it…)

So the big question is just this:

Is this just a regular stochastic one-off event of something old waking up in an area of relatively frequent activity? Or is this the start of a return to more active volcanism generally as was common a few thousand years ago (and not that rare 200 years ago…)?

More interesting coverage here:


with nifty pictures… hit the link!

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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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21 Responses to Volcano Time Again?

  1. Graeme No.3 says:

    There have been 2 ‘big’ tectonic shifts in the southern hemisphere in the last 20 years (Chile 8.8 in 2010) & (Sumatra 9.3 2004) and a big earthquake off Japan (9.0 2011).
    The one in Chilé resulted in New Zealand moving 1 metre closer to Australia.
    It would seem that there is some stress built up I know it’s caused by global warming.

  2. HiFast says:

    You mention Mount Shasta and Black Butte. Imagine the transportation consequences if I-5, US-97, and CA-89 as well as the main North-South Union Pacific rail line all were cut off. Talk about a choke point… CA-299, US-101/199 is a viable, yet lengthy vehicle detour, but there’s really no rail alternative.

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Yup. Rail would need to divert around to the Pacific north west via the Portland Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and back route…

    Kind of surprised there is no coastal route up 101 easement./ path,

    FWIW, 45 volcanoes active ATM

    Overall there are 45 volcanoes with continuing eruptions as of the Stop Dates indicated, and as reported through the last data update (12 March 2021), sorted with the most recently started eruption at the top. Information about more recently started eruptions can be found in the Weekly Report.


  4. E.M.Smith says:

    It does look like BNSF might have a small link in the N. Sierra Nevada but it would be in an ash fall zone from a major eruption:


  5. Quail says:

    Clear Lake Volcanic Field https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/clear-lake-volcanic-field

    Not so far away if it blows. It would take out 101, plus ash out a great deal of Northern California. I don’t mind driving in that area because it doesn’t look much like a volcano. Shasta, however, gives me the willies.

  6. E.M.Smith says:


    Yeah, it is a strange one. California has a big rift that runs up the Gulf Of California through the Salton Sea to Death Valley and Mono Lake and then… fades out.

    Another major seismic feature set picks up at about Clearlake (though historically was as south as Mount Diablo) and continues up the coast and out to sea. ( I take issue with their assertion that the San Andreas ends at Clearlake… it runs out to sea at about Pt. Reyes and continues off shore a good long ways).

    Between that inland rift, and the San Andreas, a bunch of huge blocks can slide along fracture lines running roughly east west. When these are not pressed together, we sprout volcanoes. One was about 6 million years ago near my home town. The Sutter Buttes. Now “extinct” but really one rock fracture slip away from being alive again.

    Further north, about Shasta / Lassen area and the Cascades; we get back into the more normal inland over subduction volcanoes.

    So “down south” they are rift volcanoes in the Gulf of California up into Southern California / Salton Sea, Mammoth Mountain (sort of a hot spot) and more. Then about Shasta north they are subduction volcanos. But what do you call that ‘sliding big blocks’ discontinuity between those two? “Complex” and “poorly understood”… Or just call it a bunch of giant crustal blocks being squeezed by plates rotating around it… and occasionally leaking…

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EM, you missed the largest feature of them all. Just as the hot spot plume in the pacific created the Hawaiian chain There is a continental plume that originated about Mt Tehamia north of Chico, Lassen and Shasta are satellites and the plume has slowly moved over to Montana as the Yellow Stone Cauldara, leaving volcanic wreckage across Northern California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. As well as Gold and other mineral riches.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    I wonder why so many people say I “missed” something when I didn’t miss it at all, but just chose to edit to less than an encyclopedia length?

    For decades I’ve been criticized for being too “prolix” (or long winded…). So gradually learned to edit down to just annoyingly long.

    So then folks criticize for “missing” what was simply left out.

    I didn’t cover the few million years of North American Volcanic History and the migration of the Yellowstone Hot Spot as it would have been about a dozen pages more… I also left out the subduction of the Farallon Plate
    the spreading of the Basin & Range
    and the break up of Gondwanaland…

    But I didn’t miss them at all…

    I simply chose to set my oldest time marker at 6 million years and the Sutter Buttes. I even considered that a bit of a long time reach, but have soft spot for them ;-)

    No slam on you, P.G., everybody seems to do it. It is some kind of common language artifact or psych thing that I just don’t get. It, I really do “miss”…

  9. philjourdan says:

    @Graeme #3 – 1 meter? Damn! Now that is talking about the earth moving under your feet!

    On a geological scale, that is like Usain Bolt doing the 100m!

  10. Ossqss says:

    Wait, did I miss something? :-)

    I would say, keep an eye on that of which fluctuates in the deep South of the map.


  11. E.M.Smith says:


    Can I have another hint please?

    New Zealand? Chile? Bolivia?

  12. Ossqss says:

    @EM, I have noticed upon seeing quakes on fault lines near Antarctica, there seems to be a correlation to triggering other events of large sizes elsewhere. That is just something I kind of noticed over the years. Albeit, quakes are happening all the time.

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    You might be onto something there. The big plates all push against each other. When one slides under another you tend to get volcanoes (mostly around the Pacific Plate as that mid ocean spreading zone does a lot of pushing… but other areas too).

    But if you look at this map of the plates and “think spherical” ;-) The Antarctic Plate pushes against all the major plates but the North American and Eurasian plates.

    I’d expect pressures in all those other plates to reflect at least some in the Antarctic Plate…

  14. philjourdan says:

    If an volcano erupts under a mile of ice, does anyone notice?

    Not for a million years.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    Volcanoes form through 15 miles of rock. Do you really think a mile of ice will stop them?

  16. philjourdan says:

    Not stop them, HIDE them! How long have we been told that the West Antarctic shelf was melting because of AGW only to find out it was Volcanoes from the deep (new SciFi movie).

    Sorry for the confusion.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    Ok, well, yeah, um, what you said ;-)

    Ignore that river coming from under that ice shelf, it must be the warm air in Iowa…

  18. philjourdan says:

    I am eagerly awaiting the movie! Seriously! Volcanoes from the Deep? Who would not want to see that thriller!

  19. John S Howard Jr says:

    La Palma… are we looking for a tsunami on the East Coast?

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @John S Howard Jr:

    Yes. A Mega-Tsunami. The only question is when. Now? Or a million years from now?

    Volcanic islands in the oceans have a little problem. The lava they produce rusts. Oxidizes. It turns from hard black volcanic rock into soft friable reddish rock, and cracks.

    Then a HUGE slab of the island just slides off into the sea… and on the other side of the ocean a coastline gets destroyed.

    There’s already such a fracture line on the main Canary Island.

    But it isn’t moving.

    So you wait.


    The current excitement is over the volcano kicking up and “This time for sure!”… but maybe not.

    Same issue with Hawaii, BTW. If you look at a sea floor map around them you can see ancient gigantic slide debris on the ocean floor. Not a matter of IF, only a matter of WHEN.


    Canary Island Landslides and Potential Megatsunami

    The Canary Islands are a group of seven volcanic islands that lie 100 kilometers off the coast of Africa. These islands grew over a hotspot as in the Hawaiian islands and all but one has active volcanoes. The coastlines of the Canaries are characterized by massive, steep cliffs and there has long been speculation that these features formed by dramatic collapse. What makes this possibility super significant is the fact that this process could trigger massive tsunamis that could hit the coasts of Europe, the eastern seaboard of the US, and Antarctica. In fact, speculation is that giant blocks of limestone that weigh hundreds of tons meters above sea level in the Bahamas were delivered there by a megatsunami and the Canary Island landslides are a possible culprit. And more locally, tsunami deposits found in the Canary island suggest waves in the past over 150 meters high!

    Cumbre Vieja is the main volcano on the island of La Palma and has erupted recently causing large cracks to grow involving the significant motion of the western volcano flank. This has caused speculation that this flank could collapse. The flank has a volume of 1.5 trillion metric tons and models suggest that if it were to collapse it would generate a tsunami 1000 m high that would be 50 m when it arrived in Europe and along the eastern coast of the US. Because this scenario would be devastating to cities including New York, Boston, and Miami as well as coastal real estate in New Jersey, North and South Carolina, and Florida, it has been rigorously investigated by scientists.

    Well, scientists are motivated to this “rigorous investigation” by the potential for catastrophe and the opportunity for a little vacation time in the Canaries… on your dime…

    Then there’s the other view:

    The hypothesis that Canary Island collapse generates megatsunami is not universally accepted. This skepticism arises from the fact that island collapse may not have been catastrophic, instead, occurring slowly in numerous discrete small events rather than a single giant collapse. Such a slow collapse would not generate a large tsunami. So what about the large Bahamian blocks? An alternative possibility is they were delivered there by a hurricane during a time 125,000 years ago when sea level was higher than it is today.

    In summary, it does not appear that a devastating megatsunami generated in the Canary islands is imminent. There is potential for collapse of the volcanic flanks on the islands but these events will likely be less dramatic than once feared and with waves only devastating on a local scale.

    So it really really really is important for them to go study it. Near the ocean. And the beaches. Room with a view sort of thing. And high up, like the penthouse, so they can see waves way out at sea, and the mountains too… Oh, and don’t forget room service. All that looking and watching and thinking doesn’t leave a lot of time to go to the restaurant, so they will need round the clock room service… and a bar tab, because, you know, living on an active volcano facing certain death (perhaps after a long retirement waiting and waiting and waiting for the End Of Days…) well, it can be very stressful, so “medication” will be required. Perhaps frequently…

    But yes, you are facing a tsunami. Of some unknown size. Some day…

    Geology is like that. A lot of “hurry up and wait” while nothing happens. Until it does.

  21. YMMV says:

    “A long dormant volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland flared to life Friday night”

    I wouldn’t accept anything that news article said without strong fact checking.
    French news (in English) gets it right.
    It will be six months on Sunday that the volcanic eruption currently mesmerising spectators near Reykjavik first began, making it the longest Iceland has witnessed in more than 50 years.

    Iceland’s sixth volcanic eruption in 20 years is already longer than the preceding one in Holuhraun, in the centre-east of the island, which lasted from the end of August 2014 until the end of February 2015.

    There has been fantastic volcano activity at Fagradalsfjall since March 2021, with amazing daily video coverage on YouTube. Lots of drone footage too. There have been a few short pauses, but since it is a shield volcano, activity is expected to continue for a long time.
    Here is just one; it is worth searching for others. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdKBbfaT6wY

    But there is not just one “volcano of concern”. There are others that irregularly cause air routes to be diverted or threaten to, and others beneath glaciers that threaten massive devastating flash floods. It’s happened before. This video gives a brief summary. His English is sometimes hard to understand (the YT CC captions had trouble with that too).

    7 Icelandic volcanoes are getting ready for an eruption and Grímsvötn might erupt at any moment according to our scientists. So this is a brief overview, covering each and any volcanic system that is showing signs of unrest.

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