The fissure vent eruption on Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland on March 21, 2010.

The big news this morning is the eruption that started last night at Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, producing a 1-km fissure vent. The pictures and videos I’ve seen so far have been quite impressive, with the classic look of a “curtain of fire”, where basaltic lava erupts explosively from a linear array of vents – you can see the geometry in the image from the BBC/AP (above). Especially clear is the dual nature of the eruption, with both the explosive fire fountains and the effusive (passive) lava flows from the root of the curtain of fire. In many “curtain of fire” eruptions on Hawai`i, the curtain (see below) eventually coalesces into a single fire fountain, sometimes producing fountains that can reach a few kilometers in height. This will be something to watch for in the coming days if the eruption continues.

Here is some video taken last night of the fissure eruption – impressive stuff!

Daylight image of the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull.

Airspace over Iceland is closed for the moment, although these style of eruptions don’t produce much of volcanic ash – although there is likely significant fine droplets of lava forming some ash fragments, Pele’s tears and Pele’s hair (all basaltic volcanic products). However, eruptions like this can emit a lot of volcanic gases like carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide – much like this eruptions distant relative, the Laki eruption of 1783. And even though the eruption is explosive, the hazard to surrounding communities is relatively low unless the lava flows encroach on populated areas or there is significant ice/snow melt to produce lahars or a jokulhlaup. However, Icelandic authorities have evacuated hundreds of people from the region near the eruption as a precaution (with text messages no less!)

There has been a lot of coverage of the eruption on the internet, much of it in Icelandic, but now various American and British news sources have coverage (some better than others) as well. Of course, there is already speculation floating around the web as well, with some reports saying that Katla is likely to erupt as well. There is also news that tourists are already expressing interest in visiting areas near the eruption to take a look.

{Hat tip to all Eruptions readers for many of the links in this post.}


  1. #1 Mary Mactavish
    March 21, 2010

    Oh, that is *intensely* beautiful. Would there be a glacier-surface (or subglacial) river forming?

  2. #2 Pascvaks
    March 21, 2010

    Think you have a ‘fissure’ on your blog on this subject. Most seem to still be ‘commenting’ over at your earlier entry.

    Is there a link to seismic data for this event that you’re aware of?

  3. #3 Jón Frímann
    March 21, 2010

    There is a lot of flux in the volcano eruption. It drops but then it builds up again. That behaviour might not be such surprise given the known eruption history of Eyjafjallajökull.

  4. #4 Thomas Wipf
    March 21, 2010

    Timesonline quotes several Icelanders. For example: Pall Einarsson (University of Iceland): “This could trigger Katla, which is a vicious volcano that could cause both local and global damage”

    But there are no signs right no, that there is a connection to Katla, although the 3 historic eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull were connected to Katla. Let´s have an eye on him….

  5. #5 Thomas Wipf
    March 21, 2010

    The Icelandic Met Office shows a map with a pretty exact location of the eruption and is also giving the best summary of what was going on in the last 3 weeks:

  6. #6 Mike K
    March 21, 2010

    The eruption is apparently actually occurring on an ice-free pass between Eyafyallajokull and Katla, but authorities must be already worried that new vents could open up on the glaciated flanks of Eyjafyallajokull.

    Check this link out – – it shows the specific location of the currently erupting fissure. Also, an online summary of the current eruption can be found here:

  7. #7 EKoh
    March 21, 2010

    I ignore the web for a few days to entertain visitors and look what I miss!

    It will be interesting to see how long the fountaining continues. As Erik stated a fountaining along a rift can localize and produce a single fountain like Pu O’O which would be really spectacular.

  8. #8 Mattias Larsson
    March 21, 2010

    It is going to be interesting to see if the ISGPS ground uplift and horisontal deformation continues.
    I have a feeling that the eruption intensity we see now is not enought to reduce the pressure under the volcano. I lava outflow from the fissure will probably have to increase a bit in order to keep even steps with the magma inflow from below. Then the question is… Will the intensity of the current fissure just increase or will the fissures start to extend? And in that case, in what direction? I think I agree with Peter Cobbold on the guess that the fissure will start to extend westward. Time will tell, and it is really interesting to guess what is going to happen next. 😉

  9. #9 Volcanophile
    March 21, 2010

    Seismic activity is picking up again…

    This thing is not done yet. Let’s hope this fissure isn’t propagating.

    New vents may open…. or the worst may be if the fracture crosses the silicic magma chamber.

    If this happens…. all bets are off.

  10. #10 mike don
    March 21, 2010

    volcanophile: I asked a question on that very possibility on the other thread..check out the answers (from Erik and Boris especially)

  11. #11 Steve
    March 21, 2010

    You may find this audio article published a few months ago on this very subject interesting.

  12. #12 JDZ
    March 21, 2010

    Off Topic but to nice to pass up…! Time dependent.

    Tonight on Redoubt’s Drift river cam shot!

    What a beautiful tempest!

  13. #13 JDZ
    March 21, 2010

    Posted in other thread, but I believe this to be important so I will post here as well.

    Vatnajokull in the last hour has had three quakes the largest very shallow an m3.4 unresolved.

  14. #14 Gayle
    March 21, 2010

    I would really like to know how to pronounce the name of this volcano! Can anyone post a phonetic pronunciation guide?

  15. #15 Diane
    March 21, 2010

    @Gayle, we had a round about the pronounciation of Eyjaf and did not come to much conclusion. I know this isn’t correct, but the best I can do is: Eh-yaf-jalla-jokole.

    Now you Icelanders, please don’t get on my case. LOL I do the best I can. One reason I shortened the name to Eyjaf, which I pronounce Eye-jaf (Iknow, I know, I am doing disjustice to your language). Am I correct, though, that the first “j” is pronounced “ya” and not “ja”? And the js are not hard sounding? Just trying again. (red in face) :-}

  16. #16 jyyh
    March 22, 2010

    Diane, I believe it’s (h)ey-yaf-yalla-yo-kül (silent h and german ü), based on my knowledge of swedish (but that doesn’t help much, I’m told)

  17. #17 Altair
    March 22, 2010

    Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul)

  18. #18 Jón Frímann
    March 22, 2010

    There appears to be a change happening. There was a explosion in the eruption site and the ash cloud did reach 4 km high.

  19. #19 Suw
    March 22, 2010

    Just spotted some newish footage from the AP/RUV which includes the night footage with some brighter (dawn?) video:

  20. #20 Eric
    March 22, 2010

    New report from Iceland Review. Calls it 8 km plume height, but only one burst which has now been reduced to ‘small puffs’. Fissure now 2 km length.

  21. #21 Henrik
    March 22, 2010
  22. #22 Volcanophile
    March 22, 2010

    The eruption is now feeding a continuous plume as seen on the webcam (4/6 km high at first look)

    OK.. so we just had the basaltic part of the eruption… Based on Eyjaf’s history, this fissural basaltic dyke has probably cut through the main silicic magma chamber…

    So we can expect big things to come next, depending on what’s in this chamber…

    Kind of like Hudson, 1991…

  23. #23 Sigga
    March 22, 2010

    Also interesting is monitoring the rivers in the area

    There’s an online interface for reading the data here:

    Click on Mýrdalsjökull in the sites panel and then select Krossá in the river selector and you’ll see that the temperature of the water has gone up around 3.5 degrees in just a few hours and the water level spiked this morning but is still trending upwards.

  24. #24 Volcanophile
    March 22, 2010

    Now we have a continuous dense plume which is spreading flat at the top…

    This is no more hawaian. This is subplinian activity.

    The volcano may be starting to tap into the silicic magma chamber.

  25. #25 Henrik
    March 22, 2010

    For those who want to follow it live, the Hekla webcam has been trained south towards Katla (left) & Eyjafjöll (right) with the eruption site at centre:

  26. #26 mike
    March 22, 2010

    So far this eruption looks pretty minor. Especially given all the hype leading up to it.

  27. #27 Jón Frímann
    March 22, 2010

    @mike, given the history. Volcano eruptions in Eyjafjallajökull usually start small but end big it seems. If that happens however remains to be seen.

  28. #28 Boris Behncke
    March 22, 2010

    @Volcanophile and everybody who’s been startled by the large plume at Eyjafjallajökull this morning – this looks like a short-lived phreatic or phreatomagmatic event, from a look at the photos available on the web. This is something that does happen during effusive eruptions in snow-covered area, and we’ve seen this on Etna a number of times when it erupted in the winter. Nothing to worry about if you’re at a safe distance – which everybody seems to be in this moment 🙂

    People are beginning to post their photos (and somethimes those of others found on the net) on various photo sites. Quite a few beautiful ones are on Flickr, both eruption images and shots showing the volcano before the eruption, all useful to get a clearer idea of how that place looks like. The following link is the search results page, in chronological order (most recent first):

    One final thing. Long ago a friend of mine gave ma a short course on Icelandic pronounciation, and I still remember the essential bits – each time you come across a double-l (“ll”) in a word, it’s pronounced like “tl” or “dl”, but without “humming” the “l”, it’s practically noiseless when it’s at the end of a word (like “jökull” or “fjall”). Our volcano here would be pronounced, more or less, something like “Ayh-yah-fyat-lah-yeh-kit(l)”. Accent is on the last syllable but one (“yeh”). The Icelanders among you, please correct me if this is wrong.

    Oh, and a big thanks to all of you for the various links and the very interesting discussion here.

  29. #29 einar
    March 22, 2010

    for those interested in the river monitoring system in the vicinity Eyjafjallajokull i like to point out the following web page:
    of interest is the increasing temperature from around 1C to 7.5C in the river Krossa at around noon GMT. This event was superseeded by a flooding that started around 8:30 this morning (top graph, showing water height).

  30. #30 einar
    March 22, 2010

    apologies with regards to the reference above. does not link directly to river Krossa. the way to it is to press first on
    Site > Myrdalsjokull and then
    Pages > Krossa
    btw: river Krossa is north of Eyjafjallajokull and feeds into the larger Markarfljot.

  31. #31 Henrik
    March 22, 2010

    Re #25 Hekla webcam pointing south – disregard. It seems the view has now changed back to Hekla.

  32. #32 bruce stout
    March 22, 2010

    Iceland Review has some video from this morning:

  33. #33 Diane
    March 22, 2010

    @Boris, Etna sure is steaming away. In the years since I have been watching I don’t remember it doing that. That was a neat picture on that site you gave us. I wonder just how much CO2 it is releasing now!

    Thank you for your contributions, too. I seem to always learn something from you.

  34. #34 Alex
    March 22, 2010

    The river-monitoring page is unlikely to work – it’s trying to load something hosted on a machine with an IP address in the private range, which shouldn’t be announced into the global routing table and in fact hasn’t been. It probably works inside the organisation that runs it, but private addresses aren’t globally unique, so people outside will get nothing, or whatever there happens to be using that address on their network.

  35. #35 Chris
    March 22, 2010

    At least from Iceland I get access to it. I put a screenshot on my webpage, here you can see the level and temperature level of the Krossa:

  36. #36 Diane
    March 22, 2010

    Thank you, Altair.

  37. #37 Passerby
    March 22, 2010

    Ahh, thanks for posting outflow and temp data Chris. I was looking for this data a couple of days ago, pre-eruption.

  38. #38 Alex
    March 22, 2010

    Mystery solved; you need to log in at, just copying the username and password given as examples, and it will send you to the real server (on

  39. #39 Passerby
    March 22, 2010

    Using Google translate is problematic for signing in. Translate ‘water height’ and ‘flow’ into Icelandic, please, Alex. I’d like to cast a professional eye over meltwater depth and temperature data pre-eruption, from March 17 onward.

  40. #40 Chris
    March 22, 2010

    @passerby: Passwort and Username are stated on the site:
    notendanafn: vatnshaed (Username)
    lykilorð: rennsli (Password)

  41. #41 einar
    March 22, 2010

    translation icelandic > english
    vatnshæð > water height
    leiðni > conductance
    vatnshiti > water temperature
    lofthiti > air temperature

  42. #42 Chris
    March 22, 2010

    In case, you don’t get in, I generated a view of the last week:
    Yo cann see the temperature changing through the day, but that looks different from what happened today.

  43. #43 Passerby
    March 22, 2010

    That’s what I tried, several times. After login, the webpage spins uselessly, just as it does when trying to access the ISP (numerical addy)supplied.

    Thanks for your patient help, anyway.

  44. #44 einar
    March 22, 2010

    instead of
    seems to make quita a difference.

  45. #45 Chris
    March 22, 2010

    Sorry, I entered the wrong link:

  46. #46 Passerby
    March 22, 2010

    Ah, that’s what I wanted to see: jump depth change, right when we saw the major shift in activity between March 16-18th, and the telltale jump in Q (flow), depth and T.

    Photo of the braided river channel

  47. #47 Rudolf Posch
    March 23, 2010

    I have added a post to my blog showing the eruption location N63º 38.1′, W19º 26.4′ (taken from Smithonian Institute) in 2 Google Earth satellite views.
    The eruption seems quite near to the famous walking trail over Fimmvördurhals where also a hut is standing. Has somebody more information about the exact distance to the hut?
    Greetings Rudolf

  48. #48 Passerby
    March 23, 2010

    Rudi, great link with insightful Google graphic.

    If you jump up to the thread post above this one, on the Eruptions Blog, you will see a comment by Anna, posted earlier today. She provides a link to a large, detailed topo map of the hiking path. It not only indicates the location of the hut, but it also clearly shows the interesting crater features that you point out in your own blog.

    I suspect those features are important to understanding this fissure eruption.

  49. #49 Thomas Nygreen
    March 23, 2010

    @Rudolf: Fimmvörðuháls is a kilometer further south. The hut is approximately 1.5 km south of the eruption.

    I have put the location of the hut and the eruption, as well as the map of the lava flow into a KML file at:

  50. #50 Thomas Nygreen
    March 23, 2010

    Correction: I was unaware that one had to be logged in to the forum to download the attachment, so I have also uploaded it to my university webspace:

    Of course you also need Google Earth to view it. (you can also use it with google maps to view the locations, but not the overlay image)

  51. #51 Rudolf Posch
    March 24, 2010

    Thanks Passerby. Thanks Thomas, I have looked into Google Earth with your KML file, great! The eruption spot coincides with the Smithonian cordinates I have. Your provided lava flow fits perfectly into the 3D landscape. And you overlayed a map with contour lines (in German “Höhenlinie”) into the Google Earth satellite view, who fit perfectly with the Google Earth 3D satellite view! How is this done?
    In the mean time I looked at
    , very intersting.
    Also I read at some link I do not find any more

    “Lava spurted from the fissure and there is now a large lava field extending towards Thórsmörk. The volcanic jets seemed mighty powerful and a beautiful volcanic rim was starting to form,” Kjartansson described.
    He said the eruption is located directly on the popular hiking path which leads across the Fimmvörduháls pass—the sticks marking the path go straight into the crater. So the path must be marked again next summer, provided the eruption will have stopped by then.”
    So its amazing today. I am sitting far away from Iceland in Austria and have all the means by the web to view pictures, blogs, newspaper articles, maps and so on about the eruption!
    Greetings to your beautiful country Rudolf

  52. #52 Ragga
    March 24, 2010

    Icelandic has a lot of compound words – Eyjafjallajökull is one of those. Eyja = islands, fjalla = mountains, jökull = glacier. Maybe this helps a bit with the pronounciation.

  53. #53 Rudolf Posch
    March 24, 2010

    I tried to match a photo from the eruption from the Iceland Met Office with a Google Earth satellite view.
    The result you my see in my blog
    The Google Earth view uses a .kml file provide by Thomas Nygreen (see above in this comments).
    Greetings Rudolf

  54. #54 Kristjana
    March 25, 2010

    Hey, I’m from Iceland, and I thought it was cool for you to see a live feed from neer of the volcano!

    Tou are welcome, everybody!

  55. #55 Thomas Nygreen
    March 26, 2010

    @Rudolf: I used the kilometer-grid on the map, and converted the coordinates to longitude and latitude in degrees, and used that to position the four corners of the map. Then I did some minor adjustments of the position to make it match the Google Earth topography (which might be a bit off some places). I also made my own attempt at matching the photo in Google Earth (se the comment on your blog). That shows that the topography is definitely a bit off, with rivers running uphill…

  56. #56 Rudolf
    March 27, 2010

    @Thomas Nygreen: Thanks for the info. My view was wrong, shifted one “valley” to the east. I have substituted the Google Earth view with a corrected one.

  57. #57 Grothar
    April 15, 2010

    the correct pronunciation of Eyjafyallajokull is roughly:

    AYA feeyapla yurkull. With a slight rising tone at the end.

  58. #58 Nisco
    April 15, 2010

    @Thomas Nygreen

    I’ve got a simple question : how do you pronunce Fimmvörðuháls (we are quite luky the eruption is not 1,5 km further south!)


  59. #59 ChickenNugget
    April 19, 2010

    Wow… O_O;

    Thank god I don’t live there.

  60. #60 iLhAm_bEcKs
    April 26, 2010

    it was awesome!!!

  61. #61 pari
    August 8, 2010

    am doing a science assignment for school. wat was the exact cause o of why the volcano erupted? nothings on the internte is concrete. need a LOT of help! 🙂

  62. #62 Sallie Bugge
    December 9, 2010

    Thank you for an additional implausible blog. The place else may anyone get that type of data written in such a perfect approach? I have a presentation that I’m just now engaged on, and I have been on the look out for such information.

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