An eruption brewing in Saudi Arabia? - UPDATED

The Harrat Khaybar volcanic field in Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of NASA, taken in 2008.

Now, I might take this report with a Volvo-sized grain of salt, but I've seen a few reports lately of an earthquake swarm going on in Saudi Arabia, near the Harrat Ash-Shaqqah in Al-Eis region (apparently near Madina, but I'm not 100% sure). I might normally just chalk this up to the tectonics of the Arabian Plate, however, the latest article I read this morning, Saleh Al-Muhawis, Director General of the Civil Defense in Madina Region mentioned this as the cause of the seismicity:

... magma (molten rocks below the surface) was pushed by some force from a depth of 8 km to a depth of 4 km below the surface.

UPDATE 5/14/2009, 4:15 PM Pacific: Some more details about the earthquake swarms. A so-called expect, the Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston Univ., claims it is just "movement along a fault" ... which, of course, is different than what the Saudi officials have said. Just shows what happens when the press talks to "experts".

You can imagine why that caught my attention. How the Director General knows this is not mentioned - and honestly, I can't think of a way that they could be sure of this right now. That being said, volcanism is not something new to Saudi Arabia, in fact, the area around Medina does have volcanoes that have erupted historically, some as recently as 1810. Saudi Arabia is located along two spreading centers - along the Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea, and in recent years we saw some impressive volcanism in the Red Sea off Yemen. Most of the volcanism takes the form of basaltic cinder cones, tuff cones and lava fields (see image above) that might not have a dramatic effect on anywhere but the region directly surround the volcano - something like Paricutin in Mexico.

Could this be the start off another cinder cone or lava field in western Saudi Arabia? Right now, I'd say we have far too little information to make any such suggestions, however, if the earthquake swarm increases and seem to follow the pattern of magma moving upwards, it might be a different story.

Any of you Eruptions seismo-heads want to see what you can dig up?

More like this

Thanks for the links. I find it doubly peculiar that the Saudi scientists/officials are so readily calling it "volcanic activity" (see the link for that) and that things are dying down. I imagine they have a lot more information that the press is reporting, but there is nothing so far that I have read that can make me conclude what the source of the seimicity might be and what pattern it might be following.

hi erik do you have a update comeing soon for Krakatau Volcano ??? any thing new too upddate us on???

has anybody found any of these villages on Google maps ??

By robert somerville (not verified) on 15 May 2009 #permalink

here is my best guess as to location ... lots of spelling inconsistancies, but at least is North of Yanbu (per recent evacuations) & near recent volcanism .....

By robert somerville (not verified) on 15 May 2009 #permalink

Jabal al-Tair volcano in the Red Sea that erupted so impressively (and unfortunately causing loss of life), [referenced in the post] last year is reported as off the coast of Yemen, but it's pretty close to Saudi Arabia, too, and right smack in the middle of the Red Sea divergent boundary. So its plate boundary volcanism and not actually on the Arabian plate, right?

Abraham - good question. The webicorder for Martin is odd, but I would take it with a grain of salt with AVO offering the warning that "the southern Katmai network is experiencing telemetry problems."

we need some data please

The villages cited in news reports are too small or haven't been included in the Google database. The best info I can find locate them in the general region of 150km north of Yanbu and 280km northwest of Madinah.

The Google map you use above is probably as accurate as anything else available at present.

hi Dr. Erik
i am from that vaillge
i will try to help you on locating it at google
and for your information very load noise coming from the ground and its getting loader
please do you think its dingruse to stay

Anas - Thanks for the on-the-ground update! Sounds like seismicity might be continuing if you're hearing noises like that. I would definitely listen to your local authorities about any potential evacuations - so far I haven't read anything that would suggest any danger, but definitely listen to your authorities for the latest information.

Thanks doctor for the advice
If you need any things the might help you just tell me
I have some pics for the suspected please which lava might come out from if it helps
this is small clip see it

This link will give maps of the areas of activities in Saudi Arabia…. Earthquakes -as per locals- are increasing more and more in the area right now and in surrounding cities also. Some small villages are already evacuated. Earthquakes are being sensed in areas as far as 100 KM from the center (Harrat Lunayyir-

I find it rather disturbing that the earthquakes are increasing..not the usual pattern for tectonic quakes, surely? Also the accompanying sounds. It would be useful to know whether the focal depth of the quakes has changed over the course of the crisis.

I,m live in al-madinah
The last eruption of the volcano was almost 800 years ago
and now maybe happen soon
god knows

By majid al-harbi (not verified) on 18 May 2009 #permalink

Water wells start getting dry.
Bad small noticed since morning.
Small like rotten eggs or strong silver.
We have not seen any bards.
I think we are going to have volcano eruption
in maximum those coming two days.

Have a look on Google Earth to the area near Al-Aiss (Saudi Arabia):

approx. 24 degr 59' N / 37 degr 59' E

USGS locates the earthquake at 25 degr 21.406' N - 37 degr 38.000' E which is the northwestern point of the volcanic area decribed above.

Last night's activity could be "felt" at Yanbu.

Hi there

I am from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The sizmeic activity in Harrat Ash-Shaqqah has been going on for over a month. 182 quakes with 3 to 4.68 scale were recorded so far. The Intensity and frequancy of the quakes is on the increase. Just today the authorities have evacuated three villages near the lava field (Harrat Ash-Shaqqah). It was also reported today by the Saudi Geological Survay a high water temperature in water wells in the area as well as an increase in concentration of radon gas.


another earthquake could be "felt" in Yanbu at 20:35 h local time

seismicity have increased dramticly this morning an earthquake of 5.4 have been recorded this morning and the evacuation of the village and surrounding town have started, what ever it is its increasing.

seismicity have increased dramticly this morning an earthquake of 5.4 have been recorded this morning and the evacuation of the village and surrounding town have started, what ever it is its increasing.

People people! THINK ABOUT ME!!!!!!! I live in Saudi Arabia and there is going to be a volcanic eruption taking place! And I am just going to be in the city it is going to happen!!!!! I live in Yenbo. I am in grave danger!! I am all worried people this isn't a lie. i promise I can prove it to you if you ask me something. But good thing I will be going to jeddah but my dad is gonna stay because of his job. What's gonna happen to our house! How about our stuff!!!! There has been a lot of earthquakes going on in Yanbu, and i am reaaaaaaallly scared. Poor daddy. Wish me luck guys, I will need as much help as I could get!!!!

By Aliha Ahmed (not verified) on 20 May 2009 #permalink

Aliha Ahmed,

My heart goes out to you. I know that this is serious seismic activity and I believe it will lead to an eruption.

We in America have little information on what is going on in Saudi Arabia. I am out of work - not collecting money.

Tell me what to pray for because I believe that God who made the universe knows all that goes on in the universe and that he will listen to me. I will only pray in generalities unless you ask me something specific. However, I will pray that God will give you peace, courage and wisdom and supply you with what you need so that you can help others.

By Thomas Donlon (not verified) on 20 May 2009 #permalink

Calm down, calm down... Ms. Aliha Ahmed,
I believe your government is making its utmost efforts to evacuate those residents in the volcanic area. I, for one, is also scared of tremors as I did when Mt. Pinatubo in my country (Philippines) erupted despite the more than 300km distance. Don't you worry very much. Saudi authorities are also doing their best to help our brothers. Instead, let us all pray that God will protect them from any harm (that would be brought by the possible eruption). I had been monitoring this news on tremors because all I knew is that there is no such volcano here in the kingdom.

By joel bucawe (not verified) on 20 May 2009 #permalink

I have been checking all the information I can about this quake and volcano, and there is not that much info out there. Also, not very well published. I also live in Yanbu, the industrial city. My house is right next to the petro fields. They don't tell us much here. I do know that in 48 hours there will be a quake at least 6.7, that is what we were told and that they would be passing out masks to all. Believe me it's not easy to sleep at night. I constantly feel the tremors 24 hours a day. It's like a vibrating floor. And they said that it should errupt Sunday. That's all I know. God be with us.

Tammy, just exactly how did you come to the conclusion that " in 48 hours there will be a quake at least 6.7 " -- LOL.
Also, oil fields in the western province of Yanbu ??

Hi Erik! I am an expat working here in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia at Jubail Industrial City, twin city of Yanbu Industrial City in the west. So far, we have not received any directives from the Royal Commission regarding precautions/preparations to make in case of a volcanic eruption. But we get updated news from our friends in Yanbu by emails or phone calls almost every hour or two. The latest one was that, villages are completely abandoned and locals and expats are being hauled to a safe place somewhere in the cities of Yanbu and Medida. Medical personnel are already dispatched on strategic places and the Al Aiss and Harradh areas are completely off limits. There are news of decreasing seismic activities and the authorities are planning on easing down tensions. Could this be the "calm before the storm"? I am just so concerned about the locals for their lack of knowledge about the dire effects of a volcano eruption. When I came here 10 years ago, I thought volcanoes do not exist here in Saudi Arabia!!

There might be an answer, CERN has started in the last 2 days massive
collisions of lead hadrons in bunches of 121 (billions of them).
Prior to this date it only collider a few insignificant bunches. Let us
remember that CERN seats in the border of the African plaque where
those swarms are happening
and this is the strongest swarm on the African plate recorded on modern
On the casual relationship between CERN's magnetic field and the
Earth's magnetic field that causes such earthquakes see: