Wednesday Whatzits: Icelandic sagas, Chaiten, Erta'Ale's lava lake and a volcano simulator

Did I mention its a busy week?

The lava lake at Erta'Ale in 2008. Image courtesy of Stromboli Online.

  • Our Icelandic saga continues, with more earthquakes and more speculation/information on the parts of Eruptions readers. Keep up the discussion - I'll be fascinated to see who turns out to get closest to what actually happens, prediction-wise. The seismicity has quieted somewhat again in the last 12 hours, so we wait eagerly to see what comes next. Remember, Iceland is the land where volcanoes helped change history, so it is always fun to talk Icelandic volcanism.
  • The NASA Earth Observatory has some great new images of Chaiten - and probably best view of the new domes I've seen so far. There was no real plume when the image was shot on March 3, so you can clearly see the dome and dome-collapse material (along with ash) that is filling the old Chaiten caldera. Give it another few years of eruption, and Chaiten might look like a normal volcano again, lacking a strong caldera in profile. Just shows how quickly you can rebuild a volcano.
  • With my trip next week to Death Valley, I am going to attempt to have a revived Volcano Profile post up, focusing on Erta'Ale in Ethiopia. So, it was nice to see the volcano make some news this week. The summit lava lake is at unusually high levels, only 20 m below the crater pit's edge. The crater also has an active hornito producing strombolian explosions of lava as well.
  • Finally, how come I just found out this existed? It is an online volcano simulator, it is actually pretty darn good, both in information and coolness. Thank you Alaska Museum of Natural History!

More like this

Interesting stuff as usual (much better to look at volcano pictures than the gray snowy stuff outside), but the link on Iceland and history points to a Hawaii story.

Mu - if you read halfway down that article, they have a section on Iceland and how the religion on the island was changed, supposedly thanks to its active volcanism. To quote from it:

Volcanoes do have a prominent role in Christianity. In the year 1000 in Iceland, there was bitter debate over whether the country would become Christian or continue to worship Norse gods. During one parliamentary session on the subject, a messenger arrived with news of a volcanic eruption occurring near the city of Reykjavik. Believers in the old religion took that as a sign of anger from their gods. This prompted a Christian leader to ask what might have angered the gods during previous eruptions which formed the lava plains on which they stood. This question ended the debate, and the nation converted to Christianity.

While all eyes have been on Eyjafjall, there has been persistent activity - on a less grand scale - at or just south of the amazing-looking Herðubreið (east of Askja) in the Mývatn area. While there seems to have been no more than a dozen quakes (M1-M2) per day, activity has been continuous.

For a picture, look at

Chaiten erupted with a rather large cloud this afternoon, lava was visible by as light contrast, near sunset from the remote camera (located at far edge of town).

I have caldera and far-field web cam images saved for proof.

If you hustle, you can see the caldera webcam for a few more minutes until sunset.

I'll be looking for incandescence this evening.

Check THIS out - I just found a YouTube HD vid of Erta Ale from Feb. 2010 - . Very cool, with the really high lava lake levels, overflow, pahoehoe galore and that spatter cone, which definitely looks like a mini-volcano!

Not sure how long it's been up, but Google has updated the sat photo above Chaiten to a higher resolution. It's pre-eruption but the terrain mapping is really great.

The Google Earth picture of Chaitén is like that for some months already. You should try flying over the landscape with the Google Earth flight simulator (under 'Extra').

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