A new research paper published in the latest issue of the journal Nature shows that in the months preceding the eruptions of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, it had been restless as a result of magma flowing beneath the volcano.
“Several months of unrest preceded the eruptions, with magma moving around downstairs in the plumbing and making noise in the form of earthquakes,” says study co-author Kurt Feigl, a professor of geosciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “By monitoring volcanoes, we can understand the processes that drive them to erupt.”
A series of changes in the normally stable volcano had alerted lead study author Freysteinn Sigmundsson and his colleagues to focus their attention on the volcano. In the months leading up to the March eruption of Eyjafjallajökull which saw air traffic across a large swath of Europe disabled, the researchers saw numerous changes to the volcano.
By the time the volcano finally began to erupt on the 20th of March, 2010, the volcano had expanded by more than six inches as a result of magma flowing deep within the Earth into shallow chambers beneath the volcanic mountain.
There is very little known about what wakes a volcano up and what makes it erupt when it does. “We’re still trying to figure out what wakes up a volcano,” says Feigl.
Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Image Source: Henrik Thorburn