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La Palma Tsunami – Mixed Messaging

Magma ChamberWe’re now at day 44 and after the first month of eruptions on La Palma, experts warned that the end was not yet in sight.  So far, that stands.

For the stressed residents of the island, this uncertainty and dread are taking a heavy toll, and no doubt, many will need counseling well after this event passes, hopefully, without further loss.

However, is the need for hope driving the conversation towards positive, but transitory glimmers of improvement? It appears so.

In this article, let’s see how the locals are doing and what they are focused on.  Then, we’ll compare that with the actual science to contrast two different views of what is happening now.

Local Hopes Grow for a Speedy End

Bushcraft Bear is a great source because he discussed the environmental impact of the eruption on the island residents.

Bushcraft Bear, Nov 5, 2021
Now it really depends! Volcano Eruption on La Palma.

 

As of the 5th, the air quality and the ash levels are down. Now the concerns are for dealing with all the ash that has fallen as residents hope for a clear beginning of the end.

Towards the end of his video on the fifth, Bushcraft Bear was reading the official report small the number of earthquakes and sulfur emissions is increasing again. Bushcraft read this without comment.

The same sentiments remain today, on the 6th, as noted in the last day of reporting from GutnTog as he leaves the island to return to Iceland.

GutnTog, November 6, 2021
Clear change in the dynamics of the eruption. Its waning! As seen from Mirador El Time.

 

Panoramic view over Aridane Valley from Mirador El Time on November 4, 2021. My predictions from the night before were correct. Breaking news from La Palma 06.11.21: “Elemental sulfur deposits appear for the first time in the La Palma eruption, as published by the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands, Involcan, on its social networks. As he explained, a reaction with H2S to form sulfur would imply that the magmatic component of the gas is decreasing and the emission of H2S is increasing.  This fact, Involcan [CENTRO NACIONAL DE VOLCANOLOGÍA – INSTITUTO VOLCANOLÓGICO DE CANARIAS] adds, does not imply an end to the eruption, but a clear change in its dynamics.”

According to both Bushcraft Bear and GutnTog, ash levels are down and air quality is good and there is a growing, nascent hope that life will soon get back to normal.

However, it is in the video description where GutnTog correctly states the reality of the situation.  “This does not imply an end to the eruption, but a clear change in its dynamics.”  So, let’s take a closer look, or should we say a deeper look?

Deep Changing Dynamics

In contrast to the local reports, a few YouTube channels are discussing other issues such as a second volcano erupting on the island, which is not being reported elsewhere.  Maybe because it’s a vent and not a volcano.

Then there is a plan being hatched to rain 1,000 bombs on the volcano to divert the magma flow.   What’s our take on this speculation.  Like the song goes, “You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato (Tomahto).”

The point here is that we need science about what is not being observed on the surface or is being misunderstood.  Here, we have the benefit of a truly reliable source.  The good folks at Volcano Discovery.

Based in St. Wendel, Germany, this independent organization monitors and reports on earthquakes and volcanoes as soon as they happen and provide the general public with the fastest possible updates on such events.

Unlike the USGS which jiggers numbers, the work of this group has true integrity, so let’s see what they’re saying today.  Take note of the last sentence highlighted in red.

Volcano Discovery, November 6, 2021
La Palma volcano update: Activity picks up, ground inflates 10 cm during 24 hours

This morning, the activity at the vent increased as our correspondent from Volcanes de Canarias reported through their twitter channel.

Powerful ash emissions created a plume that rose to estimated 8,000 ft (2.4 km) altitude and drifted SW over the ocean. A spike in tremor is also visible although it returned to previous levels since and still has an overall slowly decreasing tendency.

However, more worrying probably is a renewed ground uplift signal of 10 cm since yesterday on the closest GPS station, measuring now approx. 24 cm above the level before the eruption. If the data is a correct reading, it likely implies a new magma batch that intruded at depth and likely will cause another surge of activity in the near future.

When reviewing reports and findings a good rule of thumb is to read the first paragraph, then read the last paragraph.  After that, you read to fill in the details.  Do this often enough and you’ll see that people tend to save the important part for last.

This report is consistent with other science reporting of concern and that as of today, while the skies are nicer and there is less ash in the air, the science tells a different story.

Of special concern to us is during the past two weeks, the La Palma volcano has been shaken by 3 quakes of magnitude 5.0 or above and it was the last of three that has concerned us since it was first reported on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.

Volcano Discovery, November 3, 2021
La Palma volcano update: Strongest-so-far quake at magnitude 5.1 at only 26 km depth under island

This morning’s magnitude 5.1 event, which hit at 7.27 a.m., is the strongest-so-far tremor under the volcano since the seismic crisis followed by the ongoing eruption began in September.

It was felt all over the island, and if the depth is correct of only 26 km it deviates significantly from the depth layer around 35-40 km, which has been where other stronger quakes in the range of magnitudes 4.5-5 that have occurred so far.

This could be due to new magma intrusion into intermediate layers at this depth.

As you can see, the concerns they voiced on the 3rd, have, as of today not abated whatsoever. This has been voiced by local experts are well and they also share the same concern that this is actually the calm before the storm so to speak and here is why.

Up to now, we’ve seen large deep quakes occurring at a depth of 35-40 km and smaller ones occurring at about 10-12 km.  However, this 5.1 occurred at a depth of 26 km which places it above the magma chamber which is a clear sign that the volcano is recharging for another major eruption.

When you combine these four scientific factors, sulfur, ash, uplift, and a 26 km, 5.1 earthquake, it paints a La Palm story that is far from hopeful.  Rather, this data suggests that La Palma is recharging for another massive eruption event.

This possibility is dark and helps explain why Bushcraft Bear and GutnTog are weary and reaching for hope.

To GutnTog, we wish you a safe and comfortable journey home to Iceland today.

To Bushcraft Bear, we say, you’re earned a well-deserved day off because next week, could be a busy one for you.  You and everyone on La Palma are in our prayers.

While we’re at it, let’s throw in the East Coast of America for good measure.

WWG1WGA

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