Day 81 and the eruption continues but signals are clearly decreasing even though volcanologists say it’s too early to declare it as coming to an end

Photo: Cumbre Vieja eruption with montaña de La Laguna in foreground at 7.50pm, Saturday 23 October. GE Volcan.

This post is a continuation of the original on the La Palma eruption. The daily posts and updates from the first 40 days of the eruption are HERE.

  • Official free helpline – 900 222 665. Financial donations through Bizum (mobile bank app) – use code 03747, or e-transfer to account ES47 2100 9169 0122 0017 9456 ref: Donación volcán

Updated 8 December – Eruption Day 81: So, 80 days have now passed since the eruption started. Instead of closing this one at the end of the second 40 days and opening a third post, I’m going to call it a day here. The situation remains one of degassing, overflowing coladas, occasional ash ejections and Strombolian activity, and generally it seems to be fairly stable in its quietening down. Let’s hope it really is quietening down and not building up to a particular cataclysm, but generally the volcanic tremor is down, seismicity is down, things seem to be settling within the context, of course, that it is still an active and actively erupting volcano. More homes have been destroyed by the new coladas, the Government claims that money that still hasn’t made its way through to actual people is being delivered with record speed … god help us all, then, if the rest of us need money urgently to repair lives and livelihoods in a real disaster such as La Palma has been living through for nearly three months now. I’ll do individual posts if anything major happens but although Involcan is at pains to say that it’s impossible to declare the eruption coming to an end, it seems quite clear that the catastrophic disaster foretold for La Palma whereby half the southern island breaks off and slides into the sea causing a tsunami that wipes out the eastern seaboard of the United States taking southern England with it was the fantastical scenario scientists always said it was. Let’s just hope that as I close this post, those won’t be famous last words! 

Updated 5 December – Eruption Day 78It’s all relative, of course, but after a new fissure opening with lava and a further overflow of a colada, La Palma’s had another quiet night with few earthquakes none of which approached i4. Air quality isn’t bad, but there is a considerable amount of gas and ash emission this morning. In answer to the inevitable questions, Pevolca chiefs say that this cannot be taken as evidence that the eruption is coming to an end. 

Updated 4 December – Eruption Day 77: Little change in the past 24 hours with mainly white cloudy degasification visible on the surfac. Seismicity down, deformation reduced again, tremor stable. We all know better than to think this is the start of the end, but one day it might be.  

Updated 3 December – Eruption Day 76: Strombolian activity continues, further slight deformation recorded, air quality is awful, seismicity growing with the largest earthquake an i4.2 around 9pm last evening at a shallow 11km under Cumbre Vieja. The waiting continues while it looks like this today …

Updated 2 December – Eruption Day 75: A very quiet night seismically last night with few earthquakes, the largest an i4.2 shortly after 5am today 11km under Cumbre Vieja. Strombolian activity continues, however, and further slight deformation has been recorded. Volcanologists are waiting for the eruption’s next move… 

Updated 1 December – Eruption Day 74: A very busy night seismically in La Palma with around 400 or so earthquakes, most in the shallower 8-17km depth range, a dozen or so of them felt, the most so far in one spell. The volcanic tremor is medium but with intensification pulses, and Strombolian activity has returned as we can see in this lunchtime’s video below from Involcan. Meanwhile the army’s Military Emergencies Unit is measuring toxicity of gases at the edges of the new coladas released by the new vent. What a terrible start to a month that should be full of delightful anticipation … instead, there’s dread.

Updated 30 November – Eruption Day 73: Seismic activity returned with a vengeance last night, the largest an i4.1 shortly before 7am at a depth of 38km under Cumbre Vieja. These many earthquakes were anticipated because, as we saw in yesterday’s update, the volcanic tremor had spiked sharply. More positively, the new coladas have at least slowed down and not yet reached any formerly untouched properties, and the air quality has improved somewhat this morning. The main cone itself is also rather quiescent at present. Everyone is just watching, and waiting, and Involcan’s photo below is what they were seeing last night.

Updated 29 November – Eruption Day 72: Well, I’m afraid that the new vent and colada has really ramped things up overnight, with the colada now being several coladas all heading for previously unaffected areas – in other words, the homes of people who considered them safe are now in danger. In addition, an i5.0 earthquake 35km under Cumbre Vieja at 8.35 this morning was very widely felt and not just throughout the whole of La Palma but also in parts of La Gomera and Tenerife. Meanwhile, the volcanic tremor has spiked sharply. Uncomfortable moments, and this was just before 11am this morning … 

Updated 28 November – Eruption Day 71: Another vent has opened, this latest to the north east of the cone where a new colada is now forming. After a night with 50+ earthquakes, three of them in the i3+ category felt by the public, today’s air quality is appalling, and so no-one is permitted to approach the eruption area. The deformation noted yesterday has reduced but the volcanic tremor has increased. These are the scenes this morning of the main cone and the new vent …

Updated 27 November – Eruption Day 70: In the end, thankfully, it just rained very heavily without catastrophe. The weather’s cleared, at least in terms of rainfall, and the eruption continues with ash, gas and lava as well now as some further ground deformation. The human cost is mounting, however, and those in centres of assistance – providing emergency packages of food, bedding, clothing, etc – are themselves feeling weighed down by the misfortune they are dealing with on a daily basis. One example I would like to mention is certainly just one of many but it’s one I came across … a couple with two young daughters have lost everything, their home and jobs, and have now found work in north Tenerife. They need a rental property quickly because their new jobs start 1 December. If you can help please give them a call, the details are on the poster below. I don’t know if they speak English.  

Updated 26 November – Eruption Day 69: They forecast it for the north and east and hoped it would continue to miss the west where it was dreaded, but it came. Heavy rain has literally thundered over west La Palma with a huge amount of lightning lighting up the sky as it did so. To complicate matters, another vent has appeared in the south of the cone, a colada has breached its expected course and entombed a cemetery. Those who have already lost loved ones have now tragically also lost even the focus of their grief. An earthquake of 4.8 shortly before 11 last night was widely felt but there is no major or sustained seismic activity to relate otherwise. Nor are there any lahars thankfully but Pevolca advice has been issued as an emergency alert through Gobcan’s DGSE for “mud slides of ash and eruptive debris”. The public has been advised to avoid barrancos, water channels, and at the bases of steep slopes within the area of the eruption. Here’s what’s effectively an animated snapshot of an erupting volcano in a meteorological light show.

Updated 25 November – Eruption Day 68: For some today is Thanksgiving, and there will be quite a bit of gratitude today in La Palma where the eruption situation remains unchanged but that rain arrived and spared the west of the island almost in its entirety. Aemet has just upgrated its alert for very heavy rain tomorrow in the north and metropolitan area of Tenerife, La Gomera, and east La Palma. Everyone will be hoping that the reason for today’s gratitude continues tomorrow.

Updated 24 November – Eruption Day 67: It’s more of the same today, really, though no earthquakes of i4 or larger but there is some seismic activity at shallower levels now. Strombolian activity continues with pulses of pyroclastic emission and ash. Air quality remains patchy, in some parts it’s simply unbreathable as we can see from Involcan’s video this lunchtime. Meanwhile everyone is waiting for that rain …

Updated 23 November – Eruption Day 66: In another night of sustained seismic activity, three more earthquakes above i4 shook La Palma around 1am, all at the deeper level under Cumbre Vieja. An i4.4 registered at at 00.48 at a depth of 34km was followed at 1.03am, just a quarter of an hour later, by two earthquakes of i4.8 and i4.7 within half a minute of each other at depths of 39 and 38km. Others in the i3 bracket have also been felt widely. Locals locked down yesterday because of gases from the colada that has just reached the sea near Tazacorte harbour remain incarcerated, with the air quality described as suffocating. This is why … scenes with the aura of a Caspar David Friedrich painting …

Updated 22 November – Eruption Day 65: Deeper seismic activity has reactivated with an i4.3 earthquake 34km under Cumbre Vieja shortly after 3am last night, and then this morning there have been an i3.8 around 7.30 that was widely felt followed half an hour later by an i4.8, both at a depth of 36km. Another i3.6 at 36km was also widely felt round 11am. Air quality remains dreadful in parts, with now the added problem created by gas rising from another colada newly reaching the sea: some unevacuated areas have been locked down for the time being. At least the rain that was threatened yesterday amidst fears of lahars does begin to look like it might skirt the island, or hopefully not be too heavy. Fingers crossed.

Updated 21 November – Eruption Day 64: A relatively quiet 24 hours in terms of seismic activity with just 50 or so earthquakes none at or above i4, but air quality is poor in evacuated areas with elevated levels of SO2 and CO2. The main concern right now is a weather front approaching from the Madeira and Azores region which could bring rain that’s heavy in parts. Of course they are fearful of the lahars that I described in the original post, a Javanese volcanic word  Situation is in development, as they say.

Updated 3pm, 20/11: I mentioned on 15 October in the original post covering the first 40 days that there is a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). To summarize again: it’s a scale from 1 to 8 used by volcanologists to assess eruptions, with most globally in the first three categories of 0, 1 and 2. It’s only when you get to VEI 3 you can count eruptions around the world in just the hundreds: they are really comparatively rare. As you can see from the brief list below, the increments work as a logarithmic scale and a VEI 3 is ten times greater than a VEI 2: the classifications are based on amount of eruptive matter ejected.

I said last month that I didn’t know of anyone in La Palma then who suspected that the island’s eruption would reach level 3, and it’s been at level 2 from the start. Until today, when the Pevolca steering committee has reclassified it as a VEI 3 – no longer Hawaiian or Strombolian/Vulcanian but now Vulcanian/Pelean, a severe eruption with hot ash avalanches and pyroclastic flows. It would take a lot to get to VEI 4 and VEI 3 is bad enough, so we don’t need to concern ourselves about that at present, and we must remember that the VEI is a measure of eruptive material, not imminent danger. The two can be causally associated, naturally, but there is no suggestion that this reclassification implies anticipated or particular danger. Here are the first five VEI classifications again. 

  • VEI 0 – 1: Hawaiian – Hawaiian/Strombolian. Effusive but gentle, low-level, small to medium volume
  • VEI 2: Strombolian/Vulcanian. Explosive, with dense cloud of ash and gases with volcanic bombs (2-3 meters in diameter)
  • VEI 3: Vulcanian/Pelean. Severe, with hot ash avalanches and pyroclastic flows
  • VEI 4: Pelean/Plinian. Cataclysmic, with columns of gas and ash reaching the stratosphere and so affecting international air travel, eg Iceland 2010, Vesuvius (Pompeii) 79AD.

Updated 20 November – Eruption Day 63: In La Palma today there is more of the same, up to 50 or so earthquakes overnight, a couple over i4, lots of ash, coladas continue, simultaneous Strombolian activity from cone vents last evening … it’s not stopping in the immediate future anyway. As I said yesterday, however, it’s clear that some are now checking unfamiliar stuff for the first time and asking if the smaller earthquakes they see registered in Tenerife are normal and/or anything to worry about. Such concerns inexorably lead to hoax stories in various media, especially social media, and so it is with Tenerife tremors, with an image posted widely claiming to show “an eruption starting in Tenerife” which is claimed to have been verified by IGN with “señales de actividad eruptiva”. Let’s be clear that IGN has not reported anything of the sort, and Involcan confirms there are no such signals. You can verify for yourself in IGN’s catalogue of all recorded earthquakes HERE. It is a bulo, a hoax. Here’s the picture – the smoke appears to be a fire focal point but you can see that the joker has even been unable to spell “imagenes” properly … 

Updated 19 November – Eruption Day 62: By any reckoning we are now into the third month of the eruption and last night marked the occasion with an i5.1 earthquake 36km under Cumbre Vieja shortly after 1am. This remains the largest recorded in this eruption though it’s not the first 5.1, and it was widely felt throughout the western islands including Tenerife. So was an i4 just 40 minutes later at 34km depth further south in Fuencaliente. Meanwhile, for those now checking unfamiliar stuff for the first time and asking if the smaller earthquakes they see registered in Tenerife are normal and/or anything to worry about, the answer is that they are entirely normal and indeed welcome because they release pressure that otherwise might build up.

Updated 4pm, 18/11: Just look at this! Taken from the observatory here in Tenerife … La Palma in the background, aglow …

Updated 18 November – Eruption Day 61: Another busy night in terms of seismic activity though the night before last is now confirmed to have set the record for numbers of earthquakes in a 24 hour period. Last night’s larger quakes were an i4.6 at a depth of 39km shortly after 9pm, an i4.3 at 41km just before midnight, and an i4.4 at 34km just before 2am, all under Cumbre Vieja. Between around 1 and 4am there were also several in the i3 range which were shallow at 11km and so felt clearly. Air quality varies today depending on areas thanks to wind direction: some parts are appalling while others are tolerable. Ash and gas emission has resumed. Volcanologists say that this eruption is not only still continuing but, within a currently clearly descending tremor, it is still very much impossible to consider it remotely close to coming to an end. This shows the conditions today …

Updated 3pm, 17/11: And another i4.7 earthquake this lunchtime at 12.33pm 37km under Cumbre Vieja, felt clearly in parts of Tenerife. Pevolca advice remains that we might expect earthquakes up to i6. There seems not so much explosivity today but there is a huge column of ash that’s thankfully heading out to sea but the air is suffocating in parts.

Updated 17 November – Eruption Day 60: Sixty days now, and they were right to warn yesterday against early assumptions because seismicity really returned at all depths overnight. The largest of a lot of quakes was an i4.7 at 7.17 this morning 35km under Cumbre Vieja. These are the latest scenes thanks to a Spanish Air Force drone.

Updated 9pm, 16/11: This is perhaps the closest any of us will ever get to the heart of an eruption, at least on the surface! This is from an Involcan technician with a GoPro on their helmet, walking through a thick cloud of gas near the cone itself in order to measure essential parameters and identify the state of the eruption. These people have been trained around the world in such conditions over years in order to be able to move easily through such “dead zones”. For the rest of us, it’s the nearest we’ll probably ever get …

Updated 16 November – Eruption Day 59: The slow downward trend in the main volcanic risk indicators – SO2 emission, tremor, intermediate seismicity, deformation – continues but volcanologists warn against relaxing because this trend can’t be interpreted as indicating that the end of the eruption is approaching. Only one earthquake over i4 has been registered in the last 24 hours, an i4.2 just before 1.30pm today at a depth of 36km under Cumbre Vieja. These are the scenes this lunchtime …

Updated 4pm, 15/11: This afternoon the volcanic tremor has risen significantly and is now back to levels normal over recent weeks. In addition, air quality has become appalling in certain areas, and a great deal of ash and gas started to be emitted around 2pm. Involcan describes the scene this afternoon.

Updated 15 November – Eruption Day 58: It’s been a quietish night, largest earthquake of i4.4 just before 4am at a depth of 38km. A deformation noted yesterday has normalized, and the volcanic tremor is low. Everyone hopes it’s losing energy but is realistic that we’ve been here before in these quiet spells. For the moment, the ash in the air is providing some spectacular dawns and sunsets … here such crimson textured skies as we can see in Aemet’s photo from this morning are called candilazos! Qué candilazo (what a stunner), with a rather familiar silhouette al fondo … ! 

Updated 14 November – Eruption Day 57: Cumbre Vieja seems to have developed a circadian rhythm of daylight quietude and spectacular nightly Strombolian eruption. Seismic activity has continued overnight with larger earthquakes from around 5.30 this morning, the two largest being an i4.7 at 5.24am and an i4.5 at 10.20am, both at a depth of 37km. On the surface this morning there is degassing, ash … this is the scene provided by Aemet Canarias.


Updated 2pm, 13/11: A 70-year-old man’s body has been found in his home in La Palma within the exclusion zone. He had gone home yesterday, with authorization, to clean ash from the roof, collect belongings, as so many can do with prior official arrangement but his family raised the alert when he failed to return home. An investigation is now underway as to whether the weight of the ash caused the roof to collapse on the poor man or whether he was on the roof and his additional weight caused it to cave in even as he was cleaning it. The first tragic victim of this eruption, as far as we know.  

Updated 13 November – Eruption Day 56: An i5 earthquake 38km under Cumbre Vieja just before 7am has been widely felt throughout the western islands, including amply throughout Tenerife. It’s this deeper level seismicity that is holding sway at the moment, with a much lower reading at intermediate depths and virtually none at shallower ones. These are the scenes this morning. Is it ending? resting? reacharging?

Updated 12 November – Eruption Day 55: There’s been another spill of lava producing dense columns of steam and gas at the new colada, and an i4.3 earthquake 38km below Cumbre Vieja just before half eight this morning, but really it’s all gone a bit quiet … 

Updated 10pm, 11/11; And tonight we’re back to Strombolian activity … scenes at 7.30pm.

Updated 2pm, 11/11: Today’s lunchtime update from Pevolca confirms seismicity at depths greater than 20km has increased in both number and magnitude. The steering committee says that the number of events at these depths in the last 24 hours is the highest since the eruption started. The volcanic tremor, however, remains at low levels over this same period but SO2 emission associated with the volcanic plume continues to be high.

Updated 11 November – Eruption Day 54: An i5 earthquake was registered last night shortly after 3.30am. It was at a depth of 36km, under Cumbre Vieja again, and once more clearly felt in west Tenerife. Volcanologists are still trying to determine what is happening right now after days of reducing signals, and whether the current activity represents a temporary blip, as they put it, or a complete reactivation. Meanwhile, there is a lot of gas but air quality has improved, and as the Army Military Emergencies Unit has explained in the video below, they and the Spanish Mining&Geological Institute are taking samples from the new colada that has now reached the sea. It is currently forming a new fajana that is partially on top of the first one but expanding down the coast, and the samples will be analyzed and help to reveal magma depth, gases that are emanating, as well as the composition of the colada itself. The second video below from the bomberos shows what that part of the La Palma coastline looks like … unbelievable scenes. 

Updated 8pm, 10/11: Hell on earth in paradise on earth … scenes tonight as the new colada reaches the sea and starts forming a new fajana, partially on top of the old one.

Updated 12.30pm, 10/11: Following its provisional classification, IGN has raised this morning’s earthquake intensity from 4.6 to 4.8 and confirmed the depth as 34km. Volcanologists say that there seems to be a new intrusion of magma this morning from great depth, the process starting around 8am with an hour or so of seismic tremor readings ending in a whole series of earthquakes, most under i4 with the 4.8 being the largest, and all at a depth of between 30 and 40km. This could be because the deeper chambers are being refilled, they say, but they will need further analysis of forthcoming activity to be able to confirm what exactly appears to be happening.

Updated 10 November – Eruption Day 53: At 11.10 on 10.11 IGN reports an i4.6 earthquake at a depth of 22km with epicentre between La Palma and La Gomera. It was clearly felt in west Tenerife. In La Palma, wind direction has thankfully improved air quality but the reaction caused by the new colada reaching the sea, as shown by this drone footage recorded this morning, has resulted in plumes of steam incorporating particles of hydrochloric acid. Not the most hospitable environment!  

Updated 7pm, 9/11: That “small overflow between the two lava flows heading to the coast south of La Laguna montaña” has reached the sea. Meanwhile, at the cone, intermittent ash-rich lava fountains and Strombolian explosions are creating steam and ash plumes this evening. The alert for dreadful air quality was at least lifted this afternoon.

Updated 9 November – Eruption Day 52: A relatively quiet night in La Palma with several earthquakes in the i3 range, and many at single-figure depths, several less than 2km deep. The volcanic tremor remains fairly low, but there is some deformation again, and ash emission continues. This morning the Cabildo has noted a small overflow between the two lava flows heading to the coast south of La Laguna montaña, and in several areas residents have been told to wear FFP2 masks at all times and to avoid going outside because of awful air quality.

Photo: Gobcan

I said a while ago that I’d mention La Palma’s salt flats and how they’d been affected by the eruption. Salt is made in the far south of the island where there are salt pans that the public has been able to visit – it formed part of the tourism experience for some with regular buses most days to go and see them and the lighthouse on the promontory. The process of creating salt involves pumping sea water into the shallow pools and leaving it to evaporate, the salt then crystallizing to be collected and dried and packed. There’s an official page HERE with further images of the salt flats and the salt in various stages. Sadly, however, the pristine white salt that makes its ways to tables here in the Canaries and far further afield is now covered with black ash, losses reckoned in the hundreds if not thousands of tonnes, and impossible currently to calculate in terms of financial cost. Local salt producers say they’re determined to recuperate their businesses if not their losses but that it will be extremely difficult. That is an understatement and a half, perhaps.  

Updated 1pm, 8/11: Ash emission has increased again and another warning has been issued for extremely poor air quality because of PM10 pollution. In addition, and I don’t know the significance, this lunchtime Involcan is reporting a bubbling of Dos Aguas, inside the Caldera de Taburiente in the north of La Palma. Dos Aguas is where streams from the caldera meet at the start of the Las Angustias barranco, which itself was formed by erosion in what appears to have been the type of massive landslide that we can see in the La Orotava and Güímar valleys in Tenerife. Whatever the reason, Dos Aguas is currently emitting significant amounts of CO2 along with degassing of a small amount of helium from the earth’s mantle from a depth of more than 600km. As some might say, I’m sure this is all fine …

Updated 8 November – Eruption Day 51: The Canarian Government’s DGSE has issued another air quality warning for very adverse levels of sulphur dioxide this morning. This is why …

Updated 9pm, 7/11: A couple of felt earthquakes this evening within eight seconds of each other.  First came an i4.6 at 5.07pm at a depth of 37km followed by an i4.5 at a depth of 38km.  

Updated 4pm, 7/11: Pevolca update this afternoon confirms that the lava emission rate increased yesterday evening, with the advance of a lava stream towards the southwest being of particular concern because it could exceed the boundaries of the central sector of the newly created lava field and overflow some pre-existing volcanic tubes and channels though it’s not expected to affect any hitherto untouched areas. Seismicity has decreased again despite an intensification of the tremor level coinciding with the increase in eruptive activity for several hours last evening. Air quality has improved today because of the wind direction and can be classed as reasonably good in most areas but there remain some locations with elevated sulphur dioxide in Puntagorda. That wind is strong today, though, and people are advised to protect their eyes in case of cinders and volcanic ash which can scratch.

Updated 7 November – Eruption Day 50: It’s day 50. Who’d have thought it would last this long?! As we saw last night, air quality is very bad, this morning in fact it’s atrocious, and Strombolian activity continues … the sky is red and black. This is from Volcanes de Canarias, not a media company, no hype, just as it is.

Updated 9pm, 6/11: And this evening we are back to Strombolian cone activity and an i4.5 earthquake at 8.40pm at a depth of 36km. In addition, people in some areas have been advised to be outside for no more than five minutes because air quality is very poor, bad enough for official warnings to have been issued about the PM10 level pollution from the eruption. This measure is of Particulate Matter (PM), and the 10 refers to inhalable particles of diameter generally 10 micrometers or below, but not below 2.5 which would be considered “fine particles” that could be extremely hazardous because of their tiny nature and capacity to be absorbed far more deeply into the lungs. PM 10 is bad enough, and these are the scenes at 7.30pm.

Updated 2pm, 6/11: The Cabildo has reminded us that it’s 19 years since UNESCO declared the entire territory of La Palma a World Biosphere Reserve. “Now, more than ever, our identity is essential and we must continue to look to the future with hope”, the Cabildo insists. This is the scene this afternoon with huge ash emission.

Updated 6 November – Eruption Day 49: This morning there’s a renewed ash ejection and increase in both seismic and volcanic tremor signals. In addition, a new deformation in the Jedey/Fuenca area. We await developments but can clearly say the eruption continues …

Updated 8pm, 5/11: Involcan says this evening that “elemental sulphur deposits appear for the first time. A reaction with H2S to form sulphur would imply that the magmatic component of the gas is reducing and increasing the emission of H2S. This H2S is hydrogen sulphide. known as sewer gas: it produces the rotten egg smell when you go into dormant volcanoes. It is unpleasant, extremely flammable, highly toxic and therefore dangerous. As Involcan says, this does not imply an end to the eruption, but a clear change in its dynamics. As yet, the nature of that change is unclear.

Updated 2pm, 5/11: Following the Pevolca meeting this morning, the committee has reported that cone levels of activity are highly variable with pulses of lava flows at a higher rate of emission with fresh lava occasionally overflowing some tubes and volcanic channels. Seismic activity also continues with tremors at both 10-15km and 20+km depths but earthquake magnitude remains low-moderate; there was an i4.5 last night just after 11pm at a depth of 35km that was widely felt but the volcanic tremor level has clearly decreased anew within its oscillatory behavior. As I said earlier, scientists are clear that we shouldn’t misinterpret their words, that the eruption continues and the only constant is variability … but this sounds like it could at least be not bad news.

Photo: Gobcan

Updated 5 November – Eruption Day 48: Pedro Sánchez is back, attending another Pevolca meeting this morning. There aren’t any fireworks so far in La Palma today but volcanologists warn against taking scientific evaluation as literal “news”: when they talk about indicators for the end of the eruption, they explain, these must be analyzed for a longer period since if there’s one constant in the eruption, it’s variability. Specific data that is understood by scientists can all too easily generate erroneous expectations, they advise. Below is a video of the scenes around 11am this morning and, below them, an incredible photo from the La Palma Cabildo of scenes today.

Updated 4 November – Eruption Day 47: Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez has announced he will be back in La Palma tomorrow, his sixth visit during the eruption and only a fortnight since his last. He has shown consistent and considerable support for the island and its inhabitants during this appalling trial. Scientists think, however, that there might be signs at last that they can start to discern the beginning of the end of the convulsions, though the signals that make them think this – the reducing volcanic tremor and seismicity – could easily and rapidly make them reconsider because the reductions are from a very high point and the readings are still high!

At the moment, air quality remains poor and a newly expressed concern of the Canarian Health Service is about the mental health toll that the eruption is taking and will continue to take even after it has all died away and the eyes of the world are focused elsewhere again. These are not times and circumstances one easily assimilates or can process. One thing at least we have learnt this last 47 days … the volcano is the one making the decisions and not doing too much in the way of advance notifications. And so for the 47th day, the eruption continues with no notable changes and there is a virtually constant fountaining in several vents. These are the scenes from the main cone shortly before lunchtime today.

Updated 3 November – Eruption Day 46: A relatively quiet night of minor earthquakes around and below i3 changed its character at 5am with an i4 followed at 7.27am by a pair of even stronger quakes, an i4.8 with an i5 just three seconds later. All three were at a depth of 35/36km while most of the milder quakes were at the higher level of around 10-12km. La Palma has now had three earthquakes of confirmed i5: the first was at 7.24am on 30 October at a depth of 35km, the second at 5.52pm on the 31st at a depth of 38k, and now the third at 7.27 this morning, seconds after the i4.8. Air quality remains poor, and the Cabildo has confirmed that the current tally of the eruption is a lava field of some ten square kilometres, over 2,500 properties destroyed, including dwellings, farms and fincas. These are the scenes just before lunchtime.

 Updated 4pm, 2/11: I said a couple of days ago that we were having a lovely and warm spell of late summer but that’s coming to an end imminently, it appears. The returning of the alisios and change to a predominantly N and NW system (see graphic left from AGMCan) could now bring some ash and gas to Tenerife, particularly the north where the airport might be affected. This is expected to increase from Thursday so in time we’ll have further clarity as to what we can expect. At least we can be thankful that the lahars that have been such a concern are not a particular fear right now because despite the changing weather, rain heavier than “light” is not anticipated: lahars are rapid and violent coursing of mud, rock, unformed pyroclastic debris, and water (see first of 22 October’s updates HERE).

Photo: IGME

Meanwhile, scientists are taking full advantage of the eruption to further their understanding of these systems that are obviously usually invisible to the naked eye. Involcan, for example, has been undertaking a study with the University of Barcelona which involves the Installation of a magnetotelluric station to measure variations in the electrical resistivity of the subsoil: to most of us, this will be meaningless, and of no obvious benefit but for the scientists, this is the chance of a lifetime, and many of them are quite clearly living their best professional lives right now, even as their human faces show the strain of the ongoing pressures they are facing daily. One of those pressures involves working in areas where volcano bombs can suddenly appear, solid lumps of lava ejected at high speed and rolling and bouncing down hills like something out of an Indiana Jones movie … one more reason for the exclusion zones, of course. Here is an explanation and on the right, Raul Pérez from the Spanish Geological and Mining Institute holding a cooled-down example.

Updated 2 November – Eruption Day 45: It’s still brooding, with 152 earthquakes in the Cumbre Vieja area over the last 24 hours, 18 of them felt by the public with the largest an i4.6 at a depth of 36km last evening just before 8.30pm. The larger of these quakes were at a lower depth of around 30 km while the others were shallower, around 12 km. Air quality remains poor with people told to stay in where they can and wear masks if they must go outside, and schools are closed in five municipios. IGN says that the volcanic tremor signal remains medium-high with few intensification pulses but no further deformation and some slight deflation thought to be related to the deeper seismicity. IGN also says that geochemical data show discernible pre-eruptive markers compatible with eruptive dynamics … when it starts to look brooding, as they’re calling it with tenebroso, so science finds what comfort there is in data, analysis, results, findings, conclusions … 

Updated 1 November – Eruption Day 44: Very little change overnight, things are still tense and tenebroso. Air quality has worsened and residents in five municipios are now advised to remain indoors. Meanwhile, if anyone is engaged in a real-life game of Finding Nemo, he’s with the Policía Nacional! A little dog has been found, called Nemo … police have fed and watered him and he’s with vets while they try to find his family. They all love their animals, all the police forces, and none are prepared to be left out of the fulfillment that can be found amidst such horror in simply securing water and safety for a little lost animal …

Updated 8pm, 31/10: Another earthquake of i5 was recorded in La Palma today just before 6pm at a depth of 38km: naturally it was felt very widely. We have another thermal inversion which is bringing glorious late-summer weather … but this is most unwelcome when it traps eruption debris and gases and so people have been advised to wear masks for protection. If there’s one word that sums up the eruption tonight it’s “brooding”. The air is dark, it feels what they’re calling tenebroso … gloomy, dismal, sinister. Again it feels like waiting for something.

Updated 31 October – Eruption Day 43: After a relatively quiescent day yesterday and seismic activity reducing somewhat overnight, eruptive activity has remained high and this morning it transformed one of the active vents into a fountain producing an overwhelming source of lava flowing down the cone at high speed – the still from live footage on the left went from complete black to the image shown in only two minutes. These should flow over the previous ones and so this is more a spectacle than a present danger but the power is staggering.

No doubt with more than half an eye on public behaviour and crisis fatigue, Involcan director Nemesio Pérez has said that while people shouldn’t fear the volcano, they must continue to respect its eruption with full understanding of its potential: if we do not remember that this is an active and erupting volcano, he said, we could yet suffer lethal consequences … ie fatalities. Meanwhile it’s a national public holiday weekend and so the Cabildo has had to close roads, set up dedicated buses, and engage hundreds more security personnel for thousands of tourists who want to see it in person. Many of those who are currently displaced from homes that, in some cases, have been consumed utterly by lava, may feel that they have seen more than enough in person, and will have nothing to which to return when the tourists have returned home with their selfies and stories of spectacular spluttering and smoking coladas, deafening cataclysmic explosions, and Roman candle-like lava fountains. Pevolca’s committee and the La Palma Cabildo are glad of the money this is bringing in but with people’s lives and livelihoods, let alone their homes, in shreds it is to my mind simply a form of volcano porn.

Updated 30 October – Eruption Day 42: They have been increasingly stressing the likelihood of larger earthquakes for some days now and an i5 was registered under Cumbre Vieja at a depth of 35km just before half past seven this morning. Reports have come in that it was felt in El Hierro, La Gomera, and widely in Tenerife. Concerns continue about this larger seismic activity and the new southern-heading lava stream, and there is no escaping the fact that anxiety is clearly increasing.

Updated 9pm, 29/10: After a relatively quiet day in volcanic terms, this evening ends with pyroclastic and ash rhythmic pulses …  amazing how something can be so terrifying and beautiful, literally awesome.

Updated 2pm, 29/10: The Pevolca update this lunchtime reports that the eruption is maintaining the same pattern of behavior as in the last three days, with a lava flow from the vent on the NW flank of the main cone bifurcating towards the west and southwest. It’s the latter stream that’s causing most concern right now, moving over previously unaffected terrain in a southwesterly direction after having advanced 900m in the last 24 hours. The SO2 concentrations, however, show that air quality has improved a fair bit today. It’s rather quiet right now, in other words, but it is not expected to remain so.

Updated 29 October – Eruption Day 41: I’ve separated all the posts and updates from the first 40 days and put them on their own page HERE because the post had become rather cumbersome and inflexible. Today, Canarian President Ángel Torres has said that although 40 days have passed since the eruption started we don’t know how much more destruction it will cause before it ends. He said he was sure, however, that the volcano won’t get the better of the people of La Palma nor of Canarian society. All the authorities – ayuntamientos, cabildos, governments – whether here in the Canaries, or nationally in Spain, and further afield in the EU itself must all pull their weight for La Palma, he stressed. These are the dismal scenes at 11am today from Involcan in a Guardia Civil patrol boat.