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Hawai`i in Iceland: The style of the Eyjafjallajökull-Fimmvörduháls eruption

The current Eyjafjallajökull-Fimmvörduháls eruption is exactly what you might expect for an eruption in Hawai`i ... in Iceland ... actually, both!

The eruption at Eyjafjallajökull-Fimmvörduháls continues on – the explosive spatter and bomb eruptions at the new central vent (on the second fissure) were impressive all night, making the hikers/cars/aircraft look like mites in comparison. This eruption has, so far, followed the pattern of Hawaiian-style volcanism quite well, so I thought it could be a good time to talk about what exactly Hawaiian-style volcanism is. There is a sequence of events that leads up to and follows the start of an Hawaiian-style eruption – although this sequence can stop at any point along the way – but it is the archetypal style of eruption for situations when a basaltic dike reaches the surface and erupts.


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nWebcam capture of the central vent phase of the Eyjafjallajökull-Fimmvörduháls eruption. Image from the evening of April 7, 2010.

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As you can see, we’re been treated to quite the textbook case for many of these stages of Hawaiian-style volcanism during the Eyjafjallajökull-Fimmvörduháls eruption. Most of what I have seen and read about this event suggest this is about as straight-forward of an eruption as you could have expected (so far) – and the abundant webcams, photos and description of the eruption have allowed us to get about as good a view on this Icelandic eruption as we have ever had. The question is now: how long will this eruption last? My guess (and I emphasize “guess”) is we could be seeing eruptions at the Eyjafjallajökull-Fimmvörduháls area in the months-to-years scale as that seems to fit the pattern for many of these Hawaiian-style rifts that form in Iceland. All you webcam watchers may need to quit your day jobs if you keep on watching this eruption all night!


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