Hekla the heckler

Hekla Volcano overlooking the Thjórsá River. Credit: Hansueli Krapf, CC BY-SA 3.0. Hekla Volcano overlooking the Thjórsá River. Credit: Hansueli Krapf, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Hekla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes, erupting more than 25 times since its first recorded eruption in 1104. The most recent eruptions in 1970, 1980, 1981, 1991 and 2000 have allowed geoscientists to create a detailed eruption profile for the volcano.

“We understand Hekla’s progression from noneruptive to eruptive quite well, but it erupts with very little warning, usually about a half hour. It has a very short fuse,” says Thor Thordarson, a volcanologist at the University of Iceland. Between eruptions, Hekla is nearly aseismic, with rumblings only starting between 30 and 80 minutes before the eruption. When it does erupt, a 5.5-kilometer-long fissure running along the top of the volcano’s long ridge opens, spewing magma from a reservoir only 4 kilometers below the surface. Some of these eruptions have only lasted a few days, whereas others have continued for as long as six years, with volcanic bombs being thrown up to 20 kilometers from the volcano and ash being carried as far away as Scotland.

“In general, the longer Hekla is dormant between eruptions, the larger the next eruption will be,” Thordarson says. The most recent eruption took place in 2000, leading some geoscientists to believe that Hekla is overdue for another blast.

Mary Caperton Morton

Mary Caperton Morton

Morton (https://theblondecoyote.com/) is a freelance science and travel writer based in Big Sky, Mont., and an EARTH roving correspondent.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - 06:00