So, yesterday I went out to my land and did some touchups on my crate. Then having another hour or two of light, I decided to do some long-overdue repairs on my windbreak.
Mist - 400-500 µg/m³ at the meter across the fjörd? Meh, I've been painting in the mist for hours when the meter shows a few hundred µg/m³. I get some irritated eyes, a little bit of a sore throat... "I'll deal," I think. So I haul some posts, nails, and my sledgehammer over to the windbreak and start pounding away to re-anchor some posts.
"Strange how easily I'm getting winded," I think to myself, but of course I don't want to credit it to the Mist... I'm always prone to overcompensating against the nocebo effect. But after I fix just a little section, maybe 10-15 minutes of work, it's clear that this isn't just being "winded". I feel like I've just run a marathon with a cold. And stopping doesn't "catch my breath". I reluctantly accept that I have to stop and head back to my car. Where I had a bloody gas mask that I wasn't using. Of course, it was too late for that.
More after the fold.
Here we are this evening. My lung function has been slowly recovering bit by bit.. I'd say I've recovered maybe 60% of that which I lost the other day. The obvious thing I'm sure people are thinking is, "Wear the danged gas mask, you idiot!" But there are two things that have usually kept me from it.
1) A gas mask itself is a minor discomfort and inconvenience. So if the discomfort from just enduring the current level of Mist is less than that of wearing the mask for long periods of time, then one would just choose the Mist.
2) The social factor. Even out in the countryside, on my land where a car drives by maybe once every half hour on average there's still a social factor, a "What will the neighbors think seeing me out here looking like an extra from Mad Max?" It's easy to say, "Oh, you shouldn't care about that", but to anyone who wants to say it to me, you try going out in public wearing a gas mask for a couple hours and tell me how comfortable you are with that ;)
And more than that... should I be wearing one at all times? The night before my "excursion" levels in Reykjavík hit 1500 µg/m³ for an hour. I was sleeping, indoors, so my metabolism was very low. Still, should I be sitting at home in a gas mask? Sleeping in one?
I should add, my windows are always open a bit except for brief periods. Before I get criticism about that, one should know that in Iceland, windows are part of your air conditioning system, to let the cool "fresh" air in. You heat with radiators and cool with windows. And in my place, with my tropical "jungle" indoors, humidity reaches unacceptable levels if I don't have air circulation.
That said... concerning working outside, I've clearly found my limits. If I'm doing strenuous labour and the SO2 levels are in the hundreds, I will be in a mask. Quite simply because I really have no other choice. I'm not going to accomplish anything working for 10 minutes then going home feeling like as asthmatic with a pack a day smoking habit.
Okay... on to volcano coverage!
First, let's start with a map:
(Credit: Jarðvísindastofnun Háskólans)
... and animate it:
So we can now see that the part that was flowing north toward the road hasn't done much expanding of the flow in that direction. The southern end however has bulged out the flow a measurable amount in that direction. Most of what it's been doing, however, is spreading out and building up the flow height. And it's been doing that spectacularly.
(Credit: Árni Sæberg)
(Credit: Árni Sæberg)
(Credit: Ómar Ragnarsson)
Stills don't do it justice - the aerial video at the end is a must. :) The University of Iceland gives a rough volume estimate of 0,83 cubic kilometers - now surpassing the 13-month long eruption of Hekla (1947-1948) to become the largest Icelandic lava eruption since Laki.
The craters keep growing:
(Credit: Morten S. Riishuus - 28 september)
(Credit: Morten S. Riishuus - 15 october)
So, we've got some conflicting headlines today. RÚV reports "The danger zone north of Vatnajökull is enlarged", as did Vísir, while MBL reported "Closed zone shrunk". What actually happened?
What's actually happened is that they've broken the area into two parts - a closed zone that's illegal to go into, and a broader area called a "danger zone" but which is not prohibited to enter.
Okay, probably a good plan. But there's one oddity: The caldera of Bárðarbunga herself, the very same caldera that's dropping 30-40 centimeters a day, which now appears to be having hydrothermal venting around her plug, is not considered to be a ban area, only a danger area. I guess there is considered to be enough time to get off of it? Honestly, just the danger of collapsing ice under powerful earthquakes sounds like a serious threat to me... but I don't make the calls!
In a reversal, there's been almost no seismic activity in the dike or near Askja today, but there's been great numbers of small quakes under Tungnafellsjökull. While it is a volcano (unconnected with the Bárðarbunga system), it is not believed to be under threat of eruption; as far as is known, eruptions there have been rare, and there's no signs of spreading on the GPS meters.
Now, it's time for "Good (Albeit Confusing) News, Somewhat Disconcerting News, Bad News"!
The Good (Albeit Confusing) News: Vulcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson says that the eruption is only half of what it was "in the beginning", and that it surely will peter out. I find this claim confusing, however, given that we only briefly had reports of 1000 m³/s, followed also briefly by 500 m³, then 100 m³/s, then 100-150 m³/s, then 100-200 m³/s, then much later 230-350 m³/s, and since then reports that activity has been constant. So unless he's talking about the very rough estimates from the first few days, I have trouble reconciling this with the other data that's been reported - as well as the recent videos of the activity. But hopefully he's right :)
The Somewhat Disconcerting News: From the same article, Kristín Jónsdóttir from the Met Office says that they're evaluating a theory that motion of the plug over Bárðarbunga's caldera is letting water into the depths, causing explosions which aggrevate further quake activity. Interesting theory, in that it would help explain the intensity of the quakes and the frequent tremor spikes (beyond the effects of weather).
The Bad News: The field team is reporting increased degassing from the eruptive vents in the past week. Ugh.
(Credit: Morten S. Riishuus)
Haraldur Sigurðsson has done his own calculations on SO2 emissions from the eruption and finds them higher than have been otherwise reported. He uses sample data that shows a 0,15% sulfur level in the upflowing lava and calculates that given the current flow levels then SO2 emissions and a typical release of half of the sulfur should yield 0,7 to 1 tonne per second (60-86k/day), about 30-fold the emissions of Kilauea but about 1/6th the average rate of Laki. This seems plausible to me. However, these simply remain his calulations and are not official numbers. He also points out the wide range in official estimates - for example, one satellite estimate (TOMS) shows peaks of 5 to 20 thousand tonnes per day, often no emissions at all, which is clearly an absurdity (source: my lungs and eyes). The University of Iceland estimates 35 thousand per day by trying to reconcile different sources of data. Haraldur considers emissions estimates from measured sulfur levels in samples to be the most accurate.
So anyway, what's this about a video? I lied, I don't have a video for you all. As in "a", singular; I have two :) First, this one is just a variant of one you saw before, the earlier footage from a drone that flew too close and melted its camera:
But then there's this one from today's lava flows, which I find just beautiful looking at all of that spreading, glowing rock from the bowels of the Earth.
Join us again next time; hopefully I'll be ready to go into more detail about what's going on in the caldera!
Update, 21:40: No update tonight
Update, 1:06: No update tonight either - sorry! I'll do one tomorrow. :)