The 2011-2012 submarine eruption off El Hierro, Canary Islands: New lessons in oceanic island growth and volcanic crisis management
Forty years after the eruption of the Teneguía volcano on La Palma, 1971, the last volcanic event in the Canary Islands, a submarine eruption took place in 2011 off-shore El Hierro, the smallest and youngest island of the archipelago. In this paper, we review the periods of seismic unrest leading up to the 2011-2012 El Hierro eruption, the timeline of eruptive events, the erupted products, the wider societal impacts, and the insights garnered for our understanding of ocean island growth mechanisms and hazard management. Seismic precursors allowed early detection of magmatic activity and prediction of the approximate location of the eruption. White coloured "floating stones" ("xeno-pumice") were described within the first few days of the events, the origin of which were hotly debated because of their potential implications for the character of the eruption. Due to epistemic uncertainty derived from delayed flow of scientific information and equivocal interpretations of the "floating stones", the El Hierro 2011-2012 events were characterised by cautious civil protection measures, which greatly impacted on the residents' lives and on the island's economy. We therefore summarise the scientific lessons learned from this most recent Canary Island eruption and discuss how emergency managers might cope with similar situations of uncertainty during future eruptive events in the region.