Updates on the Saudi Arabian earthquakes

Al-Baidha volcanoAl-Qider volcano in Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Hussaini.

I've been searching for more information on the Saudi Arabian earthquake swarm reported last week. A number of Eruptions readers have also added some on-the-ground info as well.

UPDATE 12:30PM Pacific: Here is a brief update via Reuters India. They mention that five villages are being evacuated as a precaution. Beyond that, not much new information and it does feature this line that makes me shudder: "The region lies on a fault line, according to SGS, which declined to comment on current magma levels, but newspapers reported that in the past few days magma levels had risen to 4 km (2.5 miles) below the surface from 8 km." Magma levels? Magma is not like the water table. Ack! Again, I'm not sure how the SGS knows definitively that magma is rising.

I'll divide what we know into three groups:

The facts:

Lava flows in the area around Al-Qider Volcano, Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Hussaini.

The conjectures

Rumors (Not to say these aren't true, but I have yet to find corroboration - thanks to the commenters who left this information)

  • Earthquakes are being felt as far away as the coastal city of Yanbu, Madinah (250 km distant) and Tabuk (400 km to the north).
  • Groaning noises, peculiar odors and wells drying up near the epicenters(?)
  • Fisherman has noticed a change in sea level(?)
  • increasing number of earthquakes in the area

And that is what we know. Nothing conclusive about the source of these earthquakes and not a lot of news out there in the MSM. If you find anything, feel free to post it here and we can all keep on eye on the events in western Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qider Al-Baidha Mountain in Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Hussaini.

More like this

Al-Qider volcano in western Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Hussaini The intense seismicity occurring underneath the Al-Eis region in Saudi Arabia has reached a point where Saudi Arabian officials are requiring 60,000 people who live in the region to evacuate. This is after M4.6 and M5.4…
Al-Qider volcano in western Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Hussaini. After a week's worth of worry, it appears that the seismicity in western Saudi Arabia is subsiding. The latest statement from Zuhair Nawab, the head of the SGS, is that over the past four days with fewer and less severe…
Fissures formed by seismicity in the Al-Ais region of Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Hussaini. Although it seemed last week that the earthquakes in western Saudi Arabia were subsiding last week, there have been a number of reports that there was still significant seismicity in the area…
The Harrat Khaybar volcanic field in Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of NASA, taken in 2008. Now, I might take this report with a Volvo-sized grain of salt, but I've seen a few reports lately of an earthquake swarm going on in Saudi Arabia, near the Harrat Ash-Shaqqah in Al-Eis region (apparently near…

so what would the tectonic explanation be for basaltic volcanism away from the supposed spreading center in Red Sea ???

By robert somerville (not verified) on 18 May 2009 #permalink

Hi Erik,

I just want to note that the first picture is for Al-Baidha Mountain which is an extinct volcano, and the third picture is for Al-Qider volcano.

By Ahmed Al-Hussaini (not verified) on 18 May 2009 #permalink

That top volcano looks like a smaller version of Olympus Mons!

It's confirmed today that water temperatures in near water wells had rised

Smoke is coming out from some places

Also, animals started to act madly

about half an hour ago an earthquake occured and could be felt firmly in Um Lijj ( 80km to the west, coastal city )and in Yanbu ( around 150km to the south-west ), in fact it caused a noticed movement in home furnitures

By Ahmed Al-Hussaini (not verified) on 18 May 2009 #permalink

If anyone has not read this link Ian put up earlier - please do so - it is extremely helpful background information.

The huge number of scoria's and records of volcanic and phreatic activity which you can read about at the link below means that we are more likely to see something volcanic or phreatic than if it were unrest at a huge caldera system.

You also must click on the âsee the volcanoesâ photo that is in the top right of the article text at the same link. The photos are great - and will add greatly to an understanding of what geology lovers might hope to see from this eruption.

The link was provided by Hypocentre - a.k.a. Dr Ian G. Stimpson (Seismologist) in the earlier Saudi Arabia volcano post.

By Thomas Donlon (not verified) on 19 May 2009 #permalink


At this link they say that now magma has now risen to 3 km below the surface. (The article is from a few days ago - maybe it is at 2 km now?)

The article linked in my above comment indicate that they had seismic monitoring equipment in the area. So, I guess they are tracking via the quakes, the movement of magma up a conduit or maybe they think magma is making a new conduit as it rises.

By Thomas Donlon (not verified) on 19 May 2009 #permalink

I am somewhat shocked how little media attention this has been getting so far. However, it is hard to tell what is going on or what might happen. The 5.6 and 4.6 earthquakes people are reporting here were estimated at 10 km and 35 km, respectively. That is much deeper than the supposed 3-4 km depth that magma might moved according to the Saudi Geological Survey. The ground reports might suggest that there are other signs pointing towards eruptions, but again, I have yet to see corroborating reports to back these up.

We'll see what happens in the next few days ... I'll continue to try to find more info. And keep the comments coming!

Google Earth plots these earthquakes. It's interesting to see their distribution over a vast lava field. I never realized how volcanic this area has been. It's impressive.

I would like to confirm that the tremor was felt as far as Yanbu. Yesterday evening two tremors were felt in Yanbu.

I think the reason why how little media attention we have about it is our country policy because they just don't want people freakin out.
and it's really freakin me out because this is the first time we got an earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are coming in the way !!!

USGS revised the depth of the 5.7M tremor to be only 1.4 km deep. The location (mountain peak) is around 900 m above sea level. I think there is an error.

Indeed the tremors have been felt here in Yanbu Al Bahr. ( About 75 miles from the epicenter)

We have experienced movement of furniture/blinds/shking water,etc.....at our apartment each of the last three days.

By Weldertom (not verified) on 20 May 2009 #permalink


Saudi Geological Survey Explains Al-Ais Tremors. May 21 2009

MADINAH, May 21 (Bernama)-- The Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), explained Wednesday that the SGS air inspection conducted recently at "Al Harrat AS-Shaqqah" (Lava field) and the surrounding areas, revealed the existence of what it described as ground groves at the seismic activity area, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

He also disclosed a remarkable increase in the number of earthquakes to 46 on Tuesday; the most powerful earthquake recorded which hit the area Tuesday night was 5.39 degrees on the Richter Scale, while the rest of the tremors ranged between 3 and 4.8 degrees.

In a statement issued here Wednesday, SGS said the earth tremor measuring 4.81 on the Richter scale was at a depth of 7.7 km and occurred at 9.38 am (local time) Tuesday morning and was felt by residents in Al-Ais and its neighboring villages and that the tremor was felt in Omlug, Yanbu and the northern districts of Madinah.

The SGS reassured the variables associated with this activity in terms of the rise in temperature and concentration of radon gas in some regions of volcanic area of "Al Harrat AS-Shaqqah."

Mayor of Al-Ais Ahmed Al-Buraiket said since the beginning of the reporting of the occurrence of earthquakes at the centre of Al-Ais and neighbouring area, it generated big interest interaction among all concerned governmental bodies at Al Madinah Governorate.

we have felt the sea water smell too it smella that water is getting hot and the smell is like sweet smell. This was the most noticeable thing.

We appreciate the info you provided. Just wanted to comment about the noices and the fact that this has been predicted befor almost 1500 years ago..
the noices some residents hear ( some people who i know ) are thunder noises and actually the sea level did raise not just in the red sea but all around the world due to global warming except in the lake located in north palestine near jordanian borders, which is drying. ( also this had been predicted 1500 years ago).
Unfortuneatly, its sad to say that this volcano is soon going to errupt, and people are going to see 'river of lava' forcing residents in arabian penensula to leave and migrat up north, and an anormous amount of smoke is going to come out covering a large area of the world. I ask God, the one and only, to protect us all.
may god bless you ang guide you to the truth.
Thanks again,

The top picture is not visible... can anyone repost?