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Small-magnitude seismic episodes unrelated to a volcanic eruption have been a relatively frequent feature in all the Canaries without causing any significant public alarm. Conversely, great alarm was raised in May 2004 in Tenerife, when apparently numerous low-magnitude seismic signals were recorded, although only a few of them were actually felt in nearby villages.

Public alarm was raised by (1) the publication on a Web site of imperceptible seismic signals as low as 0.6 on the Richter scale, most of which were not even adequately localized and yet were reproduced almost daily in the local and national press without further comment or explanation; (2) a Spanish national scientific committee being replaced by a local committee that was scientifically advised by a private company; and (3) publicity given by the media to the prediction made by members of the local committee of a potentially large scale explosive eruption in October 2004 (dubbed “the October volcano” by residents). Interestingly, obvious fumarole activity was absent in autumn 2004 during an inspection of Teide summit by three of us.