• El Hierro;
  • carbon dioxide efflux;
  • continuous monitoring;
  • hydrogen sulphide efflux;
  • precursory signal;
  • submarine eruption

[1] On October 12, 2011, a submarine eruption began 2 km off the coast of La Restinga, south of El Hierro Island. CO2 and H2S soil efflux were continuously measured during the period of volcanic unrest by using the accumulation chamber method at two different geochemical stations, HIE01 and HIE07. Recorded CO2 and H2S effluxes showed precursory signals that preceded the submarine eruption. Beginning in late August, the CO2 efflux time series started increasing at a relatively constant rate over one month, reaching a maximum of 19 gm−2d−1 one week before the onset of the submarine volcanic eruption. The H2S efflux time series at HIE07 showed a pulse in H2S emission just one day before the initiation of the submarine eruption, reaching peak values of 42 mg m−2 d−1, 10 times the average H2S efflux recorded during the observation period. Since CO2 and H2S effluxes are strongly influenced by external factors, we applied a multiple regression analysis to remove their contribution. A statistical analysis showed that the long-term trend of the filtered data is well correlated with the seismic energy. We find that these geochemical stations are important monitoring sites for evaluating the volcanic activity of El Hierro and that they demonstrate the potential of applying continuous monitoring of soil CO2 and H2S efflux to improve and optimize the detection of early warning signals of future volcanic unrest episodes at El Hierro. Continuous diffuse degassing studies would likely prove useful for monitoring other volcanoes during unrest episodes.