Mount Sinabung
Mount Sinabung has been erupting since September (Reuters)

The recent eruptions of seven volcanoes in six countries within the space of just a few hours sparked doomsday prophecies and claims that Armageddon was coming.

But the End of Days is not nigh, experts have said. The high incidence of eruptions over a short period of time was a natural occurrence, they said.

The volcanoes were Indonesia's Mount Sinabung and Mount Merapi, Italy's Mount Etna, the Colima volcano in Mexico, Guatemala's Fire Mountain and Vanuatu's Yasur volcano, while an undersea volcano off the Japanese coast formed a new island.

Volcanologist Rebecca Williams, of the University of Hull, told IBTimes UK: "This is perfectly normal. At any one time there can be on average 10-20 volcanoes erupting every day. So there's nothing particularly unusual, just coincidence that those all happened within an hour or so.

"Etna is one that's making the news a lot at the moment but Etna has been almost continuously erupting for 100 years so there's no real link between it erupting and anything else occurring."

Mount Etna
Mount Etna has been continuously erupting for 100 years (Reuters)

Williams said that Mount Etna had a constant supply of magma so there were no huge explosions. Kilauea in Hawaii is similar, she said.

"On the other end of the scale are volcanoes like Sinabung in Indonesia. A volcano like this is over a magma chamber which has to reach a critical point to erupt. To create these big explosive eruptions the magma chamber has to become over-pressured - like a champagne cork. You need the force.

"The magma chamber tends to sit there for a very long time, it crystallises and starts releasing gas, and that pressure builds up and causes the eruption. Those don't tend to erupt as often as ones like Etna and Hawaii. They don't build up pressure in the same way."

Volcanologist David Pyle, professor of earth sciences at Oxford, said there were slightly more eruptions during autumn and winter but noted that the seven recent contemporaneous eruptions were nothing out of the ordinary.

"We looked at eruptions over the last 300 years, which was about 3,000 eruptions, and we noticed there was a tendency for slightly more eruptions to take place in autumn and winter," he said.

Island formed off the coast of Japan from volcanic eruption (Reuters)

"Our hypothesis was to do with changes in the Earth's crust. We suggested that one thing that could change global stresses in that sort of way is the movement of water because the mass of the ocean reaches its maximum around September and in the Northern Hemisphere winter that water is taken out of the ocean and deposited in the Northern Hemisphere, which is actually quite a large load."

Both Williams and Pyle agreed that the reason for increased concerns over small volcanic clusters is the increased ability to report eruptions.

"We're much more aware of volcanic activity around the world, just because of the proliferation of smartphones and webcams. It's just so much easier for this information to be distributed globally," Pyle said.

When something dramatic happens, it is usual for people to be more aware of similar occurrences.

"It's a natural bias towards reporting things that might not have been out of the ordinary.

"It's not an alignment of the sun. There's nothing that's causing huge volcanic activity, this is all perfectly normal.

"It's mostly that we're just getting must better reports now, so people are able to report on it and take photos so we are able to see eruptions much more than we ever have."