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Bardarbunga Volcano In Iceland Possi­ble Coming Back To Life

18/08/2014 | By | Reply More

A powerf­ul volcano, Bardarbunga, (Bárðarbunga) mig­ht erupt in the High­lands of Iceland


The orange area has been af­fected by seismic acti­vity of Vatnajökull, Iceland

A powerf­ul volcano, Bárðarbunga, mig­ht erupt in the High­lands of Ice­land.

The Icelandic Met Office has up­gra­ded its aviati­on al­ert status to orange, me­an­ing that a “volcano shows heig­htened or escalat­ing un­rest with increa­sed potential of erupti­on.” Seismic acti­vity is of­ten the precursor of an erupti­on.

The orange al­ert is the second highest al­ert status. The next al­ert level, red, me­ans that an erupti­on is eit­her imm­in­ent or in progress. Bardarbunga last erupted in 1996.

In­ten­se seismic acti­vity

Accord­ing to the website of the Icelandic Met Office: “the in­ten­se seismic acti­vity that started on 16th of Aug­ust at Bardarbunga pers­ists. Very strong indicati­ons of ongo­ing magma mo­vement, in conn­ecti­on with dyke intrusi­on, is corro­borated by GPS mea­surements. Th­ere are cur­rently two swarms: one to the E of Bárðarbunga caldera and one at the edge of Dyngju­jök­ull just E of Kistu­fell. At 2.37 am on the 18th a strong eart­hqua­ke (M4) was loca­ted in the Kistu­fell sw­arm.

This is the strongest eart­hqua­ke mea­sured in the reg­i­on since 1996. As evi­dence of magma mo­vement shallower than 10 km implies increa­sed potential of a volcanic erupti­on, the Bárðarbunga aviati­on col­or code has been changed to orange. Presently th­ere are no signs of erupti­on, but it cannot be [ru­led out] that the cur­rent acti­vity will result in an exp­losi­ve su­bglacial erupti­on, lea­ding to an out­burst flood (jök­ul­hlaup) and ash em­issi­on. The situati­on is monitor­ed closely.”

Roads closed north of the Bardartunga volcano

Certain roads in the high­land north of Vatna­jök­ull glacier, wh­ere Bardarbunga is situa­ted, have been closed due to risk to tourists in the area, including the road to Herðubreiðarlind­ir to Askja (F88) and Gæsa­vatna­leið rou­te from Sprengisand­ur to Askja (F910). Tra­vell­ers are advised to gat­her in­formati­on on road-sa­fety in the area close to Bárðarbunga. This in­formati­on can be found here.

View video below with update what can happen.


Update: 19.08.2014 at 08:30 am GMT

About 950 eart­hqua­kes have been detected with the eart­hqua­ke monitor­ing network of the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), since midnig­ht. Sever­al of these events were lar­ger than magnitu­de 3. The sw­arm initially started in the Bárðarbunga caldera and has been migrat­ing in two clu­sters tow­ards the north and the east of the volcano.

Yester­day, these two clu­sters were acti­ve east and north of Bárðarbunga as acti­vity was migrat­ing nort­heastw­ards. . While strongest events were loca­ted in the nort­hern clu­ster, the highest num­ber of events were detected in the ea­stern clu­ster.

The strongest event since the on­set of the sw­arm was detected on Monday morn­ing 02:37 in the nort­hern clu­ster. Ana­lys­is revea­led that its magnitu­de was 4.5 and it was felt in Ak­ur­eyri and Lón in the nort­hern part of the coun­try. Since this morn­ing, acti­vity has significantly decrea­sed in the nort­hern clu­ster.

The ea­stern clu­ster is still acti­ve and two strong pulses occured between 10:45 and 12:00 as well as 16:50 and 17:30 today. Wit­hin the first pul­se around noon, the clu­ster was again migrat­ing nort­heastw­ards, but most events are now loca­ted between Bárðarbunga and Kverk­fjöll. As reported earlier, GPS ground deformati­on data has evi­denced that the eart­hqua­ke sw­arm is caused by magma intrusi­on.

Throug­hout the whole sequ­ence un­til now, the maj­o­rity of events today was at 5-10km depth. No signs of migrati­on tow­ards the surface or any ot­her signs of imm­in­ent or ongo­ing volcanic acti­vity have been detected so far. IMO is monitor­ing the area around the clock very closely and will up­da­te in case of any changes.

Civil Protecti­on is still on Uncertainty Phase, which me­ans that cour­se of events has started that may lead to natural haz­ard in the near fut­ure. The Nati­onal Comm­issi­oner of Icelandic Police (NCIP) has today met with the Prime Mini­ster of Ice­land, Mini­ster of In­ter­i­or and go­vern­ment officials to consult on the issue. The NCIP also met with officials from the Min­is­try of For­eign Affairs, for­eign embassies in Ice­land and from key stakeholders in Ice­land.

Mountain roads North of Vatna­jök­ull, F88 (completely) and F910 (partly), have been closed for all traffic. That inclu­des cars, bikes and hik­ing.

See live webcam from the area – Cam view from Vaðöldu

Update: 19.08.2014 at 19:25 pm GMT

The high­land areas North of Dyngju­jök­ull, wh­ere th­ere has been a lot of seismic activity in recent days, is now being evacua­ted. The district comm­issi­oners of police in Húsa­vík and Seyðis­fjörður in cooperati­on with Civic Protecti­on announced this in a pu­blic statement this af­ternoon.

In additi­on, a Civic Protecti­on dan­ger phase has been declared in the area due to the un­rest in Bárðarbunga.

Update: 20.08.2014 at 14:00 pm GMT

The situati­on in the nort­hern part of Vatna­jök­ull is unchanged. Th­ere is still very much seismic acti­vity in the area which cont­inu­es to move to the north east. The al­ert phase declared yester­day is still in place and the area has been evacua­ted.

The Icelandic Co­ast Guard will fly over the area today to see if any tourist are still th­ere. The decisi­on to evacua­te the area is a precauti­on­ary acti­on in case the seismic acti­vity is a prelu­de for a volcanic erupti­on. Accord­ing to in­formati­on from the Icelandic Met office an eart­hqua­ke has occur­red almost every single minu­te today.

Th­ere has been a const­ant seismic acti­vity in the area around Bárðarbunga in Vatna­jök­ull since Sat­ur­day and not­hing indica­tes that it is about to stop. The strongest eart­hqua­ke of 4.0 took place on Monday. Whet­her this all will lead to an actual erupti­on remains a qu­esti­on.

This image shows earthquakes during the last 48 hours of the whole country


Earthquakes during the last 48 hours in Iceland (20.08,2014 at 18:15 pm GMT – Source: The Icelandic Met Office

Update 20.08.2014 at 22:30 pm GMT

Icelandic Co­astgu­ar­d’s airpla­ne land­ed at Reykja­vik airport tonig­ht. On bo­ard the pla­ne were geolog­ists ret­urn­ing from their flig­ht over Bárðarbunga, among­st them Magnús Tumi Guðmunds­son, one of Iceland’s lea­ding geop­h­ysicists.

“The flig­ht went well, we mana­ged to gat­her the in­formati­on we wan­ted. We did radar mea­surements of the glacier and the ri­ver Jök­ulsá á Fjöll­um, which will be of much value in the event of an erupti­on,” he said in a telepho­ne in­terview with

Magnús says it’s hard to evalua­te the chances of an erupti­on. “It can go eit­her way, no­bo­dy can really predict what will happ­en in this situati­on.”

A lot of ice to melt

He says that in the event of an erupti­on, one of two things would likely happ­en. “What’s more likely is an erupti­on below the glacier Dyngju­jök­ull, wh­ere we can see eart­hqua­ke acti­vity moving nort­heast. In that area the glacier’s thickness mea­sures half a ki­lometer, so it would have to melt a lot of ice before it could finally breach the surface.

Seismic acti­vity in Bárðarbunga. Notice how the acti­vity seems to be moving Nort­heast.

When that would happ­en, the erupti­on would change into an exp­losi­ve one, sim­il­ar to what happ­ens when the Grím­svötn volcano erupts.”

“The ot­her opti­on is that the erupti­on would happ­en in the Bárðarbunga caldera, wh­ere the glacier is up to 800 metres thick, so it would have to melt its way through even more ice.”

Not a disa­sterous jök­ul­hlaup (melted ice in rivers)

Magnús says that a jök­ul­hlaup could follow and the ri­ver’s flow could reach up to ten thousand cu­bic metres every second. “If the erupti­on would be about the avera­ge size of an icelandic erupti­on, the ri­ver’s flow could get 10 to 20 times big­ger than what is normal dur­ing the sum­mer. We cant exclu­de the possi­bility of a lar­ger flood though.”

Even so, you still couldn’t say it was a so cal­led disastrous flood. “That kind of flow, even gi­ven its size, wouldn’t really be cal­led a disa­ster. It wouldn’t even be but 1/​10th to 1/​5th of the flood that happ­ened in Skeiðar­ársand­ur in the year 1996.” The jök­ul­hlaup Magnús menti­ons was a very big one, shatter­ing bridges to the south of Vatna­jök­ull glacier.

Magnús says that an erupti­on in the glacier wouldn’t relea­se the pressure that mig­ht be build­ing up in the volcanoes Katla or Hekla. “An erupti­on in Bárðarbunga wouldn’t have any ef­fect on such dist­ant volcanoes.”

Over 1.700 qua­kes have occur­red in the area near Bárðarbunga in the past 48 hours. (see image above)


Update 21.08.2014 at 19:50 pm GMT

Three big earthquakes were detected in Bárðarbunga region of Vatnajökull glacier today. The largest quake measured 4 in magnitude and took place at 11:00. Another one was detected around 13:00 and measured 3,8 in magnitude.

According to the Icelandic Met Office, this does not necessarily mean that an eruption is imminent, since the earthquakes are not located where most of the magma is. Evacuation order is still in effect for the area north of Vatnajökull.

Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, geophysicist at the University of Iceland, said tonight that there was no change in the surface of the glacier.

“We can see from the data collected that there is no flaws or dig or anything like that in the glacier,” says Gudmundsson. “We went over some parts of the area twice because there has been considerable sisemic activity there on Wednesday (20.08.), but we saw no change.”

If there is an eruption Gudmundsson says that it could taket he lava upp to 24 hours to go through the 500 meter thick ice in the glacier in the crack between Bárðarbunga and Kverkfjöll mountains. If there is an eruption in the caldera of Bárðarbunga, Gudmundsson says it would take a very powerful eruption to go through the glacier which is up to 800 meter thick.

Update 22.08.2014 at 15:00 pm GMT

In­ten­se eart­hqua­ke acti­vity cont­inu­es at the Bárðarbunga volcano. Since midnig­ht, over 900 eart­hqua­kes have been detected in Bárðarbunga. Today three eart­hqua­kes exceed­ing three in magnitu­de have occur­red on the caldera rim of Bárðarbunga, the lar­gest one was magnitu­de 4. These eart­hqua­kes were at depths around 2 – 5 km. They are in­ter­preted as possi­ble adjust­ments of the caldera due to chang­ing magma pressure. They are not assu­med to be the precursor to an imm­in­ent erupti­on, accord­ing to scient­ists at the Icelandic Met Office.

Update 23.08.2014 at 11:10 am GMT

A 25 kilometer long dike intrusion has formed, north and east of the Bardarbunga caldera. Intense seismic activity continues there. Strong earthquakes have been detected in the caldera itself, but they are associated with decompression of the magma chamber beneath the caldera.

According to the Icelandic Met Office there are no signs that seismicity is decreasing. A 25 kilometer long dike has formed in the crust under the Dyngjujökull outlet glacier at 5 – 10 km. depth. Magma is thought to continue to move along the dyke, possibly branching out at the NE end of the dike.

Several strong earthquakes have been detected in the Bárðarbunga itself; the last one, magnitude 3,6, at 07:02 GMT this Saturday morning, 6.7 km ESE of Bárðarbunga. These events are thought to reflect an adjustment of the caldera rim, related to decompression in the caldera since the beginning of the unrest six days ago. 1638 earthquakes has been recorded during the last 48 hours.

Update 23.08.2014 at 14:11 pm GMT

Small eruption has started at crack northeast of Bárðarbunga in Dyngjujökli, according the Icelandic Met Office.


Category: Iceland

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