Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano alert raised to level orange

Volcanic and seismic activity on the island nation of Iceland is nothing new. However as the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull showed, eruptions in Iceland can have far reaching impacts on the rest of Europe. The 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption threw up thousands of tons of ash and dust into the air affecting millions of people and resulting in airspace closures over much of western Europe for a number of days following the eruption.

Iceland's many volcanoes. Bárðarbunga is coloured orange and is located to the south-east of the island. Image source: Icelandic Met Office

Iceland’s many volcanoes. Bárðarbunga is coloured orange and is located to the south-east of the island.
Image source: Icelandic Met Office

The recent unrest took the form of increased earthquake activity starting on Saturday 16th August at Bárðarbunga volcano. The Icelandic Met Office reports that as of Monday 18th around 2600 earthquakes were recorded by local instruments with several events greater than magnitude 3. The strongest event recorded, a magnitude 4.5, occurred on Monday morning. This is the strongest earthquake measured in the region since 1996.

Seismic activity around the volcano as of 20:45 18th August. Event times are colour coded, events larger than magnitude 3 are given as green stars. Source: Icelandic Met Office

Seismic activity around the volcano as of 20:45 18th August. Event times are colour coded, events larger than magnitude 3 are given as green stars.
Source: Icelandic Met Office

The Icelandic Met Office observes very strong indications of ongoing magma movement in the lower crust. As of yet it is uncertain whether there is magma migration to the surface. However if the current activity persists and magma enters shallower portions of the crust then it is likely Bárðarbunga  will erupt. And like Eyjafjallajökull, Bárðarbunga also lies hidden beneath Iceland’s largest glacier. An eruption below the glacier could throw up thousands of tons of steam, ash and dust into the atmosphere and result in similar air traffic disturbances as the 2010 eruptions. Not to mention floods in the local area.

The Icelandic Met Office has raised the risk level to the aviation industry to orange, the second-highest level. An orange alert indicates that the volcano shows heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.

The various volcanic alert levels. Bárðarbunga has been raised to level orange. Source: Icelandic Met Office

The various volcanic alert levels. Bárðarbunga has been raised to level orange.
Source: Icelandic Met Office

Various CGS academics and researchers at the University of Leeds are working hard to update the hazard and ground deformation maps of the region around the volcano, as part of the FutureVolc project. This will be invaluable data to monitor the volcano and the eruption, if it occurs.

Ekbal

More information:
[1] The Icelandic Met Office: http://en.vedur.is
[2] A well written and active volcano blog: http://www.wired.com/category/eruptions
[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28843968
[4] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/18/iceland-volcano-risk-raised-to-orange
[5] The FutureVolc project website: http://futurevolc.hi.is

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One comment on “Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano alert raised to level orange

  1. Pingback: Iceland Earthquake Distribution – 20 August | CLIMATE AND GEOHAZARDS

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