Bárðarbunga glacier volcano

  • Bárðarbunga is the second highest mountain in Iceland

 

Bárðarbunga is the second highest mountain in Iceland next to Öræfajökull standing a bit over 2000 meters tall. Like many mountains in Iceland Bárðarbunga has many different faces.  In addition to being a mountain, it is also an outlet glacier placed on the north-west side of the large ice cap Vatnajökull. On top of the mountain is an 800 meters thick layer of ice covering the mountain and its surrounding valleys and canyons.  Picturing the white sight of ice on top of Bárðarbunga is, of course, fascinating and the glacier can be seen in all its greatness from the center of the Icelandic highland. But what lies beneath is probably more interesting and possibly frightening.  Not so deep under the mountain Bárðarbunga waiting patiently is a huge magma chamber with glowing magma eager to surface. So in addition to being a mountain and a glacier, Bárðarbunga is also a volcano. Ad in addition to being the second highest mountain is also the second largest volcano in Iceland with a volcanic system that is 200 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide. The mountain is a humongous natural force that everyone hopes will never be released.  So when earthquakes begin in Bárðarbunga, everyone should be intimidated.

The scary magma beneath

One of the primary indicators predicting eruption are the earthquakes occurring when the magma is moving around near the surface.  The magma is like a giant red monster of thousand degrees trying to find its way to the surface and simultaneously moving the earth's crust causing collapses and movements. Moving its many arms from the chamber into all the cracks, fissures and crevasses it can find with the intention to surface with its tail extended deep into the earth's core. It is a frightening beast and not without success. The last time Bárðarbunga erupted was only three years ago, in 2014. Fortunately for everyone, the eruption occurred on the sand only a few kilometers north of the Bárðarbunga glacier.  And even though it was just another eruption in Iceland, it was one of the largest one in modern history measured by the volume of lava. If the monster had found its way under the glacier, only a few kilometers south, the story would have been entirely different and more like the Eyjafjallajökull eruption with more massive floods.

Eruptions in Bárðarbunga and nearby places

Although scientists predict devastating floods and even a natural disaster if the beast surfaces under the glacier the effect could be less. In 1996 a short but powerful eruptions occurred near Bárðarbunga in Grímsvötn. The eruption lasted for two weeks and melted a tremendous amount of ice producing a massive flood that found its way to the south shore instead of flooding to the north over the highland. For Icelanders, the flood was a natural disaster with devastating effects for the landscape and roads and bridges were the main victims.  Fortunately, no life was lost.  In addition to this eruption and the 2014 eruption, it is believed that a small eruption occurred in 1797. So we are yet to see a large eruption in Bárðarbunga with devastating effects for the northeast part of the country.