Bárðabunga outlet glacier and volcano in Vatnajökull is shaken by earthquakes

  • Scientists are constantly monitoring Bárðarbunga and nearby places
Oct 27 2017

Most dangerous eruptions in Iceland occur under ice, under a thick ice cap.  The reason is the massive flood that forces its way to the shore as the magma melts the thick ice on the volcano's top. The primary indicator to predict an eruption is earthquakes and the size and frequency of earthquakes.  The Icelandic Med Office monitors earthquakes around the country, especially around volcanos.  Bárðarbunga outlet glacier in Vatnajökull ice cap is probably one of two most dangerous combination of volcanos and icecap in Iceland.  The other one is Katla volcano under the icecap in Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

The almost eruption in Bárðarbunga glacier in 2014

As Bárðabunga volcano is highly unstable and likely to erupt earthquakes around the volcano are monitored with attention. The meters are observed around the clock at the Icelandic Met Office.  Not the least as Bárðabunga has been quite unstable in recent years and thousands of small and large earthquakes are shaking the volcano.  Three years ago Icelanders held their breath as the center of series of earthquakes moved from the volcano under the ice to the black sands north of the glacier.  This was a significant and essential change as the magma finally surfaced on the sand and not under the icecap. Finally, after a huge eruption started at the end of August 2014, everyone was relieved as a big natural disaster was avoided. 

Holuhraun north of Bárðarbunga in Ódáðahraun area

Lava from the 2014 eruption north of Bárðarbunga glacier and volcano

Increasing earthquakes in Bárðarbunga

In spite of the eruption only three years ago and to some extent a relief for the pushing magma from beneath, the danger from Bárðarbunga is nowhere over.  The volume of the magma underneath is enormous, and as it is steadily waiting to push its way to the surface, the threat is always imminent. Even more so today than in recent history as global warming is melting the glacier faster than before relieving the burden and the pressure on the volcano.  So as we are experiencing more earthquakes these days, we are all reminded of the danger that might be imminent if an eruption occurred under the Bárðabunga ice cap producing a flood and natural disaster for the north-eastern part of Iceland and threatening some crucial attractions like Dettifoss waterfall and the whole Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon. Last night the quakes were from 3.2 to 4.7 on a richter scale which is quite serious.   Hopefully, the larger earthquakes occurring these days are not indicators of an eruption. 


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