Scary news about eruptions in Iceland in The Telegraph

The newspaper The Telegraph has scary news about volcanism in Iceland. They have scary claims like this one here.


Katla’s eruption in 1918 produced five times as much ash as the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull one. A major eruption could result in large parts of Iceland being flooded as snow and ice melted; significant poisoning of Icelandic agriculture; destruction of property; and, of course, the grounding of aircraft across Europe.


Well, the Katla volcano has many different types of eruption. For instance, the July 2011 eruption in Katla volcano was small. There is no way to know what happens until a eruption starts in Katla volcano. When ever that might. As for “large part of Iceland being flooded”, this is just rubbish and bad reporting. Less then 1% of Iceland would get flooded in the case of eruption in Katla volcano. What area exactly depends on where the eruption takes place under the glacier. The largest area that can get flooded if the glacier if the flood goes down Þórsmörk and close to the area east of the village of Hvolsvöllur. Eruption in Katla volcano is going to destroy roads, bridges and other things in its path. But that is to be expected. In fact, Icelanders living in the area well aware of what a eruption in Katla volcano means to them.


If enough material is ejected it could even have a cooling effect on the global climate for a few years. A precedent for that would be the 1783-84 eruption from the fissure of Laki, which is part of the same volcanic system, Grímsvötn, that erupted last year. This was a very large eruption of 15 cubic kilometres (3.6 cubic miles), compared to the fraction of a cubic kilometre ejected in 2010, and had a huge impact on the northern hemisphere, reducing temperatures by up to 3 C.


Well, no. The reason is that Katla volcano is unable to make that large eruptions most of the time. The largest eruption that is known is the Eldgjá fissure eruption in Katla volcano that took place sometimes around the year 934. As for cooling it is worth noticing that Mount Tambora eruption that was VEI=7 in the year 1815. But it only did drop the temperature around 0.4 to 0.7C (called Year Without Summer). A temperature drop of 3C would create glaciers in Europe all year round. Even Laki eruption in the year in 1783 did not cool the northern hemisphere down to 3C. That amount of drop in temperature would equal a new ice-age in Iceland, Europe and North-America.

The last eruption in Grímsfjall volcano (May, year 2011) did not have this effects. But was at least VEI=4 in size. But that eruption was many times larger then the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull volcano in the year 2010. So facts do not support the claim this news from The Telegraph is making.

This claims, among others in this types of news is nothing but fear mongering news. It is meant to scare people. Why, it is my guess that it about news paper sales.

Scary News from The Telegraph

Iceland volcano: and you thought the last eruption was bad…

Great earthquakes off Sumatra

This morning a earthquake swarm started off coast of Sumatra. This earthquake swarm has had two great earthquakes. But that is earthquakes that are larger then Mw8.0 in magnitude. The first earthquake had the magnitude Mw8.6 at least and took place at 08:36 UTC. At 10:43 UTC there was an earthquake the magnitude of Mw8.1 at least. There have been many other smaller earthquakes taking place currently. Tsunami warning has been issued for the whole area due to this earthquakes.

Information can get found at EMSC or USGS.

Few earthquakes in Hamarinn volcano and Kverkfjöll volcano

After several weeks of quiet period, activity in the volcanoes that are close to or in Vatnajökull glacier. During the past few days there have been earthquakes in several volcanoes in Vatnajökull volcano. Today it is the Hamarinn volcano and Kverkfjöll volcano.

Hamarinn volcano (Loki-Fögrufjöll)

Hamarinn volcano had its first eruption in July 2011. This eruption was small and started without even a hit of earthquake activity. It created a glacier flood that topped at 2100 M3. It did not create any damge. But it filled a human made lake that is used for power production in this area. That eruption was short, it only lasted for about 24 hours, maybe even less. Today this area of Hamarinn volcano has been having minor earthquake swarm. But this does not mean it is going to erupt again. But it also shows that current activity in Hamarinn volcano is not over.

Earthquake activity in Hamarinn volcano today (08.04.2012). Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

The earthquakes seen on Skrokkalda SIL station. The earthquakes from Tungnafellsjökull volcano are also clear on this tremor plot from Iceland Meteorological Office. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

Kverkfjöll volcano

Kverkfjöll volcano have been warning up to a eruption for some time now. When they might erupt is impossible to know at current time. But it is save to say that at present time, no eruption is going to take place any time soon. This however means that earthquakes are increasing in Kverkfjöll volcano. Most of the time there are just small earthquake swarms in Kverkfjöll volcano. No other changes have so far been noticed in Kverkfjöll volcano. But that is unlike what has been taking place in Askja volcano in the past few weeks.

Earthquake activity in Kverkfjöll volcano. This are just small earthquakes so far. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

The tremor plot from the SIL station that is closest to Kverkfjöll volcano. It just barely shows the earthquakes that have been taking place in Kverkfjöll volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

After several weeks of quiet in Iceland it seems to be that the quiet period is over. But if it is going to going to result in any major activity is impossible to know at this point.

Volcanoes of Iceland. Copyright unknown, Google Inc. But the picture is from here (warning! Conspiracy web site.)

Look at Tungnafellsjökull volcano earthquake swarm

Here is a quick look at the earthquake swarm in Tungnafellsjökull volcano this morning. This earthquake swarm is interesting, as it started with few earthquakes at the depth of around 10 km. This suggests that magma might be pushing up to the volcano at depth now. So far this is not any high volume in my option, at least not enough to start an eruption now. But if this progress continues, it is going to end with an eruption one day. But when and how big is impossible to know at current time. for the moment the earthquakes have stopped. But it is my opinion that this a dike intrusion, not tectonic earthquakes. This can be seen how the earthquakes line them self up from 12.6 km depth and up to 3.6 km depth in almost straight line based on there location.

The earthquake swarm in Tungnafellsjökull volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

The earthquake swarm is dense, but that suggests an magma dike intrusion from deep within the volcano. Similar earthquakes have been seen in other volcanoes, like Esjufjöll, Askja, Katla so few are mentioned. So I know this pattern when I see it.

The earthquake pattern as it did appear on Skrokkalda SIL station. The tremor chart shows that the earthquakes where high-frequency earthquakes for most part. Something like that was seen in Eyjafjallajökull volcano before it erupted (it had earthquakes like that many years before it erupted, not just few weeks before). Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

I did record the largest earthquake on my geophone at Hvammstangi and at Heklubyggð. Based on that trace, the earthquake was noisy. Given me even more clues that support my suggestion that the earthquake swarm was due to dike intrusion.

Similar dike intrusion events are now taking place in Kverkfjöll volcano. But I am going to write about that tomorrow. But earthquakes in Kverkfjöll volcano have been taking place for several years now, with short and long breaks between earthquake swarms.

Interesting earthquake activity in Tungnafellsjökull volcano

This is not the most known volcano in Iceland, it also has not erupted in the last 10.000 years at least. Normally this volcano does not have any earthquakes and it remains really quiet. Last major earthquake activity was in the year 1996 in relation to the activity in Bárðarbunga volcano and in Grímsfjall volcano that year. This volcano is named Tungnafellsjökull. It is a small volcano compared to other volcanoes in the area. During the past few days there have been several interesting earthquakes in Tungnafellsjökull volcano. They are small, around ML1.6 the largest ones. But they do have the depth of 10 to 12 km. That is what makes this earthquake activity interesting. Since this suggest that magma might be pushing into the volcano. However at this point in time, there is nothing to suggest an eruption is even close to start there. But with all long dormant volcanoes, nobody never knows what can happen next in them.

The earthquake activity in Tungnafellsjökull volcano. The volcano is located NW of Vatnajökull glacier. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

Following the later earthquake today. This activity started on Skrokkalda SIL station. But this might be due to activity in Hamarinn volcano (Loki-Fögrufjöll at GVP). Not Tungnafellsjökull volcano.

The odd tremor activity on Skrokkalda SIL station. I do not yet have any explanation for this activity. Note that Skrokkalda SIL station is on top of a volcano (not on GVP list, but geological maps made in Iceland), named Skrokkalda, it also has not erupted in historical times to my knowledge. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

What happens next in Tungnafellsjökull volcano is impossible to know. But it is most likely going to do what it has been doing for the past 10.000 years. A lot of nothing.

Overview of current events in Askja volcano

The current events in Askja volcano started in Week 9 of the year 2010. Before that, Askja volcano has been showing signs of change since the year 2007 at least. In the year 2010, Week 9 a earthquake swarm was recorded by Iceland Meteorological Office. Most of the earthquakes where at around 20 km depth, and it was followed by considerable amount of harmonic tremor activity. I did know about it at the time, but I did think it would be at least 10 to 20 years until Askja volcano would not erupt. But this might have been a event in an series of event that started long time ago, without me knowing about it before (I am still checking data, it takes some time).

The earthquake activity in Askja volcano in Week 9 of the year 2010. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

The image above clearly shows where magma was flowing into Askja volcano around 20 km depth. But they are to the north-east of Askja lake. The depth of this earthquakes was from 20 to 23 km.

Map of earthquake activity in Askja volcano. The green dots are earthquakes with a shallow depth, that is depth from 2 to 8 km. Yellow earthquakes have the depth of 12 to 30 km. This data is from the year 2007 at least. Copyright of this picture belongs to its owner (Janet Key).

The depth of the earthquakes in Askja volcano. Copyright of this picture belongs to its owner (Janet Key).

Depth of the earthquakes. This view shows also where the earthquakes are taking place in Askja volcano and close to it. Copyright of this picture belongs to its owner (Janet Key).

All of this map and charts are from this blog post here.

This is a heat camera image of Askja lake. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Coast Guard, the image is from here.

Last year (2011) there was an dike intrusion in north part of Askja volcano. This dike intrusion was clear by a earthquakes that took place. But it stopped and has not shown any activity again in this area. As sometimes happens with dike intrusions. But this activity is an good sign that magma is now flowing into Askja volcano again. But over period of at least 10 to 20 years, it seems that magma has been flowing out of Askja volcano system. Where it has been going I have no idea. But some hypothesis suggests that it might be flowing into Krafla volcano. But there is no good data to support this hypothesis in partial.

Activity in Askja volcano in the year 2011. This activity took place on 05.05.2011 at 16:25 UTC. Copyright of this picture belongs to Iceland Meteorological Office.

At the moment there is nothing that suggest eruption is imminent. But current progress in Askja volcano is something to keep an watch on. But it is also clear that current status in Askja volcano is changing fast. So while there is nothing to suggest a eruption at the moment, it might change without warning in Askja volcano.

Pictures of Askja lake.

Askja lake 12 June 2011.
Picture of Askja lake (32 months ago according to flickr.)

More on Askja lake sudden warming up

Few more news have appeared about the sudden warming of Askja volcano caldera lake. From what I this news say. It seems that this sudden melt of ice in Askja lake did start in beginning of March, by the end of March the lake had gone completely ice free. This is highly unusual and is not known to have happened before. This increase in hydro-thermal activity seems to be located at the bottom of the lake. But so far there is no new change around Askja lake. But it was reported yesterday that known hydro-thermal areas in Askja volcano where well active. It is now being reported that Askja lake got ice-free over period of two weeks so. But that is highly unusual and fast change in Askja lake.

Earthquake activity has not been above background level in Askja volcano so far. But this increase in hydro-thermal activity is interesting from geological point of view, and is the most clear sign that Askja volcano is preparing for a eruption. But there have been earthquakes taking place in Askja volcano. But as I sad yesterday. There have been few earthquakes in Askja volcano during past few months. Askja lake is about 1000 meters above the sea level. This means that once ice settles the lake in December it normally lasts until mid July. But the lake is self is normally up to 22C warm. So the warm increase

If anyone is going to Askja volcano. It is now official advice that people how are travelling in this area not to into Víti lake, or into Askja lake due to risk of dangerous gases that might be coming up from the ground. If you have no special reason going to Askja volcano, you should not go there at this point due to the changes in the volcano. As at this moment it is unknown what exactly is creating this changes in the Askja lake, and possibly nearby hydro-thermal areas.

University of Iceland and Iceland Meteorological Office are going to go after Easter and setup more monitoring hardware and run some test on what might be taking place in Askja volcano.

Update 1: Here is a youtube video by the user gummih that shows how fast Askja lake did thaw during middle of winter.

Icelandic news about this. Use Google translate to make sense of it.

Fylgst með framvindu mála í Öskju (
„Óeðlilegt ástand“ í Öskjuvatni (
Fólk fari ekki að Öskjuvatni ( – The news with the offical warning about going to Askja lake and Askja volcano.
Vara ferðafólk við Öskjuvatni og Víti (Rú
Almannavarnir: Ekki fara að Öskju (
Óvenjulegt ástand við Öskju (Almannavarnir, Iceland Civil Emergency Authority)
Fólki bent á að fara ekki að Öskju (Ví

News in English about this

Photos: Iceless Iceland Volcano Lake Causes Speculation (

Blog post updated at 18:46 UTC on 04.04.2012.
Blog post updated at 19:12 UTC on 04.04.2012.
Blog post updated at 20:12 UTC on 04.04.2012.
Blog post updated at 01:28 UTC on 05.04.2012.

Askja lake ice free during winter

It seems that Askja volcano is warming up. Literally. According to news on Morgunblaðið web site. The Askja volcano lake is now ice free. But that is highly unusual event. But normally during this time of year it is frozen over. In the news it is explained that this might be because the south wind in Iceland during the past few days, or the most likely second option. Askja volcano lake is now ice free because of more hydro-thermal activity in it. But that is seen as more likely option, as Mývatn lake, that is at considerable lower altitude is now frozen over. There was done a air survey with thermal cameras to see if there was any increased heat on the surface. So far that is not the case at the moment. But it might well be that the hydro-thermal areas under Askja lake are getting more active an warmer. At least that is the only explanation that makes logical sense to the scientists according to this news report. But while the surface activity is none. The chance is that at the bottom of the lake it is getting really hot, and that in turn warms up all the water mass in the Askja lake. But this means that the energy output from the hydro-thermal areas is already high. Even if it is not visible at the surface of the lake.

Askja lake is around 220 meters deep. It was formed in large eruption in the year 1875 (VEI=5). But that was an caldera formation event that took place. But where Askja lake is now, it used to have a mountain that was in decent high before it was blown up into the air. At current time there is no new hydro-thermal activity in Askja volcano (around the lake). Besides the one reported in Askja lake. But based on recorded history, that might change soon. But it seems that before an eruption in Askja volcano, hydro-thermal activity increases in Askja volcano. But that means new hot springs, geysers and such. With all associated dangers and smells from sulfur. At current time, there is no risk of imminent eruption. As the activity at this moment suggests this is just starting, a long more might need to happen before an eruption. But that might change without warning as always. Since all volcanoes are impossible to predict what happens in them. Askja volcano has been having slight increase in earthquake activity during past few months. That suggests new magma is flowing into Askja volcano. But that earthquake activity has somewhat stopped completely and activity has quieted down from what it was few months ago.

Update 1: Here is a new picture of Askja volcano. Taken by Ómar Ragnarsson retired news reporter from Iceland. He also has a new image from Kverkfjöll volcano here.

Update 2: Iceland Meteorological Office has issued a press release about Askja volcano. It says that Askja lake is now ice free (same as in other news). The coast guard did go to check Askja lake on 2nd April 2012 with thermal cameras. In that trip it was discovered that Askja lake is completely ice free with no floating ice in it. The known hydro-thermal areas that are known where well active according to IMO. But no new areas of hydro-thermal activity where spotted in this flight over Askja volcano. Iceland Meteorological Office is going to increase surveillance with Askja volcano and to watch for future progress on what might happen in Askja volcano in the future.

News about this in Icelandic. Use Google translate to scare the Easter Bunny.

Öskjuvatn íslaust með öllu (
Íslaust Öskjuvatn í mars (Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður)
Öskjuvatn íslaust (Iceland Meteorological Office)

New pictures of Askja lake are in both news. Showing it completely ice free during the winter. Pictures are taken on 18th and 27th of March. Iceland Meteorological Office has MODIS picture of Askja volcano that clearly shows how ice free Askja lake actually is.

Blog post updated at 01:32 UTC on 03.04.2012.
Blog post updated at 01:45 UTC on 03.04.2012.
Blog post updated at 16:32 UTC on 03.04.2012.
Blog post updated at 16:48 UTC on 03.04.2012.