Smallest of eruptions so far (Bárðarbunga update at 20:43 UTC)

This is a short update and this information might go outdated quickly.

It appears that the eruption that took place in Bárðarbunga volcano was a minor one. It also looks like that the eruption was so small that it didn’t even make dent in the glacier on top of it, but the glacier in this area is around 400 meters thick. Such minor eruptions are not common in Iceland, but they do happen once in a while.

Earthquake activity today (23-August-2014) in Bárðarbunga volcano. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Largest earthquake today had the magnitude of 4,5 (EMSC information here) – 4,7 (USGS). Other earthquakes that have taken place today have been smallers, few earthquakes with magnitude above 3,0 also took place today.
The harmonic tremor that took place in Bárðarbunga volcano today. It makes a clear mark from the other magma movement that has been taking place during the past week. This is Dyngjuháls SIL station. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.
This harmonic tremor was also visible on Kreppuhraun SIL stations. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.
GPS data showing current inflation on Dyngjuhjáls. More plots can be found here. Copyright of this image belongs to University of Iceland.

Current GPS data show that inflation to the north has stopped, while inflation to the west has increased and up to 2 to 3 cm a day based on newest GPS data. This means that more magma is flowing into the dyke on 5 to 10 km depth. The dyke continues to extent, but now it is moving more north rather then north-east as before.

The eruption that took place today was a minor one. I am not even sure it lasted a whole hour, but since it was under a 400 meter thick glacier that is only guess work on my end based on tremor data that I have. This might however not be the last eruption in Bárðarbunga volcano, far from it. Short eruptions like this one might happen on regular basis now in Bárðarbunga volcano and not all of them are going to take place under glacier in my view.

110 Replies to “Smallest of eruptions so far (Bárðarbunga update at 20:43 UTC)”

  1. Can we be absolutely certain that an eruption actually took place today?
    besides the increased tremor what other signs do we have that indicate it did?
    P.S: I am new here but I already love this site, thanks Jon for the great job you are doing 🙂

    1. I think nobody is sure at the moment. But the harmonic tremor give the clue to this answer.

      It is just going to take years and years to find the right answer to this question.

  2. If someone knows, I’d like to see a map of where these web cams are at and direction we are looking.

  3. Most recent +3 quake was a magnitude 4 at just 600 meters below, and its confirmed quality is 99.
    I think it was located within the caldera itself, its the most shallow one I’ve seen so far.

  4. I think the small eruption was just the beginning, the main event has yet to happen!

  5. Would glacier water from an eruption go north, to Goðafoss or Dettifoss, and the Arctic sea, or would it go south, to the Atlantic? Or are both possible?

  6. I think this fissure will just unzip one day in the next several days too weeks. Hope I am wrong. Worst sign would be a big deep (25km+) quake opening a big source of magma. Weight of the ice may push the magma out from under the glacier down the fissure. That would be a goo thing.

  7. I suppose more magma is entering the system after looking at the depth of the latest quakes.

    1. Is this accurate Jón? It doesn’t show up on IMO network?

      Is it possible that the tremor seen today was caused by a plug opening in the lava tunnel (forgot the word), since the lava had stopped expanding in the tunel for a few days and suddenly started flowing rapidly to the north again today, up to 10 kilometres was added to the tunnel today?

      What I mean is I can imagine that when the plug (if there was one) broke that a lot of lava stared flowing at high speeds, and maby causing the tremors?

      1. Would like to see this cool visualization but get error “This account’s public links are generating too much traffic and have been temporarily disabled!”

  8. hi Jon and everyone

    I wonder if anyone living in Iceland felt this earthquake . The precursor of laki was very powerful earthquakes beaning felt all over Iceland those earthquakes must HAVE BEEN aleast 6mag to 7 mag .

    1. According to wikipedia, the Virginia EQ of 2011 was only a Mag-5.8 EQ, but
      ” .. it was felt across more than a dozen U.S. states and in several Canadian provinces, and was felt by more people than any other quake in U.S. history… “
      It occurred at a depth of 6 km and the type of rock were it happened (“old rock”) made it to be felt in an area much greater than expected, from previous studies of EQs worldwide.
      Now, having in sight that the Eastern US geology is composed of structures with very “old rock” and “young rock” absorbs much of the shaking caused by earthquakes, it’d favor your idea that the Laki precursor EQ was very powerful (M6+).
      A M7 quake is very powerful and if it occurs in a region with young soft rock like the caldera of a volcano, it’d probably open an *enormous* fissure.
      According to wikipedia (from other sources I’ve checked the information is correct)
      a M6-6.2 EQ is equivalent to the atomic bombs used in the WWII against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which devastated both cities, and a M7 EQ would be nearly 30 times more powerful than that. It’s ease to imagine what such a intense power release would do to the soft rock of a volcanic region.
      Well, the Laki eruption at the end of the XVIII century was enormous- one of the greatest ever directly recorded in human history.
      Then, I believe your claim of a very powerful EQ (M6+) as an indicator of similarity with Laki is correct after all. 🙂

  9. In the long run, on this event the larger deeper quakes worry me more. So far nothing has pointed too a VEI 5 or above. That could change very quickly.

  10. The M5.3 was at 10 past midnight. An M3.5 at 4.39 and an M3 at 4.58 There are more popping up on the baering site.

    Activity in the plains has ceased for the meantime on the webcam, I’m not sure if thats a good thing. The next tide is at 10.39 and approaching new moon so gravitational forces will be peaking then. The next two days are new moon when those forces are at their height if that has any effect,

    The theory is that there should be around ten M5+ EQ’s before a significant eruption, but has Bardarbunga read that book? We have several M4+ and one M5+ at the current time so we’re getting close.

    It would be beneficial to all (global) if the current activity stopped, I don’t think some have grasped fully what this volcano is capable of.

  11. Kverkfjoll GSIG station vector accelerating SE, especially the Easterly component, while rising more quickly as well. The new northern fissure intrusion must have really poured in the magma.

  12. Tremor is going up and what happened at the eathquake at 5.3. The dyke is moving, This is realy exciting. Maybe the old lady will have the final call or the magma will pop up at a new place. who knows. It could be the prelude of somting bigger, but also a tiny fart. Man is small. Dont forget that.

      1. Doesn’t need to be too big. Remember Laki back in the 1780’s – it wasn’t so big but had a very large affect.

  13. I see there’s yet another largest so far 3.5 at about 8 km in the fissure swarm in the last hour. The larger quakes of early yesterday at around the 15 to 13 km mark are moving on up.

  14. Another 5.1 quake 28 mins ago at 6km depth the big ones are moving up a bit now

    1. Moving up is perhaps not so, they’ve reclassified the depth of the previous 5.3 to just ~5 km depth, instead of the earlier 10 km depth.

      (I thought the quality estimate was good for it?)

  15. Firstly thank you for a great site that has provided me with lots of information over the years.

    I was looking over the pattern of the quakes migrating the way they are and realized that its kinda heading in the direction of Askja. Got me wondering about the chances of this current event linking up with another system (like Askja) and get that going as well. Are there any thought about this?

  16. Jon, there’s a problem with the DNYC trace. Since it peaked in the north, and reverse track to the south, it also started plotting BACKWARD IN TIME!

    The system should be plotting each new data point to the right hand side, but instead it’s plotting them to the left hand side now. Can you perhaps contact someone in CGPS and find out if this can be rectified because if this keeps up it will be plotting the September data in July. 😀

      1. Sorry jon, its just me, there’s a substantial extension and retraction each day in the data trace which makes it look like its retracing back in the direction it came, but it’s really just an overprinting pulsing horizontal oscillation that’s doing it.


      1. Not even a whiff of steam on any webcams, but the tremor is the highest readings yet on some sil’s. Average tremors sustaining yesterdays levels, and two M5+ since midnight.

        Looks like something coming.

      2. And two earthquakes above 5. It is clearly something happening. The earthquake scale is logaritmic so each step of the Richter scale is 10 times higher than that before.

      3. Check the mag 2 to 3 storm now occurring on a 1 hour plot in the top half of the fissure.

  17. This feels like history in the making, the kind you might prefer to have read about in a book.

  18. Could be just a seismic crisis. It could go through several of these before we see an eruption.

  19. Everything is going crazy in Bárðarbunga volcano. I am going post information when I got something on what is happening.

    More then 10+ magnitude 3,0+ have taken place just in past 2 to 3 hours so far.

  20. The code is red. That predicted by the best in this field. But man is small.

  21. remember that earthquakes are measured on a logarithmic scale (Richter), so the 5.1 that happened at approx 07:00 BST was a very significant event and at a very shallow depth. A 5 has a shaking amplitude 10 times that of a 4 and releases approx 31x more energy.

  22. The tremor at dyn seems to form a peak like yesterday. And those two has a higher part in the low frequency area than before. What that means is not clear to me. More magma involved?

    1. The DYNC tremor is curving up.

      i.e. it’s not another transient caused by a sudden structural break through this time.

      This time it seems to be a gradual steel secular rise in pressure over the entire system pushing it up.

  23. Other thing I worry about is that as that ice melts, it relieves pressure above the vent. Hundreds of meters of ice is a lot of weight. If that pressure relieves, you end up changing the properties of the magma. I would be paying attention to the river flows about now. But that caldera might be able to hold quite a bit of water before it finds an outlet.

    1. Ice density ~1.0, fractures easy

      Rock is better bonded and density of ~3.0

      400 m of ice should be equivalent to maybe 120 m of rock overburden in mass and mechanical resistance.

      Not much of a lid.

      1. Well, it’s 700 meters of ice at the main vent (not over the dike). The issue isn’t so much the amount of a lid as it is the fast release of pressure when that water finds an outlet and begins to cut down the natural dam. This episode of tremor is different from the others recently in two ways. First, the other episodes spiked up quickly following an earthquake and then settled back down where this one has been gradually ramping up. Secondly, this episode is seen on every single seismic monitor in Iceland. I don’t like it.

      2. Yeah, pressure rise. Looked that plots, it seems to be about 40% higher than yesterday right now, a lot quieter too and staying high, rather than the usual intrusion pressure release. Certainly a very different animal today.

        If you put an imagined trend line over that past 8.5 days of harmonics, it’s on a steady rise of peaks. If it does that tomorrow, today and yesterday are going to look positively boring.

        Is there any sort of useful formal estimate of magma volume implied?

      3. I saw a report a day ago speculating about 200 million cubic meters of intrusion into the dike based on deformation. That number must be very obsolete at this point.

  24. Just a matter of time now!
    I see it cloudy where the Bardabung webcams are, hopefully it’ll rain there and make the dust moist so we don’t see those dust storms (and no mistakes). 🙂

  25. Hi Jon,
    I have been following your site for 2 years now and enjoy reading your blog which always seem accurate.
    Question….with all this magma building, will it continue to fill the fissures and create new ones?

    1. It is impossible know for sure. It depends on how much magma is at work here. But all this magma has to go somewhere and if it can’t go underground it is going to go up and create an eruption.

  26. using the wonders of google earth, I reckon the webcams are on this mount The glacier sliver you can occasionally see on the far left of the bardarbunga 2 webcam can be seen in the right perspective and the river routes match. The small, snow topped mound is also in the right place, although not as much snow on google.

  27. Thats the rain started now hopefully the rain will be gone before action starts

  28. Sun and moon coming into alignment about 45mins, two days to new moon and greatest gravitational stresses. If that theory is correct.
    I think the area you are seeing in the centre of the mila webcam image is rain falling on hot ground and steam rising.

    Tremor graphs (esp Kre) going off the scale, highest yet

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