Unclear what is happening in Bárðarbunga volcano

This information is going to get outdated extremely fast.

  • Earthquake activity remains high.
  • Cauldron have formed in Vatnajökull glacier just SE and SSE of Bárðarbunga volcano.
  • The cauldrons are 4 to 6 km long and about 1 km wide.
  • No harmonic tremor have been seen, but that might have its own reasons.


Earthquake activity in Bárðarbunga volcano for past 48 hours. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Earthquake activity remains dense in Bárðarbunga volcano for the past 48 hours. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Harmonic tremor remains high on Dyngjuháls SIL station. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Harmonic tremor is also high on Kreppuhraun SIL station. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

The cauldrons that have been spotted today in Vatnajökull just SE and SSE of Bárðarbunga volcano are in the south end are of the current dyke. What is also important, they are also in an area were magnitude 5,0 earthquake did happen few days ago, in a area that has not had any dyke activity since 16-August-2014 when this all started. It is still unclear what happened to all the water in this melt, the glacier in this area is 400 to 600 meters thick and this is not a little melt that has taken place in the glacier. There is a chance the water did go to Grímsvötns lake (caldera like in Grímsfjall volcano), but that remains unclear at the moment.

I am going to post more information about this once I have them.

Updated at 00:14 UTC on 28-August-2014.

67 Replies to “Unclear what is happening in Bárðarbunga volcano”

  1. Harmonic tremors picking up rapidly? Imho, will this be a Bardabunga eruption, possibly a south or south-east flank blowout or a fissure eruption somewhere in the dyke between Bardabunga and Askja?

  2. Grimsvotn median filtered has gone the quietest since this whole magma movement began. Something changed for it, the noise stopped.

    1. It’s accumulating potential energy for the eruption.
      We cannot forget that it has a large glacier over it.

  3. The Forbes article linked below says: “there have been no reports of the harmonic tremors that often indicate magma is making its way towards the surface and an eruption”

    IMO today says: “Heightened tremor level/volcanic tremor has not been observed on IMO’s seismometers at the moment”

    Then IMO later says: “No signs of volcanic tremor.”

    Can someone make sense of all this gobble-de-gook and explain the difference between harmonic and volcanic tremors.


  4. Seems a bit odd that IMO cannot release a bit of video and some pictures of those ‘cauldrons’. How hard can it be?

  5. Man that captcha is beyond me! Tried 6 times……..and now I have lost my comment

    Audio is clear though……

    I was thinking it seems a bit odd that IMO did not release some pictures of the cauldrons……..not like it is hard for them to do that

    1. I have enabled registration of users again. I had to disable it some time ago due to spam bot activity. Logged in users don’t have to deal with captcha challenge.

    1. Yes, I already had my share of 5-6 times of trial and error a couple days ago.
      Now I’m using the voice option, it’s easier. 🙂

  6. The CAPTCHA is almost impossible! I have had ten attempts. Plus you lose the damned comment anyway! Grrrrrrr! I saved this comment though

    1. Yesterday that was described as a crack in the snow caused by the recent earthquakes. The cauldrons seem to be something totally different

    1. That’s not good!

      I was going to quickly head for the Azores if we had a VEI 7 or 8 eruption in Iceland. I really hope that does not happen!! we would be very unlucky if it did.

      To be honest, I think that seismic activity in the Azores appears quite normal, cant see see any earthquake swarms, maybe some minor after tremors, but that’s about it.

  7. Kim I am very far from being an expert. Just a reporter of what has already been reported. It seems extremely unlikely that Icelandic events could create changes in the Azores in a way that would be visible in our life times.

  8. Mammut played a gig in Iceland and my geophone in Riga was almost destroyed. My unborn grandchildren also registered the event. Perhaps they are the cause of all the tectonic and magma dancing?

  9. PS i haven’t met my future wife yet let alone had children. Mammut music is waking up the Gods. Sorry Jon light relief! Hey remember to donate to suppoet Jons tireless altruism – that includes all the journalists leaning so heavily on his work at times like this.

  10. Some silly questions…

    1. Given the scale of some of the numbers that have been thrown around the last week or s, a small line of possible eruptions, so small that they weren’t even detected, seems like small beer… Why is everyone so worried.

    2. Everyone is expressing surprise that this eruption hasn’t been detected. In my job, when reality and my equipment disagree with each, I usually check my equipment first, and then look to see if there is something else in the environment responsible for the mismatch, and only then third, do I wonder if my interpretation of reality is incorrect. So the question is, first how robust is the detection equipment, second, what could of masked the results, and third, what else could have melted that ice?

    1. Personal opinion, eruptions plus strong EQ’s around caldera increase risk of development of eruption due to amount of fractured rock.

      Second one, readings could be masked by the quantity of water down there. Jon suggests this may have drained to Grímsvötns lake. Carl on the ‘other place’ did note some days ago that when Bardarbunga had large EQ, Grimsfjall pulsed.

      There is a bigger picture here involving a large known magmatic movement, the question is what is moving down there that is NOT known?

    2. This is Iceland we are talking about.
      One of the most volcanically active inhabited countries on the planet.

      The population there has been greatly affected by volcanos in the past. Not that long ago an entire town was engulfed by lava and ash.

      You can bet that the authorities there have the best and latest stuff and their observations and interpretations will be top notch. It could be that lives are dependent upon it.

      Having said that the same authorities are not into overblown predictions or up playing or down playing events as they occur. They need to call it as they see it.

      Also quite a few foreign vulcanologists have down their PHD’s in Iceland.

    3. I’m not surprised at all.

      If I open a flexible cavity and have a hose filling it as I do so, will the water over-top the container if I keep stretching the container apart and increasing its volume faster than the hose and water can keep up?

      Or will the water fall or stay around the same level?

      What about for a fissure, if the crust is continually moving apart, even while the magma path north is stymied? It can’t fill the space with magma and erupt until the crust stops moving apart.

      But look out when the CGPS data stops moving apart.

      There’s nothing wrong with the equipment, just the interpretation.

  11. Cauldrons are on the surface? 10m deep? How can an eruption melt the glaciers surface and not where it makes contact with the ice? Little confused (not difficult lol)

  12. There was a suspected mini eruption a few days ago, then it was decided nothing had happened. Perhaps there was after all a small eruption and it has just taken a few days for evidence of this to appear on the surface.

  13. Guys, the webcam at Kverkfjoll, that one with the steamplumes in front, is located in a hotspring area. NOTHING to do with any eruption. Eruptions will lead to massive plumes in the BACK of the webcamimage. Plumes that possibly reach a few kilometers high. Not just a little spring-plume 😉

    Little spring-plumes are like on this photo, which I’ve taken in 2009 at Kverkfjoll:

    @Erjtech: easy: the glacier melts underneath where the possible eruption takes place, ice gone there, so what sits on top of it sinks down. Upper part breaks. Lower parts are more fluid.

    1. Volcano café has a timeline series of takes from this cam showing the surface melt in the foreground and beyond the ridge has extended significantly.

      1. Yes, I agree, I knew this was a hot spring area, someone pointed that out days back. But it does not get around the fact that there was no steam for days and then it began to show and now its very obvious, and has melted most ice and snow, and done so in the context of what is occurring just across to the next ridge. And there were large magmatic quakes in that area in the last 24 hrs.

      2. NO, there have been SOME but veeeeery few quakes at Kverkfjoll so far. All these quakes occur more westward of Kverkfjoll, under Dyngjokull.

        Steam is also very dependent on air-temperature and moisture. But it could have thousands of reasons besides all that we are witnessing now at Bardarbunga.

  14. Looks to me like it has now burrowed under the flanks (slopes) of Askja and is now appearing the other side. Possibly it will pick up again now if it hasn’t spread out i.e. split into too many small side branches to be viable now.

  15. As the ground appears to be sinking now at north Dyngjujökul where the swarm was, does that mean that the dyke extends much higher than we think?

  16. Iceland’s Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, has acknowledged in an RUV article that recent data reveals some level of rifting and pulling-apart “cleaving” of the sub crust is occurring, in the central crustal block, which may not have occurred for 100 to 200 years.

    Seismic activity near the Askja caldera
    Fyrst birt: 27.08.2014 13:40, Síðast uppfært: 27.08.2014 15:33

    “How much has the land spread? “It´s difficult to say precisely. The intrusion is perhaps 2 – 3 meters wide, but that does not mean that the distance between Egilsstadir and Reykjavik has increased by that; rather the island is being pulled apart, and the landmass on either side is pushed together. But locally, down in the crust, the rock has been cleaved.“


    So a deep-seated crustal rift has to some degree begun, and remains to be seen how much rifting that is. Thank you to Prof Gudmundsson for getting the word out to the public and media.

      1. No, its just dust, the same thing happened a week ago and we all thought first its starting. It became very dense later, but it was just dust beeing blown. It looked exactly like this when it was starting and it was in the exact same areas. Just dust.

      2. I was watching last week too and I agree its coming from the three same areas, which doesn’t make sense.

        I hear you clearly, but I’m keeping an open mind.

  17. I would have thought that if so much ice has melted under pressure much of the water would have entered the ground and circulated. If this is the case would we not expect to see more hydrothermal activity from known existing locations as well as new ones?

  18. Much of the Highland area of Iceland is lava desert and sandstorms are common in deserts. The weather has been remarkably good (dry and sunny) in this part of the Highlands since the activity started (I wish it had been like that when I was last there!). The reason why we’re seeing the dust in the same areas is because there are no rivers there. And if there had been raised temperatures in the glacier outflow for as long as there’s been “steam” from recent volcanic activity, we’d expect to see raised water temperatures, but we aren’t.

    1. I would assume hydrothermal vent water is quite different from surface river water.

      Surely we would only see raised water temperatures if the melt water from the subglacial eruption can escape. The melt water is obviously trapped as we don’t see raised temperature, or has been forced into the hyrothermal system within the rocks. Whatever is happening, it’s all building up, which is not good.

  19. there is some earthquakes at 0.1 km depth, can that be ice cracking instead of real earthquakes?

    1. I’ve just sent them an email asking about the locations of the cameras. I will let everyone know if I get a reply.

    1. I am wondering – in part of the footage you see the cracks have interrupted the flow of the river? You can see what I mean at 1:25 in the video.

  20. Aviation color of Askja has been raised from green to yellow.
    “Volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background level.”

    1. IMO the chances of a large eruption, like VEI 6, 7, etc., are not very big because I believe that the very large eruptions happen only in periods during which no very large EQs (Mag 8.8 or greater) happen.
      The reason for this correlation are the historic records that indicate the existence of some alternate/ complementary periodicity for these very large geophysical events, i.e., large EQs and large eruptions excluding each other.
      We have had quite a few large EQs since the beginning of the present XXI century- 3 with Mag 8.8 or more- and if “my theory” is correct, this would preclude any large eruption for at least 10 years, possibly more.

  21. The harmonic is finally starting to lift, been a slow curve this time.

    38 hours since it last got feisty.

  22. The caudron’s could have been made by Lagarfljótsormurinn which could be fire breathing like a dragon and tunnel between lakes through glaciers.

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