Update on Bárðarbunga and Askja volcanoes at 13:34 UTC

This is a none picture update on Askja and Bárðarbunga volcanoes. The reason for this none picture update is that I haven’t had time to work on the images yet. This is the first time this has happened in Iceland since modern recording started. What is going to come out of this I do not know yet.

If you are in the area. Please don’t go into the closed area. There are fines for during so and it is also extremely dangerous since we don’t know properly what happens and risk of sudden flood is high and growing. Eruption might start at any time without warning, both outside the glacier and inside the glacier. If an eruption takes place in a glacier covered area, that means sudden glacier flood that are going to kill you if you are in flood path. In such glacier flood it is not just mud, volcano material, but also an ice bergs that are larger than 5 floor houses. If you get lost in such flood, the chance of being rescued from such flood are none. If you want to watch what is now unfolding do so at the save distance, this show is going to big according to my earliest estimate and guess work (not going to publish that here).

Askja volcano

  • The dyke from Bárðarbunga volcano has entered Askja volcano. Not the fissure swarm, the volcano it self.
  • Askja volcano status has been elevated to Yellow.

Bárðarbunga volcano

  • Cauldrons in Vatnajökull glacier that is on top of Bárðarbunga volcano have not grown during the night.
  • The water seems to be flowing into Grímsvötn (Grímsfjall volcano) lake. It has risen close to 15 meters in the past few days.
  • Earthquake activity is high. Both in the main volcano were a magnitude 5,4 earthquake (EMSC magnitude, USGS magnitude) took place today (28-August-2014) at 08:13 UTC. The earthquake took place in the caldera rim as most of the large earthquakes have happened.
  • Over 1300 earthquakes happened yesterday in the north end of the dyke swarm.
  • Cracks have started to happen in the crust above the dyke. This means the dyke is getting wider and is higher up in the crust then suggested by earthquake activity. There are reports of small cauldrons in Dyngjujökull glacier in the area, in the place were the glacier is thinnest and ending.
  • Harmonic tremor remains high on all SIL stations around Bárðarbunga volcano.

The situation is extremely dynamic and is going to change fast in next 24 to 48 hours. I am now close to 80% sure that an eruption is going to take place in both Askja volcano and Bárðarbunga volcano, since minor eruptions have been taking place under the glacier already.

119 Replies to “Update on Bárðarbunga and Askja volcanoes at 13:34 UTC”

  1. Hi! Thank you for an interesting blog.

    For some reason the news from you and the news from official sources, like the Allmannavarnir twitter account are quite different. You claim that there will soon be an eruption, they asks to stay calm, relax etc. Do they want to keep panick levels low or are you two of different opinions?


    1. I often don’t agree with the official assessment. I know there is going to be an eruption. Based on the model I work with in my head. It is just a question of time now, maybe just few hours. It is difficult to know for sure what the time frame is. Since this is a bit of uncharted area we are in now.

      1. Jon is quite often proved correct. He earlier speculated that water from the subglacial melt probably made its way to Grimsvotn Lake since no glacial floods were evident.

        The news is now reporting exactly that is what happened.

        This is a very big event, whatever the outcome, it is huge. It may pass off without much happening if the opening dykes continue at a rate that prevents the magma from rising. However I must agree with Jon and other knowledgeable contributors that an eruption of some sort is going to happen.

        Remember the IMO themselves have not ruled out a major eruption, these are in their list of possibles.

        Many said Askja would not be involved, but here we are with Askja alert going to yellow.

        Too many possibilities here, even the experts are learning new things.

      2. When a geophysics Prof says the sub crustal rocks have already cleaved in two and are pulling apart, that’s a pretty solid indication that we’re all along for the ride and our opinions are forfeit. It will have its way now.

        I thank you Jon, the sign of a man who keeps a cool head when everyone else loses theirs is what this needs.

    2. Hi Helge, I have been reading this blog for quite a few years now and i can assure you that of all the Icelandic volcano commentators, Jon is usually the most conservative and least prone to sensationalism that you will find.

      1. Jon is cool and compared to other volcano bloggers sensible and often right in his presumtions.

  2. Another great update john ..helge goverment departments always play things down..but if you get two different magma mixing expect fireworks…i live in angles city philippines near pinatoubo ..in 91 she went bang ground was shaking all the time ash everywhere but what made it bad was a typhoon hit at the same time the lahars were amazing but killed..there is a church still half under the ash..the locals say many people still in there and they stay away..i have a really bad feeling about these events in iceland ..and expect a very cold winter due to ash..i hope i am wrong

    1. I remember as a 10 year old when we were stationed at Clark AFB. We lived on Mountain View Rd. I asked if that volcano could off. I was told it would never erupt again. I remember thinking as a kid: “How can a human make a statement like that about a volcano?” A couple of years after we left … the rest is history.

  3. What did I say,its going to move toward Askja, and if it erupts somewhere in that area or between Bårdarbunga and Askja,it might become something really big and something we will remember in a long time.
    But time will tell,as Jòn says it might be just hours or even days apart from showing its ugly face.and if and when it does, its gonna be all over the place,. 🙂

  4. Hello Everybody,
    Thank you Jon, for this great Website.
    What I dont really understant right now is that most of the earthquakes are still happening around the same areas in the dyke between bardarbunga and askja. Although they say that Magma is still getting forward to Askja. Why would there by so much Earthquake going on in a place where it has actually already made its way open? Is it trying to get up? But how could it build pressuer when the main magma flow is pushing towards Askja?
    Maybe someone can help me to understant.
    Thank you again!!

    1. Magma is often quite viscous, so although the general flow is along the dyke, there’s a lot of pressure being exerted sideways too. Hence there are earthquakes where it’s forcing rock to fracture along the sides, top and bottom of the dyke as it tries to push against it. It would take quite a large release of pressure (eg an opening to the surface) to reduce that sideways pressure.

  5. Great update.

    Concerning the noise on your Heklubyggd-geophone since 10:00 this morning…. Is it harmonic tremor or something else you think?

      1. What wind speed usually triggers the noise? I meant to look at the wind gauge when it was quiet but totally forgot.

  6. reading the tremor charts on vedur.is I thought lots of red indicated magma movement but this seems to be a lot less.

    Can somebody explain better to me the Red/Green and Blue (hz)

  7. The earthquakes seem to be rapidly trending towards the surface; looks like we’re about to see some interesting stuff happen.

  8. Thank you Jón for your work.
    I am not doubting you. I am just curious on what you base the assumtion that the dyke from Bárðarbunga has already entered the vocano of Askja?

    1. This is according to Icelandic Met Office. There are also some major stress changes taking place in Askja volcano at this moment. That is clearly a sign that the dyke has now entered the volcano. Earthquake activity in Askja volcano is also going up due to the dyke getting close to it.

      They also have GPS data showing the progress of the dyke. I didn’t think this was possible, since I expected the dyke to start erupting before reaching Askja volcano. That did not happen, it found a path to Askja volcano and now it is going to trigger an eruption in it. How long we got I do not know, but this is going to progress for at least few hours now.

      1. Thank you Jon.

        I wonder if it is possible that something similar did happen when Askja erupted big in 1875 – that is: an intrusion from Bárðarbunga / Grímsvötn entered Askja?

      2. No. I don’t think that was the case. In 1875 eruption a new magma came from depth (the mantle) into the Askja magma system.

        This event is rare. I don’t know how rare it is. I just know this almost never happens. Last time this happened in Iceland was in 1477 when dyke from Bárðarbunga volcano started an eruption in Torfajökull volcano (north of Katla volcano).

  9. Thanks Jon, things are getting wild. Thank you so much for the good work you are doing, I have all earthquake sites up and watching from USA.

  10. Here’s my plays if your in the U.S.: EPV, put options on DAL and EUO. I am quickly researching bottled water in Europe. Any other ideas?

    I know its slightly off topic, but since when is money off topic.

    1. zyfly, glass bottles for water, or Berkey water filter or some kind of filter, lot of junk in water here, but junk from the plastic also. Good Luck.

  11. I too am waiting with baited breath in the US. I live less than 10 miles from the epicenter of the recent Napa quake but wasn’t home when it happened. I’ve been keeping up with all the earthquakes via USGS and had my interest piqued by the several times a day 5.o magnitude and greater earthquakes in Iceland for the last 4-5 days.

    Thank you for these updates, this is an incredible thing to watch unfold.

  12. Jon,

    What effects do you think this will have on volcanic activity in the Atlantic Ocean and how far south can that effect be taken? Beyond the equator? In other words, what triggers might this give off?

    1. None. I don’t know if there is an increased cycle of activity starting on the Reykjanes ridge. That might well be, but at the moment I don’t see any evidence of it.

      There is a lateral fault-line around 1300 km south of Reykjavík in the Atlantic ocean. That is a break in the rift zone. Any cycle south of that is on its own time.

  13. To be honest with you, I trust Jon’s gut A LOT more than I do IMO for many reasons. This is the start of global impacting activity in Iceland that will continue for years. I also expect to see at some point, some very large tectonic EQ’s in the mid-northern part of Iceland.

    1. Its just following the fissure opening up due to the tectonic plates pulling apart. There’s undetected (as yet) movement going on down there which is why the IMO are flying overhead to clarify any activity not on instrumental data. The RUV video is quite an eye opener.

      1. scuj1 and Scots John: Makes sense. But: 700 meters of solid ice is less resistance than 30-40 kms of more or less solid rock. Is there some kind of block in Bardarbunga that prevents magma erupting there?

  14. Hi all,
    Is there any historical eruption globally that has been born from such a large dyke connecting calderas of this size? Are we talking potential for a 1 in 1000 year eruption here? (Appreciate it could transpire to be very much smaller). Absolutely fascinating… And a bit frightening!

    1. It is potentially something big, but it could also not be. We might get hit by an asteroid tonight, but we probably wont.

      Everyone is fascinated by this, us amatuers and pro’s alike. and even with the best data available were all still guessing. Worry about if it happens, enjoy the show and learn something from it until then – is my approach.

    2. In Jon’s reply to my post a little above in the comments he said this regarding such an event:
      “This event is rare. I don’t know how rare it is. I just know this almost never happens. Last time this happened in Iceland was in 1477 when dyke from Bárðarbunga volcano started an eruption in Torfajökull volcano (north of Katla volcano).”

  15. Jon, do these two volcanoes have different types of magma, if so, if they come together, then what would happen??? THANK YOU AGAIN.

    1. Kim,

      Yesterday I posted a link to part of a free course offered by Open University.

      One of the parts, “Volcanism in the eastern riftzone ” answers your question, but I highly recommend the whole series because it is targeted towards laypeople like us. If you watch the videos, you will have a better grasp of what’s going on and will understand better what people are talking about when they talk about what MIGHT happen. None of the videos are very long, so it’s well worth the time.

  16. I wonder how truly unfettered the IMO is these days given the growing clout of Iceland’s tourism industry. It would be a travesty if considerations other than science (as best as we understand it) played into their announcements.

  17. With an eruption of Askja and Bardarbunga, singular or combined, this will still not prevent the crust opening further. If the crust is rifting the only thing that will stop it is more rifting, to fully relax the terrain’s strain (as is now impacting Askja in Jon’s report).

    So pressure drop in the calderas will alter the progression at the surface, but not the ultimate mechanism for more tension between crust and mantle. Well. unless powerful explosions can shake the ground enough to relieve the tension via impulse induced movements.

    So even a combined caldera eruption may only be a prelude to the main event, of a much longer rift fissure eruption. If the crust opens, decompression melting will cause a growing head of pressure in it that will push against the sides, and this will push them apart further. This will quickly release remaining causal tension.

    There’s just the giant violently inclined rift chasm that won’t close over until after Christmas, at that point. So far from both Calderas going off being the issue, it may turn out to be the smaller of issues, thereafter.

    1. I completely agree and this is where Carl and a few other outspoken scientists are leaning from my reading. A large rifting fissure eruption from depth along the dyke intrusion. The option for magma starting to move SW from Barda has decreased now.

      Conclusion: were going to need a bigger boat

      1. Geology even for an amature is truely facinating. But this branch can have to do with life and death. Mabe not at an unpopulated part of Iceland, but for example in Napoli close to the Vesuvius volcano.

      2. Jonas, you need to read wiki on Laki 1783 and realize we are currently likely at a pre-Laki event or worse a flood basalt event. Its not the immediate area that is really the most pressing concern here, it’s what gets dumped into our ‘living room’. Its very possible we could see a global winter he next few years starting this year in which there won’t be much of a summer in 2015, and in which there will be wide spread crop damage and damaging weather. I am not even sure of the poisonous gas equation here.

      1. Bit the Laki fog was an event that was verk special. Has it ever occured before or after?

  18. OK so if I understand you chaps correctly, eruptions in either Bardarbunga or Askja or even both could potentially be the least of our worries and we may be looking at a rifting fissure event perhaps of the order of Laki?

    1. I hope this post is allright by Jon Frimann.

      Potentially anything is possible but from what I have understood it is far more likely that this all will come to a halt than the likely hood of another Laki so it is alright to keep breathing 🙂

      There are quite many who are nervous about the situation. I think it is all right to take that into consideration when commenting. Jon Frimann has been down to earth and sensible – we would do well following his example.

      IMO (Icelandic Met Office) has the best equipment and the best knowledge on the situation there is to be found on the planet. By the way – we would not know this is happening if it were not for the IMO 😉
      IMO also has great responsibilities and cannot go about predicting doomsday as we mortals are some times tempted to do – even though we do not have quite the data to support it.

      That how ever does not forbid us to discuss different possibilities 🙂
      -But discussing possibilities does not mean we know what is going to happen 😉

      According to IMO the following three scenarios are still considered most likely – I have not seen any change in that from IMO:

      -The migration of magma could stop, accompanied by a gradual reduction in seismic activity.
      -The dike could reach the surface of the crust, starting an eruption. In this scenario, it is most likely that the eruption would be near the northern tip of the dyke. This would most likely produce an effusive lava eruption with limited explosive, ash-producing activity.
      -An alternate scenario would be the dyke reaching the surface where a significant part, or all, of the fissure is beneath the glacier. This would most likely produce a flood in Jökulsá á Fjöllum and perhaps explosive, ash-producing activity.
      -Other scenarios cannot be excluded. For example, an eruption inside the Bárðarbunga caldera is possible but presently considered to be less likely.

  19. “the chauldrons apperently have not increased”

    is it possible they have been formed only because of collapsing of hidden channels in the icecap, induced by the continues earthquakes? In some way ice could deform / condense or be crushed by the shaking.

  20. Or even worse. If the Phlegrean Fields were to wake. Intresting that the “dyke” actually reacht Askja. Even though it didn’t show on any previous maps. That also pin points the unicness of these recent events

  21. You only have to research the laki eruption of 1783 to see what an impact this could have on Iceland and Europe, its not hype or speculation, its real. Probably was the biggest natural disaster in Europe for 500 years.

    1. Let alone India, where millions died from weather changes in 1783. Actually this year millions are at risk in India anyway given the potential El Nino. I wonder how an eruption during an El Nino year plays out. Let’s hope they cancel each other!

  22. On the Photo on the lower left – I definately see small steam plumes. Not aware if they are always there by the lake?

    With regards to magma-mixing it was something that I look at to some degree 10 years ago when I wrote my thesis on the Tindfjallajökull volcano. Here such mixing had some kind of influence in an ignimbrite-forming explosive eruption 55.000 years ago. There are many references to litterature regarding explosive volcanism in Iceland as well as to some litterature regarding magma mixing. Please email me at rittermusen(.a.)gmail.com if anyone is interested in looking at this – I believe I have a resonably-sized pdf-version of the complete thesis and will be happy to send it.

    The ongoing situation in Iceland is really facinating at the same time at bit scary….

      1. The lake is at Kverkfjöll Area and this is a known geothermal area. So some steaming there is normal.

      2. Ok – at first glance I thought it was from Grimsvötn… didn’t read the very clear and obvious headline… 🙂

  23. Question I want answered is what effect will this have on travel?

    I know its a bit of a self centered question but its the biggest question online.

    I need to get into London next week from the US. Here’s hoping they don’t close southern England airspace.

    1. well, reading the page gives you the answer: you go to London, have a blilliant time, and you fly home a few days later…or…you fly there, an epic event is taking place that gets you stuck in London for quite some time…or…you may not even get to London at all, because of the event starting before you head to the airport! Adventerous times, me think!
      Chapeau to Jon and all the contributors! What an informative blog.

    2. Elizabeth

      At the moment this event will have no effect on your travel what so ever 😉

  24. IT depends if it eruption under the glacier or not. IT is the contact With frozen water that gives the explosion And hard small partikels.

  25. Question about the web cam on the IMO site. The one webcam is pointing toward Askja, is that correct? And if so, is Askja the large distant mountain standing alone?

    1. The mountain standing alone is Herdubreid.
      Askja is at the left. It’s a wider area.

  26. So basically we possibly have magma from two different volcanic systems combining under Askja? Is there evidence geochemical in Iceland of that being a more common occurrence elsewhere in Iceland?

  27. Elizabeth, how can anyone answer that yet? No eruption has begun! There may not be much ash to worry about, heck, there might not even be an eruption in the next week.

    1. AndyW: I know! 🙁

      1. I am a tiny bit of a science geek so if I wasn’t flying this would still be fascinating

      2. I am headed to the UK for one of the biggest events in my life, I’m just nervous as hell. I’ll take a Laki winter if I have to….just get me to London!

      1. If it’s any reassurance an ex-hurricane (From the US!) is passing up to the North of us in the next couple of days and warmer air will be feeding in from the South West next week, so you will likely be ok, unless this thing becomes massive, which I’m hoping (living in England) that it doesn’t.

      2. I am coming from New Orleans where I’ve become very aware of Gulf hurricanes!
        I guess if its not one thing, its another!

  28. Hello Jon,
    greetings from the US. Do you have a link idea for a visual, meaning a map that helps me to picture the geoprahics? Where are the volcanoes, how close are they to each other, where are they in comparison to villages, etc.?
    Thanks for the update.

      1. Hi.

        Last year i started working on a simple website to plot eqs on Iceland..unfortunately didint had time to finish it (missing layout, GPS, plots, etc). But provides some useful tools (ruler, volcano locations, tectonic plates, simple graphs, etc).


        Due to amount of eqs on map, recommend to use Chrome.

  29. At MET a new interactive 3D model that is presented in the article section. It includes data up to today August 28 17:00http://hraun.vedur.is/ja/quakes3d/

  30. What is starting to concern me is the activity at depth >20km looks like it is starting to increase. This might signal more intrusion of new material into the system generally (as opposed to a migration of material that is already in the magma system).

  31. A weather site i’ve just look has the (soon to be) ex-hurricane Cristobal heading for Iceland late Sunday!
    Still quite a way off & likely to change!
    Just had a look at your site Andy, looks like you live not that far from me!

    1. Hurricane?? On top of all this? OMG you are right! Any news on when the swarm of locusts is expected? 🙁

  32. what great lakes impact? curious because i live in the middle of them, and already expecting another brutal winter like last year.

  33. Alina the Laki event in 1783 caused the Mississippi river to freeze all the way down to New Orleans…chunks of ice in the Gulf of Mexico…Froze the Chesapeake bay.

  34. Looking more and more like a fissure eruption, right smack between both volcanoes. Unless of course the magma hits a slab of rock that stalls it.

  35. Hi!! Thanks for the info. I do have another question. With the recent activity and an eruption almost promised. I wonder if some way that all these earthquakes that have happened are possibly tied together with this huge beast. Napa California seen a 6.0 I believe Sunday and literally within hours of each other Chili and Peru also. Not just minor quakes but higher that 6. The same time I believe Iceland was hit again. Mexico had a half a mile long 26 feet deep trench just open up over night. I am worried. To say its coincidental is beyond me. I think that everything is linked somehow.

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