Update on Bárðarbunga eruption at 17:32 UTC

This information is going to get outdated quickly.

A short notice: While I know a lot about volcanoes, earthquakes and such things. I do not know everything. I have read many science papers on the subject. But I have not read them all and I never will. What is also important is that nobody knows for sure what is going on in Bárðarbunga volcano. This is the first eruption in the volcano since recording of earthquakes started in Iceland and it appears that this eruption in Bárðarbunga volcano might be a big one (even if it not at that stage yet).

Update on the activity in Bárðarbunga volcano

  • Earthquake activity continues in Bárðarbunga volcano. The largest earthquake since midnight had the magnitude of 5,2 according to Icelandic Met Office.
  • Earthquake activity continues in the dyke  south of the eruption area. This suggest that the dyke is still expanding in the crust.
  • Minor eruptions have taken place south of the main eruption in Holuhraun. Most of this are like the minor eruption that started south of the main eruption, but in glacier free area. Other minor eruptions that have taken place are under the glacier. They have formed small cauldron in the process without making a glacier flood.
  • Cauldron in the glacier have been spotted at 2 km inside the glacier (I think this distance is correct. If it is not. I will correct it), 6 km from the edge of the glacier and 10 km from the edge of the glacier. This cauldron are directly above the dyke and as mentioned above are the results of minor eruption taking place under the glacier. One of this cauldron was discovered on Friday. I don’t remember if it was included in the news that day.
  • There are no signs of the eruption in Holuhraun is about to end. The lava field is now creating a dam as it goes over the Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacier river path. This has created minor explosions in the past few hours and in process throwing up minor volcano ash at the same time.
  • There is still a lot of gas in the lava coming from the eruption. Making it extremely dangerous to go close to eruption and the lava field. This gas is in so high consternation that geologist working in the field are often at great risk.
  • Smell of sulphur (SO2) has now been found in parts of Norway according to the news (in Icelandic, Norwegian, map in the news from Norway). It is far from being on dangerous levels in Norway due to distance travelled.
  • The lava field continues to create its own local weather. Small tornadoes can be spotted on the Míla web-camera.  There is also a lot of local cloud formations taking place. Sometimes limiting the view to the erupting area.
  • There is high risk of new eruption fissures opening up without warning.
  • Eruption activity in the main crater now happens in pulses according to latest news. It drops for a while and then goes high up. I think there is a reason for this behaviour.
  • It appears that the erupting crater are being closed slowly by there own erupting material. That might explain the pulsing behaviour that is now being observed from it. This also means there is enough pressure in the dyke to continue the eruption for a good while longer (in my view).
  • Inflow of magma and outflow of magma appears to be in balance for the time being. That balance might change without warning if something changes in Bárðarbunga volcano.

No confirmation on the eruption last night

So far there has not been any confirmation on the possible eruption that I did write about last night. This might not have been an eruption or there might not be any evidence of it on the surface of Vatnajökull glacier.

News update on 10-September-2014

“Gravely concerned” about Bardarbunga (Rúv.is)

More notes on comments

Please do not post all your text in caps lock. It is rude to everyone else reading the comments on this website. I also want to point out that not everything is known as I noted above. Some questions do not have any answers yet when it comes to volcanoes or earthquakes, but there are no stupid questions far as I am concerned. I offer no guarantee on the answers however.

I also ask people just to be nice to each other here. I also have to ask you to provide links when text is posted here, it is both good for everyone who want to read more from that website in question. There also a requirement on doing so from Icelandic Met Office and University of Iceland in the disclaimers they have.

Article updated at 10-September-2014 at 22:31 UTC.

307 Replies to “Update on Bárðarbunga eruption at 17:32 UTC”

  1. Curiosity kills the Cat question:

    1) When is the most favorable time of the year to visit Iceland for the volcanic scenery ?
    2) When is the most favorable time to check out the Northern Lights , ie clear and dark skies ?

    Is there any favorable overlap between 1) and 2)


      1. 1) Depends on what you mean with “volcanic scenery” (in some ways all Iceland is “volcanic scenery”.
        2) Dark skies from mid august to begin of april. Clear skies: never guaranteed, but always in between. 🙂

      2. Hi IngeB:

        Volcanic scenery and decent weather:
        Lady Eya. , Katla, Hekla, Laki, Geyser , etc. that sort of thing …

      3. You can get to the mentioned volcanoes all year round, all are near the ringroad in the south (except Laki).
        The highlandroads are only open in summer if you go by your own. Askja road is really late sometimes (Mid of July).

  2. There would be streets of cumulus today as it is post cold frontal so its just enhanced by the volcanic plume. For example see webcams for other parts of Iceland..

  3. Just watched a clip on the 1783 Laki eruption on Youtube.
    130 craters exploding along the rift that lasted 8 months! Mind boggling !
    What is happening now is fascinating, but no-one wants an eruption anywhere near what happened back then.
    Jon…I’m starting to get withdrawal symptoms when you don’t write updates or post comments! (but we all need to sleep)

  4. Question: anyone know how much pressure water needs to be under to prevent it from boiling, and allow it to mix with magma? Mostly my idle mind is wondering if the weight of the ice and rock above the bardarbunga magma chamber is enough.

    I Assume of course that all the earthquake activity there is enough to fracture the rock and leave cracks that allow water to percolate down into the magma chamber itself. Based off that assumption there are two obvious outcomes: either the water boils, or it doesn’t. Boiling adds pressure and probably makes things break loose more quickly. Lack of boiling would mean the water has a chance to mix with the magma, then either allow more melt, or lower the viscosity of the magma it mixes with. (Probably a small enough overall change to be negligable, since a lot of water would be needed to really change much about the overall eruption)

    Mostly curious what impact the water from the glacier itself will have on this magma chamber.

    1. One thing is for certain, water will create more pressure under ground than molten rock would. It is water which makes the volconos near subduction so explosive compared with dry magma in spreading trenches/rifts.

    2. Water can indeed be pressurized so that it will not boil.
      This pressure/temperture combination is the critical point: above the water becomes a supercritical fluid.

      The pressure is 22MPa: that is over 2km of water column

      Taking all the figures together:
      * an ice cap of 800m
      * a caldera roof of 2-3 km
      * magma temperatures >1200°C

      A perfect recipe for disaster when water goes into the magma chamber and is pushed out as supercritical fluid.

  5. hi jay

    I did seen it as well hover it could be the top of this impressive stream/ash cloud . just my way of thinking what I’m watching .

  6. Hmm. Tremor at ASK is increasing quite a bit lately….

    And is the noise on the Heklubyggd-geophone just wind-noise; or something else? 🙂

  7. Consider the effect of perspective. With the clouds blowing towards camera left they appear elongated and larger than they really are.

    1. The Wiki article below has brief info on Caldera collapse. It does not mentioned that this can occur from vertical Dyke intrusion. It may be that a Ring Dyke allows for subglacial eruption in various intensities that compromise the icecap. From my understanding, Gases and Magma composition will play an important as to how fast this process can occur. The more viscous (such as silicon enriched), the slower the process. The less gaseous, the slower the process.

      Jon, can you speak to the magma and gas composition likely under B’s caldera?


      A collapse is triggered by the emptying of the magma chamber beneath the volcano, usually as the result of a large volcanic eruption. If enough magma is ejected, the emptied chamber is unable to support the weight of the volcanic edifice above it. A roughly circular fracture, the ring fault, develops around the edge of the chamber. Ring fractures serve as feeders for fault intrusions which are also known as ring dykes. Secondary volcanic vents may form above the ring fracture. As the magma chamber empties, the center of the volcano within the ring fracture begins to collapse. The collapse may occur as the result of a single cataclysmic eruption, or it may occur in stages as the result of a series of eruptions. The total area that collapses may be hundreds or thousands of square kilometers.

  8. On the youtube feed, what are the middle left and bottom left screens telling us. The red line on the middle left seems to rising quickly. IS that good, bad, nobody knows, etc.? Appreciate any comments on this.

      1. Seems to have faded a bit again. I’d say a watched Katla never boils, but that’s the wrong volcano. I guess “cauldron” could work.

  9. Could someone give me an idea what I’m seeing in BB2 cam please? We seem to be focused on a ridge on which dark spots appear and disappear!! We seem to be subject to severe wind shake (presumably) so they could be artifacts….

    1. You can see …at the moment…nothing really interesting:
      the hill, where the webcam is
      Instruments on the hill (dopplerradar?)
      steamclouds from the fissure
      fog and dust in the foreground
      not a tiny lttle bit of Bardabunga

      and from all this you can’t say what’s happening.

    2. Well, more generally, if you’re camera watching and go “Hmmm…is that something?” It’s not. If you go, “I wonder if…” It’s nothing. But if you look at the camera and your jaw drops open and you involuntarily emit “OMFG”, that’s the eruption you’ve been looking for.

      That being said, lava fountains and steam and weather are still fun to watch.

  10. Looks like the plates that make up iceland have moved again… Rash of quakes have appeared across the country.

  11. The tremors are likely wind. No point reading too much into them when it’s blowing like it is now. Jon will always say exactly that.

    Definite rise in big quakes generally the last few days though.

  12. Weather update. Next 24 hours decreasing winds and a bit of a window with only one isobar of 4 mb intervals over Iceland tomorrow at noon. Light southwesterly. Slight ridging. High cloud later as warm front moves in.. Then windy Thursday night. Early Saturday pretty much like it is now – Post cold frontal. Looks like later in the weekend the wind backs more southerly on the edge of the anticyclonic activity over UK but a squeeze so pretty breezy… So if yu live in UK that is good news as any fumes go north 🙂 Other models differ so the likehood of changing is quite high. Bad as volcanic prediction this weather forecasting lark 🙂

  13. Either the Bardar cams have been moved at some point today or they are not in ‘zoom’ mode!

  14. The IMO seem quiet about the ice cap on Bunga? No news lately about caldera’ s or subsidence. For what its worth in my limited opinion, there will be further cracks on the icecap but unless there is a change to the flowrate of the magma that appears content to erupt from the fissures, the icecap will remain in tact.

      1. They forgot the last snetence:
        “The situation is confused and can not decide between these options at the moment.”

      2. The only problem with this model is they assume a limited sized chamber. What evidence do they have of this? The lack of seismics at depth suggests that it may be a deep source, as suggested by the lack of deep earthquakes.

    1. http://www.ruv.is/frett/gravely-concerned-about-bardarbunga

      “Gravely concerned” about Bardarbunga

      Increased subsidence in the caldera of Bardarbunga volcano is a cause for grave concern, due to possible large eruption and glacial flood, says Vidir Reynisson, director of the Civil Protection Agency in Iceland. The subsidence is thought to increase the likelihood of an eruption in Bardarbunga.

      …This scenario is regarded as very serious, not least because of the potential for a flood, which could cause extensive damage, says the director of the Civil Protection Agency in Iceland, Vidir Reynisson. “We are gravely concerned about this scenario. If we study the history of the Bardarbunga volcano, we see large and powerful eruptions in or near the caldera; we are bound to take this very seriously, especially after the subsidence was observed.”

  15. “In a series of interesting tweets, Gisli Olafsson, Emergency Response Director at NetHope, an orgainsation that “enables humanitarian organizations to better serve the developing world through smarter use of technology”, says that according to scientists, we have had seven eruptions so far. Three in Holuhraun, three under Dyngjujökull and one south of Bardarbunga.” Borrowed this From VC’s most recent article… Jon was right again 🙂

    1. Jón is cool, he speaks how he sees it.

      I think serious scientists need to take note of us amateurs, it happens in astrophysics, so see no reason why they can’t in volcanology.

      The more brains looking at a challenge the better!

  16. Some really great webcam views of the plume as evening wears on. The fissure is really kicking out a lot of gas and steam right now – be interesting to see the lava fountains later.

      1. Hey, I’ve anwered your question at the start of this page 6 times or more…
        Now you have to read it! 🙂

      2. Hi Mafl:

        If that was directed at me, I have read it and thanked you 😉

        I will download it and print the map later …
        P.S. My father visited Iceland at the start of the Atlantic convoys in WW2 (the big one)
        Thanks again

  17. That dark clouds above the glacier, they look quite similar to the plume of the vulcano right now, and behave the same… Is it normal clouds? Or did something on the right side of Mila1 cam erupt?

    1. I was just thinking the same — they look exactly the same but I’ve had about 1000 false alarms before….

      1. I think mila2 is working. The sreen is dark, but sometimes you can see a little red light right to the middle…don’t know if they changed something.

    1. Wasn’t suggesting the volcano was erupting…but another fissure opening in this direction is certainly possible. If that “cloud” eventually moves to the left and leaves open air, then it was another false alarm of course. But it’s been very consistent and seems to be coming from a ground source to the right of the camera view….perhaps.

  18. With respect to your comments about an eruption last night:

    1. The drum plots for the past 18 hours are certainly indicative of a significant change in the behavior of Bárðarbunga.

    2. The GPS information now shows an inflation (rather than deflation) occurring underneath Vatna Glacier. I understand there was concern of a “collapse of the caldera roof” due to the extraordinary subsidence, but I think that was in error. Now, on the other hand, I believe there is grave reason for concern.

    3. I think it is incorrect to refer to the tornado-like phenomena as “tornadoes”; nor is it truly correct to refer to them as “weather events”. The best definition I’ve seen is at Wikipedia, where they are described as “fire whirls” [a.k.a. fire devils; fire tornadoes; or firenadoes].

    The fuel source for such events is the heat created by fires, or in this case… volcanic eruptions. They are not true tornadoes, which are associated with cumulonimbus cloud formations.

    While the fire whirls are interesting… they likely rate as EF0 events at best [re: Enhanced Fujita Tornado Damage Scale]. Catastrophic fire events can cause “fire storms” on an unimaginable scale, such as Hamburg [Operation Gomorrah – July 1943]; or Tokyo [Operation Meetinghouse – March 9-10, 1945].

  19. Iceland was a safe haven (like Malta in the Mediterranean Sea) in WW2 for crippled ships from the Moermansk convoys who had been attacked bij U-boats.
    If I’m right the british occupied Iceland to prevent it from falling in german hands.
    Because Denmark was occupied bij Germany, Iceland (till that moment part of Denmark) took the opportunity to declare independence in 1944 (again if I’m right)

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