Bárðarbunga volcano daily update 17-September-2014

This information is going to go outdated quickly.

Current status in Bárðarbunga volcano at 16:36 UTC

  • The largest earthquake in past 24 hours took place yesterday (16-September-2014) at 21:34 UTC. It had the magnitude of 5,4. The largest earthquake today had the magnitude of 3,3 so far. This might change without warning.
  • Lava continues to flow out of the main crater in Holuhraun. The eruption is diminishing for the moment. That might change without warning if an new fissure opens up in the current eruption area, or in the glacier south of it. River of lava has been observed from the main erupting crater. Smaller craters that have stopped erupting are just emitting gas, two of three of the craters that have stopped erupting have lava lake in them at present time (latest report).
  • GPS data over the past few days suggest that magma flow into Bárðarbunga volcano is changing. I don’t think this is a good news. At the moment it is unclear what this means for current eruption and what is happening in the volcano.
  • Bárðarbunga volcano caldera continues to drop around 50cm/day at current rate. That is slightly slower than when it was dropping at the rate of 90cm/day about week ago.
  • Risk of eruptions under the glacier remains high and it is highly likely that eruptions might have happened under the glacier without anyone noticing them on the surface.
  • No major changes have taken place in glacier rivers that come from Bárðarbunga volcano area. Both when it comes to conductivity of water in the glacier rivers and amount of water in them.
  • There is currently no visibility to the eruption in Holuhraun due to thick fog in the area. I don’t know when the weather is going to clear up.
  • More magma continues to flow into the dyke than is erupting from it according to latests observations. This increases the risk of new eruption taking place along the dyke without warning.

Progress of the current activity

The eruption is happening in two parts in my view. The first part is the rifting episode that has now started in Bárðarbunga volcano fissure swarm. The rifting is going to happen in jumps with quiet period between them and the crust is going to crack or open up when that happens. This rifting has started in the northern part of Bárðarbunga fissure system. It has not yet started in the south part of the fissure, where features like Tröllagígar are (Tröllagíar crater row) exist. They erupted in the years 1862 – 1864. That magma that came up there closely resembles the magma that is now erupting in Holuhraun.

The second event that is happening is the collapse of Bárðarbunga volcano caldera. I now think that is an separate event in it self. Something must have happened in the volcano during past period of activity in 19th century that started this collapse, even if it did not start full force until current eruption episode. The caldera collapse is not going to stop the rifting process, that is going to run it course of the next few years (3 – 5 years is my best estimate now). This collapse is however going to make bad situation worse since when the collapse happens it is going to be a major problem for the local area. Since the area south of Bárðarbunga also has several hydro-dams that are in risk of some major damage, not just from fissure eruptions but also from glacier floods when they happen. In glacier floods triggered by eruption contain a lot more than just water. Glacier floods contains fragment of the glacier, many up to several meters high (20 – 60 meters high should be expected), mud, glacier clay, rocks, volcano material of all types, gases and several other things that I don’t know what are.

Current status at 18:45 UTC.

  • Bárðarbunga volcano has dropped 25 meters according to measurements taking today by University of Iceland and Icelandic Met Office. The speed of the drop in Bárðarbunga volcano caldera has slowed down from what it was about a week ago.
  • Currently the dyke from Bárðarbunga volcano is not expanding. Scientists are also not sure now how much lava has erupted at current time.

Current status at 23:56 UTC

  • There seems to be quiet period in the rifting episode at the moment. Along with general quiet period in Bárðarbunga volcano. It does not mean this is over, the eruption in Holuhraun continues and I continue to see harmonic tremor spikes taking place. I don’t know what the harmonic tremor spikes mean yet.
  • Largest earthquakes now have the magnitude of 4,1 (at 22:51 UTC) and magnitude 3,2 earthquake at 22:28 UTC.

Article updated at 16:56 UTC. Minor fixes that I needed to do on the text.
Article updated at 18:45 UTC.
Article updated at 18:48 UTC.
Article updated at 23:56 UTC.

249 Replies to “Bárðarbunga volcano daily update 17-September-2014”

  1. Jon,
    I tend to agree this is a 2 way event..rifting and consumption of bardarbunga.
    This scenario is the more frightening but also runs over many years perhaps yet, cheers

  2. How do you view the possible involvement of volcanoes North and West of B? Vonaskard is recording some vigorous graphs.

    Excellent article again Jon, keep calling it as you see it!

  3. Could their be also a scenario, that magma intursion lifts the caldera floor at Bardarbunga again an stabilize the hole magmatic system within the Bardarbunga rift swarm?

    1. Thank you for sharing your amazing pictures. With out people like yourself and Jon Fr, we would never learn about our amazing world. Your dedication and enthusiasm are very much appreciate, by a truly naive volcano watcher in Lincoln. England

    2. Great pics, Lukas…I think, a picture of these would be a nice place above my fish tank in my new flat. 🙂

    3. Please excuse this opinion, which is only a personal one. Those are excellent photos, and thanks very much for posting them. But they’re a bit too “juiced” for my taste.

    4. Like your photos..

      But don’t like the color.
      isn’t natural.

      I’d like to see the real color of volcano on your photos.
      can add these versions?

      1. Thank you for your comment.

        The color is as natural as possible with digital photography – no manipulation, only digital processing in RAW-converter.

        The pictures were taken during difficult conditions (heavy rain, hail and snow) in the evening light.
        The dark black is a consequence of the strong but necessary underexposure….


        Kind regards,

  4. Looking at the GPS readings, one thing that stands out is the subsiding trend on a lot of the stations, even some further west such as HAUC and KIDC. So we have a large chunk of real estate sinking right now along with the caldera itself, which is much faster.

    1. Thank you for sharing your amazing pictures. With out people like yourself and Jon Fr, we would never learn about our amazing world. Your dedication and enthusiasm are very much appreciate, by a truly naive volcano watcher in Lincoln. England

    1. I think the explanation is that there are no quakes there, because here the intrusion leaves the magma chamber, and the material is hotter there and more liquid.

  5. Thanks for the update Jón, as ever!

    Since you’re fixing the text:
    “The rifting is going to in jumps with quiet period between them”: Missing word between “to” and “in”.

    And now for my Icelandic: … crickets …

  6. Jón, you say:

    “Lava continues to flow out of the main crater in Holuhraun. The eruption is diminishing for the moment.”

    IMO says today, about Holuhraun:

    “There are no signs of decreasing lava production.”

    How do you account for this contradiction?

    Thanks for your daily analysis and updates. I agree with the “two part” idea as well.

    1. There are lava lakes presents in few of the craters and they might be pushing out lava without erupting lava fountains. But there is less power in the eruption than it was before, that has been confirmed. At least for the moment, this is always changing as is.

  7. Don’t want to be spoilsport, but we do ot really know if the caldera is collapsing.
    Only the surface of the ice is sinking and all we know is the rate at which it sinks directly at the GPS station.

    Who knows, maybe only a small area under the GPS station is affected.
    We would need many GPS stations to get a more cmplete picture of this activity.

    1. It is very easy to tell the difference between rock and ice using a whole variety of methods. While the GPS readings are indeed from the top of the ice, I am certain ground radar or some such has confirmed the caldera itself is falling as well.

      1. gravity measurements and simple geophysical inversion could do it too .. (not to mention seismic profiling ..) , and probably many other types of measurements

    2. We know a lot more than that. The earthquake focal mechanisms (aka beachballs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focal_mechanism) also indicate subsidence, and I believe they’ve used ground penetrating radar via plane, too. The magnitude of decline varies across the caldera, but it’s big throughout and worse with each pass. Perhaps someone can pull up the link to that. And there are a lot of GPS stations in the area further corroborating the picture.

      We know for a certainty the crust is subsiding, the only question is whether it will transition to something much more rapid or slow down and stop for now.

      1. Wial,
        Do you have a link to a site which shows the focal mechanism beach balls for these quakes ? I have tried USGS but cannot find my way around. I am curious whether the beach balls show reverse faulting or normal – i.e. is the centre falling and the edges will then fall inward, or is this a piston simply sliding into the void below ?

    3. There are several problems. No, they can’t know with certainty what is happening, they have to go with educated guesses and probabilities. The problem I have with the notion of “caldera collapse” is that generally happens AFTER a large amount of magma has been erupted out of the system, the hollow chamber can no longer support the weight above it, and the whole thing collapses to form a caldera. That isn’t what is happening here, or at least not yet and it appears there is still a considerable amount of magma entering the system so “caldera collapse” at least in the conventional sense seems a confusing term to use in this case. Generally in a caldera collapse situation you get a large volcano formed over a magma chamber, a large plinian eruption then quickly empties the chamber and the volcano then falls into that chamber leaving a caldera because the empty magma chamber can no longer support the weight of the volcano above it. If one were to take away the GPS station at the surface and look only at the quake and tremor activity, it would certainly be easy to draw the conclusion that it was either erupting in the caldera or an eruption is imminent. I think the GPS on the ice surface is providing confusing information.

      But again, that is my pure speculation and I want to label it as such so that is perfectly clear. This is more “brainstorming” than any authoritative proclamation.

      1. Agreed.

        Further speculation on my part:

        1. The “caldera collapse theory” is based upon two assumptions.

        a. First, the “ring” around the caldera is only a two dimensional perspective. The 3D perspective shows these EQs at varying depths up to 15 km deep, and are more suggestive of the dimensions of the magma chamber.

        b. Second the large “glacial subsidence” is just that… subsidence of the glacier surface. It is NOT uniform across the entire caldera, and is instead shaped more like an irregular vortex, with the center ONLY experiencing the huge changes. The difference in change decreases markedly towards the edges of the caldera. Caldera collapse is only one possible theory of this phenomenon.

        2. Is glacial subsidence always associated with an eruption; cauldron; or caldera collapse? Isn’t reasonable to expect that the caldera’s surface temperature (under the glacier) is rising significantly as the magma approaches the surface. A quick Google search says the temperature range of magma is 700- 1,300 degrees Celsius. [Let’s just say an average of 1,000 degrees.] Prolonged heat of only 25% this amount would certainly cause at least the beginning of ice melt.

        3. The Grímsvötn eruption serves as a good model for an eruption of Bárðarbunga. A bit of vented steam; followed by a larger “belch” of volcanic gases; followed rather quickly by a full-blown eruption. Bárðarbunga’s eruption will likely be in two phases, with a caldera collapse following the initial eruption. [All this taking place within a few minutes.]

        [Just another theory.]

  8. Thank you for sharing your amazing pictures. With out people like yourself and Jon Fr, we would never learn about our amazing world. Your dedication and enthusiasm are very much appreciate, by a truly naive volcano watcher in Lincoln. England

  9. I have heard mentioned a few times that the caldera is sinking.

    How much of an area does this cover?

    For me sitting here, I am thinking a bit of land is sinking at a rate of 0.5-1m a day, but I am trying to think of a comparison to the size of the area.

  10. Thanks Jon for the update. Because I didn’t find the Tröllagigar I searched around and found this:
    At S. 7 is a map and at the and is an abstract in english.

    This year I was the first time in this area (Veidivötn) and as I see I’ve missed the Tröllagigar just some km. We stopped with our car at the mountainhut Jökulheimar and had no time for a walk. So I wish to go there the next time… we will see what happen until then… (someone want’s to see pictures? So I can upload some)

  11. Isnt the dyke extrusion just a flak eruption of B. edifice? That’s what happens at Etna. The difference here being .8 km of ice sitting on a subsiding and disintegrating summit.

  12. Quake marked at 5.2, east side.

    17.09.2014 18:09:52 64.619 -17.390 5.9 km 5.2 99.0 7.0 km ESE of Bárðarbunga

    1. Right on time! The gps subsidence curve flattens out to no change .. And a big quake mainly follows. Remarkable

      1. yes, except that this time the EQ didn’t cause a 20+cm subsidence within minutes ?! First M5 EQ without strong subsidence withint less than 10 minutes since several days.

  13. I was wondering if there is going to be an eruption in the caldera, will there be a swarm of small EQ’s like before the fissure erupted?

  14. Earthquakes near the surface give quick subsidence. Ones lower down do not because ground higher up takes a long time to settle to the disturbance.

    1. Also, it doesn’t have to be the result of a plinian eruption, a flood basalt will do, and, I suppose, it is also possible that a magma chamber can be “almost” on the verge of collapse and finally let go a century or more later. But in this case there does seem to be a clear indication of magma moving into the system and more moving in than flowing out so this would be a very unusual circumstance for a magma chamber to collapse.

    2. Doesn’t Piton de Fournaise 2004 eruption also fit well into this category? In its fury, this mighty volcano erupted lava streams at a whopping rate of 100 m³/s, producing a huge lava field in excess of 0.1 km³… and a massive caldera collapse in the ballpark of 300 meters.

  15. Jón wrote: “Magma that came up in Tröllagíar closely resembles the magma that is now erupting in Holuhraun.” That made me think – again – about the same very basic questions I don’t dare to ask because they are so basic – but here they come: what kinds of volcanoes are Iceland’s volcanoes and how do you know that? I understand that icelandic eruptions are usually fissure and shield-type eruptions. And vulcanian/pelean are the most explosive and therefore most dangerous? And they don’t exist in Iceland, do they? How do they know this, because the type of magma or what? I also wonder how certain can one be, couldn’t any volcano erupt in several ways? Has there been “explosive eruptions” in iceland, what caused the several distructions in iceland history, was it mainly the flood or ash? Could a icelandic volcano create a fast-moving pyroclastic cloud? Sorry too many questions, so much I don’t know but want to understand..
    Thank you Jón, I follow this blog daily and can’t wait for next update 🙂

    1. They have done chemical analyse of the magma that erupted in Tröllagíar in 1862 – 1864. That is how they know that it looks like the current magma from the eruption in Holuhraun. Magma interacting with water or glacier is always going to result in explosive eruption.

      Öræfajökull volcano is not the type of volcano that erupts basaltic magma. It erupts Felsic types of magma.

      More details.

      http://www.volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=374010 (Öræfajökull)

      On magma.


  16. O.K. But I have a different way of viewing all this. I am a mineralogist and as such I have acquired a knowledge of miming engineering. I think this is primarily a rifting event so volcanologists are not the only people with expertise here. Unfortunately, like so many areas of science, vocanologists are volcanologists and mining engineers are mining engineers and never the twain shall meet. However, I believe the event started with a rifting event which caused Bardarbung’s magma to leak. I believe it started really earlier when Grimsvotn erupted and possibly before that. I don’t believe Bardabunga was really the cause, but the rifting event which made it leak. Now it has leaked, we are faced with the rifting event on one hand and Bardarbunga collapsing on the other. I beieve there has existed voids since the Grimsvotn eruption. I thing Bardabunga was involved more than we knew then. A lot of water drained from uner Bardarbunga then. That left voids. That in why we are seeing no flooding now as shaking is causing the voids to collapse. Also when mines collapse at low levels no evidence appears on the surface. Gradually over years or even centuries mine roof falls gradually work the voids to the surface where eventually the ground falls on and you can see it. In the process rock explosions occur (earthquakes) with no sign above ground. Why are people expecting very earthquake here to show above ground immediatlely. I think that is nonsense. The deeper they are the longer they will take to show on the surface, and the more erathquakes before they do.

      1. In Devon, England we had what we called Treacle Mines. They mined specular haematite which was tiny submicroscopic crystals of mica coated with magnetic iron oxide. The ore was like a paste (with water) and oozed out of the cracks in the rocks like Treacle. It was used in make up e.g. eye shadow, and anti rust paints like Hammerite and mostly used to paint battleships. That is why the Hennock Mine complex was known as the treacle mines. The treacle was made by ancient volcanos of course.

  17. sorry lots of typos. Additional keyboard to iPAD playing up. I think you can see what I intended to type, but if English is not your first language and you do not understand, please ask.

    1. Very interesting… with or without tyops. Thank you. Tricky little voids. I have – in a non-professional way – thought that rifting had some bigger role to play from the beginning… but what do I know.

      1. Also if it was mainly a volcanic event I would have expected more tremor. When Grimsvotn erupted it was preceeded by tremor measuring so high all over Iceland that it was difficult to work out where it was coming from, and gacial floods from under Bardabunga as well as Grimsvotn too. The absence of things like that lead me to think this is primarly the rift zone spreading, but has caused a leak in one or more of Barbarbunga’s magma chambers.

  18. It is interesting to see that not all earthquakes in Bardarbunga result in GPS measurable drop. It’s not easy to understand which earthquakes will result in a sudden drop. The 5.0 SE of BB at 0.1 km depth on Sep 15 resulted in a 50 cm drop. The 5.4 NE of BB at 7.7 km depth on Sep 16 resultet in some 40 cm. But, the 5.2 on the 16th did not result in any drop at all. There are many more examples of lack of subsidence during/after major quakes… so it is interesting to follow and perhaps there is a pattern there that may somehow give a clue on what is really happening beneath all that ice.

    1. Do you have a link to the GPS in on the Caldera ice ? Mine doesn’t seem to be valid anymore ….

      1. weird ! that link was working for a while, but now it generates a broken GIF icon !anybody else see this Icon ??

    2. Remember that a 5,4 releases twice the energy of a 5,2 and four times the energy of a 5,0. The 5,0, even being weaker, probably showed up immediately because it was just barely below the surface. EQs that are deeper underground will probably not cause an immediate change on the surface unless they are much stronger.

    3. This just seems to be more validation that the drop is settlement of the ice. Realize that this ice is pretty old, it has been through many melt/thaw cycles on the surface. There are all kinds of crevasses and meltwater tunnels and caves in there. When we get a quake closer to the surface or a larger one, we see a drop. In other words, when the ice shakes more, it settles. It is exactly what I would expect to see for ice that is very old. If this is so, at some point the amount of settlement should slow or stop. But notice that we do not always see just decline in altitude, sometimes we see an increase. Again, I am not convinced with 100% certainty that what is going on at the surface of the ice reflects what is going on at the surface of the crust 3/4 of a kilometer below.

    4. Only quakes near the surface show on the surface. Lower quakes do not make changes as high as the surface.

  19. We will have to wait and see; however, looks like there might be a drop in GPS starting to be reflected in the data now.

    1. But the blue line only becomes significant after 3 hours, the red after half an hour.

      I do think the lines of the graph take a while to settle. I feel that all the factors mentioned are contributing to the drop, and thatt the ice will do a lot of settling under it’s own weight and all the shaking.

  20. Whats actually happening with Smjorgil station (smj)? The tremor plot on that one is crazy to say at least and I see it frequently doing crazy patterns while the other plots remain relatively quiet.

    1. It is a faulty SIL station. There is nothing happening in Eyjafjallajökull at the moment. I don’t expect anything to happen for the next ~200 – 300 years.

  21. Also note that a steady state decline in the level of the ice is normal for this time of year. It is summer. It melts. I don’t know what the normal rate is, but there would be several things at work: Melting from warmer temperatures, sunlight, and rain. Compression of ice that is older than this year but is still being compressed into ice plus any settlement induced by the shaking from the quakes.

    So what the delta is between maximum ice altitude at the end of winter and minimum at the end of summer is an unknown to me as is the normal rate of decline during the summer.

  22. Thank you Jon for your updates! You work harder than the International News to stay on top of the potential cataclysmic Bardabunga situation!! Keep up the good work!! I happened to be looking up Future Maps of the U.S. and was really surprised & disheartened as I live within the 70 mile new to be under the ocean of the Atlantic East Coast of America. Since Iceland sits at the top of the North Atlantic Submarine Ridge, ( Here in Virginia we call it the Submarine Ridge ) I worry for Iceland & her people first & then me or the U.S., just thinking : What if Hydroplating were to occur & the crack in Iceland’s Crust were to start a cataclysmic worldwide Earthquake? Edgar Cayce stated that it would begin in Iceland, then to watch Vesuvious in Greece or Pelee in the Caribbean for any activity, then know it will be around 3 months before California’ VERY Big One would occur. So living in Virginia we would have tSunami wave from either Iceland & the North Atlantic Ridge Activity or a Meteor hit in the Atlantic Ocean. California’s Earthquake & Iceland activity will go hand in hand so I try to learn all Ican & stay on top of things. Thanks again for your updates!! I got the earthquake info 20 years ago from Edgar Cayce’s book The Sleeping Prophet printed in 1952. The Future Maps of the USA I watched on YouTube & they are made by the USGS, (United States Geological Survey ), & I watched an amazing Hydroplate theory by Engineer Walt Brown with God in the mix. Very Dangerous & thought provoking times that we live in!! Stay safe & Informed!! Hugs to all!!

    1. Scaremongering again. This “literature” cited belongs again to “the-end-of-the-world-is-coming.com”. 😯 😉

  23. Earthquakes are now marked on the GPS subsidence plot.

    Heuristic pattern detection … When will be the next major earthquake?

  24. I am guessing someone has broken the img tag and it probably works on their computer but doesn’t work for people out on the Internet.

      1. Cross patch is almost certainly correct. If the image is on the computer where the website update is beng done, it will show up when the website is viewed from that computer even if it hasn’t actually been uploaded to the net. Something you learn the hard way if you do website maintenance.

      1. It comes and goes for me. They must delete the image and recreate it every so often. If you hit that in between time between deletion and final flushing of the new image to disk, you get the broken image Icon !

  25. Jon, in your update for September 17, I think you may have missed the EQ of 5,2 at 18:02. This quake is on the gov. web site along with a swarm of others (4,1 and 3,2).

  26. The drumplots are not working. EMSC says it was an EQ 03.17, 4.1 mag, 2km depth and located NW of Bardarbunga.

    Looking at Jon’s webicorder it may have been stronger than 4.1, maybe 5.

  27. We need a cold front to clear up the fog. Currently warm sector and thus foggy. Flabby calm weather all day so unlikely to change today. Should gradually improve tomorrow as fronts move over and shifts more to Northwesterly so drier cooler air A ridge for Saturday before Atlantic winds move in for Sunday… Enjoy!

  28. 2014-09-18
    03:17:10 UTC M4.1 ICELAND
    39min ago Depth:2 Km
    209 km E of Reykjavík, Iceland / pop: 113,906 / local time: 03:17:10.5 2014-09-18

    Not confirmed so I’m guessing a magnitude 5 at 5 km depth again. If so the pattern says more magma intrusion into a specific part of the dyke and further increased flow towards Askja.

    Questions of magma and pressures balancing out between the two calderas and possibly magma chambers too, until critical point is reached.

    Along the idea of how a piston engine works.
    Timing is same as always days, months or years.

  29. Was it not said before, that there is a way to get mathematically more or less ridd of ice movements and indicate the real movements of rocks? Perhaps indicated in the 3-hours intervals?

    I think we should not so much concentrate on immediate indications on the graph, they seem to be full of errors.

  30. Many thanks for the update Jón you must have put a lot of hours in over the last few weeks I always look forward to reading your updates.
    Well I noticed this morning that the steady decline on the chard with no big step drops, it all smoothed out over time It will be interesting to see if anything happens this morning to see if it continues with a trend.
    Jón I see that the last few earthquakes have moved over a bit or is it me. if so what could be the reason for this ?.

    1. The earthquake activity might have moved. I haven’t had time to check for it yet (since I got other stuff to do during the working hours today).

      There was also less activity for the past few hours, but the activity has been increasing again since around 09:00 UTC. Quiet period in fissure activity is normal and should be expected.

      I’ve been putting in a lot of hours. So many in fact that I had to stop my self from over working my self.

  31. Probably any technical problems? Drumplots still not working and newer EQ’s are not verified or very late ….

  32. For those of us in East Iceland at present in the fog, can anyone tell us how the SO2 reacts with the fog, and therefore the dangers or otherwise to us.


    1. It forms sulphurous acid. Not a good thing to breath, but not as bad as sulphuric acid. Fog also holds to pollution down at breathing height.

    2. SO2 forms acid in atmosphere (water & oxygen) and is also a prompt toxin at higher levels. Normal fog does not help and may help it thicken at ground level. SO2-rich air has a bluish hue.

      If there is a major gas release, the advice to stay inside, close everything and (if summer) disable air conditionig, and turn up the heat to full blast is good. This creates positive pressure and keeps gas out.

      If you are stuck out in it without a chemical vapor mask, a wet cloth is good to hold over your face as you get home.

      Do not let children or domestic animals (especially smaller ones) run around in volcano fog.

  33. 10:46 there was 3.8mag EQ
    11:21 there was another 3+ EQ (not verified yet)
    11:52 there was an 4+ EQ (not verified yet)

    The activity is increasing.

  34. This earthquake activity in Bárðarbunga volcano is worrying. But I have other plans for the next few hours. So I will check it when they are finished.

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