Bárðarbunga volcano daily update for 21-October-2014

This is the daily update for Bárðarbunga volcano.

Largest earthquake today had the magnitude of 5,3. Second largest earthquake had the magnitude of 4,7. The magnitude 5,3 earthquake had the depth of 15,6 km. This suggest that something is happening at depth inside the volcano. What that exactly is bit unclear that the moment. Other earthquakes today have been smaller, but there have been good amount of magnitude 3,0 and 4,0 earthquakes taking place today.

Earthquake activity in Bárðarbunga volcano today. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Earthquake activity has been increasing along the dyke today. This suggest that pressure is increasing along the dyke, this might mean that more magma is flowing into it at the moment. After what appears to have been some type of pressure drop earlier today. What this means is unclear, but an eruption under the glacier continues to a be a big risk in Bárðarbunga volcano. The Holuhraun lava is now around 60,4 square kilometres in size. This is according to latest measurements that have been taken. The volume of lava is considerable more, since the lava is up to 10 – 30 meters thick at locations and might be getting thicker as the time passes. I don’t think there is anything more to report currently.

72 Replies to “Bárðarbunga volcano daily update for 21-October-2014”

  1. If you throw water on an oil fire you get an explosion, however the oils is consumed much quicker. If the dyke was to open up proper under the glacier, would the ensuing explosive eruption speed up the depletion of magma?

    1. Thank you, Jón, for the resume of the situation. 🙂

      . Yes, an explosive eruption would speed up the depletion of magma from the dyke, but it depends on how deep this intrusion really reaches, and on the volume of the tapped magma reservoir.

      1. In that case could either of these scenarios happen.

        Rapid explosion causes increased vacuum underground resulting in massive increase in the syphoning off bardas caldera, increasing the likely hood of a caldera explosion.


        If it is being supplied from really deep then once the ice has been melted and vaporised the eruption will just continue as it has done so far.

    1. Hard to know what is going on anymore,It looks like the main event has already happened with the lava field.The scientists do not seem overly concerned and they have most information.

      1. There are already plans in place for every conceivable situation they can think of, and they are still working on improving them. Now because nothing new is happening, all they can do is wait. They have already said they are concerned, no need to repeat that over and over. We have been told this can change without warning and things can become serious. We have also been told this process can go on for years. Nobody knows how long this will take. But everybody is on high alert and they have been busy coordinating the different teams. This eruption in Holuhraun is a good thing, because it has given them lots of time to prepare for the unknown.

      2. I guess in Iceland you would get all the information in your news but it does not seem to be getting any coverage internationally,so from the outside it seems like it has become less of a concern.

      3. They have all sorts of systems into place. They told people in the areas down river from BB to make sure to have old school battery radios in case of blackouts. They have the capability to send out text messages with warnings of imminent danger to everybody with a mobile phone in the area, also to tourists. They have already used that system to warn people if the levels of SO2 become too high. There are rescue teams and police and scientists all working together to make sure evacuations can go as fast and smoothly as possible. And there are people ready to breach the roads and shut down the power stations if necessary. They have been working hard in the past weeks and as far as I know they are still on full alert.

      4. That’s great info kolla,the media seem to be doing a poor job of covering this,considering how things went in 2010 with aviation disruption and also the pollution problem that is already apparent.

      5. The authorities seem to be well prepared. I was onsite on the 10 September and can confirm that all roads into the area were being monitored, with officials sleeping out overnight at the checkpoints. It was hard work getting the necessary permission to fly into the area and photograph the eruption, and we were lucky to be there at the right time – perfect conditions, low gas emissions etc.

        As far as the international press is concerned, there is nothing special to report, therefore they are keeping quiet. This will only be interesting when something spectacular occurs, and/or the international air traffic is inhibited.

        @Jon – keep up the great work!

  2. Bardarbunga’s equilibrium remains constant as in magma reaching the surface as we stand.

    It’s amazing that the fissure hasn’t opened up more or see a new fissure eruption in a different location to show up.

    The magma just keeps churning around the separate rift zones. Dissolving the upper crust in certain areas and solidifying in others and yet our only visible indicator Holuhraun fissure keeps the output more or less a constant.

    The gravity forces from the glacier at Bardarbunga against the current upwards pressure of the magma in the chamber has resulted via observations from GPS as being the winning force.

    1. What were seeing is twice as much lava erupting at Holuhraun as can be accounted for by the amount of subsidence of the Bárðarbunga caldera. Which means that the missing amount is coming from some other location.

      But from where? “Big magma chamber” seems obvious, but that might be too obvious an answer. The connected dyke systems are extensive and quite deep. For example, somebody could wildly speculate that the almost constant earthquake activity under Dyngjujokull glacier just south of the eruption might be an alternative active source.

    2. Kyle Henry: “It’s amazing that the fissure hasn’t opened up more or see a new fissure eruption in a different location to show up.”

      North of Bardarbunga it’s a region plentiful of large shield volcanoes, which were eruptions with mostly a central vent, long lasting eruptions of hot magma coming out at a steady pace. Often these shield volcanoes showsubsidence rifting fissures (which haven’t erupted) back to the central volcanoes. It’s kind of what’s happening with Holuhraun as well.

  3. I think its pertinent that 2 out of the 3 scenarios from the icelandic met office are pretty doomy,so i think that the probability of further action is over 50%. The media lose interest after two days, and whats the point of the met office running around waving their arms about?, this is a relatively new situation, and they are learning as they go.
    Fwiw i think there is an ongoing eruption under the ice in the caldera, and that eventually we will see an eruption there.

    1. I don’t think the media “lose interest” after two days, people just misunderstand the business that the media are in. They are not in the business of informing people. They are in the business of using information to get people to look at advertising; the commercial media are advertising companies. So they will go quiet on the issue so it fades from people’s minds and then when something new happens they will hype that news to get people to read or watch the story as if it were brand new again in order to attract attention to the ads. If they reported on it daily, people would get bored with the issue and it would not attract as many eyeballs to the ads when something does happen.

  4. Magnitude mb 4.6 (not yet reviewed) Geofon, Potsdam
    Region ICELAND
    Date time 2014-10-22 05:24:25.9 UTC
    Location 64.60 N ; 17.41 W
    Depth 5 km
    Distances 223 km E of Reykjavík, Iceland / pop: 113,906 / local time: 05:24:25.9 2014-10-22
    125 km S of Akureyri / pop: 16,563 / local time: 05:24:00.0 2014-10-22
    113 km W of Höfn, Iceland / pop: 1,695 / local time: 05:24:25.9 2014-10-22

    1. IMO. two quakes in 4 minutes.
      22.10.2014 09:11:49 64.681 -17.492 6.3 km 4.9 99.0 4.8 km NNE of Bárðarbunga
      22.10.2014 09:07:57 64.679 -17.448 3.4 km 3.2 99.0 5.7 km NE of Bárðarbunga

  5. I dont agree. In very rough Andy maths I have 5000*5000(radius squared)*3(pi)*40(drop) = 3 Billion cubic meters or 3 cubic km. This is enough to supply Holraun (60km square x 15m = 900 million cubic meters or lets say 1 cubic km) and the dyke system that we know about (40km*10km*0.5m = 200 million cubic meters or 0.2 cubic kilometers).

    The extra magma has gone into other dykes.

    1. Hi maybe I understood things wrong but I was under the impression that the magma was coming from deep within the system and only a small percentage was coming from the Magma chamber. All the reports Jon has given have been more magma is entering the system from deep down, than is leaving through the rift.

    2. You also have inflation going on around the area but the caldera still continues to fall and the output from the rift is still continuing at much the same rate. I think there has been a small reduction if anything from the rift, but as of yet shows no signs of stopping. As Jon said this could continue for a long time. Bard is the enigma here it has broken all the rules and I think there will be a few rethinks about what caldera’s can do. There is a lot of learning going on even by the experts, and as Jon said, want will be will be. Keep safe all who are working there and thanks for your tireless efforts and hard work keeping us all informed.

  6. We are all inclined to assume things, but sticking to the known facts, please all examine dfm’s 4D animation plots which he has been painstakingly doing for some time –

    Now, the activity immediately under Bb is concentrated to the Northern part of the Caldera, BUT, there are continuing eq’s around the remainder. Some weeks these tends to show two fissure, others, like this last week allow you to see the cylindrical shape of the ‘plug’.

    To borrow from Carl on VC, in order for that plug to fall or subside as it has been doing, the pressure beneath it has to be less than the gravitational pressure of the enormous mass of the plug. Since it continues to subside and magma is incompressible it has to be going somewhere, so this is a case of hydraulics and thermodynamics.

    We are all making assumptions as to where it is going, and plots have been studied that suggest there may be as many as four chambers, an upper, two intermediate, and a lower larger chamber. These were mapped by observing the ‘dead zones’ in seismic readings.

    So if the ‘plug’ continues to descend it is pushing magma either down between the chambers (as long as the pressure there is less than the weight of the plug), and remember that Jon has observed increasing pressure signs. Or, it is going into conduits, rim fissures, or up.

    Consider if you will UP. Remember when the Holuhraun was extending, its progress was clearly indicated by the trail of eq’s it left enroute. What are we seeing in Bb? A trail of eq’s heading for the surface.

    I know many of you think the ice cap will be a major obstacle to an eruption, and it may contain minor subglacial eruption. It will however provide no obstacle at all for a major eruption. That of course is my opinion, I have read similar opinions elsewhere by more knowledgeable people than I.

    I think ultimately even with the most up to date data, even the experts are left guessing and none of us should be falling out about our opinions. We have to remember that the area is lifting & Falling, moving and tearing in differing directions, there are no constants, only best guesses.

    One thing I have consistently said is we are looking at too small an area.

    1. I think the experts would have a fairly good idea of what is happening,they have their own expertise and a lot more information at their fingertips as well as comparisons to other volcanoes and historical evidence.

      1. I wouldn’t be surprised, if in fact, they are almost as puzzled as everybody else …

        If they had had a very dense,high resolution(in time and space) deformation network, and a large migrated 3D seismic survey , and an large (time & space) 3D magnetic survey, perhaps they could generate some very educated hypothesis ..

      2. “If they had had a very dense,high resolution(in time and space) deformation network, and a large migrated 3D seismic survey , and an large (time & space) 3D magnetic survey, perhaps they could generate some very educated hypothesis ..”

        I know what you mean, but: Even then I would not expect them to have anything like a long-term forecast. I think that vulcanology can be compared with astronomy. It is kind of descriptive and unfortunately it is not possible to perform experiments under controlled lab conditions to falsificate theories – one of the fundaments of science.

        That´s bad on one hand but does it really matter? It is important to watch carefully in order to warn people as early as possible. And that´s what they are doing.

      3. I agree they have a fairly good idea and that is why they have listed scenario’s. However, no disrespect as I thoroughly admire their work, they have left the options fairly open for good reason.

        What would be a good thing is for more funds to be made available to these scientists so they can put more instrumentation on the ground. Put pen to paper and write to your euro meps and point that out.

        The object of my post was to point out that we all theorise, sometimes tempers seem to get frayed, or a newbie comes in and asks old questions.

        We need to help people who just starting to show an interest, we have all come a long way with our knowledge and have further to go, but a more informed public is a good thing if they base their knowledge on established evidence and not outlandish theories – which I was prone to myself a few years ago.

      4. I still think one of the possibilities is that there could be rhyolitic magma somewhere in this central volcano, esp. in form of dome(s) on the caldera rim.
        1) Because most of the Icelandic central volcanoes have domes built of rhyolite around their calderas, see Tindfjallajökull, Katla, but also in Krafla, Askja, Kverkfjöll, Tungnafellsjökull, etc. So there is also rhyolite in the central volcanoes just around Bárdarbunga.
        2) There was this find of icelandite (a special sort of andesite) in connection with the Gjálp eruption, which was thought to have its origin in the Bárdarbunga system.
        And btw. I am no newby … 🙂

      5. Alternate scenarios are not only possible, but likely. Each scenario reacts to its changing environmental stresses as it can. It becomes just a matter of time, long or short. There is thick rhyolitic magma around and under the volcano somewhere. At the moment we don’t see any. However, if a blob of it, say somewhere around the flank is heated and pressurized …

      6. No Inge you are definitely not a newbie lol.

        I agree with your rhyolite view.

        Did you read the Gudrún Larsen and Magnús T. Gudmundsson paper I linked in a few posts above. I thought the comment “Explosive silicic eruptions. No confirmed eruptions in the last 1000 years. One small but highly silicic tephra layer is known from the Vatnajökull ice but its origin in Bárðarbunga is not verified.” was interesting

      7. I think there was also said by G. Larsen etal. , if in this paper or another, I don’t remember at the moment, that it is often difficult to know about smaller eruptions which eg. dusted just the glacier itself, because the ice is covering and eroding the tephra so fast.

        That is perhaps also the reason why there is not a lot known about subglacial volcanism during the glacials of the Ice Age.

        And we have also to take into consideration that glaciers are not only retreating now, but they advanced and retreated very often in the geologic pasts – only not so fast as now.

  7. Whoa, drum plots are going nuts!
    Is that it?

    Great article up there btw., almost pinpoint accurate prediction of the events currently unfolding.
    The sheer amount of magma available and on the move is just mind-boggling, I also think we are witnessing quite a historical event here.

  8. Scots John, myself being both an oldie and a newbee, I can tell you that expertise, especially in a specialty, would be great. There are various scales to nature which need to be considered all at once. Newbees are usually looking at the forest rather than the trees. An aspect often lost on the expert. Therefore, newbees should not be totally ignored, only looked at more critically.

    1. Why does Iceland a country associated with basalt eruptions have rhyolite,yet little mention of dacite and a andesite ,seems odd?

    2. I totally agree, a factor mentioned recently by the agencies correlating civil protection in Iceland which was seeking to engage the public more.

  9. . . . as an unabashed . . . brazen newby . . .

    THANKS Y’ALL for all your commentary and lay/professional expertise, insights, hunches etc.

    Greatly appreciated.

    I do sometimes wish that there was a greater prevalence of positive dialogue and a much greater absence of tweaked pride and thin-skinned sensitivities.

    So I try to ignore the negative stuff most of the time.

    I don’t know how to help increase the positive dialogue more. Maybe it’s a European cultural meme, gestalt to be less expressive in interpersonal dialogue. I don’t know. I just think it would help the sharing and massaging of the information if we could increase the interpersonal dialogue–not only between the rest of us but also between Jon and the rest of us.

    The old phrase “iron sharpens iron” comes to mind . . . None of us ‘know it ALL.’ And, a good bit of research indicates that in a complex situation, a diversity of collaborative inputs can provide the greatest increase in understanding, insight, planning, conclusions etc.

    my 2 cents. I now return you to your usual great perceptiveness and commentary. LOL.

    1. I totally agree with you, Da Xin.

      People should sometimes write less agressive towards people. It happens too often here and on volcanocafe and nearly everywhere with forums and comments throughout the internet.

      People forget to be polite. Because they don’t show their face.

      1. I think also Irpsit that because it is hard to convey emotions in written language people often get the ‘wrong end of the stick’ and it is possible to greatly misunderstand what someone is trying to convey.Unless you know a person well and their particular style of writing it is always best to give the benefit of the doubt. Having said that there are undoubtedly trolls who enjoy stirring the pot.

      2. & Steve G,

        Thanks for your comments.

        Yeah, character . . . what we are inside . . . and when no one is watching . . . while knowing who we are.

        I was also trying to suggest a positive alternative . . . richer, more frequent and meaningful interpersonal dialogue about the topic. I think it would multiply the learning and benefit . . . and perhaps the creative insights.

  10. I find all this stuff fascinating. It is an insight into what it was like in Britain historically i.e. early in continental drift. Although we do not have volcanos near to where I live there are pillow lavas and under my house is a dyke of yellow and ferrous green pumice which extends a mile to the east. It is only a few metres wide. I always thought a dyke a mile long was long. Now I see things like that, similar anyway being formed in Iceland. I wonder what rate the mineral wealth of the country is also increasing. My nearest volcano (4.5 miles in a straigt line and totally extinct) produced crystals on gold coated with platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium. iridium, rhenium and silver, which distilled through cracks in the rock billions of years ago.

      1. Where I live in the UK I am actually closer to a dormant volcanic region then I am to most of Scotland : D

      2. Where I live in the UK I am actually closer to a dormant volcanic region then I am to most of Scotland 😀

      3. There is supposed to be a very long extinct (Silurian) volcano on the Mendip Hills (Somerset), Kilve has fossilised mud volcanoes on the beach, we have the only genuine hot spring in the UK at Bath .

      4. Even if I didn’t intend it: all my travels in the last 10 years or so go to some sort of volcanic sites. So my first travel to England last year was somewhat unusual – but then one station was Bath.
        So I kept my own “rule” 🙂

      5. @wurzeldave: I did not know there was a long extinct volcano in the Mendips. We lived down by Yeovil until last year and certainly would have checked it out.

      6. Haven’t been to Bath in years but i wouldn’t mind (like alot of people) visiting the Holuhraun eruption site (by air) during a low gas & clear day!

  11. Mmmm…..I am seeing that: 1) Big B’s lid is not dropping as fast as it has in the past,
    2) the dyke has more activity, and 3) quake activity is up and many quakes are over 3.0. From these observations, I think that pressure is rising in Big B due to magma moving up from great depth, and this may lead to something new happening soon. Not sure what the “something new” will be, but it will surely be worth watching. Again, I must add that I hope things are not a serious problem for Iceland.

    1. Pardon me- I’m very interested in what’s going on, but I don’t understand what you mean? Big drop, where? And why? Because there has been very little displacement recently?

  12. Probably a stupid question, but, are there consequences to an island the size of Iceland getting whacked practically every day by 5+ earthquakes? Been going on for a long time now, and just wonder about long term shock wave effect, on its geology.
    And also on the caldera structure itself?

    1. No. The area is remote and nobody lives there. There are huts that might be damaged during all this earthquake activity, that is the only risk of damage that I know of for this area.

  13. Thanks for those two significant articles, Inge.
    The Askja earthquake maps sure look a lot like the current ones for BB.

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