Bárðarbunga volcano update Wednesday 26-November-2014

This is going to be a short update on the eruption in Bárðarbunga volcano and the Holuhraun fissure.

The eruption in Holuhraun continues with no end in sight. There have been a change taking place in the eruption, this has been noted both in the comments on this website and by scientists in the field. There flow of magma now comes in pulses and those pulses happens in cycles, some only last for few seconds, but some pulses have known to last up to 6 – 10 hours (raw estimate of time) [details here]. I don’t know what this means at the moment and it is unclear at the moment why this is happening, so far this has not ended the eruption. Gas output has not changed far as I know, strong winds have carried the gas faster out to sea so it has not been a big problem in Iceland because of it for the past few days. At least that is what I so far know. I might be wrong on that detail.

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

Earthquake activity in Bárðarbunga volcano continues around the same rate as before. After the magnitude 5,4 earthquake on Monday, earthquake activity dropped. This is normal and earthquake activity continues as before. There are now fewer magnitude 3,0+ earthquakes due the magnitude 5,4 earthquake. Number of magnitude 3,0+ is increasing again and that is to be expected, since this has been the pattern for the past three months now. View on the eruption in Holuhraun has been good during the last few days since weather has been good. Other than this I don’t think anything other to report at the moment.

124 Replies to “Bárðarbunga volcano update Wednesday 26-November-2014”

    1. Lava field has been pilling in thickness rather than area. Volume is most likely 2km3 to 2.5 km3, but it is difficult to estimate it now.

      Volume release has been around 0.8 km3 per month.

  1. Jon, we have strong reason to suspect that SO2 output is significantly lower.

    In Sept and October, it didn’t matter wind direction or speed, storm or calm, high or low pressure, one area downwind would always suffer from severe pollution. Now since 2 weeks, we had all wind directions, high and low winds and no So2 pollution anywhere.

    For me, this is a sign that magma has now fully degased (clearly much less SO2 released at Holuhraun), and this fits well with the observation of a much lower eruption rate and of a pulsating nature. Like you, I am really thinking this eruption could be approaching its end.

    1. I don’t think it’s degassed ,I think fresh magma is rising from depth and is rich in CO2 which is exsolving from the magma on its ascent causing bubbles,which pulse to the surface.The original magma,very rich in SO2 has possibly been depleted.Disclaimer[This is of a speculative nature and is not based on fact or science and is for the purpose of discussion]

      1. Just to add ,the eruption at holuhraun maybe close to ending,but thinking this applies to caldera could be premature and the exact opposite could be the case there.This activity seems to be going in conjunction with the thinning of the glacier ,so losing its suppressive effect?

      2. Is deep mantle magma richer in CO2 and lower in SO2? I thought the deepest primitive mantle magma was richer in SO2.

        But that I can assure you that: less SO2m because we have instruments to measure that,

        What it means exactly I dont know. Just magma degassed of SO2 or new magma poor in SO2.

      3. My understanding is CO2 ex solves in the crust at deeper level than SO2,so deep source magma will tend to have more CO2?There must be someone with knowledge in this area who could confirm or refute this?

      4. This article may help –

        I think what is happening in Holuhraun is that the source of the magma (like opening a bottle of pop) has released its gases on decompression, which have made their way out first by their lesser SG. Leaving the less volatiles content magma coming out later. I gather the CO2 to SO2 ratio is around 2:1

        This could also explain the change in characteristics of the eruption at the vent. Rocks melt at different temperatures, so exposed surface in the fissure system will allow melting and partial melt of some rock, bringing up these harder species to the surface in the magma. These are depositing in the aperture and reducing its flow, thereby increasing the back pressure in the system.

        I theorise – As it clogs with these deposits the pressure bursts through periodically giving these pulses.

      5. Makes sense, John. Some dikes might get plugged up, as you say. If the pressure has remained unchanged, then the magma will find wherever in its full reach there is a weak point, and push through there.

    2. Been wondering for some time now how analogous is the current activity pattern to what occurred from 1900 to 1910, last century? Without a network of modern instruments back then, it’s possible we’re just seeing a re-run of that type of activity but it appears more emphatic due the flood of sensory data. This could just go back to sleep for a few decades or a century (within in the freshly tension relieved area at least). One intuits local ‘relief’ will accentuate the rending tendency in neighboring structure.

      1. I read that site’s info within 24 hours of the initial seismic swarm back in mid-August.

        Note that I referenced a ten year period of activity.

  2. The pulsation is not new, but previously it was not so easy to recognize … sometimes we could see it on the smoke cloud from Baugur.
    New is the uniformity in appearance. For several days, the activity increases 9-10 times per hour.
    Here are 52 screenshots of tonight made at intervals of 70 sec. (20: 00-21: 00 UTC). All three images increases the activity and then for the next three images to decline again. The last night was already like that.
    You can use the mouse wheel or use the cursor keys to move around in the making.

    Sorry for my English … google helps me.

    1. Good job, Enno. The long sequences of screenshots is the best way to see periodic pulses in the lava fountains.

  3. Strong activity to see at mila 2 at the moment. Light in center of crater, outflow point and first 100 m of lava stream is so bright, you can’t see the small fountains at the outflow anymore!

  4. I would say that a majority of the smaller earthquakes, last few days, happen at 1.1 km depth. On the other hand, these quakes are often not manually checked. Are the machines wrongfully placing the earthquakes at exactly 1.1 km, or is something special in particular happening at that specific depth?

    1. I’m sure that I read sometime back that the 1.1 depth was the default depth if there was some doubt as to the real depth of the quake. I seem to have seen a few 1.1s that have been updated to a different depth when they have been checked manually.

      1. Thank you! I suspected this, since I find it hard to imagine huge geological processes as being picky with occuring at a certain depth.

  5. Lots of gas being emitted at Holuhraun this early morning. At 06:17 UTC (Thurs) the whole eruption got very bright and dense clouds emitted. The right side, in particular, is emitting copious quantities too.

      1. I still say, the eruption is releasing very little SO2.
        Check out http://www.ust.is/einstaklingar/loftgaedi/maelingar

        Also people downwind have not been complaining, like they were 3 weeks ago.

        I think, the pathway is just changing and maybe that explains the pulsating behavior, or source of magma changed.

        But definitively, its a much less SO2 magma.

    1. Sorry for the 3rd comment, but something is definitely happening at Holuhraun, the normal channel of outflow, on the right hand side, occasionally gets very bright, almost as bright as the normal center area. There is strong pulsing going on.

  6. So what is causing the bright flares, which last 2 or 3 seconds? They appear to rise up about 20 or 30 meters, like a blowtorch. When a bright pulse occurs, occasionally flares pop up on the right hand side, and also in the outflow channel in the middle. I have been watching for about an hour now, and never saw them before, like this.

  7. I will be sad to see this eruption come to an end as i have been following it closely since September. Is there likely to be further fissure eruptions from bb once the current one ends. Correct me if I’m wrong but I picture the pulses of activity to work similar to when you step on a hose and restrict it’s flow causing it to splutter in gushes. If I’m correct Will this cause pressure build up elsewhere in bardarbunga’s system?

    1. I think the visibility of the smoke is also depending on weather, temperature, strength and direction of wind and of cause on the amount and composition of smoke itself. Therefore, I guess that it is different to decide. When I look at the magma output itself, I would not come to the conclusion that it´s less. We still see the pulses, waves, fountains etc, not much different to last days in my opinion. And saying ” it stops soon” or “no sign for ending” is nothing else than pure speculation. It ends when it ends. Before it ends it continues. That´s my guess.

      1. You’re right … I wanted to provoke a little.
        But I think, yesterday and today the smoke has decreased. The weather is fine … light wind, clear view … and over day we often can see the background of Baugur through the smoke (on Cam2 ) … and on Cam1 there were times with nearly no smoke.
        (I will upload some screenshots later).
        What is the reason for less smoke? Is it only weather related or did the composition of magma changed?

  8. Very strong chlorine like smell in the air today here in Southern England.

    The smell is very much like poppers (alkyl nitrates) and ozone. There are some very nice orange colours in te sky between the distant cloud breaks.

    The smell is making me light headed.

    I am located several floors up in a building and it would seem the smell is coming of the sea.

    1. I’m currently in Málaga for a few days, the views are stunning, the smell is…. very ….. Málaga like I would say.

      1. The smell outside isn’t as bad now as it was , however it’s trapped indoors now.

        Looking at the lastest satepsonone satalite there is some SO2 flirting down the western half of the UK this afternoon, I wonder if some of the other gasses are mixed in.

        Weather conditions here are slack, misty, with very light south, southeast wind.

      2. Ian, Yeah, that could be from Holuhraun…

        That’s exactly what me and others have felt on some ocasions since the Holuhraun eruption started. Here was definitively originated from Holuhraun. And it was not only me, many Icelanders here have felt the Cl smell. Which always came when we were downwind from Holuhraun. It was a sharp bleech like smell that when strong was unpleasant to lungs after some mins of exposure.

        Strangely I haven’t felt Cl this smell for along time, maybe a month or more. And last SO2 smell was 3 weeks ago.. SO2 smell is like car exaust/mechanical garage like.

        Maybe you just got a concentrated gas cloud somewhere wandering int he Troposphere….

        I think the smell is not HCl but rather Cl- or ClO2. I know HCl from my lab experience.

    2. Tell me Ian, are you in east coast of southern UK?

      Sea is known to cause some Cl smell ocasionally. But I lived for many years near the ocean and never felt that bleech/ozone-like smell.

      However strangely enough there is no wind connection between Iceland and UK at themoment or in recent days. That makes me doubt it really comes from Holuhraun… Holuhraun pollution drifts today eastwards towards Norway. In UK, winds blown from southwest, south or southeast

      1. I’m coastal Central Southern England, 🙂

        There may not be much in the way of direct winds but the SO2 clouds at least are floating around various weather systems, and satalites have picked them up in the past 24hrs.. there has been a large amount over northeast America too.

        The above said, I’m not implying this was sourced from iceland, I just don’t want to rule it out at the moment.

        Another possibility could be some sort of chemical leak in France.. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened

  9. Funny how Jon and you people commenting have different views on what is happening right now. Jon says “eruption with no end in sight”, and all the others say it is ending. I have no access to the webcam (for some reason I cant make it work from my ipad), so I totally rely on your comments in here.
    I have enjoyed following this eruption from this site. (Most often, I skip the article and go directly to the comments) So thanks everyone, and thanks to Jon for hosting.

      1. I mean I dont expect such a rifting episode to only last 3 months. This sort of stuff lasts at least 1 year, sometimes a few years.

        But we have seen signs of a change: less SO2 emissions, weaker rate and pulsating nature. But let’s see how it goes…

        Activity in the caldera continues as usual.

    1. I, and many other commenting, agree with Jon that the activities continue as before. Now that the daylight has faded, the eruption in Holuhraun looks pretty much the same as the last few days (nights).

  10. I already looked like that would last a 5.4 may be due to breakthrough wall of an old empty magma chamber. This event temporary pressure point you notice now Irregular outflow Baugur. You can see clearly now build the quakes again in strength and frequency of these.You tell us? my feeling is good. And there is now also spoke of gas pressure buildup under the ice? Means greater chance of explosive eruption

  11. Here’s a livestream of a new eruption of Fogo in the Cape Verde Islands. Currently streaming, and previous videos are farther down on the page. The village seen in this current video is actually within the Cha caldera; the eruption itself originated from a vent at the base of the Pico cone, but there are now several vents. There’s a question of whether the eruption is diminishing or not.


    1. My eyes might play a trick on me, but it seems like the fissure is actually widening as I watch it!

      1. BTW: This happened at the same time as the M2.1 EQ (17:15 UTC) which will be bigger when veriviyed by IMO

    1. Thanks, Kolla. The second picture with the view of the overflowing lava river is most interesting.

    1. That does not correlate with any supposed reduction in activity at Holuhraun.It does correlate with a changing dynamic,that includes gas pulses and geothermal glacial melt.

    2. Does anyone know the criteria to verify EQs for IMO.
      27.11.2014 17:14:05 64.625 -17.475 9.4 km 3.4 99.0 3.0 km
      27.11.2014 17:14:56 64.681 -17.432 1.1 km 2.1 90.12 6.4 km
      They verified only the first, but the second is much bigger on the drumplot … or is it for them only one EQ? It’s not the first time that I wonder about.

  12. When you look at the newest satellite photos you could get the impression that you are able to see the first approximate shape of a shield volcano building up. We have now shallow slopes in the northeast of Baugur, in the east and southeast. If you take a pencil and draw along the edge of these lava fields (not including the early far travelled lava fields of the first month), you get a half round shape. Topography is building up, the lava flows are not travelling so far anymore, they are spreading to all sides. Baugur still has to do a lot of work to create a completely round shape. But it’s on track to do just that!

    1. I think Ari Trausti said it would take about 2-3 years with similar output to form a shield.

      1. Hi Kolla, that’s why I said, Baugur needs a little work, meaning several years. Would be good to compare with other shield volcano eruptions in Iceland or other regions with similar shield volcanoes: size, shape, lenght of first lava flows, time of eruption, quantity erupted a day. Now it just shows a shape of maybe a quarter of a shield.

      2. The problem is in Iceland the last shield volcanoes built up just after the Ice Age, about 9.000 years ago. And up to now it is unknown how long it took eg. to form Skjaldbreiður.

        But a good example in other parts of the world would certainly be Kilauea.

      3. Taking the original 1797 Holuhraun eruption into account, I would say that the lava flow is almost half a shield!

      4. IngeB, it would only make sense to compare it to other shield volcanoes in Iceland. Kilauea is a different story, intra-plate hotspot, very long eruption event building a huge shield vocano. I would even just compare it with Troelladyngja in the right neighbourhood. Troelladyngja might have just started with the same background as Baugur. I also think, in geologic terms the shield volcanoes are relatively short lived events, talking about years or decades. Age dating seems to be impossible there, as no organic material available for C14 dating. Just straight physical volcanology interpretation.

  13. Well I don’t know about slowing down, I run an app on the iPhone that monitors Europe’s earthquakes including Iceland. In the last 48 hrs the app has been going mad and is swamped with EQ,s from Iceland. Either they have it wrong or Iceland is having a run on EQ,s. Have never seen it so active, even during the rift formation. They are not confined to BB, and seem to be following a line from east to west. Any comments.

    1. I actually got the direction wrong. It runs from the SW, then kinks at BB then heads north.

    1. According to the video on the above link:

      130 m3 / second of magma flows from under BB to Holuhraun. According to recent measurements, there is magma under BB caldera which reaches up to a depth of 2-3 Km.

      Accoding to petrology the magma from Holuhraun is from no less than a depth of 9 km, which indicates there is more than one magma chamber under BB, or alternatively the magma chamber is very tall, perhaps with a height of several kilometers, and the erupting magma is coming from it´s lower regions. In that case the more shallow layer of magma is not erupting, only moving downwards (explaining the subsidence).

      1. So the subsidence in 2 days was something like 8 meters? That at least seems so compared to the radar data from the 24th November!

      2. No. The graph does not start at zero. This is a different measure of the total subsidence. It seems to be about right.

      3. @whistler
        You are right. There seems to be an error in the dates. But the overall subsidence of 50 meters sounds about right.

  14. Hear is what is going to happen. The eruption will end and all will be well.
    I know this because every time I watch or get involved nothing happens.
    NONE Event.

  15. I don’t think the walls have collapse I think the lava flow just got higher.

    what do you think!!!!

    1. Hard to say, due to the shaky webcam. I don’t think that the wall totally collapsed … only the upper part. And then it also looks like the “old river” to the left is blocked a bit.

  16. Friday
    28.11.2014 06:16:01 64.673 -17.436 1.1 km 3.1 90.1 5.7 km NE of Bárðarbunga
    28.11.2014 06:14:02 64.670 -17.440 1.1 km 4.9 50.5 5.3 km NE of Bárðarbunga

    1. That big spike is interesting but not unique. EQ’s are directional, like thunder coming from lightning. The strain gauge looks consistent enough to be worth keeping an eye on. But at which point is it predictive? Dunno.

  17. According to data collected in the flight the total depression of the Bardarbunga caldera is 50 meters and the total volume of the depression about 1,4 cubic kilometre since the seismic activity started in mid-August.

    No signal is coming from the GPS station in the Bardarbunga caldera, the most likely explanation is that the subsidence of the caldera is so great that the GPS station is now below the caldera rim and is therefore out of sight of the relay station in Kverkfjoll.

    Source: Fact sheet http://avd.is/en/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Factsheet_Bardarbunga_20141128.pdf

  18. I wonder when we will get to see the first phreatic eruption from the glacier,as geothermal induced melt occurs?

    1. I think not so soon. The glacier is so thick. Also there was a theory around by Icelandic glaciologist Helgi Björnsson, that the glacier could be partially sliding into the void created by the subsidence. The lid is still on.

      1. The glacier could start detaching from the caldera rim and hydrothermal activity could become very vigorous there as the deeper melt water will gravitate to the area of greatest subsidence,away from the rim,this would also cause the steep side of the caldera to become increasingly unstable as the old rock is saturated and loses the support of the ice.This could be a cascading event,the large quakes decrease in number as the suppressive effect of the ice caps dwindle,this in turn allows more heat to migrate to the surface.The change in the fissure eruption could be due to more magma rising in the caldera and less going into the dyke and being influenced by the magma pulsing past the beginning of the dyke.[This is all uninformed speculation for the purpose of the exchange of ideas and nothing scientific or factual is implied.]

      1. It´s the pulsing I think. When it´s low, it seems darker, when it´s high it seems even brighter than before.

  19. posting reply to SteveG from a couple days ago:

    thanks for your comment. I am not trying to criticize, but rather to see if it would be helpful to look at percentages or ratios between categories of earthquakes. In this setting (volcanos) and in other settings. Perhaps it would be useful in understanding, or warning in the future. A significant shift (statistically) may be better information than just a guess. I am looking for potential applications as I also have a new (unpublished) way to analyze percentage data, esp. when the size of the denominators varies considerably. [email address removed] – Jón Frímann.

    1. As an ex statistical handyman myself (in social sciences), I appreciate what you are trying to do. I know it is not easy. I once had to invent a statistical method to handle a problem, also unpublished. Later, I found the same idea published by someone else who could do it much better than I. 🙂

      Volcanoes are a very difficult application for probabilities because of the unknown extraneous factors in addition to the known uncertainties. You can look at past data for a model. But then the volcano changes its mind.
      Am I missing your point entirely?

      1. Have you heard of Statistical Process Control. If the earthquake pattern is stable, then a measure such as I propose as percentage of … say moderate earthquakes to sum of mild/moderate/severe earthquake percentage would be in state of statistical control. i.e., within baseline average pct. plus or minus 3*sigma. Say measured on a weekly basis. So if/when a weekly pct. is out of the limit, or statistically significantly in comparison to hypothesis testing terminology, a special “cause” is indicated. There are lots of applications, perhaps volcanic earthquake patterns is one of them, which I am checking out. thanks for all your feedback. But of course this model would not explain the volcanic activity 100%, just may be a useful objective, statistical indicator. Like when weekly % 5.0+ is lower than usual, etc.

      2. Also your response hear reminds me of the response I got from the Boston Celtics basketball assistant coach and some players when I tried to sell them on the idea of applying statistical tools to basketball (e.g., coaching decisions). I got a resonding NO. That was back around 1984 and now sports statistics/decision making is a growing area. And I remember programming in Fortran for SPSS users at Northwestern, back then. (like Cook and Campbell and others) and then I found out about SAS ! C & C were pioneers in stat applications to social sciences back then.

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