How Bárðarbunga volcano collapsed

There is a good article about how Bárðarbunga volcano collapsed during it’s six month long eruption in Holuhraun. The most recent data (the work on Bárðarbunga volcano is far from over even there is no eruption taking place currently) show that Bárðarbunga volcano did in fact collapse. This collapse was not marked by a big explosion, but rather slow subsidence of Bárðarbunga volcano over a large area. Holuhraun eruption is the largest eruption in Iceland for the past 230 years, both in magma and size of the eruption.

More details can be found here.

Iceland’s Bárðarbunga-Holuhraun: a remarkable volcanic eruption (

30 Replies to “How Bárðarbunga volcano collapsed”

  1. Please!
    I come to your page to read up on the eruptions in Iceland and you give me a link to another blog.
    Then you ask for donations. How can this lead to anything but less work.
    Please come up with your own Ideas, stories, Output.

    1. This is a scientists writing about material that I don’t have access to. I don’t re-write other people material. I won’t do it. I write plenty of fresh material on my own all the time, but when it comes to research material there are limits since I don’t do peer-reviewed research (academic things). I am always going to refer to scientists that have access to peer-reviewed material. I often refer to science articles when I can, but that is not always possible.

      Writing is hard work and I spend often up to 10 hours a day when eruptions happen wring about them. So far I have written 1008 articles in just about four years (2011 – 2015). That is a massive work and it is making me broke. I for sure can’t live off it and now I have to start working until end of December to balance my budget.

      I even had to move to Iceland and move into my parents to get some control over it (I am not happy about that and I am going to happy once that period of my life is over). I am going to move back to Denmark next year (more on this later) and get a job here, since this pays so badly. I love doing this, it just doesn’t pay the bills for me. I have to get a full time job once I am back in Denmark.

      I ask for donations in order to keep working on this project. It is not big enough yet for me to create a company around it. Writing about volcanoes and earthquakes is a job that never ends if I don’t want it to end. I plan keeping writing about volcanoes and earthquakes, regardless of my financial situation (unless I can’t pay the host bill, then I am in real problems, but I won’t let that happen).

      Comment updated at 01:35 UTC.

      1. I thought it was a very interesting article after all we’ve been through with that volcano. Also kind of a startling reminder how lucky we are it wasn’t a lot worse.

    2. Many of us do not even have the knowledge or time to find and/or understand them. To do a literature review of some kind you have to know something.

      1. i uses my entier day to find facts about volcanoes world wide and eruptioen updates doe i dont write about it i have school half day and i have allot of work about writtinng about basalt and i am mostly writting about shield volcanoes

  2. Jon give us many ideas of his own, but refer to scientific reports of which he is not the author. Whats wrong?????

    1. There is nothing wrong referring to a science article with new information in it. That article covers material that is new and I don’t have access to it.

      I can’t know everything about every volcano out there (even in Iceland). It is just not going to happen.

      1. There was a little misunderstanding on my part here. I can blame my lack of understanding English properly on this. Since the difference between Icelandic, Danish and English is the location of the words (in the sequence). It sometimes messes with how I say things in English.

  3. im not writting blog like jonfr im writting updates for my school about volcanoes and i do got the knowledge about volcanoes but i dont write blog

  4. THANKS GREATLY for that article, Jon. That’s exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for with my last request that was met with such hostility.

    I think you do very well to share such things WITH AND WITHOUT your own narrative comments on them. That is one of the benefits of your work, imho. You give the professional data and interpretations as well as the insights of a very experienced layman. That really helps connect with the wide diversity of laymen who read your blog. I think that is one of the better services that you provide the whole field of study.

    I think it helps bridge very well the juncture of the professional scientist and the serious layman seeking better understanding of the geological dynamics involved. CONGRATS on your hard and good work in such regards.

    You probably know that the very diverse public will never be satisfied regardless of what you do or don’t do. And then there are those who seem to be compelled to whine regardless of what others do or don’t do. Ignore them, imho.

    I admire your dogged tenacity to keep plugging ahead with your work. Good on ya.

    I can understand your discomfort moving back home with your parents as well as with your financial situation. Nevertheless, as you know, we all have to deal with similar challenges of one sort or another. Keeping on keeping on is a worthy skill wise folks learn and you seem to demonstrate well.

    In terms of the article you referenced–were there any surprises TO YOU, in it?

    What did it most confirm of the understanding you’d already had?

    Looking at the whole of Iceland, currently, where do you guess the next more dramatic geological events would be most likely to unfold?

    What were the most interesting aspects of the dramatic events covered in the article and in your own postings over those months?

    Thanks again for your work and your hard sacrifices.


    1. This mostly confirmed that my math did work to some extent. Bárðarbunga did collapse as I was seeing. It just didn’t collapse as I expected it to, with a big ash cloud as did happen in Askja volcano 1875.

      It is impossible to know when next eruption happens in Iceland. At current rate of eruption next eruption is going to take place in the year 2017 or 2018, no later then 2019. I might be wrong on this however due to how unpredictable volcanoes are.

  5. While an interesting link the statement in the other blog indicates that she believes “the lava flows where 30 km thick!” is clearly incorrect and if that is wrong and was not picked up on a simple proof read how dependable is any of the other things By Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer ?

  6. Just to say I also see nothing wrong at all with posting links to other interesting articles! It’s all part of a good blog in my opinion and as Jon mentioned, he writes several articles a week of his own.

  7. Great article Jon!
    I have 3 things to note and ask.

    1) We know Bardarbunga collapsed without a big eruption. However what we haven’t got to know is how large were the subglacial eruptions within the Bardarbunga caldera. About 1.5km3 erupted in Holuhraun, how about within the caldera? Would something similar to Gjálp (0.5km3) could happen without any sign at the surface?

    2) Do you think that the thick ice cap plays a significant role in supressing a large eruption? Ice there is much thicker (800m thick) than say Grimsvotn or Katla (about 200m thick). And we know that shortly after the end of the ice age, large eruption happened across Iceland as the pressure exerted by the glaciation was relieved.

    But I heard that there was a minor eruption in Bardarbunga caldera in November 1996, one month after Gjálp. Do you know any info on this?

    3) The degree of collapse in Bardarbunga in last few months (less than 100 meter subsidience) was also less than half, maybe even less, than that of Askja in 1875 (at least 200 meters subsidience there). So Askja was a larger collapse, within a much smaller area. Could Askja be just related to the mixing and emptying of a small magma chamber beneath the Askja lake, while Bardarbunga chamber was much larger and deeper and therefore the collapse was much difference (not violent and more spread across a larger area)?

    1. Some good questions Irpsit, I may have one for both for you. Now seeing that Bardarbunga collapsed I believe around the 65 metre mark. I was wondering how this volcano is going to fill up to its original levels if at all. I am thinking the ice cap is going to prevent this and put further pressure on bardarbunga.

    2. Some answers. I don’t have all the answers at the moment.

      1: The eruption in Bárðarbunga volcano was large. The largest one in Iceland in 230 years. It was not a ash cloud eruption, that doesn’t make it a small eruption.

      If an eruption starts under the glacier the signs are going to appear quickly and create a ash cloud once it breaks trough the glacier.

      2: Not much. It might have speeded up this process since 800 meters of ice is a lot of weight on top of the volcano.

      I don’t know if you can read this paper here (I can for some reason). But this paper explains the eruptions in western volcanic zone in Iceland after last glacier period.

      I have heard that too. I have however not got it confirmed anywhere, so it might just be a myth that it happened.

      3: What they think happened in Askja volcano was that a fresh magma (basalt) came into contact with Felsic magma. Starting a reaction that both started the collapse of Askja and blew up the volcano in the process.

      Here is a paper on that eruption. I only get limited view of it since it is subscription only.

      I hope this answers some of your questions. 🙂

      Comment updated at 20:16 UTC.

  8. I live in California and got started being interested in volcanoes and Iceland in particular based on Jon’s contributions and blog. My wife and I visited Iceland last September and had a great time. I think Jon’s contributions lead to us visiting and we love his mix of official data, insight, knowledge and web links which we follow all the time. Those who have an issue with “contributions” can simply use Jon’s Amazon link and help support his work when you buy something- takes less time than writing a nasty comment! Keep up the great work Jon.

  9. Another study mainly based on satellite radar observations (COSMO-SkyMED, RADARSAT-2 and InSAR) “suggests that the majority of the observed subsidence occurs aseismically via a deflating sill-like magma chamber. ”

    As I understand it, the Magn. 5+ EQ are the result of rapid localized deformation on the borders of the magma chamber, but do not contribute much to the caldera collapse as a whole.

  10. Personally I enjoy links to other interesting articles.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. It’s not Iceland but still interesting. Hawaii has always been a fascinating thing for me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  11. There is smoke visible on the bardarbunga web-cam was not there earlier

    1. Depends on which webcam you mean.

      Kverkfjöll cams eg. often show some steam related to their own high temperature (geothermal) fields.

      Also: There are very often clouds in the sky over Iceland’s highlands and storm clouds can make a bit of a sinister impression.

      “Smoke” normally is just to be seen after a lot of other signs indicating an impending / ongoing eruption such as very pronounced deformation and esp. lots of earthquakes, which are not to be observed in the region at the moment.

      1. To be fair, on the Mila cam for bardarbunga, there does seem to be a particularly active area of steam billowing up at the moment – is the old lava still hot enough to produce this?

  12. It comes some quite dark smoke from the old eruption area. It must be a little active relatively close to the surface even though it is not an eruption.

    1. Steam and maybe some gases, I’d have thought. The fresh lava will still be red hot not very far from the surface, and water will be percolating down onto it.

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