Increased hydrothermal activity in Askja volcano

This is a short article about Askja volcano. Because I am getting information that are in my view slightly conflicting with each other.

It seems that an there has been a increase in gas and hydrothermal activity in Askja volcano and in nearby area because of inflation that is currently taking place. At the writing of this article the inflation in Askja volcano seems to have reached between 80mm to 100mm. The reports have been slightly difficult to place in a good picture of what is happening. That’s why I am limiting coverage about this until it becomes more clear to me what is going on.

The general advice from Icelandic Met Office is that people should not hike around Askja volcano or nearby area because of risk of gas and sudden eruption. There is no special earthquake activity at the moment and that makes it difficult to know what is going on. This might change without warning, as is sometimes the case with volcanoes.

Earthquake activity in Askja volcano

Yesterday (14. March 2023) at 20:43 UTC an magnitude Mw3,0 earthquake took place in Askja volcano. This is just one of smaller earthquakes in Askja volcano. There have been almost no earthquake activity following the inflation in Askja volcano in recent months. Suggesting to me (this is my personal opinion) that this inflation is not going to result in a eruption. Deflation might start in few months or years time, if it starts at all. Why this happens the way it does is unknown to me.

Earthquake activity in the inner caldera of Askja volcano. Shown with blue, yellow and orange dots. There is some earthquake activity east of Askja volcano in Herðubreið mountain and nearby area.
Earthquake activity in Askja volcano. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

It is my personal view that earthquake activity in Askja volcano is going remain low and even vanish for a time. I don’t think anything is going to happen this time around. I am however known to get this wrong, because nobody can be sure what happens next in a volcano.

People in eastern Iceland told to prepare for possible eruption in Askja volcano

Rúv News is reporting that people in eastern Iceland should look up information on how to deal with possible volcano ash from Askja volcano. This is an general advice to people in eastern Iceland because of possible eruption in Askja volcano, that can start without any warning or little warning. There is some risk of eruption in Askja volcano that might create an ash cloud, but there is also a chance that if Askja volcano erupts that the eruption is going to be a lava flow eruption, close to what happened in Bárðarbunga volcano in 2014 to 2015 eruption.

There is a possibility that the eruption from Askja volcano is going to go south, into the new Holuhraun lava field and craters after the Bárðarbunga volcano eruption of 2014 to 2015. There has been some earthquake activity in that area in recent weeks and there might be a weakness in the crust at that location that was not sealed during last eruption. What happens is only going to be clear once an eruption starts and until then its all just speculation.

Icelandic News about Askja volcano

Íbúar á Austurlandi ættu að kynna sér leiðbeiningar um öskugos (Rúv.is, Icelandic)

Change in the earthquake activity in close to Herðubreið mountain

Sometime yesterday (24-October-2022) a change happened in the earthquake swarm close to Herðubreið mountain. I am not sure when that change happened and it probably took few hours to happen before I detected it. But the change seems to be that now the earthquake swarm is at two locations and not just one. The second change is that the earthquake swarm is now getting more intense. The earthquakes at the writing of this article are minor, only magnitude Mw0,0 to Mw2,7 at the strongest. Nothing above Mw3,0 so far, but that might change without warning. Depth of this earthquake swarm is around 2 to 3 km at the writing of this article.

Two swarms of red dots show the location of the earthquake swarm east of Askja volcano and south of Herðurbreiðartögl volcano. The earthquake swarm is now west and north of Herðubreið mountain
Earthquake activity close to Herðubreið mountain. Picture from Icelandic Met Office.

What is going to happen next is impossible to know. An eruption in this area has not happened for at least 12.000 years or even longer. I don’t know if stronger earthquake activity is required for this area for an eruption to happen. It already is rather fractured from older earthquake activity and rift activity, that makes it possible for magma to have easier paths to the surface without much earthquake activity. That is at least one idea on the situation in this area. I might be wrong on this, since I don’t have information on the finer details of the crust around Herðubreið mountain.

Inflation and earthquake activity in Askja volcano

Inflation has been increasing in Askja volcano over the last few weeks. According to latest news that inflation is now at 14 cm, since the inflation was detected at the end of August. On Saturday 9-October-2021 an earthquake with magnitude of Mw3,2 was detected in Askja volcano (I’ll try and add the picture later if I remember). This is was the strongest earthquake in Askja volcano in the last 20 years according to the news.

Askja is remote and there are no or limited amounts of web cameras in the area. With winter arriving going there is impossible for most people. If an eruption happens this winter the best view is probably going to be harmonic tremor data until pictures appears from Icelandic Met Office or someone with an air plane (if the weather allows for that).

Askja volcano placed on uncertain level and yellow alert for flight

Because if Askja volcano quick inflation, that is now currently at 7 cm, Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared uncertain level and yellow alert for flight.

Green triangles shows most of the volcanoes in Iceland as green. Only Askja and Grímsfjall are yellow. Krýsuvík volcano is orange in colour.
Current status of volcanoes in Iceland as of 9-September-2021. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Inflation is quick in Askja volcano and is now at 7 cm. When or if that is going to result in an eruption is impossible to know. Current Askja volcano is what remains of a mountain that blew up in an large eruption in the year 1875 century. Most eruptions are just lava flows, unless they happen to start in a water, then explosive activity happens while water remains.

Askja volcano started inflating in August 2021

Icelandic Met Office published the news today that Askja volcano has started to inflate.  This inflation started in August 2021 and has been measured at 5 cm a month. The inflation is happening just outside the Askja lake in area known as Ólafsgígar (Ólaf craters).

Inflation map of Askja volcano. Triangle in the centre of Askja volcano caldera show the location of the inflation in red to blue colour.
Inflation in Askja volcano. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

It is impossible to know if this is going to result in any eruption. This inflation however seems to have resulted in earthquake activity in Askja volcano. Most of the earthquakes so far have been minor in magnitude.

Inflation map of Askja volcano. It show displacements in north - south and east - west directions and up displacement of 5 cm
Inflation in Askja volcano. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Icelandic Met Office announcement

Land rís við Öskju (Icelandic)

Uplift signal detected in Askja volcano

Icelandic News

Grannt fylgst með landrisi við Öskju (Rúv.is)

Landris við Öskju í fyrsta sinn í áratugi (mbl.is)

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Minor earthquake swarm in Askja volcano

Today (05-December-2020) a minor earthquake swarm took place in Askja volcano. All earthquakes in this earthquake swarm where under Mw2,0 in magnitude.


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

This earthquake activity suggests that magma is on the move in Askja volcano. Nothing however suggests that Askja volcano is close to an eruption of any type. Current situation seems to have been created by the fact Bárðarbunga volcano 2014 eruption almost started an eruption in Askja volcano by injecting magma into it. That didn’t happen because the magma stopped before reaching Askja volcano magma chambers. That interaction might have changed the situation inside Askja volcano magma chambers resulting in the earthquake activity that is now appearing in Askja volcano.

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Update four on earthquake activity in Askja volcano

Yesterday (13-November-2019) has been a little quieter in the earthquake swarm in Askja volcano. Largest earthquake in the last 24 hours had a magnitude of Mw3,1. Over the last 48 hours around 500 earthquakes have happened in Askja volcano. There was a peak in activity after the magntidue Mw3,1 earthquake but it slowed down soon after that. Depth of this earthquake swarm has changed slightly, deepest points are now at 7 to 8 km and that might be a problem since magma is possibly at 10 to 15 km depth in this location. If this is a magma that can erupt I don’t know, if there is magma at this location it might also be a magma that’s too cold to erupt.


The earthquake activity in Askja volcano. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

The earthquakes continue to be rift-zone earthquakes along fault lines and there is as of the writing of this article no signs of magma movement in Askja volcano as a result of this earthquake swarm. This earthquake swarm has been going on for a week from today (14-November-2019). It is a question if this earthquake swarm is over or if this is just a quiet time in this earthquake swarm activity. It is known in Askja volcano eruption history that eruption in Askja volcano and nearby fissure swarms start with long period of earthquake activity that continues to grow over time. This can be read in this studies of earlier eruptions, study 1961 eruption, study 1875 eruption. Current situation continues to keep monitoring what is going on.

Science article on earthquake activity in Askja (added link)

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Update three on earthquake activity in Askja volcano

This is a short update on the earthquake activity in Askja volcano.

Earthquake activity has now moved to a new phase in Askja volcano. This appears to be a rifting event taking place in Askja volcano. They do often result in a fissure eruption of lava and sometimes short lived volcano ash event. That might not happen and as of writing of this article no magma movement has been seen on nearby SIL stations. That might change without warning at any time.


Earthquake activity in Askja volcano as of 23:25 UTC on 12-November-2019. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.


Density of the earthquake swarm has increased from earlier as is clear here. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

It is not possible to know what happens next in this earthquake activity in Askja volcano. The only thing that can be done is to wait and see what happens.

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