What to expect from Bárðarbunga volcano

I am writing this now, since I might not have time to do so on Monday. Updates are going to continue to go here until Monday. Unless something major happens.

The collapse of Bárðarbunga volcano

The collapse of Bárðarbunga volcano has already started. The caldera collapse in Bárðarbunga volcano started on 16-August-2014 and has been going on since then. Here is what I am expecting from the caldera collapse once it reaches its peak.

  • There are going to be earthquakes in the range of 5,5 and up to 6,7. Maybe larger if the crust can handle it.
  • Glacier flood are going to go south-west and north (Húsavík area) and possibly in other directions. I am expecting damage to hydrothermal plants in the pathway of the floods. How much damage there is going to be depends on the magnitude of the flood and the path it takes.
  • I am expecting long periods of no power in parts of Iceland once the flood has passed. I am also expecting lack of communications in large areas of Iceland. This is why Rúv has been telling people to get long-wave radios for the past few days. Usage of mobile network is also going to be unreliable in large parts of Iceland once the collapse starts full force in Bárðarbunga volcano. Due to damage that glacier floods are going to create.
  • I am expecting an ash cloud that might go up to 20 km or higher up in the atmosphere. It is however impossible to know for sure what happens until this starts.
  • It is difficult to know fore sure how much drop is going to take place, but it can be up to many hundreds of meters.
  • I fear that north slope of Bárðarbunga might collapse forward once this starts. Earthquakes in the area give clues about weakness forming there.

Bárðarbunga volcano is 2009 meters high above the ocean. This means there is a lot of material that is going to blow outwards once the collapse starts full force. This is might be one of largest eruptions in Iceland since it got populated more than one thousands years ago. I am hoping that the picture that I am drawing up is not as bad the reality once this starts. I am also hoping that no loss of life is going to happen. I am hoping for the best in this case, but the clues that I am getting are no good at all.

369 Replies to “What to expect from Bárðarbunga volcano”

  1. Looks stronger on the webcam today a new orange/flame area is showing on the left of the main action.

      1. Just watching cam2 and there is lots of steam/smoke and now there is another small area to the left burning aswell (three new areas in total).

      2. Maybe it’s the daylight/ dark difference. Maybe because the cams (especially Barda 2) have been socked in with fog/smoke/dust for the past few days or maybe it is because the perspective of both cameras has been changed, but today I have been thinking that the fire fountains are back with a vengeance.
        This past night, especially.
        It seems a little less just now, but I wonder if that’s deceiving.

        1. The change in perspective is great but a little bit of a disadvantage at the same time (makes it harder to compare now with a few days ago).

        2. I wonder, now, how much difference there is in the height of the fountains since the cones around them have been building and they still seem very high at times. Are they estimated from the same point as at the beginning (ground level) or are they now measured from the top of the cones and therefore, higher?

        At any rate, the fog/smoke/ dust may have given the illusion that the eruption was slowing down, but last night convinced me that it continues just as strong or stronger.

        Many of the photos that have been posted the last couple of days prove that the live cameras really don’t do the eruption justice.

  2. A lot of flabby pressure and easterly breezes from Wednesday over Iceland this week. So they do not want gases as they will head to population centres….. High followed by low but all light winds and stagnant.. Not too good

  3. Seems more active again today to me. The lava fountains coming out of the main active crater look impressive and there also seems to be activity from a smaller crater to the left.

  4. Just a quick question if anyone can advise me on the answer, when they state the depth of an earthquake where is the reference starting datum related to the area or volcano ?
    Would it be ground level next to the area ,or if under a volcano would it be from the bottom of the crater or ground level.

    1. I don’t know for sure, but past experience watching Katla EQs suggests that IMO takes into consideration that certain locations are covered by ice [often very thick glacier ice]. When they report an EQ @ 100m… this almost certainly is not 100m down from the glacier’s surface.

      As an aside… the EQs @ Bárðarbunga have been steadily rising for the past three weeks, as the magma appears to be slowly but surely approaching contact with the glacier itself (although others have posited a different explanation for these EQs).

      I think these EQs are suggestive of the size and shape of Bárðarbunga’s magma chamber. It’s not unreasonable to estimate a quasi-cylindrical shape measuring 10-15 km in diameter, and 20-30 km deep (if not more).

      Crunching the numbers results in a worst case scenario of an Ultra-Plinian/Colossal eruption, perhaps up to VEI 6.5. However, this is not apocalyptic, and a VEI 7 or VEI 8 eruption is pretty much out of the question. So, probably no Santorini [Thera] or Tambora; and certainly not a Toba or Yellowstone.

      The ash column could reach 30-35km, and its collapse (and subsequent pyroclastic flows) would have a devastating effects on Vatna glacier, instantly vaporizing much of it; creating massive lahars; and extensive flooding beyond imagination.

  5. Water was rising rather fast in Jökulsá á Fjöllum (191 cm -> 238cm, ~50 cm from yesterday 12:00 to 0:00), now going down aftur ( http://vmkerfi.vedur.is/vatn/vdv.php?p=0&station_id=221&page_id=333&direct=1 ) and in Skjálfandafljót / Aldeyjarfoss ( 179 .>210cm, ~30 cm from yesterday 18:00 to now), still rising. http://vmkerfi.vedur.is/vatn/vdv.php?p=0&station_id=221&page_id=333&direct=1
    Conductivity also went up in Skjálfandafljót, not a lot, but still rising.

      1. I think this is rain.

        Water levels were higher back in July and August.
        But conductivity yes, it has been higher since eruptions started.

        So, some melted ice (from subglacial eruptions) went down, very subtly, in Jokulsá, in the past weeks. The run is very small and within the normal variations of the river.

      2. I would have thought rain too, but then there is the high water temperature during the night, and the high conductivity.

    1. Indeed. Looks like a rapid influx of lava into the river bed? This came up in less than 10 minutes ago.

    1. I hope that they correct the depth of the big quake just like yesterday. But all EQ near Bardarbunga in the last hours were in the region above 2 km under the surface.

  6. On the webcam mila 1 there is a new plume behing the smoke from the main fissure. It’s not like the previous “dark clouds” it really comes up from the group. The smoke (if this is smoke) seems to be from the rocky ground, not higher on the glacier.

  7. What is that way off behind the current eruption vent just to the left there is something coming up is it steam.

  8. There is nothing as you can see here, just captured:

    There is just weather happening, and wind blowing now from right to left as can be seen by the steam rising from the lavafield in front of the hill the camera is situated, together with clouds developing right above the field. Please keep in mind that the camera is a distance of a good 20 km from the fissure, which is not really visually apparent in the actual view, it appears much closer.

  9. The river Jökulsá á Fjöllum still is somewhat swollen.
    As it is a wide river, the water quantity says more than the water height. And the water quantity (rennsli) went up from around 240 m3/sec to 370 m3/sec beginning at around 22:00 yesterday evening and still stays there about. Interesting is in this case also the water temperature (glacial river!) which went up from 3,7 ° yesterday 7,6°C now and especially stayed around 7°C during the night. Only the conductiviy went down a big from 150 to around 120, but which is still rather high.

    1. Whereas similar observations can be made re. the other glacial river going to the northwest from Bárdarbunga, the river Skjálfandafljót, water discharge (rennsli) went up from around 43 m3/sec (21:00 yesterday) to 71 m3/sec. (9:00 this morning) and stays around there still.
      And here we see the same phenomena re. water temperature – Skjálfandafljót is also mostly a glacial river at this measuring station -: It went up from 4°C to 8,4°C (6:00 yesterday) and stayed there up to now (also over night). Only the conductivity went a bit down – I think, this is no rain water mostly – esp. because of the temperature.
      So this could be very small glacier runs. Which doesn’t neccessarily indicate an actual activity under the glacier now, but could well be the water of the previous small eruptions which “disappeared”.

      1. Where is all the water then?

        So far the caldera is down by 23m, the area of the caldera being 70km², it is 70 millions M², so if the caldera is down by 23m that is more than 1500 millions m³ of ice!

        As these 2 rivers have increased together their water quantity by 160m³ it will need some 123 days to evacuate all this meted ice. Ok I know tha melted ice has not the same volume as water but difference is not that important in the volume of water and the number of days!

    2. Thx IngeB…

      Conductivity is low, implies me that snow/ice (low mS/cm) is melting but so fare no cracks for gases from the magma to the water…hot stones around…

  10. It might just be the trick of the light i expect. it was much lighter. I have been caught out by the clouds before.it was like behind the smoke from the vent just on the left. I even cleaned my computer screed Lol

  11. I’ve been trying to convince myself that the black clouds that come roiling up are just black clouds, but they appear at the same place and have the same appearance each time, different from the clouds around them. Any chance that this is smoke f’ing out from under the edge of the glacier? It just seems too similar each time to be coincidental.

      1. I think it is just more activity – and more pollution – at the eruption fissure in front of the glacier now.

  12. This is sad you know, how many of us grown adults are glued to the screen of B1 – and we tell our kids of for watching too much telly 🙂

  13. This cloud watching is really not healthy. Go for a run around the block or something.

    As has been said before, you will know when it has erupted. There will be no doubt. You are not looking for a little fluffy cloud. There is 1/2 a mile of ice sat on top of the volcano. It is IMPOSSIBLE for a small fluffy cloud to escape without something dramatic occuring first i.e a Glacial flood.

    1. Don’t think I ever suggested that the smoke (as I’m convinced it is) was an eruption taking place. Merely that it was smoke, not clouds. Especially when it comes up through an existing layer of white cloud.

  14. As far as I remember, a conductivity of over 90 was called “high” by IMO.
    I don’t think btw. this is from the caldera, but some scientists (Dave McGarvie?) thought that the melt water from the previous small eruptions could be within “pockets” in the ice. So the water coming down now, could be from some of these which had opened by now.
    Could also be from hightened geothermal activity or rocks between the dyke and the ice cover which have been heated up and are thawing some ice above them.

  15. If you are looking for a real disaster you need only look about.
    Human activity will accomplish in hundreds of years what it took the Siberian traps a thousand times longer.

    1. Joan,

      I also was wondering what is going on there. If you look closely, it looks like there is something boiling at the most left side of the line of steam. Is this a potential new fissure? Experts may tell us.

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