Bárðarbunga volcano daily update for 23-October-2014

Currently earthquake activity is increasing in Bárðarbunga volcano. For the past 48 hours 53 (when this article is written) earthquake with magnitude above 3,0 have happened. It is unclear what is going now in Bárðarbunga volcano, at the moment most of the earthquake activity is located in north-east of the caldera rim. I am unsure why earthquake activity is increasing the way it is currently doing.

Earthquake activity in Bárðarbunga volcano for the past 48 hours. Green stars show earthquakes with magnitude above 3,0. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

I am not sure if there have been any harmonic tremor this time around in Bárðarbunga volcano. That might well be without me noticing them. Even if the eruption in Holuhraun stops it is clear that Bárðarbunga is far from being a stable or in dormant state. A new eruption vent is more likely to open up then not. That might happen under a glacier and that is going to mean glacier flood and volcano ash eruption while water gets into the crater. This has not yet happened on large scale in Bárðarbunga. There is also no eruption taking place in the caldera at the moment and the glacier is getting thicker this time of the year due to fresh snowfall on top of it and making it heavier at the same time. Far as I know the eruption in Holuhraun is at the same pace as it was yesterday. I didn’t see anything on the web-cameras due to weather when I checked them earlier.

If anything major happens I am going to post update here soon as possible.

102 Replies to “Bárðarbunga volcano daily update for 23-October-2014”

  1. Nice update, Jon. Could you also comment on the EQ’s north of Askja volcano? (Maybe a dike there opens underground?) I see also there bigger quakes last days.

      1. Some time ago you thought that peaks in sil tremor plots may have coincided with subglacial activity. Can you check the sil charts (for many stations) and note the peak on the 21st Oct, there were also inflation/deflation peaks on subsidence graph this day.

  2. Is it possible to see from the pattern of each EQ if they are tectonic (rifting) related or magma related?

  3. Kev, INDEED. Was in Spokane at the time. Darkness at 11:00 that Sunday morning was . . . an experience. The ash was incredible–heavy and slippery when wet. I assume that the Icelanders have lots of experience coping with ash???

    Andy–agreed. The amygdala gets a lot of people in lots of trouble . . . particularly when not governed by more thoughtful brain centers.

    Thanks for the dialogue. Sharing in dialogue helps understanding and productivity toward creative problem solving about complex things like this Volcanic system.


  4. Thank you for the update Jon. How nice! I was not expecting a message from you today. I have been checking out the quakes on the gov. web site all day, and I am amazed that Big B is nothing but a pile of rubble by now. These very large quakes have been taking place since mid August! I am thinking there has to be something nasty afoot with this giant. I guess we just do not know what this unrest may cause. All that can be done is to wait, and wait some more.

    1. This last week of daily update. I move to different schedule on Monday. That means next week updates are going to be on following days of the week.

      Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Unless something happens then I update soon as I can.

      1. Sorry Jon! It was Thursday here when I posted, and was surprised to see your new post. I forget sometimes that you are on Denmark time. :-/

  5. “There is also no eruption taking place in the caldera at the moment ”

    There is also no evidence that statement is true. There could be a small dome building eruption of pillow lava going on in the caldera that would likely be completely unnoticed. The tremor would get lost in the noise of the current tremor, there would be no flooding, there would be no explosion or ash as it is too deep under water/ice. The only indication you would see would be the surface of the ice above the caldera subsiding as ice melts at the bottom of the caldera.

    1. Evidence of such eruption would include.

      – Caldera formation in the glacier inside the caldera.
      – Harmonic tremors showing the eruption.
      – Glacier floods or at least change in water levels with high conductivity showing that magma got into contact with water.

      So no eruption yet in the caldera. I hope this clear that matter up until it happens.

      1. “caldera formation in the glacier inside the caldera”. This seems a bit ambiguous to me.
        I think that should be “cauldron formation in the glacier inside the caldera”. Google translation is often not correct in geologic matters. Don’t you mean the formation of an ice cauldron?

      2. @Mike Ross, Before August 30 there had already been three to five minor eruptions in the slopes of Bárðarbunga volcano. Nothing big but did melt the glacier and create few cauldrons in the glacier.

  6. I have seen many earth quakes above the 3.0 level in the past 3-4 hours. I looked again at the 3D images of the quakes, and I am thinking that when trouble arrives it will be in the NE area of the volcano.

  7. Is there anyway of predicting a sub glacial outburst flood,or is just a matter of waiting until it happens?

    1. It’s often possible to tell if there’s been a subglacial eruption, based on the signs Jón mentions earlier in the comments. Then the waiting starts. Sometimes the water just seeps out as part of the usual runoff. In 1996 they had to wait awhile, but then the flood when it came was massive.

      To my non-expert knowledge at the moment there’s no flood in the offing, unless there really was an eruption causing the disturbances in the graphs a few days ago (and I might have missed that news, traveling to my niece’s wedding). If a big eruption starts the flood could come almost immediately, or follow suddenly days or weeks later. For instance if a big slab of ice collapses into a subglacial lake formed by the heat of the eruption, it can push the lake uphill and over a ridge.

  8. While I don’t believe an eruption in BB is underway, I don’t see how its not at least possible.

    1. Calderas have formed on the ice. We have a lack of updated info, I’d assume because weather and visibility inhibits flights.

    2. I have seen no measurements of conductivity upstream of the known lava flow. Downstream, well, we know the water is interacting with lava. A small amount more could easily go unnoticed.

    3. Is there not tremor going nonstop? Now, a new massive eruption in a new place would show. But if something were happening under the glacier which has not broken through, it’s gotta be small and slow. The tremor I’d think could get lost in the symphony we know is happening.

    That said, where I don’t follow crosspatch is his assertion that only ice is subsiding, not rock. Eruptions and/orgeothermal would cause cauldrons, not a huge area of subsidence. Many ofthe quakes show signatures of subsidence, and they are rock quakes, not ice quakes.

    1. It seems there has been most subsidence in a central part of the Caldera and if as you say the quakes show signatures of subsidence,why have there been none or very few quakes in the centre of the caldera?There surely would have been significant faulting and block slippage in this area?

      1. According to the IMO, “The subsidence of the caldera is 35 m and continues at the rate of 30-40 cm/day, mainly in the NE part. “

  9. Well, the whole block is falling on ring faults. The center may also be hot (at depth), so fracturing down there doesn’t cause quakes.

    While I’m not an expert at reading volcanic signatures, I may now have to take back my belief that no eruption is occurring. Something may be happening now. I see something that may be HT? I’ll now step back and wait for a more informed take.

  10. Stilton no cheese,


    But then if it were that easy . . . conversations and relationships would have all the interest and excitement of terminally sterile robots. . . . and all the romance and pathos of a couple of river rocks encased under a mile of sedimentary rock.

    What’s that sci fi movie where emotions were chemically neutered/outlawed . . . a young new ‘Repositor’ or ‘Rememberer’ or some such was being trained by the aging one? . . . only the young one was more of a rebel than the system counted on. LOL.

    I think our amygdala enabled EMPATHY for the Icelanders will greatly enhance our inputs to their situation should dramatic things begin happening at a rapid pace.

    Being human is messy, flawed, troublesome–within, without and between.

    However, it’s better than the alternatives.


    1. And how do you know its better than the alternatives? Don’t knock the alternatives until you try them!! 😉

      As for objectivity though, there are inherent limitations on objectivity. 🙁 after all, if we weren’t interested in volcanic activity we wouldn’t be reading this interesting blog. And since we are indeed interested, that interest itself will color our judgment.

  11. StridAst,

    INDEED . . . and the fact that there ARE limits on objectivity is ONE reason that a diversity of perspectives is priceless regarding such a situation as the complex volcanic one in Iceland. I wish more objectivists realized that there are serious limits on objectivity as well as on observational skills, screens, . . . even raw perceptions themselves.

    I think one of the things I’ve most respected about the Icelandic scientists has been their avoidance of sounding omniscient, pontifical and coldly, ‘objectively’ authoritarian. Even when they talk about folks obeying the closed area signs . . . they still come across as exceedingly human and reasonable. I love that.

  12. So, that spate of 3s and 4s in the caldera has suddenly gone silent for 6 hours, even though small quakes proceed apace. A pattern, or just more random noise? Or do they verify the bigger eqs separately from the small ones and the small quake verifier is awake but the big one isn’t?

    Nothing obvious to me on any of the other graphs I checked.

    1. There has been at least 7 M3+ EQs the last 6 hours. It’s probably verified within a couple of hours.

    2. This change in earthquake “behaviour” from around midnight is really very obvious. http://www.vedur.is/skjalftar-og-eldgos/jardskjalftar/vatnajokull/

      Something is going on, and we just can sit and wait and see what will come of it. Which is not really easy when one has a lot of friends in Iceland…

      But re. the earthquakes, do you know the location of these stations: THO, BJK, DJK and KVE. URD anyway is the shield volcano Urðuháls, not far from DYN.

      1. Well what I saw after midnight was, no more verified quakes over M1 or so, until after 6am, when a whole bunch suddenly appeared.

        Conclusion: someone from the seismic team went off-shift at midnight…

  13. There is again an uptick. What is interesting is that while we lack those regular 5+ quakes, the upticks are now lower magnitude but seem to be of much longer duration.

  14. Friday
    24.10.2014 08:32:24 64.665 -17.400 1.4 km 3.4 99.0 6.7 km ENE of Bárðarbunga
    24.10.2014 08:30:37 64.676 -17.516 9.8 km 3.8 99.0 4.0 km N of Bárðarbunga
    24.10.2014 08:29:19 64.684 -17.443 9.6 km 3.5 99.0 6.3 km NE of Bárðarbunga
    24.10.2014 08:28:00 64.673 -17.404 3.0 km 3.6 99.0 6.9 km ENE of Bárðarbunga
    24.10.2014 08:22:11 64.674 -17.475 7.8 km 3.7 99.0 4.5 km NNE of Bárðarbunga
    24.10.2014 08:16:46 64.678 -17.431 9.7 km 3.5 99.0 6.2 km NE of Bárðarbunga
    24.10.2014 08:15:26 64.639 -17.530 9.5 km 3.6 99.0 0.2 km SW of Bárðarbunga
    24.10.2014 08:12:53 64.676 -17.462 8.5 km 3.5 99.0 5.1 km NE of Bárðarbunga

  15. The increased activity is basically happening in regular intervals of aproximately 70 minutes. Only sparsely this is extended for a 140 minute interval. The last spike was at 9:30 so the next one should be around 10:40. Lets see if it keeps the sequence.

  16. I dreamed seeing a couple of mag6 quakes on the IMO chart plus one even mag7, I was a bit scared when I woke up this morning : ). Maybee I should reduce the frequency of watching the tremor charts : ).

    By the way, would a mag6 eq even be possible with the mechanisms involved in iceland?

  17. Thanks for keeping us all up-dated Jon. Yes something has changed over the last few days. Bada’s GPS is still sinking at about the same rate. But have you noticed that it looks like it is breathing slowly. About every 24 hrs it rises up and then goes back down again
    the last one / breath was much bigger. I find it hard to think it could be magma. I am more thinking it might be either or both gas or steam pressure somewhere deep in the system. I think as a few of you have said things are changing an we will need to wait to see what happens

    1. Difficult to imaging that gas pressure can lift up something like 5 km rock and 700 m ice. Actually it cannot. I guess the “breathing” comes from the day/night rythm itself. Ice on the gps device during night. It´s just noise. And: The human brain is made to identify patterns. And sometimes it sees patterns where there are no patterns.

      1. The GPS is sitting on top of over 850 meters of ice. Gas and pillow lava could be erupting under it. Imagine Lake Tahoe frozen to the very bottom and then imagine a small dome building eruption at the bottom. That lave will first push the ice up, then as it melts the ice will drop back down and as gas finds an escape route it will also drop. The water under that ice is absolutely saturated with gas, too (CO2 and SO2), much like soda pop. Know what happens when you shake soda pop?

  18. Number of 3+ quakes is stunning. Something is going on for sure, activity is linked to a specific cause, what is it? Change and stress causing instability in the system being recorded or released by the quakes, due to what? Wish that someone would put more measuring devices in and around the area. We must be lacking data needed to better understand things and predict outcome with much confidence.

  19. JR I know what you are saying about ice on the gps device,but last week there were a good few days where it would rise up and then fall well below the 180 min trend line and then come back up and continue on slowly down.
    I don’t just think we can always say it is ice on the gps device. plus we are seeing the same kind of trend with the EQ’s

    1. I believe that this huge amount of ice and rock can drop pretty quickly. But I cannot believe that it can rise within minutes for tens of centimeters. And it was said already many times that one should not look at anything else than the 180 min average due to the limited accuracy of the gps signal. Although I have to admit that a breathing mountain is a nice thing to imagine.

      1. “Another rise of 1.8 metres occurred between 1982 and 1984”. Well, that´s a little bit slower 😉

    2. I would think that quakes in the order of magnitude 3 would be what would expected to be recorded with activity due to movement of magma.The unusual activity was all the >5 magnitude quakes,so it is starting to look like the process(reawakening?) that was causing those quakes is transitioning to an unrest(simmering)phase.

  20. One thing. The moon affects the tide. Right now we have a new moon. Is it possible that the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon can affect this process?

      1. Did not a gas analysis show a high H2O content >80%,what you are seeing is probably an atmospheric effect on the plume,inversion layer?

    1. This is really an interesting and unusual movement. Could it not have moved in direction of Bárdarbunga – Gjálp?
      By mid october, the GPS was “back in line” again. What could have happened? Another intrusion into Grímsvötn volcano?
      There was slight uplift at Kverkfjöll also at the time: http://strokkur.raunvis.hi.is/gps/GSIG_3mrap.png But not at all so pronounced and no sideways movement.

      1. If the GPS station is moving north, it means magma is building up south of it. This might be snow on the GPS antenna. Next few days might show if that is the case or not.

      2. Better to have just some snow and ice on the antennae. A magma intrusion in this region would be most unwelcome …

    2. Those earlier vertical measurements really showed the slow piston like movement of magma from depth coming in and then relaxing as pressure was released through Baugur. But now all lateral and vertical measurements have really stabilized. There may be some slight inflation going on at some stations the last week, but overall pretty stable now. Big B is becoming more unstable now that deep magma pressure isn’t as strong. Even Baugur isn’t fountaining as strong, although the lava continues to stream out at a pretty steady pace. We have been slowly entering into a new phase of this event. All eyes on Big B, and my prayers to you all in Iceland.

  21. Here is a diagram showing clearly the dramatic increase the last few days in quakes with magnitude >= 3.5. The dotted lines are quakes with M >;= 5.0.


    The data goes until 2014/10/24 16:00 local time.

    1. RÚV says there were 72 quakes over magn. 3 during the last 48 h. http://www.ruv.is/frett/72-skjalftar-yfir-3-ad-staerd .

      The new lava measures now 63 km3, would cover up all the capital area around Reykjavík without Mosfellsbaer. And a lot of people would prefer the name “Nornahraun” for it (lava of witches), because of Pelés Hair (= Icel. nornahár) is found in big quantity around the eruption site. http://www.ruv.is/frett/vilja-nefna-nyja-hraunid-nornahraun

      Yesterday, the scientists flew again over Bárdarbunga, but the view was reduced because of cloud cover. http://www.mbl.is/frettir/innlent/2014/10/23/skjalftavirkni_mikil_i_bardarbungu/

    2. @Rasmus, I assume the dotted lines in the diagram show the 5+ EQs.
      This is a bit worrying, the increase is dramatic indeed.

    3. Very interesting, and thanks! How about a chart like that showing total energy — magnitude translates to energy on a log scale, right? The 5s represent a lot more energy than the 3s, so a lot of 3s with no 5s is still likely to be less than a few 5s, even if still significant per se.

      As an aside, it’s a bit unfortunate tropical cyclones are graded primarily by wind speed, when Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) is a better indicator. We’re lucky re earthquakes that way, although of course quakes have a wide variety of causes, and a 5+ quake is huger relative to a volcano’s seismic capacity than a 6+ is to subduction fault’s, etc.

      1. Well, using a calculation something like the one here http://alabamaquake.com/energy.html#/ but with a similar way of displaying rate over short time periods.

        I might try to roll my own. I’ve been meaning to learn this stuff and I’ve got pandas up and running in ipython, which automates time based graphing.

  22. In reply to Andy W about hot springs (Bárðarbunga volcano daily update for 22-October-2014), the source material i found puts the water of the hottest spring at Bath at 46c.
    Whereas thermal water at Hotwells being around 24c.
    I don’t remember how to to paste links here but it’s a pdf at ussher.org.uk from 1993 called : The Hot Springs Of Bristol And Bath.

    1. This could be the link mentioned by you, wurzeldave: http://www.ussher.org.uk/journal/90s/1993/documents/Kellaway_1993.pdf

      For me, personally, this is an apropos, because I am at the moment reading for the first time Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers” and now at exactly the passage where the Pickwickians have their stay at Bath. By the way, a very amusing book. Some time, since I laughed so much during reading. 🙂

      BTW to link on a site, just go the address line and make a copy-paste of the address, eg. http://icelandgeology.net/?p=5191&cpage=1#comment-65287.

      1. Bath figures heavily in Jane Austen too. Yet another way volcanism affects history — by helping determine the breeding patterns of the British aristocracy, going back to Roman times!

  23. Went shopping through your US Amazon link again, Jon. Hope others are doing the same. I have been satisfied with my shopping through them, and get some really great deals.

  24. Perhaps the deeper occurrence of the some of the quakes >10 km is indicative of more deep sourced magma entering the Bardarbunga system.

  25. Halo all earth citizens who read this blog!

    The 80 m crater keeps on growing and getting a “round” shaped melted edge: is Baugur the new so named volcano in earth. Glowing tonight.


    Will it get big as Bardar or Askja? Long lasting? Yeps yeps….

    Will Barda blow and melt a big bite of the glacier? the caldera subsidence will lead to…

    Keep living it together with Thanks.

  26. Will the NE flank of Bardarbunga collapse and go first? Big question as the subsidence here holds the highest drops from the GPS data, from the start it’s always drawn attention.

    Very difficult to wait for the harmonic tremors and big magnitude EQ to proceed with civil action plan, high stakes indeed. It could be a very, very rapid event and little time to react, from intuation and observations of ongoing seismic activity common sense tells us to watch more closely than before.

    1. Solar flare is very off topic, but a X3-flare heading direct towards the earth is rare.

      1. Yes, OT, you are right.
        It seems at the moment, there has NOT been produced a significant CME, which would be earth-directed.
        But we have to wait for SOHO-pictures to confirm possible Northern Lights showing up more southerly than the usual auroral oval (that is perfectly situated over Iceland most of the time… 🙂 )

  27. Both Cam1 and Cam 2 are currently very clear.

    The lava now clearly only flows from the right hand side of the fissure.

    The dyke is now straight and only flows to the left hand side not both.

    In my opinion, in the last hour it has not looked as active as it did 2 weeks ago.

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