Common questions about Bárðarbunga answered #1

This is my attempt to answer the most common questions about Bárðarbunga volcano. I don’t have time to cover all the questions, so this is just the most common questions that I have seen on this website. Along with few questions that people who are not into geology might want to know the answers too.

Bárðarbunga volcano common questions answered

Why is Bárðarbunga erupting?

This is part of the natural process in Iceland. Since Iceland is on a Mid-Atlantic ridge (MAR) [Mid-Atlantic Ridge]. The drift is 2,5cm/year, but it doesn’t happen evenly over the ridge and it happens in jumps. So over a period of 200 – 700 years nothing happens, until one day the process start and the ground starts opening up and eruption cycle starts that might last for years. That is what happened in Bárðarbunga on 16-August-2014. Day before (15-August-2015) there was nothing suggesting to anyone that an eruption was about to start.

Is the eruption dangerous?

Yes and No. It depends on what it does and what happens. Today it is not dangerous to anything when it comes to lava flows since nothing exists where the eruption is taking place. Since the eruption is taking place in a desert in Iceland, where nothing grows or lives. Most danger at the present time is the SO2 gas, CO and CO2 gas from the eruption. Mostly SO2 since it goes long distances with the wind and is in high density. It has already created problems for people in Iceland closest to the eruption, even if that is distance of 100 – 200 km.

What about eruption under the glacier?

There have already been five (or six) eruption under the glacier since this started on 16-August-2014. None of them were big and did not break up trough the glacier or create large glacier flood. The risk is that new eruption are going to take place under the glacier and are going to create problems due to glacier floods that happen soon after. It is expected that three bridges in north Iceland are going to get lost if an large glacier flood takes place. With large being more than 60,000m³ of water each second (or what they use to calculate that type of flood). In south Iceland there is risk to dams, electric infrastructure, roads, bridges and other things in the path of the glacier flood. Glacier floods are expected to go at least two ways from the glacier in the worst case.

Is it possible to predict when next eruption happens?

No. It is not. We at best get a warning with earthquakes some hour at best before it. But as this eruption has shown, that is not always the case along the dyke.

How long is the dyke?

From start to end the dyke is around 45 km long, most of it is under a glacier. It is also creating rift valley above it. That rift valley is going to be filled with new magma as the time goes on. That might not happen in this eruption cycle.

How long is this going to last?

We don’t know for sure. At that shortest some months, at the longest for the next decade or so.

Is this eruption going to create an ash cloud?

Yes, it might. Eruption under the glacier is going to create ash cloud. How big and how high it is going to be depends on the energy of the eruption and where it goes depends on the wind.

Is it going to create a flight chaos as happened with Eyjafjallajökull in 2010?

No, that is unlikely to happen. While disruptions should be expected once an eruption starts under the glacier that appears to be powerful enough to break trough the glacier. The volcano ash from Bárðarbunga volcano is going to be different, since the magma is basalt, it is going to explode on contact with water, creating volcano. No lava is not going to be erupting while water gets into the erupting craters. This also means that the volcano ash that forms is larger and heavier as result. That means it doesn’t stay as long up in the air and does not go long distances.

What is happening to the caldera?

The caldera in Bárðarbunga volcano is collapsing. The older caldera is collapsing into a new caldera. This process seems to be independent of the rifting that is now taking place in the north zone of the Eastern Volcanic Zone (EVZ) in Iceland. For image of the rift zones in Iceland click here. Science paper on the rift zones can be found here.

The caldera is collapsing because a weakness has formed in the magma chamber. This process started some time ago, since I don’t think it is a new one. But the end process seems to be taking place now. The caldera is going to stay up for as long there is magma holding it up. It is not possible to know when the caldera is going to collapse. All we know is that it is going to take place. When and how is not something we know and that might be a problem.

Is it possible to go there?

No, it is not possible to go there. The area is closed for public traffic and for a good reason. The lava is full of dangerous gases that can kill in few moments. Wind can change and bring those gases to people without warning. What is possible is to rent an air plane to fly over the area, that is expensive and not everyone can afford it. When the eruption ends the area is going to be opened up, then it is going to be possible to check out the lava field, if anything is going to be visible after the glacier floods that might take place in this area if an major eruption takes place under the glacier.

What is a fissure eruption?

Fissure eruption is an eruption that happens along a rift in the crust. Often there is a dyke feeding it, as is the case with current Bárðarbunga volcano eruption. The dyke from Bárðarbunga volcano is 45 km long and eruptions can happen along it all the way up the main volcano. After a while, the fissure eruption often ends with just one or two crater erupting. This is now taking place in Holuhraun eruption. That is also increasing the risk of new fissures opening up without warning, both close to the current eruption site and along the 45 km long dyke.

What type of magma is erupting?

Bárðarbunga volcano is erupting magma called Basalt. That means it flows easily and is not explosive. This type of magma only gets explosive when it comes into contact with glacier or water (lakes, oceans, rivers and ground water). More informations about what types of magma that exist can be found in the link below.

Types of magma
Hawaiian eruption

Short answers about the website

How many people run this website?

It’s just me. One person.

Does it take long to work on it?

Yes. I work on it for up to 10 hours a day this past month due to the eruption in Bárðarbunga. I am always checking for new data and checking what the news says for new information. I can take me up to 6 hours to write a long article, since there is eruption taking place now and information change quickly I try to write everything that I need to write down in about one hour. This article for example has taken me around three hours to write since I started writing it (with some dinner breaks).

Why do updates take so long to appear?

I like to check the data and the news for new information. Since it takes time for me to find and check that information I often cannot update until late in the evening. I update quickly as I can if a new eruption starts or if a large earthquake takes place.

How do you fund this?

With donations, Amazon Advertisements and out of my own pocket. I only have at current just social welfare from Iceland, it is small and so small that I can at times hardly pay my bills here in Denmark.

Is is possible to support your work?

Yes. Use the PayPal button. If you don’t want to use PayPal you can support me directly with a bank transfer. Information for that can be found here.

You have your own seismometers?

I don’t have seismometers as such. What I got is called geophone. It is not as sophisticated as seismometer, it gets the job done for me and that is good enough. I plan on one day to buy a Volksmeter, they are however expensive and cost $1995 for dual channel one. My geophone website can be found here. I have been running geophones in Iceland since 2006 when I started my first one in Hvammstangi, Iceland.

What software are you using?

For the moment I am using WinSDR and Winquake for my earthquake recordings. WinSDR comes with the geophone and so did WinQuake since I was buying the hardware. More details can be found here, both on hardware and software. I plan moving to FreeBSD solution once I have learned to program my own software for this. I am going to do so when I am in Iceland. I don’t expect to have anything else to do (besides monitoring eruptions taking place and writing few books and learning German, Portuguese and Spanish).

How long are you going to continue to run your geophone?

I don’t know. I know that I can do so forever. I have already closed down Eyrarbakki geophone station and Skeiðflöt geophone station since the people hosting them where unable to do so any longer. I always have one geophone with me where I live. So I am always going to have one running, along with possible long period seismometers that I might buy at later day.

Are you in Iceland?

No, at the moment I live in Denmark. I am going to move back to Iceland in December for a short period (I hope) since I can’t afford living in Denmark on my social welfare from Iceland. I don’t know for how long I am going to stay there. I don’t expect to last there due to culture issue that I am having, even if I am born in Iceland. I am considering moving to Flores, Azores Island [to Santa Cruz das Flores] next time (the Island is a volcano and on the mid-Atlantic ridge). Even if living there is in technical aspects of it out in the middle of nowhere. I just need to have the income to live there and at the moment I don’t have it. When that is going to happen is something I don’t know at the moment.

Can I use what you write here?

Yes, you can. The only requirement is that you provide link to the source material. Since this website is under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. This however does not apply to comments and images that I don’t own. More details can be found here on how to share this website properly and in accordance with the licence that I use for it.

Article updated at 20:41 UTC.
Article updated at 21:02 UTC.

Bárðarbunga volcano daily update 22-September-2014

This information is going to get outdated quickly.

Current status in Bárðarbunga volcano at 14:47 UTC

  • The largest earthquake so far is magnitude 4,8 in Bárðarbunga caldera. There is however continued activity in Bárðarbunga volcano caldera so this number is going to change as the day goes on.
  • The eruption in Holuhraun does not show any signs of ending any time soon. The lava field is now around 37 square km in size. It is growing in size every hour. There is no sign of less production of lava coming from the active craters in Holuhraun. The lava field is not getting longer, it is getting wider instead. Since the lava does not have energy to get any further then it already has.
  • There is continued risk of new eruptions in Holuhraun and south of it, including under the glacier.
  • According to Ármann Höskuldsson geologist at University of Iceland both Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010 (information here, Wikipedia) and Grímsfjall volcano eruption in 2011 (information here, Wikipedia) were smaller then current eruption in Bárðarbunga volcano and connected events.
  • It is expected that eruption is going to start in Bárðarbunga volcano caldera. When is not known.
  • Bárðarbunga volcano caldera continues to subside at the same rate as before, that rate is currently 50cm/day.
  • More magma is flowing into Bárðarbunga volcano from depth (more than 10 km deep source). It is clear that current eruption and earthquake activity in Bárðarbunga volcano is going to continue for months at shortest. This might go on for years at the longest. With minor breaks as often happen in fissure eruptions.
  • On 1-October-2014 the eruption in Holuhraun has been ongoing for one month.

Current status in Bárðarbunga volcano at 20:24 UTC

  • There has not been any major changes since earlier today. At 13:36 UTC a magnitude 4,7 earthquake took place. Other earthquakes so have been smaller.
  • There was (or is) a quiet period for the past few hours. This might be because more magma is flowing into the magma chamber of Bárðarbunga volcano. Increasing the pressure and at the same time creating fewer earthquakes. That might change at any time without warning.

Update at 23:13 UTC

  • The lava field at Holuhraun is now 0.5 km³. It is now the second largest lava field in Iceland during the past 150 years. Only Hekla lava field from 1947 is larger at the moment, it is 0.8 km³ in size. If the Holuhraun eruption continues as it has, it is going to get Hekla lava field size in about two weeks.

If anything new happens I am going to add that information here.

Article updated at 20:25 UTC on 22-September-2014.
Article updated at 23:13 UTC on 22-September-2014.

Friday update on Bárðarbunga volcano

This information is going to get outdated quickly. This is also a Friday update and that means I won’t write new articles during the weekend. I am just going update this one with latest information. New article is only going to be written on weekends if something major happens in current activity in Bárðarbunga volcano.

Current status of Bárðarbunga volcano at 23:43 UTC

  • Largest earthquake so far today has had the magnitude of 4,7 at 06:44 UTC. Other earthquakes have been smaller, but several magnitude 3,0 – 4,3 earthquakes have taken place today. More information can be found at Icelandic Met Office website here.
  • GPS data [University of Iceland GPS data can be found here) still makes no sense to me currently. I am hoping to figure that out in next few days what is going on there.
  • Landsnet that takes care of the electric grid in Iceland has started to move backup items for its power-lines in south and north Iceland. In the case they need to do a sudden repair to them if they take damage in glacier flood. This are 220kV power-lines and stations that are at risk from glacier flood due to eruption in Bárðarbunga. I don’t know about the dams them self if anything is being done to protect them.
  • The eruption in Holuhraun continues as it has been doing for the past few days. Now there is mostly one crater erupting.
  • Chemical mixture of the magma has changed. It is now coming from deep magma chamber at more than 10 km depth. This means the eruption is going to be long lasting.
  • Scientist expect to be at Holuhraun eruption until December at least.
  • South part of Bárðarbunga fissure system have not yet started to move. When that changes is impossible to know.

Map of earthquake activity for the past 48 hours

This is the earthquake activity from 20:20 UTC. It clearly shows the earthquake activity as it now is taking place. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Magnitude of the earthquakes taking place during the past 48 hours. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Update Saturday 20-September-2014 at 13:16 UTC

  • Largest earthquake since midnight was an earthquake that took place at 01:10 UTC and had the magnitude of 5,1.
  • Eruption at Holuhraun continues same as before. The central crater is now high above the flat desert that is in this location. I don’t know how high it is now.
  • SO2 pollution have been noted over Iceland today. It has been seen in Reykjavík, Borgarnes, Akranes and other places. The amount of SO2 in this places is far below health risk levels according to the news.
  • Minor earthquake activity continues in the dyke and has extended slightly more south since yesterday.
  • GPS data continues to be confusing. GPS data from Icelandic Met Office can be found here. GPS data from University of Iceland can be found here.

Update Sunday 21-September-2014 at 14:35 UTC

  • The eruption continues as before. There is no major change taking place in Holuhraun.
  • Largest earthquake since midnight is a magnitude 5,5 earthquake that took place at 10:51 UTC. Other earthquakes have been smaller. This is the second largest earthquake since activity started in Bárðarbunga volcano. With the largest earthquake so far taking place on 26-August-2014 having the magnitude of 5,7.
  • People have found going into the closed area and that is illegal. This is dangerous since there is high risk of new eruption taking place under the glacier south of current eruption. When that happens the glacier flood is going to coming down to the current erupting area within 30 to 60 minutes (1 hour). That is not enough time to send warning to all the people in the area. If you want to go to Holuhraun, rent a plane. Its the safest option at the moment. Don’t go by car! Small eruptions have been taking place under the glacier in past month. So we know they are happening, they have not been large at present time, but that is going to change without warning. There is also high risk of gas like SO2, CO, CO2 from the eruption.
  • Dead birds have been found close the lava field in recent days or weeks. I don’t know why this happens, but it is clear that deadly SO2 gas and other gases are killing the birds.
  • There is a storm in Vatnajökull glacier area today. As can be seen on Icelandic Met Office wind map here.
  • Eruption in Bárðarbunga volcano is expected to take place without warning. It has not yet happened, but the chance of an eruption taking place is higher than it won’t happen.
  • Bárðarbunga volcano caldera continues to subside. Latest drop was around 25 cm following the magnitude 5,5 earthquake.

I am going update this later today if there is reason to do so.

Article updated at 13:16 UTC on Saturday 20-September-2014.
Article updated at 14:38 UTC on Saturday 21-September-2014.
Article updated at 14:41 UTC on Saturday 21-September-2014.

Daily Bárðarbunga volcano update on 18-September-2014

This information is going to get outdated quickly.

Current status on Bárðarbunga volcano at 20:36 UTC

  • Largest earthquakes in Bárðarbunga yesterday (17-September-2014) was a magnitude 5,2. Largest earthquake today (18-September-2014) was a magnitude 5,3. Other earthquakes have been smaller.
  • Bárðarbunga volcano caldera continues to drop. When the magnitude 5,3 earthquake happened today at 14:21 UTC the caldera dropped 20 – 30 cm.
  • GPS data (more GPS data can be found here) suggest to me that the dyke at Vonarskarð might be getting ready to erupt or getting re-activated. It formed in the first two weeks when current activity started in Bárðarbunga volcano on 16-August-2014. It is already there, it however failed to start an eruption, but as I say, it might be getting ready to get active again. This has been followed by some minor earthquake activity. There is however a more complicated picture into this. The details can be found later in this article. [Please note that due to licensing issues I only link to the GPS data. This means that data on the link is going to get updated in next few hours and are going to look different from what I have written about them now.]
  • The eruption in Holuhraun continues as before. There has not been any view of the eruption for the past two days due to fog. So I don’t know for sure what is happening there.

Harmonic tremor data

I can see two things in the harmonic tremor data. The pressure is increasing in Bárðarbunga volcano system. I am also seeing pulses of harmonic tremor and that is not good. It means that magma has somewhere found a path to the surface, it just isn’t there yet, but it is working way up. It is impossible to know if this magma gets all the way up or not. Small eruptions are also not impossible, since there signature might simply be lost in the noise on the tremor plots that I am using from Icelandic Met Office.
Tremor in Dyngjuháls SIL station. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.
Tremor on Vonaskarð SIL station. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.
Harmonic tremor as it appears on Skrokkalda SIL station. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.
Harmonic tremor on Grímsfjall SIL station. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Current status on the cauldrons

According to the news that I have heard some of the cauldrons that are in Dyngjujökull (south of Holuhraun) are still getting deeper. This suggest that there is still a lot of warm under the glacier that is melting the glacier. No glacier flood has happened due this. I don’t know if any new cauldrons have formed in recent days. Most of the cauldrons are located above the dyke, few are located above Bárðarbunga volcan in its slopes.

Tungafellsjökull volcano

I am seeing in the GPS data that Tungafellsjökull volcano might be getting more magma inflow. Since it appears to be inflating. This has not been confirmed so far. Currently there is nothing to suggest that Tungafellsjökull volcano is going to erupt at this point in time. It might simply be responding to the all the noise that Bárðarbunga is making at the moment, along with stress changes in the crust. If it erupts, it would be first documented eruption in the past 8000 years at least (maybe longer).

Next update is going to be tomorrow or sooner if anything major happens. It is possible to watch my webicorders here. They are updated every 5 min.

Article updated at 21:05 UTC.
Article updated at 21:14 UTC.

Bárðarbunga volcano daily update 17-September-2014

This information is going to go outdated quickly.

Current status in Bárðarbunga volcano at 16:36 UTC

  • The largest earthquake in past 24 hours took place yesterday (16-September-2014) at 21:34 UTC. It had the magnitude of 5,4. The largest earthquake today had the magnitude of 3,3 so far. This might change without warning.
  • Lava continues to flow out of the main crater in Holuhraun. The eruption is diminishing for the moment. That might change without warning if an new fissure opens up in the current eruption area, or in the glacier south of it. River of lava has been observed from the main erupting crater. Smaller craters that have stopped erupting are just emitting gas, two of three of the craters that have stopped erupting have lava lake in them at present time (latest report).
  • GPS data over the past few days suggest that magma flow into Bárðarbunga volcano is changing. I don’t think this is a good news. At the moment it is unclear what this means for current eruption and what is happening in the volcano.
  • Bárðarbunga volcano caldera continues to drop around 50cm/day at current rate. That is slightly slower than when it was dropping at the rate of 90cm/day about week ago.
  • Risk of eruptions under the glacier remains high and it is highly likely that eruptions might have happened under the glacier without anyone noticing them on the surface.
  • No major changes have taken place in glacier rivers that come from Bárðarbunga volcano area. Both when it comes to conductivity of water in the glacier rivers and amount of water in them.
  • There is currently no visibility to the eruption in Holuhraun due to thick fog in the area. I don’t know when the weather is going to clear up.
  • More magma continues to flow into the dyke than is erupting from it according to latests observations. This increases the risk of new eruption taking place along the dyke without warning.

Progress of the current activity

The eruption is happening in two parts in my view. The first part is the rifting episode that has now started in Bárðarbunga volcano fissure swarm. The rifting is going to happen in jumps with quiet period between them and the crust is going to crack or open up when that happens. This rifting has started in the northern part of Bárðarbunga fissure system. It has not yet started in the south part of the fissure, where features like Tröllagígar are (Tröllagíar crater row) exist. They erupted in the years 1862 – 1864. That magma that came up there closely resembles the magma that is now erupting in Holuhraun.

The second event that is happening is the collapse of Bárðarbunga volcano caldera. I now think that is an separate event in it self. Something must have happened in the volcano during past period of activity in 19th century that started this collapse, even if it did not start full force until current eruption episode. The caldera collapse is not going to stop the rifting process, that is going to run it course of the next few years (3 – 5 years is my best estimate now). This collapse is however going to make bad situation worse since when the collapse happens it is going to be a major problem for the local area. Since the area south of Bárðarbunga also has several hydro-dams that are in risk of some major damage, not just from fissure eruptions but also from glacier floods when they happen. In glacier floods triggered by eruption contain a lot more than just water. Glacier floods contains fragment of the glacier, many up to several meters high (20 – 60 meters high should be expected), mud, glacier clay, rocks, volcano material of all types, gases and several other things that I don’t know what are.

Current status at 18:45 UTC.

  • Bárðarbunga volcano has dropped 25 meters according to measurements taking today by University of Iceland and Icelandic Met Office. The speed of the drop in Bárðarbunga volcano caldera has slowed down from what it was about a week ago.
  • Currently the dyke from Bárðarbunga volcano is not expanding. Scientists are also not sure now how much lava has erupted at current time.

Current status at 23:56 UTC

  • There seems to be quiet period in the rifting episode at the moment. Along with general quiet period in Bárðarbunga volcano. It does not mean this is over, the eruption in Holuhraun continues and I continue to see harmonic tremor spikes taking place. I don’t know what the harmonic tremor spikes mean yet.
  • Largest earthquakes now have the magnitude of 4,1 (at 22:51 UTC) and magnitude 3,2 earthquake at 22:28 UTC.

Article updated at 16:56 UTC. Minor fixes that I needed to do on the text.
Article updated at 18:45 UTC.
Article updated at 18:48 UTC.
Article updated at 23:56 UTC.

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.

Status update on Bárðarbunga volcano at 22:11 UTC

This information is going to get outdated quickly.

  • Eruption in Holuhraun continues and there are no signs about it ending any time soon.
  • Lava lake has formed in one of the south crater according to the news today. The crater is not erupting at the moment.
  • Earthquake activity continues along the dyke south of the Holuhraun eruption.
  • Bárðarbunga continues to drop and I am estimating that the drop today is around 1 meter a day. This number has not been confirmed. Last confirmed number on the drop was that the Bárðarbunga volcano was dropping 90cm/day.
  • The area around the eruption site is toxic. Due to ever changing wind in the area the risk of getting SO2, CO, CO2 and other toxic gases over one self is always present.
  • There are warning in place for the SO2 pollution in Iceland at the moment. The warnings are issued based on wind direction at any given time.
  • The lava continues to flow into Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacier river. This lava is going to create a dam in next few days. The lava is flowing into the river at such force it doesn’t stop and doesn’t cool down properly to stop the flow of new lava into the glacier river.
  • I have been seeing harmonic tremor spikes all day today. I have traced them to Bárðarbunga volcano. I am not sure on location. It is difficult to know for sure what this means at the moment.

Earthquake activity

Earthquake activity today. Notice how the green stars (earthquake above magnitude 3,0) form a circle around the caldera that is about to collapse into it self. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

The earthquake trace of the earthquakes today. The larger earthquakes are spaced around 12 hours apart. I don’t know why that is. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Tungnafellsjökull volcano

There has been earthquake activity today in Tungafellsjökull volcano. I don’t know what this means since I don’t have any history about eruptions in that volcano. None have been document in the past 1000 years, and none have shown up in the data for the past 8000 years at least. What I do know is that I suspect the volcano might have started to prepare for an volcano eruption in the future. At least Tungafellsjökull volcano was showing slightly higher activity in past few months than normal, but that earthquake activity did stop and everything did go back to normal until now. This might be as simple as just stress adjustment in the crust in the area. At current time I don’t think an eruption is imminent in Tungafellsjökull, but with no history to work with this volcano might surprise me and everyone else. For the moment I think it is just earthquake activity until I am disproved by the volcano or this earthquake activity just stops.

The caldera formation in Bárðarbunga volcano

The new caldera that is now forming in Bárðarbunga volcano is a large event, since Bárðarbunga volcano is a large volcano. GPS data (website here) says that here is still inflation ongoing in Bárðarbunga volcano and at the moment mostly in the dyke. What is so dangerous with this are many factors. Here is the top list of them.

  • The drop in certain parts of Bárðarbunga volcano down its slopes is up to 1800 meters.
  • The glacier over parts of Bárðarbunga volcano are up to 850 meters thick in the caldera. Outside the caldera the glacier is up to 600 meters thick.
  • There are hydro-power dams south-west of the Bárðarbunga volcano. Glacier flood might go that way. There are also some populated areas that might be at risk depending what way the glacier flood would go.
  • Populations at north of Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacier river (downstream) are at risk from large glacier flood. So are two bridges, the third one that is up on the high lands is not going to be saved.
  • There is going to be a huge ash cloud once Bárðarbunga volcano collapses into a new caldera. What damage that ash cloud is going to do depends on wind direction. If we have really bad luck we might be looking at air space closure for week or two in Europe depending on wind and weather systems.
  • There are other risks that I don’t about yet.

Bárðarbunga volcano caldera (the current one) is around 70 square km in size, around 10 km wide. With the depth of 850 meters and it is full of glacier as I have mentioned many times before. When this is going to hit disaster mode part of that glacier is going to melt and create massive floods. Even if the caldera collapse might happen there is still a high risk of continued eruption activity after that event. Since this might just be a start of long eruption cycle in Bárðarbunga volcano. Since it had been quiet for a long time until 16-August-2014 when this eruption cycle started in Bárðarbunga volcano. What is happening in Bárðarbunga volcano and is creating of a new caldera. The caldera is just now in its early formation stage, when the later stages start to happen I do not know since I don’t have any past data to work with. This does not happen often in Iceland I think and has never happened before since recording of earthquakes started in Iceland.


If anything major happens I am going to post updates here.

News bits

Subsidence by hundred of meters possible (Rú

The media in Iceland is now less occupied with this eruption than before. So it is harder for me to get information that way at current time.

Status update on Bárðarbunga volcano at 21:21 UTC

This information is going to get outdated quickly.

About how I work my data

I do all my data work in my head. Since I don’t have the computer power or the programming skills do so in normal computer. This is generally refereed as “thought experiments” I think. The data set for Bárðarbunga volcano are now huge and it takes me a while to update them and work out what I am seeing.

Caldera collapse is in progress in Bárðarbunga volcano

I know that scientists in Iceland don’t want to mention this in the news and are still hoping for current sequence of events to stop. That is not going to happen, it was already to late when the magma found a way out of the magma chamber on 16-August-2014, all that can be done now is to plan for the eventual collapse of Bárðarbunga volcano into a new caldera. I don’t expect the mountain to make it based on current earthquake activity. Eruptions should also be expected without warning around the circle that the earthquakes have now formed around the magma chamber that is collapsing in Bárðarbunga volcano.

Bárðarbunga volcano is however not going to collapse quickly, while the eruption once it starts in Bárðarbunga volcano is only going to last 1 week at the longest. This type of events takes several weeks to months from start to end. When Askja volcano collapsed in 1875 it started sometimes in the year 1874 and did not end until October 1875 (Global Volcanism Program says 1. Jan, 1875 to 1875, 17 Oct.). So this might take more than six months from start to end and might not end until sometimes next year (2015). There is also a chance this collapse is going to take just several weeks. There is no way to know for sure how long this is going to take, since it depends on many unknown factors. There is also a factor that no caldera collapse has taken place in Iceland since modern recording and monitoring of volcanoes started in Iceland (around 1970).

Current status of the Bárðarbunga volcano

  • Eruption continues in Holuhraun lava field. Most of the craters have now stopped erupting and one is now just emitting gas according to latest reports today.
  • Power of the eruption in Holuhraun is about the same since it started, even if there are fewer vents erupting lava at the moment.
  • Visibility has been limited today due to bad weather in the highland of Iceland.
  • SO2 levels in populated areas in east Iceland did go up to 2550µg/m³ around 15:00 UTC in Reyðjarfjöður village. Health warning was issued for the area during the peak of the SO2 pollution.
  • Largest earthquakes today had the magnitude of 5,5 at 05:25 UTC, second largest earthquake today had the magnitude of 4,8 at 15:51 UTC. Other earthquakes have been smaller. There is now less earthquake activity taking place since magma is not breaking as much crust as before.
  • The caldera has now dropped some 20 meters according to last measurements taken when there was a flight over Bárðarbunga volcano.
  • There continues to be earthquake in the dyke, most of it is in area that is covered with glacier.
  • Eruption in Hamarinn (Loki-Fögrufjöll) volcano is now a possibility. It might start without warning and without any earthquake activity, or just little earthquake activity.
  • Dyke activity might start to go south of Bárðarbunga volcano. It has not happened yet, but there is a high risk of it in my personal view.
  • This is creating stress changes around Bárðarbunga volcano. There is a minimal risk of that starting an eruption in other volcano systems that are nearby. It is not likely to happen, but the possibility is there. The reason is that Bárðarbunga volcano is a large volcano, the second biggest in Iceland in my view. With Hofsjökull volcano being the largest in Iceland in my view.
  • The lava field continues to block the glacier river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. As this progresses there is going to be a natural dam in this area after few days.
  • Seven minor eruptions have been confirmed according to the news today (on Rúv). This is besides the eruptions that where in the glacier free area (and are still ongoing). None of those eruptions seems to have lasted for long.
  • Based on harmonic tremor I think pressure is again increasing in Bárðarbunga volcano magma chamber system. This does not appear to be resulting in more powerful eruption in Holuhraun. That is why I think there is increased risk of new dyke to start forming.
  • Gas output from the eruption in Holuhraun remains high and it is extremely dangerous to go there. The lava field is also creating a lot of local weather in good weather. That also makes this dangerous. This eruption is no place for tourist.


Updates go here when they happen.

News bits

I am going to add news here in case anything happens.

References list

Caldera (Wikipedia)
Modelling Caldera Collapse (OSU)
Caldera (Science Daily)

Comparison of volcano eruptions

When there is nothing going on in Iceland. It is good to prepare for the future by checking out what has happened in the past. Here is a comparison of harmonic tremor data from few past eruptions. I only have limited set of data to work with here.

Grímsfjall volcano eruptions 2004 and 2011

Harmonic tremor indicates how strong the eruption is when it is happening. This is clearly visible on the harmonic tremor plots from the Grímsfjall volcano eruptions in the year 2004 and compared to the eruption in Grímsfjall volcano eruption in the year 2011.

Harmonic tremor in Grímsfjall volcano eruption in the year 2004. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Meteorological Office.

This harmonic tremor plot is from the early start of the eruption. It clearly shows when the eruption starts and how it progressed during it’s first few hours.

Here is the volcano eruption start in Grímsfjall volcano on 23. May 2011. This is the start of the eruption. It clearly shows the difference from the eruption that took place in the year 2004. Both is that starts sharper. But is also a lot more powerful then the eruption in the year 2004. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Eyjafjallajökull volcano and Katla volcano

Sometimes it is useful to compare two eruptions of two different volcanoes. This is useful when you really don’t have anything else to compare with.

Harmonic tremor in Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption back in the year 2010. This is from the second phase of the eruption. But I seems to have misplaced or not saved harmonic tremor data from the first phase of the eruption (at least I cannot find them for the moment). Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Harmonic tremor connected to a minor eruption in Katla volcano in July 2011. This eruption was minor. But created a flood that took out a bridge. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Diffrent SIL stations from the same minor eruption in Katla volcano in July 2011. This clearly shows that this minor eruption in Katla volcano was possibly larger then eruption in Eyjafjallajökull volcano year earlier (2010). But it did not manage to break the ice of Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Past data show and are useful to learn what happens in a volcano. For this reason I now save important information on what is happening in a volcano. So I can compare it with future activity when it takes place.

Hydrothermal activity in El Hierro volcano

For the moment the eruption in El Hierro volcano has ended. The current harmonic tremor that is being detected might well be from hydrothermal activity that is currently in the area that erupted. But even if the eruption has ended, the area that erupted is going to be warm for many weeks to come. This is going to create hot springs below the sea level, among other ocean phenomena connected to this type of hydrothermal activity.

Harmonic tremor levels remain close to background levels at El Hierro volcano. Taken today at 16:05 UTC. Copyright of this picture belongs to IGN (Instituto Geográfico Nacional).

As for future activity in El Hierro volcano. It is important to remember that eruption activity might start again on a new fissure. But that would be pre-seeded by earthquake activity. After the eruption activity stopped there has been some earthquake activity. But it is not at that level I would expect before a new eruption where about to start in El Hierro volcano. For the moment however things remain quiet in El Hierro volcano. A relieve to the local people in the area I would think.


I want to remind people of the volcano and earthquake forum. It allows for more discussions on volcanoes, earthquakes and other stuff that might not belong to this blog.