Beneath an Icelandic Glacier, Another Eruption Brewing

by |August 19, 2014
An eruption pierces the glaciers at the Bárðarbunga volcano. Photo: Oddur Sigurdsson, Iceland Geological Survey

An eruption pierces the glaciers at the Bárðarbunga volcano. Photo: Oddur Sigurdsson, Iceland Geological Survey

The 2,000-meter tall Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland is at risk of eruption, an event that could send a cloud of ash and steam high into the atmosphere and cause extensive disruptions in air travel, among other effects, according to media reports. Iceland’s meteorological office has raised the risk level twice in recent days; it’s now at level orange – just below red, which would indicate an eruption is imminent.

The volcano sits under the country’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, writes Earth Institute scientist Ben Orlove in a post on the Glacier Hub blog. In April 2010, another glacier-clad volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, pushed a plume of ash and steam 9,000 meters high. Flights were cancelled for six days, affecting 10 million passengers. The ash cloud spread across Scandinavia, Britain Netherlands and Germany, and far into Russia.

More than 1,400 earthquakes – a seismic swarm – have been recorded since early Saturday morning, indication of a possible eruption, according to Orlove. “Since early June, [the meteorological office has] observed that four GPS stations in the area have shown upward movement in a direction away from the volcano,” he writes. “This movement suggests that a mass of magma (molten rock beneath the earth’s surface) has been expanding upward, closer to the earth’s surface, and displacing the GPS stations.”

You can read the full post on Glacier Hub.

Read more on the Slate, Ars Technica and Telegraph (UK) websites.

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