Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland - a little summary for my foreign friends

I wrote this because I was getting e-mails and phone calls from friends and family abroad, wondering if they should hurry home from current location, or stay at home in case of volcanic eruption in Bárðarbunga (how to pronounce). I had to disappoint my son that was hoping he would have to stay on the beach in Spain for some time, with his friends. He came home yesterday :).

Mother nature is unpredictable like most of you know, but this we know.

On the photo you can see the activity from August 16th. Here you can see a map of seismic acti­vity by sever­ity.

Here you can get updated information on Bárðarbunga. The information on seismic activity is given with daily status reports from the scientist of IMO and the University of Iceland. New material is added to the top of the article. The original information is at the end of the article. All in all, this article will give an overview of events. - of seismic events in August 2014.

Yesterday, Magnús Tumi Guðmunds­son, one of Iceland's lea­ding geop­h­ysicists said in a in­terview with mbl.is (news on Bardarbunga in english) after flight over the area.

"The flig­ht went well, we mana­ged to gat­her the in­formati­on we wan­ted. We did radar mea­surements of the glacier and the ri­ver Jök­ulsá á Fjöll­um, which will be of much value in the event of an erupti­on."

Magnús says it's hard to evalua­te the chances of an erupti­on. "It can go eit­her way, no­bo­dy can really predict what will happ­en in this situati­on."

A lot of ice to melt

He says that in the event of an erupti­on, one of two things would likely happ­en. "What's more likely is an erupti­on below the glacier Dyngju­jök­ull, wh­ere we can see eart­hqua­ke acti­vity moving nort­heast. In that area the glacier's thickness mea­sures half a ki­lometer, so it would have to melt a lot of ice before it could finally breach the surface.

When that would happen, the eruption would change into an explosive one, similar to what happens when the Grimsvotn volcano erupts"

"The ot­her opti­on is that the erupti­on would happ­en in the Bárðarbunga caldera, wh­ere the glacier is up to 800 metres thick, so it would have to melt its way through even more ice."

Not a disastrous jök­ul­hlaup

Magnús says that a jök­ul­hlaup (glacial out­burst) could follow and the ri­ver's flow could reach up to ten thousand cu­bic metres every second. "If the erupti­on would be about the avera­ge size of an icelandic erupti­on, the ri­ver's flow could get 10 to 20 times big­ger than what is normal dur­ing the sum­mer. We can't exclu­de the possi­bility of a lar­ger flood though."

Even so, you still couldn't say it was a so cal­led disastrous flood. "That kind of flow, even gi­ven its size, wouldn't really be cal­led a disa­ster. It wouldn't even be but 1/10th to 1/5th of the flood that happ­ened in Skeiðar­ársand­ur in the year 1996." The jök­ul­hlaup Magnús menti­ons was a very big one, shatter­ing bridges to the south of Vatna­jök­ull glacier.

Magnús says that an erupti­on in the glacier wouldn't relea­se the pressure that mig­ht be build­ing up in the volcanoes Katla or Hekla. "An erupti­on in Bárðarbunga wouldn't have any ef­fect on such dist­ant volcanoes."

Right this minute, 25 minutes past 2PM, 1913 qua­kes have occur­red in the area near Bárðarbunga in the past 48 hours.

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