Earthquake swarm in Iceland raises threat level on Bárðarbunga volcano

Increased seismic activity in Bárdarbunga.

Readers may recall that the Grímsvötn volcano caused quite an overwrought mess with air travel in 2011 when it erupted. FergalR writes in WUWT Tips and Notes about the nearby  Bárðarbunga volcano becoming seismically active:

A large sub-glacial volcano in Iceland – Bárðarbunga – has been having a huge earthquake swarm for the last 24 hours.

The IMO have just raised the eruption alert level on it.

Map of earthquake epicentres


From the Icelandic Met Office:

Activity in Bárdarbunga volcano

Seismic activity in Bárðarbunga volcano has increased. A seismic swarm has been ongoing since 03AM this morning, and near continuous earthquakes have been occurring since then. The depths of earthquakes in the present swarm are in the upper crust and their magnitudes are mainly around 1.5; a few earthquakes are of magnitude greater than ML3.

Long-term seismic and GPS data indicate that there is increased unrest in the northwestern region of Vatnajökull glacier, where Bárðarbunga is located:

Over the last seven years seismic activity has been gradually increasing in Bárðarbunga and the fissure swarm north of the volcano. This activity dropped down at the Grímsvötn eruption in May 2011, but soon after, the activity started to gradually increase again and has now reached similar level of activity to that just before the Grímsvötn eruption. Earlier this year, in the middle of May 2014, there was a small swarm of over 200 events and now the present swarm has already generated at least 300 earthquakes.

Since early June 2014, displacements at GPS stations around Vatnajökull (Hamarinn, Grímsfjall, Vonarskarð and Dyngjuháls) show an increased upward movement and away from Bárðarbunga.

Together, these two systems indicate magma movements in Bárðarbunga. Due to increased seismicity IMO has decided to turn volcano Barðarbunga status to yellow. In case of a sub-aerial eruption, an ash plume of potential concerns for aviation will be generated. The updated map is available at the link:

At 23:00 on August 16, there is no unequivocal indication that magma has reached the surface.

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August 16, 2014 8:28 pm

Waiting for the NYT article to somehow connect this to climate change.

August 16, 2014 8:32 pm

Hmmm. The USGS Earthquake page shows nothing at magnitude 2.5 or greater in the last month.{%22feed%22%3A%2230day_m25%22%2C%22search%22%3Anull%2C%22sort%22%3A%22newest%22%2C%22basemap%22%3A%22grayscale%22%2C%22autoUpdate%22%3Atrue%2C%22restrictListToMap%22%3Atrue%2C%22timeZone%22%3A%22local%22%2C%22mapposition%22%3A[[54.67383096593114%2C-39.814453125]%2C[70.8734913192635%2C16.435546875]]%2C%22overlays%22%3A{%22plates%22%3Atrue}%2C%22viewModes%22%3A{%22map%22%3Atrue%2C%22list%22%3Atrue%2C%22settings%22%3Atrue%2C%22help%22%3Afalse}}

August 16, 2014 9:03 pm

This volcano has a long history of a lot of intrusions without eruptions though. Hopefully this won’t be a big one, it is huge and capable of a lot of damage.
Global Volcanism Program | Bárdarbunga

August 16, 2014 9:08 pm

Well, I don’t see any new earthquakes near Iceland on the USGS map, but they do have two underneath Oklahoma.
3.0 14km SW of Medford, Oklahoma 2014-08-16 22:13:43 UTC-04:00 5.0 km
3.4 10km WNW of Medford, Oklahoma 2014-08-16 06:54:25 UTC-04:00 4.1 km

August 16, 2014 9:13 pm

Well they will get sufficient warning. But if the plume goes up high with lots of dust, it will cool the planet a bit. I agree they’ll blame the climate. Not geology.

August 16, 2014 9:13 pm


“In case of a sub-aerial eruption, an ash plume of potential concerns for aviation will be generated. “

So, a “sub-aerial eruption” (below aviation altitudes apparently) creates a worse plume than an aerial eruption (which would be at aviation altitudes obviously). Odd.

August 16, 2014 9:15 pm

Yeah bush.
But you’re on the other side of the equator and everything works backwards down there. So obviously, temperatures down under will go up. 8<)

August 16, 2014 9:18 pm
August 16, 2014 9:19 pm

Our planet is always moving tectonic plates, or land falls. Shows it is still alive, unlike Mars.The one to watch is Vesuvius or Mt.Ararat. I don’t know much about Ararat, other than it did erupt and buried a bronze age village, but Vesuvius has people worried, as a bad earthquake proceeded the 79 AD eruption. Same with Thera (Santorini) These little shaking swarm may not be followed by an eruption, but – time will tell.

August 16, 2014 9:21 pm

Reblogged this on The Next Grand Minimum and commented:
This could bring more cooling if it is big eruption with large dust/particle cloud. Stay Tuned.

August 16, 2014 9:21 pm

Folks might be interested in following this volcano blog in Iceland by Jón Frímann:

August 16, 2014 9:23 pm

Cookie, I hope they will we have had quite a cold winter, just a few weeks from Sept 1 spring. Then people will be moaning about the heat, well the water melons will. LOL.

August 16, 2014 9:24 pm

Keep an eye on Katla with any swarm in the area.

Bill H
August 16, 2014 9:25 pm

Two of the three tri-radiates (alcogons) have magnitude three or greater quakes.
With two of three showing massive stress I would be a little worried too. GPS deflection noted. Crustal rise noted. Deformation unconfirmed and no venting observed.
Some folks are going to be sleeping very lightly tonight.

August 16, 2014 9:47 pm

Jón Frímann makes a couple of notes at his blog: 1, the crust there is some 40km thick so there is the potential for some rather large quakes as magma makes its way to the surface. This particular volcano last erupted in 1794. It is currently covered with nearly a kilometer of glacial ice so if there is a surface eruption, it could create a major glacial flood. Also, he says this volcano is subject to “fissure” eruptions where very long openings can pour out a lot of magma in a short period of time.

August 16, 2014 9:54 pm

Tremor graphs are available here:

Bill H
August 16, 2014 10:01 pm

I was just looking at the harmonic tremor in the graphs. The tremor has been ongoing for a few days but it is constantly increasing in magnitude. It appears to be building. No release is apparent as of yet. interesting… one to watch.. historically a VEI 2 on average.

August 16, 2014 10:09 pm

Wiki says that largest was a VEI 6, that’s pretty significant. The 1477 eruption caused the largest single lava flow known on the planet in the past 10,000 years (21 cubic kilometers). One fissure runs for 100km in length. This COULD be a very dangerous volcano.

August 16, 2014 10:26 pm

Strange, just a week ago I’ve been driving along that long and windy, often washed away and repaired stretch of the Icelandic Ring Road from Höfn to Vik i Myrdal, right under Vatnajökull’s nose. It’s mostly a gravelly and sandy wasteland, barely covered with moss in places, with only a few sheep farms here and there, close under basalt cliffs. Hopefully, farmers will get an early warning before Bárðarbunga erupts — but they surely will have to rebuild that stretch of the road again.

August 16, 2014 10:47 pm

Thanks to RIC and Crosspatch, good info, there seems to be a marked increase at all levels on the site. (besides Etna, Stromboli, Alaska and Hawaii and the list goes on,Kamchatka, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand the Philippines etc ) the world just seems to not care about us humans much now does it!.

August 16, 2014 10:50 pm

Ahhh, so THIS is the cause of the pause…..
Cos I’m sure it will be….

August 16, 2014 11:14 pm

“Feces Occur”

August 16, 2014 11:38 pm

From memory, wasn’t airspace over Europe shutdown as a result of computer model predictions and no real threat from the erruption of Grímsvötn itself?

August 16, 2014 11:44 pm

Had M3.9 quake at 5.6 km depth about 25 minutes ago and a 2.0 about 8.4km about 10 minutes before that. The 3.9 is the largest so far.

August 16, 2014 11:54 pm

Since updated to M3.5 at 1.3 km depth.

August 16, 2014 11:56 pm

crosspatch says:
August 16, 2014 at 9:47 pm
This particular volcano last erupted in 1794.
That was at the early stage of the Dalton Minimum., while the 1477 event occurred during the early part of the Sporer Minimum. And here we are close to? or slightly into the next grand minimum. In looking at the JG/U 2K tree ring study, you can see a severe temperature drop right around 1477, and a moderate drop shows at 1794.

Joel O'Bryan
August 16, 2014 11:59 pm

I’m thinking one of Spock’s cold fusion devices could shut’er down.
That’s about as realistic a possibility as the simulations from AR5.

August 17, 2014 12:07 am

correction on the sharp drop during the Sporer. Looking closer the sharp drop is the gm itself around 1450. Temps then rise over a 20+ year period and then there is a moderate drop.

August 17, 2014 12:11 am

“And here we are close to? or slightly into the next grand minimum. ”
We can’t say with any certainty if we are in a “grand minimum” or not. We will have to wait and see how it plays out. Yes, we have a cycle that is weaker than anything we have seen for a while, but we don’t know how long that condition will hold. It does look like 25 will be weaker than 24 but we have no idea what 26 will be like, yet.

August 17, 2014 12:12 am

17 Aug 06:48 GMT / UT, Icelandic Met Office :
“The earthquake swarm at Bárðarbunga volcano continues. Several hundred earthquakes have been detected since 03am yesterday morning. Since midnight today, most events cluster in two areas, east of Bárðarbunga and around Kistufell. The strongest events during the night were M3.4 at 02:52am and M3.5 at 06:21am SE of Kistufell.
Written by a specialist at 17 Aug 06:48 GMT”
— — —
About the letter “ð” (eth) í the word Bárðarbunga:
(Related is the letter Þ (thorn) in Icelandic words: )
Pronounciation of Bárðarbunga can be heard here:

High Treason
August 17, 2014 12:12 am

Realistically, we should be getting panicky when the seismic swarm occurs around Yellowstone. If Yellowstone does a full monty eruption again, humans are in deep deep trouble. The US will be a very bad place to be.
Of course, man-made CO2 is to blame for the Icelandic swarm and possible eruption. The excuse- warming reduces the ice thickness, allowing the crust to spring up and disrupt things.

August 17, 2014 12:33 am

There will likely be several more conventional eruptions before a caldera forming eruption occurs at Yellowstone. We’ll have a few hundred years notice. We will likely see several volcanoes of the sort we are used to erupt first.

August 17, 2014 12:37 am

Tremor might be in sudden decline, not sure yet. But it looks like it might be reducing significantly.

August 17, 2014 12:42 am

I may have lost something in between, but the icelandic volcano that produced flight disruption in 2010, wasn’t it the Eyjafjallajökull “dont ask me to write that again” Volcano, better know as the E-volcano?

August 17, 2014 12:54 am

It’s really weird. Since that large EQ, tremor seems to be dropping significantly at many stations, not dropping at all at others.

August 17, 2014 1:01 am

. Oh crap. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be a third example, we have been wondering if we’re in the begining of a Dalton-like Minimum. I’ve been hoping for just a not much worse than usual 30 year cooling cycle.
Just because we have no idea how a solar minimum could nudge volcanic activity in some areas, doesn’t mean no such mechanism exists, anyone got reliable volcanism data to check?

August 17, 2014 1:16 am

I put Iceland volcano in the search box and got all the hits relating to the 2011 eruption there, plus a lot of tangential threads. Here’s the link to click to what I got:

Robin Hewitt
August 17, 2014 1:31 am

I learnt how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull and now I have to start over again?

August 17, 2014 1:51 am

Its like November at the moment in the UK. 12 Degrees. Cold grey and raining.
If we have a serious European eruption… i dread to think how cold it could get…..

August 17, 2014 1:59 am

Indeed it was not Grímsvötn, it was Eyjafjallajökull,
You may just call it E16

August 17, 2014 2:00 am

“ has been having a huge earthquake swarm for the last 24 hours.”
I think its all my fault…… Sorry, –
I ran my Trabant all night last week with the headlight on to try & get my solar panel to power my 6 color plotter & the lights in my yurt, whilst I made some plastic “Ban all use of fossil fuel” signs.
I now see that my resultant CO2 has warmed the planet to a tipping point; all the heat went into the DEEP oceans where its melted the rocks (1 million degrees according to ‘Good God ! Gore’ ).
That means Iceland is no longer fixed & will slip from the top of the globe (where it’s melted the Arctic & drowned all the cuddly polar bears) & head south !!
If we allow it to get to Antarctica it will melt that as well & we’ll all drown. I think the best thing we can do to save the planet (for the children) is use all the nuclear bombs we have & obliterate Iceland before it get up to any more mischief .
As a 97% consensuses of my neighbours think that next time I use the car to power the solar panel I should pipe the exhaust into my yurt to cut my carbon footprint, I will recommend that idea at the next yogurt kitting assembly, that way we can all have less impact on the planet !!
A Green

August 17, 2014 2:09 am

Correction it was grimsvotn in 2011 but E16 caused more air traffic disruption in 2010.

August 17, 2014 2:17 am

“Hans Erren says:
August 17, 2014 at 2:09 am”
But that disruption was as a result of computer predictions about ash cloud cover and path which proved to be completely wrong?

August 17, 2014 2:19 am

Re: Jeo,

Waiting for the NYT article to somehow connect this to climate change.

Don’t you know climate change causes everything?
New York Times November 2009:

How Storms Can Trigger Earthquakes
Scientists are increasingly pointing to storms as a trigger for earthquakes and mudslides. That’s raising questions about the effects that climate change might have on one of the world’s deadliest natural catastrophes, …

Gaurdian February 2012

Climate change will shake the Earth
A changing climate isn’t just about floods, droughts and heatwaves. It brings erupting volcanoes and catastrophic earthquakes too

August 17, 2014 2:31 am

“1477 Feb (?) Unknown Confirmed 6 Historical Observations Veidivötn (Veidivatnahraun)”
Great… I’m going fishing there next week for 3 days

Another Gareth
August 17, 2014 2:54 am

Patrick said: “But that disruption was as a result of computer predictions about ash cloud cover and path which proved to be completely wrong?”
Pretty much, yes. Computer models predicted where the cloud would go and due to an unfortunate coincedence the UK’s most capable research aeroplane was not available. As a result smaller aeroplanes were deployed that couldn’t be as thorough nor fly as high, and even they didn’t find the plume where the models suggested it would be. See this:
Research aircraft returns to volcanic ash plume
“The same team flew out to the plume’s expected location on Thursday, but did not find the ash. Although this outcome was negative, this does necessarily mean the ash clouds are not dispersing as the models predict – further investigation is needed. ”
I think they missed out a ‘not’ between does and necessarily despite it being a preposterous claim to make.

richard verney
August 17, 2014 3:23 am

Russ Steele says:
August 16, 2014 at 9:21 pm
Reblogged this on The Next Grand Minimum and commented:
This could bring more cooling if it is big eruption with large dust/particle cloud. Stay Tuned.
The trouble is that if there is cooling and if there is an eruption, this will keep AGW alive. The eruption will be used to explain the cooling, and hence warmist will argue that it masked the upward forcing of CO2 and the temperature rise that would have occured but for the volcano eruption.
Personally, I do not wish to see any eruptions over the next 10 years, so as not to cloud the issue (sorry for the pun).
Lets hope that we may keep volacnos out of the equation, so that we can get a better take on what observational data says about climate sensitivity to CO2. We need the ‘pause’ to continue, or better still for some cooling to occur which canot be explained within existing AGW mantra, to bring cAGW to an end.
Whilst I am firmly convinced that warmer is better, and whilst I would not ordinarily welcome the pain that cooling will bring, I would like to see some cooling; a little pain now may prevent much more pain later.

August 17, 2014 3:31 am

Reblogged this on Head Space and commented:
Current status: (earthquake swarm) minor activity or eruption warning (3 out of 5)

August 17, 2014 3:51 am

Such volcanic earthquake swarms indicate magma movement. Whether such movement will be followed by an eruption is anyone’s guess. But be ready for one accompanied by massive flash floods as the eruption melts ice.
Vesuvius is also one to watch as an eruption is overdue and over 5million people live very close. The Italians say they ”have a plan” BUT???

August 17, 2014 4:14 am

“johnmarshall says:
August 17, 2014 at 3:51 am”
No swarms can be tectonic too as in Wellington, New Zealand for instance.

John R Walker
August 17, 2014 5:34 am

Looking at the Table view they’re mostly low quality tremors:
Hard to tell whether it’s ice and water moving or magma…

August 17, 2014 6:41 am

Follow Dave McGarvie @subglacial on twitter for updates.

August 17, 2014 9:09 am

Big trouble for flying in Europe again?

August 17, 2014 9:32 am

There have been 20 quakes of 2.0 or larger since the 3.5 last night.

August 17, 2014 9:56 am

Bjarki says:
August 17, 2014 at 2:31 am
I am hearing that the fishing off of Bermuda is great this year. It may not be to late to change flights.

August 17, 2014 11:50 am

RACookPE1978 says:
August 16, 2014 at 9:13 pm
So, a “sub-aerial eruption” (below aviation altitudes apparently) creates a worse plume than an aerial eruption (which would be at aviation altitudes obviously). Odd.

10 km across caldera + thick ice cap + melt water + magma = pulverized glassy fine rock shards propelled by massive steam explosions into upper troposphere and stations beyond.

August 17, 2014 11:56 am

The largest lava flow on Earth during the past 8,500 years came from this same caldera fissure complex and covered 950 square kilometers of central Iceland. This huge eruption coincided in time with the largest drop in global temperature with in the past 10,000 years which took 250 yrs to rise fully again.

August 17, 2014 12:14 pm

This is a caldera, not just the usual volcanic vent or fissure, it’s 10 km across and 100 km^2. It is known to have the structure under it and feeder access from the mantle to flow the largest eruption in 10k years.
Calderas don’t get that big via small eruptions.

August 17, 2014 12:26 pm

Larry says:
August 17, 2014 at 1:01 am
I noticed one other connection to grand minima events. The New Madrid fault in the mid to eastern US also appears to be triggered by grand minima events. The most noted event was in the early 1800s which is right in the middle of the Dalton minimum. That was the first connection which made me look for further information. Then Wiki has an account of an early missionary in 1699. He was traveling up the Mississippi with an exploration group, when they experienced a heavy shaking of the land on Christmas Day at 1:00 pm, which he then documented. The time frame was the early part of the Maunder minimum. Then there is geological evidence which puts a quake event at 1450, which is the very beginning of the Sporer minimum. Wiki notes further events around 900 AD and 300 AD. Once again take a look at the JG/U 2K study and you can plainly see that both 900 AD and 300 AD show significant temp drops and are spaced properly to fit the grand minima cycle. At the time of the Great Tohoku Quake, I became very interested in quakes which led me to watch quake events worldwide on a daily basis ever since that time. I noticed that around 6 months after the Tohoku Quake that Oklahoma seemed to become active, and has steadily become more active ever since to where Oklahoma is now a regular participant on the USGS daily quake map. Offhand, I would say that it is time to pay extra attention to this region in connection with the current lowered levels of the Sun.

August 17, 2014 12:29 pm

Also note that the main event in 1811 was on December16. That makes two notable quake events on that fault where both are in December and occur early on in a grand minimum event.

Pamela Gray
August 17, 2014 12:59 pm

Jeo, it appears Solar proponents stepped in ahead of Anthropogenic proponents in suggesting a cause and effect connection. Lovely. It really puts the shine on our reputation as serious and well-informed opponents of AGW. Just lovely.

Pamela Gray
August 17, 2014 1:24 pm

My take on the potential global impact: The Iceland volcano, even if a big one, will not likely cause global cooling. For that, it needs to be equatorial and sulfur rich such that sulfur gas will get caught in Walker Cell and trade wind circulations such that even if dust settles out in extratropical bands, a solar veil could stay in the equatorial band for quite some time, disrupting normal ENSO processes and their global teleconnections, while also preventing normal oceanic solar heating.

August 17, 2014 1:52 pm

RACookPE1978 says:
So, a “sub-aerial eruption” (below aviation altitudes apparently) creates a worse plume than an aerial eruption (which would be at aviation altitudes obviously). Odd.
No, “sub-aerial” means “in the open air”. The opposite is not “aerial” but “sub-glacial”, i. e. under a glacier, which indeed does not produce much of a plume, if any, though the sudden melting of the ice can cause a “jökulhlaup” (glacier-run), i. e. a large flood.

August 17, 2014 6:43 pm

Fortunately any likely erruption is likely to replace all of the CO2 that the stupid “emissions” policies have not allowed to return to the atmosphere. The biosphere needs the CO2.

August 17, 2014 8:37 pm

I know of 2 triggers of explosive volcanic activity associated with grand minimums and I think I may have figured out a third. The first is the incremental action of the increased level of cosmic rays reaching Earth’s atmosphere that generate muons when they strike atmospheric molecules. Refer “Explosive volcanic eruptions triggered by cosmic rays – volcano as a bubble chamber”. It is paywalled.
There is a good explanation of the changes in stress on tectonic plates in the comments by Geo and subsequent in
It relates to the incremental stresses on tectonic weaknesses caused by reduced solar activity and the associated changes in jet stream activity.
Finally, and this is only my view, but the gravitational forces that cause 2 grandfather clocks in the same room to eventually harmonize their rhythms seem to incrementally add to stresses on tectonic weaknesses. So when the gas giant planets were all close to alignment in the early part of this century each time Earth passed across this alignment (twice a year) it copped a little of these extra gravitational harmonics (with the help of the moon). As a result since 2003 there have been 20 great (Cat 8+) earthquakes yet the previous 20 occurred from 1949 to 2002.
There is also a little remembered paper written by Richard B Stothers of NASA in 1989 entitled “Volcanic Eruptions and solar activity”.
I suspect that the key to understanding why little ice-ages can have such an influence on mankind is not because of the direct effects of the change in TSI but the indirect effects caused by the changes in the jet streams and the increased tectonic activity.

August 17, 2014 10:44 pm

Brief Bárdarbunga caldera eruption style and history:
The largest known Holocene lava flow known occurred from this volcano about 8,500 years ago.
Last known large effusive eruptions: 870 AD, 1477 AD.
The volcano’s eruption sequences suggest it averages one large eruption approximately every 500 years during the past 10,000s.
537 years since the last large eruption.
Other known or suspected eruption years:
1080(?), 1159(?), ca. 1210, ca. 1270, ca. 1350, ca. 1410(?), 1477 (very large effusive-explosive eruption), 1697, 1702, 1706, 1712, 1716, 1717, 1720, 1726, 1729, 1739, 1750, 1766, 1769, 1797, 1807(?), 1862-64, 1872(?), 1902-03
Apparently quiet since the 1903 eruption then about seven years ago a slow and gradual increase in quake activity indicated sustained magma ascent. These steady quakes elevated since about May 11th 2014. The prior quiescent period of 111 years since the 1903 eruption is less typical. From the above list numerous smaller eruptions were frequent after the last large event in 1477. Volcano Discovery states;
Typical eruption style: Large effusive eruptions, some explosive activity.
It is now within its normal time interval for the next large eruption.
– Compiled from Wikipedia and Volcano Discovery links.

August 18, 2014 2:29 am

Pamela Gray says:
August 11, 2014 at 4:17 pm
“(trimmed) … These ash plumes are dense locally, regionally for the bigger ones, and their longer lasting stratospheric veils are implicated as a direct cause in epic global cooling events. (trimmed) The Pacific Equatorial band is a very large body of water absorbing heat energy to a depth of 300 or more meters. In our thought experiment, a 20% reduction in the watts it absorbs is no small thing. …”
Pamela, pardon my out of context re-posting of your comment from a few days back. You take interest so I have a question and point to make to you and others which routinely gets overlooked.
You (and basically most others) rightly acknowledge the undeniable role of prosaic volcanic eruptive cycle implications in multi-year cooling. No problem with that. You (and others) also freely recognize the role of the oceans in modulating multi-year and multi-decadal weather patterns. Note that I avoid all use of the word ‘climate’, as it’s use is almost but not quite irrelevant and inappropriate in under 500 year contexts, whereas climate and geologically significant scales of change are joined at the hip and completely inseparable, i.e. unitary.
What’s automatically and breezily overlooked is that oceanic geodynamic energy release and the resulting topographic isostatic equilibrium elevation and volcanism levels are at a minimum twice as active within the ocean basins, as they are above the waves.
We also do not know what scale of activity constitutes a major submarine volcanic eruptive event. They may be (and most probably are) much larger events and more regular, due to the very thin crust, and close and elevated mantle-asthenosphere and isotherms, due to being sited above an epic global scale elongated hot spots and globe-encompassing volcanic extrusive mounds about a thousand kilometers across. Not to mention the thousands of large individual volcanic sea mounts further away from the volcanic ridge mounds, many of which dwarf the largest volcanoes on land by around an order of magnitude.
If we were to observe an orbiting space video of earth, sans all of its watery clothing, we would be darned impressed by what we see before us. Suddenly many thing would begin to make a whole lot of sense. We would no longer think Valles Marineris was the most impressive rift feature in the solar system. It would instead be totally obvious to us that Earth’s mid-ocean ridge volcanic spreading network is vastly and shockingly more impressive. And not only that, it is volcanically active for its entire length. If there were no water covering it we would see semi-continuous extrusions and volcanic outgassing events on a fairly shocking scale.
Alas, its all covered over with very deep water so we’re aware of maybe >0.1% of its activity, and perceptually ~99% of scientists and >99.999% of climate scientists are apparently completely oblivious to its existence. The see it on oceanic bathymetry and maps but the epic active volcanic reality of it doesn’t pass the thought filter barrage to register as a, “Hey, maybe major episodic regional submarine volcanic eruptions, like those we occasionally see on land, are significant to ocean circulation and global out-gassing and weather? Could they act as be a trip-wire for climate change?”.
We don’t know.
Because even a blindman or a child can see the potential exists and it’s geographically extensive. The mid-ocean ridge volcanic network’s combined length is about 60,000 km, while the much focused-on trenches and their landward side continental and back-arc volcanic complex which we actually see eruption from, have a total length of a bit less than 30,000 km. While ~7 km thick oceanic crust covers ~65% of Earth’s surface (only ~20% as thick as continental crust) and is festooned with enormous volcanic sea mounts that make any volcano above the waves look pitiful and tiny. These did not get that big via small tentative eruptions nor by occasional shrinking-violet eruptions. It may turn out that many if not most punctuated global extinctions were caused via submarine volcanism.
But shock of shocks the oldest oceanic crust is a mere ~205 million years old (NE of Sakhalin Island), and over 60% of the rest of the oceanic crust is less than 100 million years old. Which means almost all of the oceanic volcanism which produced this spectacular global MOR ridge complex and the giant sea mount volcano chains, is geologically very recent activity. It’s not old, it is not extinct, it is not winding down. It’s geologically very new and periodic eruptions are large episodes that overprint lower-level quasi-continuous extrusion, going on all of the time.
But … alas, all covered over … never see it … what is it? … nope, never heard of it … even those aware of it have little to no time-series systematic observations of it … so how do we address it? … how do we include it? … well, we don’t! … it doesn’t even enter our minds … its absence, perpetually unnoticed … “whatchya talkin’ ’bout Willis?!!”.
It’s the ultimate weather-cycle blind-spot, as opposed to a weather-cycle Sun-spot. But we’re not going to understand the wet-spot until we deal with the blind-spot. Keep that forever in mind each time you ponder ocean weather cycle mechanisms and climate trend and switching mechanisms.
Given you (and many others) recognize the implications for atmospheric circulation and weather cycles above the waves, due to large volcanic events, whence this unrecognized neglect of the almost certainly more significant submarine volcanic activity and its implications for ocean circulation and weather cycle inputs from under the waves, given the active geographical area for such events to occur within is multiple times larger and more active?
This is omitted from the whole discussion of weather cycles and also the longer-term climatic variations, which are joined-at-the-hip with geological processes and time scales.
So why not joined-at-the-hip for ocean and weather cycle scale as well? Whence this blind-spot?
The oceanic crust is nothing more than a fragile ultra-thin cap on a circum-global network of hot rising mantle sheet-plumes. Forget the Pacific ring of fire, this is in every ocean basin’s heart! This is earth’s major thermal contribution to the low density bits of liquid and gas above the solid crust.
Nah, that couldn’t be significant.
Weather cyclicity via ocean cyclicity is not going to be adequately understood and described without explicit detailed time-series monitoring reference to geodynamic cyclicity, which actively created and grew and maintains the oceanic terrain which completely dominates the planet’s surface and its weather systems.
It’s very heartening of course that the role of solar variation and cosmic particles are finally being taken into account, but consider this silly scenario; If you put a pot full of warm water on a stove, and set it to low heat, would you then try to explain the observed local water and vapor cycles over time in and around that pot, sans reference to what’s going on immediately under and in direct contact with it? Or only with reference to direct radiative and indirect input mechanisms from the powerful incandescent light bulb above the pot?
I submit that in 100 years when we’ve finally invested in a global deep ocean floor monitoring network we’ll look back at the discussions of weather and climate cycles early this century with a wry smile, a small nasal snort, and an almost imperceptible shake of the head.

August 18, 2014 3:46 am

What is the VEI potential with this one?

August 18, 2014 4:38 am

Don;t know, guessing a glacier filled caldera can be VEI ~5, occasionally 6, averaging 4.
Despite lovely cool end to summer (3 degrees C. northern England next Friday) this may be relevant. Next 5 days of upper level winds at 250 hPa continually blow from central Iceland to England and North Sea into central Europe then central Russia.,46.79,537
Hopefully what if anything eventuates isn’t full throated.

August 18, 2014 5:38 am

Smithsonian reports
870 AD eruption VEI = 4
1477 AD eruption VEI = 6
[their states text]
The large central volcano of Bárdarbunga lies beneath the NW part of the Vatnajökull icecap, NW of Grímsvötn volcano, and contains a subglacial 700-m-deep caldera. Related fissure systems include the Veidivötn and Trollagigar fissures, which extend about 100 km SW to near Torfajökull volcano and 50 km NE to near Askja volcano, respectively. Voluminous fissure eruptions, including one at Thjorsarhraun, which produced the largest known Holocene lava flow on Earth with a volume of more than 21 cu km, have occurred throughout the Holocene into historical time from the Veidivötn fissure system. The last major eruption of Veidivötn, in 1477, also produced a large tephra deposit. The subglacial Loki-Fögrufjöll volcanic system located SW of Bárdarbunga volcano is also part of the Bárdarbunga volcanic system and contains two subglacial ridges extending from the largely subglacial Hamarinn central volcano; the Loki ridge trends to the NE and the Fögrufjöll ridge to the SW. Jökulhlaups (glacier-outburst floods) from eruptions at Bárdarbunga potentially affect drainages in all directions.
VEI = 6 and major tephra deposition in 1477.
Yup, plenty dangerous that complex.

August 18, 2014 6:03 am

Numbers here:
1477 eruption calculated within Larsen 1984 as VEI = 5.4 with andesitic magma.
Which explains the explosiveness and the tephra.
But how is a mantle originated MOR plume banging out andesite?!!

August 18, 2014 6:37 am

I find it interesting, too, that USGS map shows no activity at all for anywhere in Iceland. Wonder why? But, it is sort of exciting because we’ll be traveling there in three weeks. 🙂

August 18, 2014 7:46 am
August 18, 2014 9:22 am

Yesterday the roads on the highlands north of Vatnajökull were close for safety reasons. Thay are mainly used by tourists during the summer months. The water surge (glacier flood or jökulhlaup) from the glacier is most likely to flow to the north.
Jökulhlaup is an Icelandic word that has been adopted by the English language. See

August 18, 2014 10:04 am

Rapid magma movement confirmed with rapid ground movements
GPS sensors and tilt meters indicate area is dilating fast during last few hours.
People in Europe get ready for ash fall, it’ll be overhead within hours of this thing popping.

August 18, 2014 10:29 am

From Morgunblaðið 18 august 2014 @ 15:23 GMT/UT
>>Possi­ble volcanic erupti­on in Ice­land<<
A powerf­ul volcano, Bárðarbunga, mig­ht erupt in the High­lands of Ice­land. The Icelandic Met Office has up­gra­ded its aviati­on al­ert status to orange, me­an­ing that a "volcano shows heig­htened or escalat­ing un­rest with increa­sed potential of erupti­on." Seismic acti­vity is of­ten the precursor of an erupti­on.
The orange al­ert is the second highest al­ert status. The next al­ert level, red, me­ans that an erupti­on is eit­her imm­in­ent or in progress. Bárðarbunga last erupted in 1996.
In­ten­se seismic acti­vity
Accord­ing to the website of the Icelandic Met Office: "the in­ten­se seismic acti­vity that started on 16th of Aug­ust at Bárðarbunga pers­ists. Very strong indicati­ons of ongo­ing magma mo­vement, in conn­ecti­on with dyke intrusi­on, is corro­borated by GPS mea­surements. Th­ere are cur­rently two swarms: one to the E of Bárðarbunga caldera and one at the edge of Dyngju­jök­ull just E of Kistu­fell. At 2.37 am on the 18th a strong eart­hqua­ke (M4) was loca­ted in the Kistu­fell sw­arm.
This is the strongest eart­hqua­ke mea­sured in the reg­i­on since 1996. As evi­dence of magma mo­vement shallower than 10 km implies increa­sed potential of a volcanic erupti­on, the Bárðarbunga aviati­on col­or code has been changed to orange. Presently th­ere are no signs of erupti­on, but it cannot be [ru­led out] that the cur­rent acti­vity will result in an exp­losi­ve su­bglacial erupti­on, lea­ding to an out­burst flood (jök­ul­hlaup) and ash em­issi­on. The situati­on is monitor­ed closely."
Roads closed north of the volcano
Certain roads in the high­land north of Vatna­jök­ull glacier, wh­ere Bárðarbunga is situa­ted, have been closed due to risk to tourists in the area, including the road to Herðubreiðarlind­ir to Askja (F88) and Gæsa­vatna­leið rou­te from Sprengisand­ur to Askja (F910). Tra­vell­ers are advised to gat­her in­formati­on on road-sa­fety in the area close to Bárðarbunga. This in­formati­on can be found here.
We will bring you up­da­tes as the story develops.

August 18, 2014 10:40 am

It is most likely that a possible glacial surge (jökulhlaup) will flow along the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, see

August 18, 2014 10:53 am

Erik Klemetti has a good writeup on this volcano complex and there you will also find a link to Dr Dave McGarvie’s twitter. McGarvie says if this turns into a big honker it can last a long, long time.

August 18, 2014 11:01 am

>>New webcam<<
A new webcam has been installed on the glacier looking at Bárðarbunga. The location is at Grímsvötn 30 km away from Bárðarbunga.

August 18, 2014 11:36 am

Speaking of Grímsvötn, a little discussion of GPS applied to volcano ground movement just before and during eruption (puts context to the recent hours of rapid GPS movements I pasted links to above).

August 18, 2014 12:13 pm

Ed Martin says:
August 18, 2014 at 10:53 am
” (trim) … McGarvie says if this turns into a big honker it can last a long, long time.”
That may not be as much of a problem as it sounds. The volcano’s past eruption character is for large effusive eruptions which are predominantly large lava-flood outpourings from fissures and sheild volcanoes.
It remains to be seen how much ash fall will accompany it though. The 1477 eruption appears to have had a lot of explosive activity as it had a positively weird andesitic magma which you don’t get in mid-ocean spreading rifts, like this one.
Chalk that up to another instance of observation meeting an inadequate accepted theory, or else a peculiar classification snafu.
Andesite is stiff, it does not flow, it clogs, and it degases and violently explodes. That andesitic material was presumably coming out of the main caldera as it created a regional blanket of tephra over most of Iceland. Tephra is everything from very fine pulverised ash and gravel, to large solid rock ejecta blocks which are blasted outward for many miles by powerful detonations and ash plumes.
If it’s just the fissure complexes spilling lava it may not be too bad, but if the caldera clears its throat and sings, all bets are off for a Summer in 2015.

August 18, 2014 2:21 pm

Map showing the area in Iceland where roads have been closed:
From the Icelandic Met Office:
>>Seismic activity at Bárðarbunga persists – 18.8.2014<<
The intense seismic activity that started 16 August at Bárðarbunga persists. Very strong indications of ongoing magma movement, in connection with dyke intrusion, is corroborated by GPS measurements. Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood (jökulhlaup) and ash emission. The situation is monitored closely.
– – –
The intense seismic activity that started on 16 of August at Bárðarbunga persists. Very strong indications of ongoing magma movement, in connection with dyke intrusion, is corroborated by GPS measurements. There are currently two swarms: one to the E of Bárðarbunga caldera and one at the edge of Dyngjujökull just E of Kistufell. At 2.37 am on the 18th a strong earthquake (M4) was located in the Kistufell swarm.
This is the strongest earthquake measured in the region since 1996. As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10 km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bárðarbunga aviation color code has been changed to orange. Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood (jökulhlaup) and ash emission. The situation is monitored closely.
Aviation colour code map:

August 18, 2014 2:51 pm

Volcano Discovery Update are calling it – Eruption Imminent
Bárdarbunga volcano (Iceland): continuing earthquake swarm & inflation, orange alert
Monday Aug 18, 2014 18:43 PM | BY: T
An eruption of the subglacial volcano seems more and more likely to be imminent. Rapid inflation suggests magma intrusion at shallow depth. Orange alert has been declared today by the Iceland Met Office (IMO).
The earthquake swarm continues intense with so far approx. 2000 earthquakes detected, including about 200 of magnitude 2 and higher. A magnitude 4.5 event occurred this morning NE of the volcano at 6 km depth.
The epicenter locations have migrated from their original cluster location east of the volcano to an elongated area to the NE of the volcano. This would likely be the area a new eruption could start.
The seismic activity chart tells the story it’s arced up again after a slight back off. About 70 hours of harmonic tremor so far. The longer it takes to pop the bigger it’s going to be.

August 18, 2014 3:33 pm

Volcanocafe has an interesting analytical write up:

August 18, 2014 7:05 pm

Thank you for all the info and links, you’re certainly not unmentionable anymore. 😉

August 18, 2014 10:33 pm

Unmentionable says:
August 18, 2014 at 2:29 am
Great comments. Thanks for the education.

August 18, 2014 11:36 pm

Emerging pattern is disturbing
Icelandic updates from Vísir – Fréttir – in English
“… most events are now located between Bardarbunga and Kverkfjoll. … There is full reason to expect an eruption.”​
Kverkfjoll is a second major volcanic complex and the past major eruptions were 7,000 to 9,000 years ago and dormant since. Most of the recent earthquake activity (>2,800) is along a 20 km long fissure directly between these two icesheet covered calderas, particularly their eastern sides. The most recent hours of activity are concentrated close to or under Kverkfjoll. The largest quake in Iceland for the past 18 years, of mag = 4.5, occurred under Kverkfjoll a few hours ago, at 6 km depth.
A second major fissure complex associated quake concentration is occurring on a parallel fissure complex around 30 km to the WSW of the two main volcano centers, indicating multiple centers of magma rise into the largest volcanic complex in Iceland.
Looking dicey

August 19, 2014 1:45 am

Kverkfjöll is a bit of a mystery-bag due to the lack of detailed research, what we do know is this (Smithsonian):
“Volcano Type: Stratovolcano Caldera Subglacial
Tectonic Setting Rift zone Oceanic crust (< 15 km)
Rock Types Basalt / Picro-Basalt Rhyolite"
The Rhyolite tells much about what the heck goes on with this complex. It is a volcanic extrusive equivalent of a granite composition magma. It should not exist in Iceland, it should not be present from a mantle plume derived MOR spreading ridge, but there it is.
And it explains the andesite tephra eruption at Bardarbunga in 1477. If you mix a rising basaltic magma with an existing crystallisation differentiated rhyolite puddle already present under the volcano you can produce an andesitic composition melt and explosively erupted tephra deposits.
Pre-eruption phases of the magma mix and 'fizz' like decompressing champagne after you pop the cork, which mixes the melts vigorously to chemically bulk-homogenise the erupted portion of melt just before and during the resulting explosion. The 'fizz' degassing overcomes remaining mechanical resistance. Next stop, stratosphere. Rhyolite itself produces very energetic explosions and is typically entraining a lot of gas that's exsolved from melt via depressurisation as it rises, but can not easily escape. Thus the rising exsolved gas pressure remains in an unhappy pressure equilibrium that prevents further exsolving of gas (usually copious water, CO2, sulphur).
So ti sits there for a bit, then a large enough earthquake undermines the chamber roof and opens it to 1 atmosphere pressure, and the hot gas instantaneously expands and launches supersonically with the vector for the nearest lower pressure area (i.e. space). Meanwhile the rising magma that had been stymied by pressure and blockage now continues to rise behind this for weeks, or months, and exsolves its gas as it gets closer to the surface numerous explosions result. Ten kilometer across calderas can punch out a lot of magma like this, not to mention two in concert. Hence the deep tephra deposits over regional areas.
So we know both of these stratovolcano calderas do emit highly explosive compositions which can (not will) easily create fine pulverised ash ejected to high altitude within seconds.
But more interestingly there's a shared chemical composition and physical fissure channel linking Kverkfjöll to Bardarbunga with ~100 km of SW to NE trending en-echelon fissure ridges, connecting and over-printing the two calderas.

August 19, 2014 5:42 am
The Iceland Meteorological Office has increased the risk of an eruption at Bárðarbunga (or Bardarbunga) volcano, after hundreds of earthquakes were reported over the weekend. The risk level has been set to orange, which is the fourth-highest on a five-level scale.
Here we asked Dave McGarvie, a volcanologist at The Open University, to explain what we need to know.
Should we be worried?
We have known for some time that Bárðarbunga was going to do something – we just didn’t know what. Because it is covered in ice, we rely on instruments to reveal its behaviour.
Now it has stirred, it is giving us clues about what it is about to do. The clues from the patterns of earthquakes and earth movements reveal two clusters where magma is moving towards the surface, and if it gets there it will erupt. But whether this will be a gentle or a violent eruption is uncertain at the time of writing.
There is no way to predict when the eruption may happen, but we should get a few hours notice. The good news for air travel is that both clusters are away from the heart of the main volcano which makes it less likely that an eruption will produce the fine ash that causes disruption.
What would the eruption look like?
At the very least, magma will stall in the Earth’s crust and form an intrusion. We may never see any manifestation of this, except on instruments. But if magma does break through to the surface, then how much magma erupts and what is above it will determine the eruption style.
If it is under thick ice – that is more than 400m thick – and not much magma comes up, then a pile of volcanic rock will accumulate at the base of the glacier. This will melt a lot of water (14 times the volume of magma under ideal conditions), and we may see a depression in the ice surface. This will add water to a major river, and cause flooding downstream.
If it is under thick ice and lot of magma erupts along a fissure, then we will see a repeat of the Gjálp eruption of 1996, with erupting magma melting a pathway to the ice surface within hours and forming an eruption plume. Compared to the massive plume of Grímsvötn 2011, this will be a small plume and less problematic for air travel as the particles will not be dispersed widely.
If magma breaks to the surface outside the glacier margin, there are likely to be small but powerful local explosions as the rising magma encounters the water-bearing sediments that occupy the land in front of the glacier margin. Explosion may occur because flashing water to steam involves more than a thousand times expansion in volume. After the water has been used up, or the magma isolated from the water, then a normal fissure eruption would be expected.
I emphasise that the above are what I currently consider the most likely scenarios. The “likeliest” scenario could change at a moment’s notice. That is part of the fun and frustration of anticipating eruptions at poorly-known and remote volcanoes.
What is the worst-case scenario?
That this is the start of a major volcano-tectonic event at Bárðarbunga, which may further develop to the southwest. This is a concern because in the southwest there are fissures that have produced Iceland’s most voluminous lava flows, since the ice melted some 9,000 years ago.
These fissures are up to 100 km long, and far to the southwest they can trigger eruptions at the Torfajökull volcano. Torfajökull happens to have an abundance of sticky magma that can erupt explosively and produce lots of fine ash. The last eruption, in 1477-1480, produced just two lava flows and minor explosions. But the one before, in about 874 AD, produced an explosive eruption plume that was carried over much of Iceland.
Also to the southwest of Bárðarbunga lie the rivers which produce much of Iceland’s hydroelectric energy, and a fissure eruption in this area could cause big problems. Icelanders have long known about this possibility and have specific plans in place should this happen.
I emphasise that we don’t know yet whether this is an isolated event or the start of a more prolonged and larger volcano-tectonic episode. It may be years before we know for certain. But at some time in the future there will be a major fissure eruption to the southwest of Bárðarbunga – we just don’t know when.
Bardarbunga caldera is about 10km wide in diameter. Iceland Geological Survey, CC BY
Could this be another Eyjafjallajökull?
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption caused a lot of disruption to flights in Europe. However, it is important to note that, all things being equal, if an Eyjafjallajökull-like eruption happened tomorrow then there would be far less disruption to air traffic – something less than half the flight cancellations of 2010.
There are two main reasons for this. First is that the old flight rules – avoid all ash – have been relaxed so aircraft can now fly when there is some (but not too much) ash in the sky. Second is that the Met Office revised its model that estimated ash concentrations in the atmosphere, so we now have more certainty about how much ash there is and where it is.
If something unusual were to happen and a substantial amount of magma started rising within the heart of Bárðarbunga, then there could be a large explosive ash-producing eruption. The good news is that we have a better idea of what to expect from such an explosive basalt eruption because we had one in 2011 at Grímsvötn.
To provide context, Grímsvötn was Iceland’s most powerful explosive eruption since Katla 1918, and was about 100 times more powerful than Eyjafjallajökull. Compared to Eyjafjallajökull 2010, Grímsvötn 2011 produced twice as much ash in a tenth of the time.
We were lucky with Grímsvötn 2011, because a combination of wind direction and the new flight rules meant far less disruption to air travel. Over Europe only about 900 out of 90,000 of flights were cancelled in 2011. In comparison, about 94,000 flights were cancelled during Eyjafjallajökull’s 2010 eruption.
Why was Eyjafjallajökull so bad?
Eyjafjallajökull 2010 was a “perfect volcanic storm”. It was unusually long-lived, about 39 days, whereas most explosive eruptions in Iceland last just a few days to a week. It produced an unusually high proportion of the type of fine ash that is most easily transported long distances. Dry weather meant that the ash was not “washed” out of the atmosphere, and prevailing winds carried the ash almost directly to the UK and western Europe. We had the old “ash in the sky so you don’t fly” flight rules which grounded everything. Finally, the old Met Office model slightly overestimated the concentration of ash in the sky.
No knowledgeable volcanologist worth their salt would ever suggest basing western Europe’s ash cloud mitigation plans on a repeat of Eyjafjallajökull 2010, because it is very unlikely. A short-lived but powerful injection of ash into the atmosphere like Grímsvötn 2011 is more typical.

August 19, 2014 5:48 am

Morgunblaðið 18/8/2014, Updated 19/8/2012 at 12:00 GMT/UT:
>>>Bárðarbunga is still roar­ing<<>How to pronounce “Bárðarbunga”<<
Icelandic is a notori­ously difficult langua­ge to pronounce for the un­initia­ted. It has this massi­ve roll­ing "R", words that never seem to end and to top it off most Iceland­ers speak quite fast.
Our latest volcano to make in­ternati­onal hea­dlines is Bárðarbunga. Yeah, try say­ing it. "What is that weird look­ing D th­ere?" you mig­ht think.
To avoid anot­her Eyja­fjalla­jök­ull disa­ster, we at have taken the time to make a cle­ar and simple gui­de for pronounc­ing Bárðarbunga. This is actually how you pronounce "Bárðarbunga". Here it is:

August 19, 2014 6:34 am

Yeah, that’s good ‘n all, but what if its Kverkfjöll? … huh? … we’re in some pretty sh8t now! … I hope they’re working on a plan-B.
Apparently both of the caldera’s dimensions are ~8 km by ~4 km and kidney-shaped, presumably elongated along the fissure’s trend line. At least one of them is 700m deep so it’s not brimming with fresh magma so Bardarbunga is probably less of a protracted eruptive threat.
It’s the many years of volcanic quakes under them that gives me pause. The magma chambers may not be full but it does not mean a deep column of material is not stacked up ready to ascend over months or years once it’s decorked.

Neil Dunn
August 19, 2014 3:18 pm

Relatives of mine are in Iceland now and are touring by car. I sent them this WUWT post. Their response is below (8/19/14). Thanks for the tip.
It is true. M. and J. are inside Of a different volcano as I type. They upgraded the volcano to code orange yesterday. It was code yellow when we were in the flood zone. Since then they have closed the roads into the interior. If it erupts under the glacier it would cause massive flooding in the northeast. We are going to southeast tomorrow so will keep you up to date. Or we may be taking a ferry to Newfoundland and driving home…

August 19, 2014 8:25 pm

Unmentionable says:
August 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm, and several other detailed replies
Ed Martin says:
August 18, 2014 at 7:05 pm, and several other well-thought-out replies
Neil Dunn says:
August 19, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Relatives of mine are in Iceland now and are touring by car. I sent them this WUWT post. Their response is below (8/19/14). Thanks for the tip.

To all above: Thank you for your detailed information, please keep adding your information over the next few days as you find information. Otherwise, only the Drudge Report is providing information worldwide.

August 19, 2014 9:53 pm

Harmonic tremor remains high and is escalating with each new pulse and the period is getting shorter, suggesting intensification of magma pressure as well as flow (from Jón Frímann
Pressure rise is implied is the rapid ground dilation which continues as magma forces the area apart – note that the Y axis values are double the scale of two days ago:×1024.png
This graphic displays the quakes with respect to the depicted (three) nearby calderas. It’s focussed on the fissure network a present, and is moving along it:
A deep column of rising material is indeed rising as confirmed via 3D plot, a teenager created this one. (don’t know why this sort of display isn’t routinely used online, I had 3D depictions like this 15 years ago in a Smithsonian program called ‘Seisvol’):
Notice the quakes go down to 22 km under the intrusion. As you go down the heat goes up and material becomes more ductile and is easier to plastically deform so if the rate of movement is lower or spread over a larger area, then flow occurs, and not energetic displacements, i.e. quake shocks. The shocks (which are effectively small scale supersonic accelerations within the media, hence shock waves radiate from the area to seismographs) occur where plastic flow deformation rate can not be accommodated. So just because shocks are not present does not mean volumetric flow and buoyancy is not present. The combination of that plot and 96 hours of intensifying high level harmonic tremor and about 3,000 shocks so far means the inflow of material is fast and large.
The dubious good news is that it isn’t focused on a caldera so lava flow may dominate ash. Depends how wet it is. Water makes magma runnier, but it also makes for steam explosions. The fact that it is focused on major fissures means it’s more likely to erupt, as these are always extending with the tectonic quakes, and the magmatic quakes and tremor are dilating the area fast as well.
Eruption is almost assured.
Thankfully not from a caldera at this point. Nevertheless the phreatic explosion a year ago at Kverkfjöll indicated magma is unexpectedly close to the surface under Kverkfjöll and there is potential for sympathetic eruption if it’s pumped with rising magma as well. As the magma erupts pressure regime changes and them a surge of material at lower level can occur that exceeds the flow capacity of the fissure, so it prime-pumps nearby connected magma chambers instead.
As pointed out yesterday, injecting new magma into a chemically differentiated old magma can exsolved gasses that pressurise a dormant system and push it off the cliff.
The thing to remember with earthquakes and volcanoes is they’re not restricted to using old faults or old volcanos. Observations (and energy proportion to mechanical resistance) reveal volcanos and quakes can create a new structures in the crust anytime, anywhere, and may bypass existing large features as if they are not present. A proportion of all new events entirely ignore the existing structures and do their own thing.
Nature huh?

August 19, 2014 10:57 pm

Just to clarify the relative potential of a major fissure eruption, have a read, these can be even more dangerous over all, not merely affecting distant aviation.
The system erupted over an eight-month period between 1783 and 1784 from the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano, pouring out an estimated 14 km3 (3.4 cu mi) of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulfur dioxide compounds that killed over 50% of Iceland’s livestock population, leading to a famine that killed approximately 25% of the island’s human population. … The Laki eruption and its aftermath caused a drop in global temperatures, as sulfur dioxide was spewed into the Northern Hemisphere. This caused crop failures in Europe and may have caused droughts in India. The eruption has been estimated to have killed over six million people globally, making the eruption the deadliest in historical times.
Major fissure eruptions are not to be trifled with or ignored just because there may be less high altitude ash. (note the surface level hot then cold conditions that resulted)

August 20, 2014 3:16 am

Patrick says-
Earthquake swarms are not tectonic.
They can be, swarms can occur in divergent zones/ocean ridges which are tectonic.
Barbarbossa (I think) has shown further signs of eruption being imminent but still not certain.

August 20, 2014 6:04 am

Bárdarbunga volcano (Iceland) activity update
Wednesday Aug 20, 2014 09:17 AM | BY: T
Volcano Cafe – Bárðarbunga update
The last link discusses observed GPS geodetic trends and its crustal relative movement responses. Looks to me the NE end of the fissure must be opening fastest, which happens to be where the last two days of earthquakes were concentrated.
Interesting that Grímsvötn is showing the highest uplift of all of the stations. Some people are sure its not physically connected to Bardarbunga. If not then its filling with a separate injection of magma then? Because its thirty kilometers ESE of the fissure that is inflating.
I read documents yesterday that asserted Kverkfjöll is clearly connected to Grímsvötn via a fissure complex and share the same extrusive signatures. And we can plainly see that Kverkfjöll and Bardarbunga are connected. Frankly I think all of these volcanoes under icesheet are connected. The icesheet itself only exists because of similar deposition, thermal isostasy and magmatic intrusions in the large area.
But why is Grímsvötn and the surrounding ice sheet being pushed upward the most, when the intrusion is so far away?
I suspect it’s crustal rotation or else a buckling response to horizontal displacement as magma forces the fissure apart. i.e. both volcanic and tectonic because dyke emplacement will see to it that the gap does not close again. Hence the ground is not rising elsewhere as much.
If that’s right, and it seems to be, there’s a lot of magma doing that and over a large surface area its pushing on.

August 20, 2014 6:21 am

Btw, there are more deep quakes recently neat 25km depth under the fissure. This suggests the lower mantle is adjusting to equilibrate density and the static confining pressure gradient after magma has displaced above it.

August 20, 2014 6:53 am

The earlier official update I posted is still stuck in moderation land, why I don’t know, seems like every second post goes to moderation, so maybe this one goes through:
Updated summary from Bárðarbunga
A summary of seismic activity, written Tuesday evening 19th August 2014 at 20:00
[All should be clear now. .mod]

August 20, 2014 9:42 am

The seismicity a few hours back was higher than at any earlier period in the current sequence, but now back down to large numbers of low amplitude shocks.
Tremor has lasted ~110 hours.

August 20, 2014 12:12 pm

Agust Bjarnason says:
August 19, 2014 at 5:48 am
Icelandic is a notori­ously difficult langua­ge to pronounce for the un­initia­ted. It has this massi­ve roll­ing “R”,
Is that where we get the word ‘arrrrgh’ from? Were the pirates of the Caribbean just a bunch of Icelanders out on a joy ride?

August 20, 2014 12:17 pm

Unmentionable says:
August 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm
That 3D visualization is great. Talk about a picture being worth a thousand or so words, this one accomplishes that.

August 20, 2014 1:32 pm
The orange areas in the barcode-like diagram below show all the periods in which volcanoes in Iceland were erupting.  The data came from the Global Volcanism Program.  It’s a fairly regular occurrence, as you can see.  On average, as I explained in my first ever volcan01010 blog post, there is an eruption in Iceland about every 5 years, with 3/4 of them being explosive.  The wind blows towards the UK about 1/3 of the time, so you could expect a direct hit from an ash cloud about once every 20 years.
The Surtsey and Krafla Fires eruptions stand out for their long duration.  Surtsey, in particular, is interesting because the eruption produced a new island in the north Atlantic, with ash-rich explosions driven by hot magma boiling the water of the ocean.  It lasted three and a half years.  What would happen if a similar eruption began now?
I’ve marked the three most powerful explosive eruptions, Hekla 1947, Eyjafjallajökull 2010 and Grímsvötn 2011, with bold lines.  These produced much more ash than the others.  It is pure luck that there was such a long gap between them.×677.png
Check out the article for more…

August 20, 2014 2:32 pm

From the quotes below it sound like they’re crossing their fingers and toes that this thing stays underground and does not get any bigger. the longer the tremor goes on like this the worse its going to be if it pops under 2,000 ft of water ice.
Magma flowing into Bárðarbunga caldera with great force – 20th August 2014
Kristín Vogfjörð, seismologist and research director at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, says that the activity is very powerful. “This just keeps going on. This is many times more powerful than what’s been going on in recent years.” Kristín says that a large volume of magma is flowing under the caldera, heading northeast towards the Kverkfjöll mountain range. The magma is staying at a depth of 5-10 kilometers – there are no signs of it moving any closer to the surface. If asked if an eruption is due to happen in the next few days, Kristín responds: “Not necessarily. There’s nothing suggesting that it’s about to. But due to the size and scale of the activity there’s full reason to be vigilant and prepare for an eruption.”
Magma surge towards the surface would be very powerful – 20th August 2014
Kristín Vogfjörð, research director at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, says that the current seismic activity at Bárðarbunga is many times more powerful than any on record for the site. “It’s very powerful,” she says. For comparison she notes that thousands of quakes have been measured at Bárðarbunga in the past week, but in the Gjálpar eruption in 1996 they were only a few hundred. … “While this is going on, it may never reach the surface. But we still need to keep an eye on it because the volume of magma is incredible,” she adds. …”There is no indication that it’s moving further up than that. But if it were to happen, it would happen very quickly,” Kristín states.
I can’t watch …

August 20, 2014 7:03 pm

They are evacuating now, seems a 4.5 quake happened. They are afraid of a pyroclastic flow with all the ice at the top causing mud flows. There have been thousands of quakes in the last four days. But it is an isolated region, but might blow and effect air traffic in the region.

August 20, 2014 7:08 pm

Unmentionable, yes, volcanoes are huge pressure cookers, like the 79 AD Mt.Vesuvius. No one thought it was a volcano even though they knew what volcanoes were. The pressure that built up and in the end the worst happened, a hot pyroclastic flow. The walls of the volcano, like St.Helens collapsed.eventually.

August 20, 2014 11:51 pm

I’ve been pondering why these large numbers of small to moderate magmatic quakes (now past 4,000) is not leading to vertical rise in close by GPS geodetic measuring sensors but rather only a horizontal dilation across the associated fissure complexes in a NE and SE direction of extension.
The dilation is easily explained by intrusion and combined magmatic and effectively tectonic opening of the tectonic rift the fissures represent, with full through crustal dyke-swarm emplacements, which always occur at such rift surfaces when they begin to open.
But there is a very puzzling lack of vertical motion here and there is no clear explanation of its failure to be expressed in a proportional surface rise.
This is a serious complication in interpreting what this system is doing, as ground displacements upward are typical of a magma body that’s infiltrating and rising while pressurising its confinement via decompression as it exsolves its entrained molecular gas components, which exponentially increase the confinement pressure, even as the static and overburden containing pressure is also decreasing.
So ordinarily this situation will be resolved by inducing moderately large magmatic quakes.
Which is what occurred in 1996 in this same system, except the quakes did not lead to vertical movements indicating pressure displacements prior to the eruption that occurred hours later. This 1996 behaviour at Bardarbunga was very peculiar, for how can there be no ground displacement from very strong shallow shocks and a remarkably strong series of shocks in the swarm that followed?
It made no sense, in much the same way the present measured situation makes little sense. Why this lack of ground rise? The problem becomes clearer with reference to this:
Magma surge towards the surface would be very powerful – 20th August 2014
Kristín Vogfjörð, research director at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, says that the current seismic activity at Bárðarbunga is many times more powerful than any on record for the site. “It’s very powerful,” she says. For comparison she notes that thousands of quakes have been measured at Bárðarbunga in the past week, but in the Gjálpar [Gjlap] eruption in 1996 they were only a few hundred. … “While this is going on, it may never reach the surface. But we still need to keep an eye on it because the volume of magma is incredible,” she adds. …”There is no indication that it’s moving further up than that. But if it were to happen, it would happen very quickly,” Kristín states.​
So an “incredible” volume of magma has been literally rushing through the Bardarbungar conduit into the fissure-swarm complexes around it (and past where Gjlap occurred), and there is again no rise in ground level. Well, except at Grímsvötn 30 km away, where the protruding outcrop is being pushed upward most! Wot?!
The geometry of that is so odd. It would be easy to ignore that and just move on, but it’s telling us something vital about this system, especially with reference to what occurred previously. The instrumentation is working and it is telling us something.
To set the scene of the previous occurrence:
On September 29th, 1996 at 10:48 an earthquake of magnitude 5 on the Richter scale was detected within the Vatnajökull icecap in SE Iceland. This event was followed by an intense earthquake swarm with a large number of small events with intermittent larger quakes of magnitude 3-4 on the Richter scale.
It erupted hours after this without further seismic warning. And curiously, Grímsvötn, close by, erupted through the icesheet on its SW flank only years later. Was there a magmatic connection here? Some authors have argued there isn’t a direct connection between the two volcanos
But yesterday it was demonstrated for the first time, seismicly and magmaticly that there is a connection between Bardarbunga and Grímsvötn calderas. From Volcano Cafe yesterday:
Bárðarbunga loves Grimsvötn = True
So magma sharing and mixing is possible, as are sympathetic eruptive sequences due to fissure flows. Pressure is apparently not a problem, the system appears to not highly pressurise before eruptions. It apparently has ‘give’, for as extension from intrusion in one part of is taking place, it can be can be accommodated via the less filled chambers and fissures flexing and changing volumes to allow the new local inflows, without over pressurising the vast network, nor the point of inflow either! The result is the ground does not rise prior to the eruption at and near Bardarbunga.
This is a real problem for authorities as almost all other volcanos would exhibit accelerating vertical movement prior to eruption, but at Bardarbunga you only get the quake swarm and tremor and no ground rise indication of magma rising to erupt – in 1996 it just happened. Yes, they had the quakes and an eruption was considered immanent, but the lack of ground distortion and lack of implied magma rise and lack of implied pressurisation took them by surprise. So much so that at least one paper examining this was written about how to explain it.
Below is the partial abstract text from the paper and webpage created to draw attention to how peculiar this is at Bardarbunga, namely, how can so much energy release, materials injection result in so little effective signs of displacement before the eruption occurred?
“Abstract A volcanic earthquake with Mw 5.6 occurred beneath the Bárdarbunga caldera in Iceland on 29 September 1996. This earthquake is one of a decade-long sequence of M5 events at Bárdarbunga … This indicates the absence of a net volumetric component, which is puzzling in the case of a large volcanic earthquake that apparently is not explained by shear slip on a planar fault. A possible volcanic mechanism that can produce an earthquake without a volumetric component involves two offset sources with similar but opposite volume changes. We show that although such a model cannot be ruled out, the circumstances under which it could happen are rare. …”
So, some unusual connective geometry and cavity arrangements and horizontal flexibility exists within this network which does not result in uplift before eruption – it is an extensional tectonic triple junction so of course the stress/tension vector is always to extend and expand the crust and accommodate new magma under a shallow caldera crustal roof. So no matter how much magma flows in, it will not pressurise, it will just extend.
An eruption will thus occur when the inflow rate is so high that the extension response is lagged and can not accommodate it quickly enough, and pressurisation and eruption occur anyway. In which case the eruption will be very sudden and degassing magma vector becomes directed upwards at that point, for it’s then much easier to go upward, than recompress gas to move sideways. The same can occur if the magma suffers a sudden gas decompression, it will immediately go where the shock confining pressure is least – upwards if the magma is already shallow enough.
So, the rushing magma influx implied by intense swarm and tremor is all the warning you get, the magma may shows no obvious pressurisation indications, no sign of a rise and no ground uplift before it erupts. So where Kristín Vogfjörð, research director at the Icelandic Meteorological Office says above that there is no sign at all of magma rise to the surface, the signal looking for that would typically indicate those processes, do not seem to be present at Bardarbunga.
So this system can decork without any signs that that magma is about to blast skyward. But Kristin does go on to say, “… But if it were to happen, it would happen very quickly,” Kristín states.”​
She is well aware of the peculiarity of Bardarbunga to pre-pressurising (implied from ground movement) in 1996 given she specifically referred to the circumstances of that eruption. She also said, “… For comparison she notes that thousands of quakes have been measured at Bárðarbunga in the past week, but in the Gjálpar [Gjlap] eruption in 1996 they were only a few hundred. …”
Hopefully they expressly see that the two situations are both showing no prior sign of net vertical displacement and implied pressurisation despite numerous powerful quake swarms indicating substantial magma influx.
But where is that magma currently going? Firstly into Bardarbunga itself then re-charging the fissure swarm feeder chambers, and the quakes in Kverkfjöll, including the mag 4.5 at 6 km depth under it two days ago indicates excess magma is going into it. It is also flowing into the fissure-swarm feeder cavity south west of Bardarbunga as well. It is also feeding the area north and NNW of Bardarbunga as well.
And at Grimsvötn its main magma chamber is already partially full of magma so the extra pressure coming in from Bardarbunga’s influx is causing the magma level in Grimsvötn to back up and rise again after its 2011 eruption.
Hence Grimsvötn is the only GPS station that is actually rising, as all the others as simply horizontally extending.
As a result, any eruption as this enormous system continues to fill can become especially large and episodic, as well as stir sympathetic eruptions at several volcanic centers incoming years.
Alternatively the magma influx slows and stops and it settles down and just plops off eruptions progressively over the next century or so.
But the potential now exists for something very nasty to take place with no further notice, as extensional collapse and opening of chamber structure is entirely possible as the crust continues to dilate.
It all comes down to how much longer this goes on, ~130 hrs so far, and is actually visibly intensifying:

August 21, 2014 12:53 am

Lots of very recent consistent small shallow ‘quakes’, over a large area, some high quality/confidence:
14.5 km SE of Kistufelli Mag=1.3 5 minutes ago depth 2km Quality 90.01%
15.4 km ESE of Kistufelli Mag=1.5 6 minutes ago depth 1.4km Quality 90.03%
13.7 km NW of Kverkfjöllum mag=1.4 18 minutes ago depth 1.1km Quality 60.82%
5.5 km NE of Bárðarbungu Mag=1 15 minutes ago depth 1.1km Quality 90.06%
13,7 km NW of Kverkfjöllum Mag=1.4 20 minutes ago depth 1.1km Quality 60.82%
5.5 km NE of Bárðarbungu Mag=1 21 minutes ago depth 1.1km Quality 90.06%
2.8 km E of Bárðarbungu Mag=0.7 21 minutes ago depth 1.3km Quality 44%
18.9 km NNW of Kverkfjöllum Mag=0.4 25 minutes ago depth 1.1km Quality 36.79%
This is different

August 23, 2014 8:42 am

Warning! It is believed that a small subglacial lava-eruption has begun under the Dyngjujökull glacier. The aviation color code for the Bárðarbunga volcano has been changed from orange to red.
There have been 14 Mag. 3+ quakes in the past 72 hrs. (4 in the past 6 hrs.) About 10:00 Saturday, there was an abrupt rise in the Magnitude of the quakes from the high 1s to the high 2s.
About 48 hrs ago, a second area, WSW of the first, at about long 17.4 W. The largest quakes are happening here.
A small eruption has started near Bardarbunga. Source
A small sub-glacial volcanic eruption has started near Bardarbunga volcano, under the icecap of Dyngjujökull glacier in the northern part of Vatnajökull glacier, according to the Icelandic Met Office. All air traffic is now prohibited in a large radius around the volcano.
updated on 23 August 2014, at 15.13 GMT.

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