Should we bomb Iceland's Bárðarbunga volcano?

Aerial bombing of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano was done in the past, widening the eruption crater to minimize high flying volcanic ash problems.

B18sMaunaLoaEruptionApril1940WUWT reader “magma control” writes in with this suggestion:

The USAF bombed the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa, in 1935  and 1942  to divert lava flows threatening Hilo, and again for testing in 1975-76 [1, 2].

As in Iceland magma flow and strong quakes around Bardarbunga volcano area continue and officials do not exclude a big eruption [3], we propose an immediate serious consideration of using bombing to widen the crater in case of  an eruption, in order to prevent volcanic ash reaching high and causing too many problems in air-traffic (as from the same country in 2011) and climate.

There is literature support for the idea:

Modern aerial bombing has a substantial probability of success for diversion of lava from most expected types of eruptions on Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone, if Hilo is threatened and if Air Force assistance is requested… (Bulletin Volcanologique 1980, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 727-741).”

Here is a photo from 1942, and the results in a study below:






1. Diversion of lava flows by aerial bombing — lessons from Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii J. P. Lockwood, F. A. Torgerson. Bulletin Volcanologique 1980, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 727-741

“Modern aerial bombing has a substantial probability of success for diversion of lava from most expected types of eruptions on Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone, if Hilo is threatened and if Air Force assistance is requested. The techniques discussed in this paper may be applicable to other areas of the world threatened by fluid lava flows in the future.”

2. Biplanes Bomb Hawaii Volcano 1935:



newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Maybe a tomahawks missile would be more accurate.


Why is it Americans only response to something they clearly don’t understand is it either shoot it or bomb it?


you are right. But why bomb Mouna Loa? it is an effusive eruptive volcano and dust, if it forms, falls locally not high into the atmosphere. Barbarbunga is covered in think ice which is the problem.


Avoiding a new, devastating SIX VEI (as in 1477) eruption from the same place, is an international problem and US have some experience for all to consider. Iceland-UN-EU should have ALREADY declared their fatalism and humankind must demand OPEN DIALOGUE for ANY solution as the one proposed, that does NOT worsen condition (as it will take place AFTER an eventual eruption, with no-nuclear weapons), but may decrease substantially huge and world-wide volcanic clouding problems.


I don’t understand the Pentagon the Whitehouse the IPCC, WalMart, KFC, Muck-Donald’s ……so bomb them first.

Brian H

Yeah, think ice is dangerous; it’s very crafty and sneaky!


Too bad Red Adair isn’t around to cap it.


During WW2 American bombers succeded in diverting lava from Mt. Vesuvius that was threatening Naples.

beat magma

Experience is always needed! The proposal here says: “widen the crater in case of an eruption”, that means bombing will NOT cause any eruption, tactical weapons will NOT worsen any condition, instead widening an exit hole decreases speed flow, thus we will NOT face the results of another air-traffic chaos, taking also into account that Bardarbunga gave in 1477 a very strong SIX VEI eruption, adding to the longitude of the Little Ice-age!…

beat magma

Disastrous volcanism is avertable now!
“Abrupt onset of the Little Ice Age triggered by volcanism and sustained by sea-ice/ocean feedbacks”. Gifford H. Miller et al, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 39, L02708, 2012
SOME Little Ice-Age eruptions


Yes lava was diverted, onto several villages, and the eruption continued as before.


Hawaii and Iceland are two quite different types of volcanic fields. What works for Mauna Loa may well not work too well in Iceland. The Hawaii volcanoes form over a hotspot in the oceanic crust and are usually quite round in their crates. Even a cursory glance at icelands volcanoes will tell you that they adopt a linear form associated with the separating mid-atlantic ridge.I suspect that bombing them would be useless because they appear to eject magma through rifts in the earths crust so there is no means of making the crater collapse through bombing. Just a thought.


The Hawaii volcanoes form over a hotspot in the oceanic crust and are usually quite round in their crates. Even a cursory glance at icelands volcanoes will tell you that they adopt a linear form associated with the separating mid-atlantic ridge.

Iceland is a combination of both.


Also an Islandic hotspot. The island has two types of volcanicity and many lava types. The iceland volcanoes tend to be violent because of the ice covering, giving Plinnian eruptions, but some are effusice. Barbarbunga is a stratocone under an ice sheet.

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.


Nuke it from orbit – it’s the only way to be sure.

Bárðarbunga volcano is not going to erupt. I’ve seen these predictions over the last 20+ years, and they never seem to erupt. An exception is Mount St. Helens in WA state. But there were indications of a bulge forming in addition to the multiple earthquakes.


Erm, Jon reports that it’s already started-
There’s a link in the post to a probably-overloaded webcam…
There is an incredibly massive system involved here – no telling if the whole fissure will go or not, but just saying “It won’t erupt” is not what a lot of experts are saying now…


This has my vote for most entertaining comment.


Good call…


Where do we find sacrificial Virgins to conscript?!/album/Tame+The+Volcano+Disc+1/6389178


Good luck in Iceland.

We’ll just use the middle class instead. There’s a lot more of ’em than virgins.


Better to use “billionaires” … they’re as rare as virgins and the volcano will appreciate the effort.


Virgins are scarce because of the action in Gaza.

It won’t help the actual eruption, but Iceland stopped the advance of lava that was about to finish off a town by spraying sea water on it, see


They should definitely bomb it. At night.
With some Led Zeppelin playing over really big speakers.
And lasers. There should be lasers.

Richards in Vancouver

And volume control cranked up to eleven.


The problem here is the 400m of ice on top of the crater…

Steve R


Les Francis

That would be 700 metres of ice

Greg Roane

More Thermite, then!



Jay Dunnell

What a totally awesome story. I had no idea that this had been tried. Definitely reposting this! (and a little of advertising of this site never hurts!).


I wouldn’t try that with sleeping Yellowstone.

Don’t even THINK about it! I live in Wyoming. 🙂

To get deep enough, with enough power to blow a big enough hole in the dirt and rocks abpve the (potential location of the) magma bubble underground, you’d need one of the 22,000 lb Grand Slam weapons.
Not that I’d recommend blowing the volcano at all. You’re pretending you’re able to precisely “solve” a future problem that may not occur at all by randomly trying to “make it better” ????

Owen in GA

In the case of Hawaii, it is more an attempt to disrupt and reroute lava tubes rather than stopping the eruption. It is just a matter of subtly (with really big bombs) changing path and flow characteristics. It probably wouldn’t help in Iceland, but it is true that if we were able to widen the eruption fissures, we may be able to decrease the nozzle effect that ejects matter into the flight routes. The problem is how big of an explosion would be needed and where? Rifts are a different animal then lava tubes. There is no empirical evidence to guide the decisions, but my quick back of the envelop says a tactical nuclear weapon might have enough energy to crack it enough to see some effect. Who wants to live downwind of that experiment? (not I, which is my indicator to not try it.)

Richards in Vancouver

It’s called “The Precautionary Principle”.


It would appear that the magma is heading north, deep underground, through a dike at a rate of 4km/day, as indicated by the progression of seismic activity. If it comes to the surface (big if), it will probably be via another system (the Askja system), not covered by a glacier and therefore probably less of an ash and consequent aviation issue.


August 27, 2014 at 8:20 pm
Grand Slam has been superseded by a bigger, precision guided bomb:

True, true.
But those “precise-guided” bunker-buster type weapons are not needed here. Here, the proposal is move large numbers of tons of earth. The layered concrete and steel above command bunkers is not present, and the thin (small diameter) shaped charge warheads needed to get a blast “into” underground bunkers is not desired when blasting big holes in the rock above a volcano.
And the even larger surface-blasting fuel-air explosives put the energy above ground.
But I don’t think this is a good idea in the first place.


Besides the dike vs crater difference, there’s the question of volume; Bardarbunga has been known to send out several cubic km of lava/ejecta, so I doubt that a bomb is going to blow a big enough hole to make a significant difference.
And bombing it now is a worse idea, because you’re likely to cause a much more confined eruption.

I noticed last night that Hawaii is watching an area now for possible development of lava flows.


Here’s the Best Hollywood can still do:


On a more pertinent note.
I think things are going to get pretty interesting at Bárðarbunga during the Saturday-Monday. Tides have been pretty slack the first half of the week. They get pretty rocking this weekend to Monday-Tuesday. If Bárðarbunga doesn’t go by Tuesday, it likely won’t at all.


***better bomb it now, cos it won’t make any difference later!
28 Aug: Sydney Morning Herald: Peter Hannam: Temperature hiatus periods to become a ‘thing of the past’ as emissions soar
The momentum of global warming caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases is likely to overwhelm natural cooling processes within decades, according to research by the University of NSW…
However, such “hiatuses” are increasingly unlikely if carbon emissions continue on their present trajectory, and will be “a thing of the past” by the century’s end, according to a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.
“From about 2030, it’s highly unlikely that we will get one of these cooling decades,” said Nicola Maher, a UNSW PhD-candidate and lead author of the paper. “When it does cool, it will not be enough to overcome the warming.”…
The researchers used about 30 models to simulate different events, including volcanic eruptions of the size of Krakatau, the Indonesian island that erupted in 1883 with an explosion so loud it was heard almost 5000 kilometres away…
***By 2100, assuming greenhouse emissions continue to build at the present rate, “even a big volcano like Krakatau is very unlikely to cause a hiatus”, Ms Maher said…
The threats posed by global warming were also raised by the World Bank on Wednesday.
Rachel Kyte, a vice-president of the bank and its special envoy for climate change, told a Canberra meeting the world is headed “down a dangerous path” with disruption of the food system possible as nations struggle to feed themselves…


The banking system is headed down a dangerous path with the disruption of its victims unable to render any more cash.

David Chappell

Not being in the academic mill-stream, I do find myself a little puzzled by PhD students as lead authors on papers that seem to have little direct relevance to their thesis project. Ms Maher’s CV here

Jeff Alberts

Off topic yet again.


Sadly NATO seems to be obsessed with giving people bombs and then giving the same people bombs lately, so I doubt there’s much to spare.


Editorial criticism: please get rid of the Times New Roman serif-heavy font. That’s designed for easy reading on physical paper and gives everyone a headache if they have to read it on a screen. You had Helvetica or similar for a couple of days and it was much easier on the eye.


A font with serifs that is easier to read than TNR is Georgia. I’ve read that it is as universally recognized by devices as TNR.

Russ in TX

I’ve found the site significantly easier to read in the new format. Please keep serifs either way. I keep the brightness on my monitors turned down so that it’s more like reading paper and less like reading a TV, though — might be useful tip for others in meantime.

Paul in Sweden

Don’t bomb, use lawyers. File suit for damages against the earth and demand the award in fossil fuels.

Gary Hladik

If the volcano is bombed, liability lawyers will be killing each other to get a piece of the action. 🙂

Lawyers killing each other? Mmmmmmm, Lawyers killing each other.

what happens if we bomb it WITH liability lawyers?
will time cease to exist?


I don’t know about time ceasing to exist, but they say that when you are having fun, time does slow down.

Jeff Alberts

Actually it’s the Theory of Relativity: When you’re with your relatives, time slows down. If you get enough relatives together, time actually stops (especially if Mothers-in-law are involved)

Bombing would only intensify explosive eruptions, and lava flows are not a threat on iceland, perhaps a meltflood, but in this case that water is directing into unhabited areas.
Read klemetti’s blog.

Pete of Perth

Near real-time 3D earthquake coverage + webcam of Bárðarbunga:

Thank you for not upgrading to this format –
Yes, it is on topic, but I can ‘t read it!


Cant read it, but wonderful pics
It’s well red !!! (:>))

Michael 2

If you select across it with a mouse it becomes much easier to read.


I second FergalR’s comments on the current main text font.

Hey guys, whenever there is a potential problem in another country that might impact the traveling of American citizens, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BOMB IT!



Owen in GA

But when you best tools all make a big boom, everything looks like a target….(/joke)

This story, by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV), was updated on 28, August 2014, at 02.20 GMT.
>>>Possible eruption near Bardarbunga<<<
A row of newly formed cauldrons (depressions) was spotted in the Vatnajokull glacier near the Bardarbunga volcano during a reconnaissance flight today, leading to speculation that a small eruption had begun there. Scientists estimate that 30 – 40 million cubic metres of ice have been melted.
According to a statement from the Icelandic Civil Protection Agency (CPA) early Thursday morning, three cauldrons were seen, 4 – 6 km long, 1 km wide, with a depth of 10 – 15 metres, near the southeastern rim of the Bardarbunga caldera. They are not believed to be associated with the intrusion that has been propagating to the north in recent days.
Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland´s Institute of Earth Sciences, estimated in an exclusive interview with RUV that the subglacial activity had melted 30 – 40 million cubic metres of water beneath the cauldrons. In this location, the glacial ice is hundreds of metres thick.
As the cauldrons are at a location on the watershed line between the northwestern and the southern part of Vatnajokull, there are indications that the meltwater has flowed to the nearby reservoir at Grimsvotn (another active volcanic site in Vatnajokull), about 20 km away. "But there is a large degree of uncertainty in all this, and until we fly again tomorrow over the area, it is very difficult to say something substantive about this," he added. "Circumstances at the glacier today were not favourable and we can not exclude that more cauldrons have been formed,“ Gudmundsson said. "We will hopefully know more after the reconnaissance flight tomorrow morning."
Earthquake monitoring has not revealed any signs of volcanic tremor in the area where the cauldrons were found, and there are no indications that a large eruption is underway. Monitoring of nearby glacial rivers has not shown any increase in volume or conductivity (usually a sure sign of magma-water interaction).
Cauldrons like the ones seen today are usually formed by a subglacial eruption or geothermal activity in the bedrock under the glacier.
Strong seismic activity has been detected in the area around Bardarbunga caldera since Aug. 16, with magma flowing out of the caldera to a dike intrusion propagating to the north and east of Bardarbunga. That activity is still ongoing.
Volcanic eruptions are frequent in Iceland, though they seldom cause harm to humans. The last volcanic eruption in Iceland was in 2011, when Grimsvotn, another subglacial volcano, spew a plume of ash 12 km (7 mi) into the air, leading to the cancellation of hundreds of flights internationally. A more notable eruption occured in the spring of 2010, at Eyjafjallajokull volcano, causing a major disruption of European and transatlantic flights.

>>>Possible Eruption Flood: Where Will the Water go?
BY BENEDIKT JÓHANNESSON August 28, 2014 00:38 GMT<<<
Specialists at the Iceland Met are now saying that there is no doubt that the calderas/lows are a visible sign of water melting. Specialist Sigurlaug Hjaltadóttir told RÚV that this could be due to an eruption or very great geothermal activity. She said that the calderas are east-south-east of Bárðarbunga, indicating higher possibility of an eruption.
Sigurlaug said that an eruption could possibly have started in the last few days, hence causing the icecap to melt. It is estimated that the glacier is between 400 and 600 meters thick in that location.
The big mystery is where the water might flow. A huge flood in Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river has been feared, but there is no indication that the water level has increased there. Another possibility is that the water has flooded into Grímsvötn, a glacial lake, but then the icecap on top of the lake should have risen. Measurements are not available on that yet.
Should melted water have flown into Grímsvötn lake it would be collected there before a flood would start to the south west of Vatnajökull glacier. This happened in the river Gjálp in 1996 when a bridge was swept away, hence closing the Iceland Ring road.
Víðir Reynisson at the Civil Protection told RÚV that the calderas are located more to the south than expected. Hence, it is difficult to predict where a possible flood would come out, to the north or south of Vatnajökull.
Víðir said that the weather had made it difficult to make some observations during a flight this afternoon, but that the calderas/lows seem to have been formed, several kilometers long and quite wide. It is difficult to explain by anything else than considerable heat below the ice.
“We might not have the results for certain until tomorrow morning when we can fly over the glacier again.”
When asked whether an eruption had started Víðir replied:
“It is difficult to say, but if these changes are sudden it is difficult to say what else it could be than an eruption. It was difficult to see this evening, but the lows were not there on Saturday. What scientists are looking into is that a lot of water should be formed when the ice is melting. We need time to evaluate the data.”
Víðir continued by stating that the instruments of the Iceland Met show great earthquake activity.

From the Icelandic Coast Guard.
Aerial view of the caldera. 27 August 2014 18:53 GMT

Dr. Strangelove

Hawaiian volcanoes are shield volcanoes that undergo non-explosive eruptions. Icelandic volcanoes are cone volcanoes known for explosive eruptions. Once a cone volcano has built up gas pressure inside, bombing it might trigger an explosive eruption as it weakens the cap rock. Like shaking a champagne bottle then pulling the cork halfway.
It might work when cone volcano is quiet, no pressure buildup. With enough nuclear bombs it is possible to flatten a volcano. There’s no economic incentive to do it. Mining companies have literally flattened hills to extract minerals using conventional explosives and heavy equipment.


Thanks for darkening the main text.

Scientists told us in the morning radio news that a volcaninic activity must have caused the visible changes in the surface, including the 4 to 6 km rifts and depressions.
The problem however is that no harmonic tremor has been detected.

Location of the depressions and rifts that were visible yesterday:×351/myndir/sigkatlar_klukkan_23_52_agust_27_0.jpg


Who is this “we”? This seems like a very over prescribed solution to a problem that will take care of itself if “we” just sit back and wait with our cameras ready. It reminds me of the story about the guy who was diagnosed with a case of Hong Kong dong and the ensuing great consensus urgency among US doctors to amputate it vs waiting the usual two weeks for it to fall off. Old joke with a lesson to relearn.

Left: Radar image from yesterday at 16:00 GMT
Right: For comparision; ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) satellite image of the site Nov. 2000.×351/myndir/ratsja.png
Source: at 07:37 GMT = Local time

Steve R

Should “we” bomb Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano? Depends on who you mean by “We”? And for that matter, the answer might also depend on the wishes of the Icelandic people. Can’t very well bomb a sovereign in the 21st century just because it would be fun to play with their volcano.


The other thing is that with volcanoes “there’s more where that came from”…. Iceland sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and also has a mantle hotspot beneath it. I also read that there is plate activity nearby (subduction?) and so there are plenty of processes in play to generate fresh magma.
This “prevention” idea was brought up briefly on one of the volcano blogs (volcanocafe?) and it was noted that the forces in play are orders of magnitude higher than any device(s) we could throw at it. Not to mention the radioactive waste, etc., that would result. Hot, ejected, airborne, radioactive magma/ash anyone?


With all the ice over the volcano and the magma building below there could be one BIG POP.
I hope it blows it’s top way into the stratosphere soon.

Since you asked, my answer to the question is, “No.”

beat magma

It seems that documentaries, blogs and other works, aren’t enough yet to fill the education gaps on the devastating results of an eventual volcanic winter over a confused humankind:

There is no need to bomb the caldera. An earthquake of magnitude 5 in the caldera was felt in Akureyri town a few minutes ago. Akureyri is 100km north of Bárðarbunga. I guess that the energy released is much more than from some man made bombs.
You may be interested in this: Man Against Volcano – Eruption on Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland.
See page 13: Control of the Lava Flows.
Also a short video:
1973 Iceland Volcanic Eruption

>>>Flood from Bárðarbunga May Be Imminent<<<
Iceland Review
BY BENEDIKT JÓHANNESSON August 28, 2014 07:52Updated: August 28, 2014 08:56 GMT / Local Time
As reported, geophysicist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson said that a significant amount of ice has melted in Vatnajökull, yet earthquake monitors show no signs of a big eruption in Bárðarbunga.
“Around 30-40 million cubic meters [1,1-1,4 billion cubic feet] of water have flowed from under there but we don’t know whether this has been happening in the past days or just today [yesterday]. However, by what we can see on earthquake monitors there are no indications of a great volcanic eruption taking place,” Magnús stated.
“We don’t know what has happened with this water, whether it is flowing somewhere now or whether it has flowed down to Grímsvötn. We will have to find out once further observations have been made, he concluded.
After carrying out a surveillance flight on TF-SIF yesterday, scientists said that a row of four 10-15 m deep cauldrons (also known as lows or calderas) have formed in Vatnajökull glacier, cautiously indicating that an eruption may have started or may already have taken place.
Should the water flow to Grímsvötn, glacial lakes on Vatnajökull, that might indicate a possible flood to the south or southwest of the glacier as happened in Gjálp in 1996 when a bridge was swept away, thus closing the Icelandic Ring Road temporarily.
Up until now, most scientists and the Civil Protection Department have worried about a big flood in Jökulsá á Fjöllum, a glacial river to the north of Vatnajökull.
A new surveillance flight is planned at 9:00 am this morning.
The area directly north of Vatnajökull is still closed for safety reasons.

James (Aus.)

The Canadian Avro Lancaster VR-A will soon be heading back from Lincolnshire to Hamilton, Ontario. To defray costs, I suggest a Barnes Wallis Grand Slam bomb (22,000 lb) be dropped from it prior to landing at Keflavik to “loosen up” the ice cap. Get the Icelanders to throw in 100,000 GBP.
This would combine a useful experiment with some nostalgia involving the mighty Lanc.
You know it makes sense..


James, The Lancaster was in Reykjavik a few weeks ago. I look forward to see them drop the Dambuster 🙂

By the way, the surface of the glacier has not changed since yesterday. Maybe there was a small eruption August 23 when the seismometers showed this:comment image?oh=5689f6af1ec7f047e3f7adaede7b4405&oe=546C0481

James (Aus.)

“James, The Lancaster was in Reykjavik a few weeks ago. I look forward to see them drop the Dambuster 🙂 ”
Indeed, Agust, I tracked it to Keflavik on the flight from Goose Bay.
Many thanks for the excellent video.

The Aviation Color Code for the volcano Askja was changed from green to yellow this morning: See map:

Bloke down the pub

neville August 27, 2014 at 7:20 pm
Considering the USAAF’s reputation for the accuracy of their bombing during WW11, it’s amazing they hit the right volcano.