Possible eruption at Bárðarbunga

The almost obscenely inconspicious volcano of Bárdarbunga seen in all it's icy glory.

The almost obscenely inconspicious volcano of Bárdarbunga seen in all it’s icy glory.

First of all let me say this, it is only IMO and Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra that has the authority to officially declare an eruption in Iceland and issue warnings. Untill they have officially released a warning for an eruption there has been no confirmation.

That being said, below follows what I think is happening currently at Bárðarbunga.

Official warnings

There has so far just been two warnings issued and that is for a potential Jökulhlaup and about a magmatic intrusion. If a medium to large eruption takes place a large Jökulhlaup could burst out and inundate land around the rivers and could be a potential danger to the locals. Here are the warnings issued by Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra:

“The National Commissioner of Police and the District Commissioner of Police at Hvolsvöllur and Húsavík have declared a Civil Protection Uncertainty phase due to unrest in Bárðarbunga.”

“Scientists says August 17 at 1000. The earthquakes that began at 3 am yesterday morning continue. The activity has shifted and is now in two clusters, north and east of Bárðarbunga. Scientists believe that the activity is caused by magma activity in the Earth’s crust. No signs yet that the eruption has started. Nothing can be ruled out that the chain of events that is now underway will lead to an eruption outside the glacier or beneath it. Eruptions under glaciers could lead to flooding in the rivers that flow from it. Scientists and the Civil Authorities closely monitor the situation and the uncertainty warning is still valid.”


Earthquake distribution map from IMO.

Earthquake distribution map from IMO.

The earthquake swarm continues unabated in and around the volcano. It has been noted that the activity is centering on several place and the picture is confusing to put it mildly. So far there have been 853 earthquakes in total with 108 earthquakes between M2 and M3 and 7 earthquakes larger than M3.

The 7 M3+ earthquakes have taken place at different spots, 4 of them is along the Dyngjuháls fissure swarm near Kistufell. 2 are east and east-southeast of Bárðarbunga, and one is a Kverkfjöll. The first four at Dyngjuháls points towards a possible eruption in this area, it is a common spot for Bárðarbunga fissure eruptions.

There are though 3 more earthquake foci, one running ESE from Bárðarbunga, another running towards Kverkfjöll and the third is running from Hamarinn towards Grimsvötn.

Harmonic tremor

Image by IMO, the current seimic and tremor signals at the DYN SIL-station.

Image by IMO, the current seimic and tremor signals at the DYN SIL-station.

So far there is no clear harmonic tremor signal on the SIL-network; there have though been what looks like pulses that could have been gas release in rising magma.


Hamarinn GPS (HAFS) from Sigrún Hreinsdottirs page. Note the sudden jolt southwards, westwards and up. Click on image for large scale image.

Hamarinn GPS (HAFS) from Sigrún Hreinsdottirs page. Note the sudden jolt southwards, westwards and up. Click on image for large scale image.

Image from Sigrún Hreinsdottirs page. Notice the rapid jolt northwards. Click on image for large scale image.

Image from Sigrún Hreinsdottirs page. Notice the rapid jolt northwards. Click on image for large scale image.

I normally say that you need at least 3 data points to be sure of a GPS-trend, and that 5 is preferable. In this case we have 1 data point at two different GPS-stations. Even though it is too little the amount of motion and the direction of motion is of such a dignity that I think it is correct (sanity check).

What they are showing is a magmatic intrusion at depth in or around the central volcano of Bárðarbunga. Dyngjuháls GPS is going in Northerly direction and Hamarinn is being pushed to the south as you can see on the two images.

One thing here is that the GPS points to rapid inflation, and that would mean that as those data points where collected no eruption had started since that would most likely give a more stable signal, or even rapid deflation.

Eye witness reports

There are currently no eyewitness reports or no reports of anything having been spotted during the flyovers.


At this point I am fairly convinced that an eruption either has started or is about to start. The signs are just a bit too overwhelming right now.

I think that what we will be seeing is an eruption along one of the radial fissures or upwards through the Dyngjuháls main fissure swarm of Bárðarbunga. There is also a chance that we will see Dyngjuháls and one of the radial fissures erupt simultaneously and there is a possibility that the central volcano also will erupt.

It is rather unlikely, but not completely impossible that the current activity will lead to a larger rifting eruption up in the northern part of the Bárðarbunga fissure swarm (Dyngjuháls). I repeat that this is currently unlikely.

Here is a link to our Bárðarbunga links page where you will find all sorts of goodies about the volcano. The author behind the Volcanocafé Bárðarbunga is Spica. This page will be continuously updated so look there for new material daily.



573 thoughts on “Possible eruption at Bárðarbunga

  1. Blimey, have I got to sit at my PC for 35 days refreshing all my open pages, I better get a few packets of biscuits and other snacks to keep me going lol, bring on the Red Bull!!!

    • I hear you on that! I’m going to need some Red Bull myself. And I have a trip coming up in four days. *sighs* I will just have to keep tabs on this whenever I can! 😀

  2. Cbus: on my reply, why we will probably have to wait 35 days until an eruption (or it needs a string of ten M5 events or one M6 event, relating to a displacement of 75cm).

    Remember I am talking about the widescale tectonic level. I base my maths on several previous eruptions and what kind of earthquakes took place before.

    Well, Gjálp was a smaller fissure event and it started with a M5 and intense swarm after for a couple of days. I do not know how much displacement there was, but probably much less than the 1862 event (which had 1.5 m displacement; compare to 4.5m in Laki and 10m in Veidivotn). Probably the displacement at Gjálp was still many cms, which fits very well with the cumulative seismic release (one M5 and many other smaller quakes).

    Krafla also started with swarms up to M6.3 and several M5, so it fits my theory. Displacement at the Krafla fissure was estimated to be on average 2 meters, but there was no GPS data to measure it correctly.

    Fimmvodurhals was a very minor fissure event, Eyjafjallajokull started with 2-3 months of swarms, but the swarms were frequent but weak, and guess what, the GPS stations only measured 5cm of max displacement. It was a weak rifting/displacement event.

    And we know that for Laki, on the other extreme (4.5 meters of displacement), there were weeks with many M5 events, possibly even M6 events. Geolurking had a very calculation on this some months ago. Krafla and Gjálp were much smaller and also started with at least M6 and M5 events, respectively.

    So I stand by my prediction. I assume this is a rifting event. And seeing the dike along a 30-40km lenght, I assume that we will see a 7-15km long fissure. So, we can estimate it basing in the previous stories of Krafla, the 1862 event and Gjálp, for different degrees of displacement, fissure lenght, and earthquake precursors.

    I still think we will need to see a M6 event (and actually Geolurking got the same number using its maths), or a string of M5 events. Or even better, a large M5.2-M5.5 event, following several days of swarms up to M4.5, and after that large quake, several M4.5-M5 aftershocks. Otherwise, this intrusion will need to keep going on for 35 days at current level, or it will stop, and then we will need another intrusion (and so we would wait months or years until the proper eruption).

    Just maths. And time will tell whether my maths are wrong.

    • Fair enough, thanks for the explanation! I hadn’t realized the data from Krafla and such, definitely helps to add confirmed historical context in here.

  3. OK, I had a deadline today, so I was a few days offline untill now; I had it to find out via the belgian media
    One I opened the site of ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ (Begian paper, sensationalist) the first headline was; ICELAND WARNS FOR ERUPTION OF A GIANT VOLCANO. Which of course immediatly got my attention. I expected the normal bullshit about Katla or so. But when I read the article I was positive surprised. The article was absolutly not sensationalistic. They even had a link to IMO in it and an (bad translated) explication of how you should pronounce Bárðarbunga : ‘b-OW-r-tha-boon-ga’. Is this correct?


    I had of course this had to happen when I’m offline for a few days. I need a few hours to catch up probably

      • Great Job. You only picked the Flemish equivalent of the Daily Mail to send our article to ( I gues you work for Iceland review, which they gave as source?). Th ‘positive’ thing is that it is the most readed paper in Flanders I think. Het Nieuwsblad is their most direct concurrent. They only used another source (Bloomberg is noted in their article). Funny thing HLN published at 18:04, Het Nieuwblad was faster and published teir article around 16:30.

        Actually the only problem I have with ”’Het Nieuwsblad’s article is the headline, unfortunatly a lot of people don’t look further/twice The title of the article of HLN is much better and says something like “Iceland count on a possible eruption of a volcano”. But they didn’t include a link to IMO, which I found the best part of the other article

  4. The situation in Bárðarbunga volcano in NW Vatnajökull glacier has not changed today. The Civil Protection scientists committee held two meetings today with earth scientists from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the University of Iceland. There is a very strong indication of magma movement east of Bárðarbunga caldera and on the edge of Dyngjujökull near Kistufell. Conductivity is high in Jökulsá á Fjöllum for the time of year.
    Around 800 earthquakes have been detected since midnight. The strongest event was at 02:37 of the magnitude 4,5.

    Civil Protection is still on Uncertainty Phase, which means that course of events has started that may lead to natural hazard in the near future. The National Commissioner of Icelandic Police (NCIP) has today met with the Prime Minister of Iceland, the Minister of Interior and government officials to consult on the issue. The NCIP also met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foreign embassies in Iceland and from key stakeholders in Iceland.

    Mountain roads North of Vatnajökull, F88 (completely) and F910 (partly), have been closed for all traffic. That includes cars, bikes and hiking. A map of the area can be seen here.

  5. <<<<<<<has a stock of chocolate and other nibbles near PC….Has lost weight running up and down stairs to check on IMO site and VC between cleaning, cooking, shopping and other chores (her "office" is on the first floor)……….Whilst humming the following music…….and thinking about explanations for strange earth behaviours…….Of course…………..Trolls or a run up to a big VC party!


    • Excellent! I loved the Pier Gint suite as a child, especially the Hall of the Mountain King. Just the music for an eruption. I got very little work done today – I was supposed to be doing stuff away from my computer but I ended up doing very little near my computer. No guesses why! 😀

      • Dunno about that. Sure, I’ve got track marks from botched IV attempts, and it made me quite angry for a while… but I’m still kicking.

        “What are you doing down there? Hanging Drywall?”

  6. https://theconversation.com/is-icelands-next-volcanic-eruption-about-to-happen-30642

    Good interview that provides an overview of the happenings here from a volcanologist in the field.

    The only question I wonder is if a Laki style eruption could form on the fissure lines north of Bardarbunga. Sure, Veidivotn south has been a historical hotspot for enormous rift eruptions, but it’s not like that’s the only area in Iceland that has seen such large rifting eruptions.

  7. Arrrrrrrgh. I am Sofaking Bored!!

    This all started since the numbness in my hand could indicative of bad stuff.

    Its not official, but at least my carotid arteries seem to be fine. Just had to sign a paper restricting my movements while im under their care. That way they have a legal out should I start shit and they have to call in swat

  8. Pingback: Wordwide volcano and earthquake news – Alert level increased to Orange at Bardarbunga volcano, Iceland

      • Oh just that the second phase of Eyjafjallajökull was a phreatomagmatic eruption so I think it will be again as it is under an icecap!

  9. Pingback: Wordwide volcano and earthquake news – Archive May 21 until August 20

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