Bardarbunga eruption has started- Maybe NOT

Or at least not yet

The earthquake swarm at Bardarbunga is still ongoing. And we just saw an earthquake 5,3 but that has not been checked as i write this. (2:33 CET)

Credit: IMO

Credit: IMO

But other than the aviation code was set to red and flights have been detoured around Iceland there is no proof that an eruption, even if only a subglacial eruption has started.
IMO states a warning: There are no indications that the eruption is running under Dyngjujökli. Color code for the flight will remain red which can not be excluded that the eruption is imminent.

The warning will be kept up till at least noon on Sunday.

RUV shows a video were an expert states he does not believe even a small eruption has started yet:

Sansstorm at the Mila sam Bardabunga (1)

Sandstorm at the Mila cam Bardarbunga (1)

It took a lot of convincing by Irpsit, Islander and others till the crowd started to believe what they see on the Mila cam is a sandstorm and not steam or ash from an ongoing eruption.

Even though Carl published his post a little more than 12 hours ago, his post got 1k comments till now. He might not be available for some more hours and so i decided to sum up what the crew discussed. Many of them are far more an expert than me. I am just a volcanoholic who happens to be a dragon 😉

Cbus was the first to start…

Cbus: Anyone think this may be a false alarm?
Its not that I doubt IMO, they’re the pros here, but if this is an eruption starting from Dyngjuhals, shouldn’t we be seeing much more shallow earthquakes? Of the confirmed quakes in this area, we’re still seeing extremely deep depths (10+km). The significant development is that the swarm jumped 5km north in a very quick fashion.
As for the huge tremor spike, here is an easy explanation: After the swarm broke through a road block where it had been stalled at a length of around 25 km long, it finally expanded approximately 5 more kilometers in a very short time. This is where the current green stars come from on the map. But more importantly, once the rock was fractured enough to open the fissure, you get a tall fissure of magma traveling almost 5 kilometers in a very short time. That = tons of volcanic tremor. Now that the extension of that swarm has gone back to normal levels, the tremor has dropped.
Once again, not doubting that a small eruption has started, but I would have thought we should see more flooding / shallow quake activity if that were the case.

Looking at this image, the entire yellow section is new expansion that took place within a few hours. i just think maybe the crazy amount of noise that came when magma intruded into this dike set off the false alarms, although I wouldn’t doubt phreatic eruptions occurred as a result of magma intruding into this area.”

Irpsit lives in Iceland and shares Cbus doubts.

Bárdarbunga as Irpsit drove near it last Tuesday, about 60km away near Jokulheimar and Hamarinn. It’s a giant white dome, some 15km wide. 2000m altitude.

Bárdarrbunga as Irpsit drove near it last Tuesday, about 60km away near Jokulheimar and Hamarinn.
It’s a giant white dome, some 15km wide. 2000m altitude.

Irpsit:” I have a feeling that since every day the dike seems nearer the surface (10km a few days ago, 3km today), that a fissure eruption is going to start in just a couple of days from now.
Also I also see that every passing day the intrusion progresses northeastwards. Today the dike was just 3km away from the edge of the ice cap. At this rate, it will erupt partially outside of the ice cap, in ice-free land.
So my guess now is for a 10km long fissure eruption occurring in 2 days, part explosive/ash, part just lava fountains. Eventually, the tip of the fissure becomes a small shield volcano eruption, around 0.1-0.5 km3. Either that, or we will see this build-up for months and the episode is going to involve much larger volumes of magma, 1-10km3.
So far, we have seen a dike around 30km max. In Laki it was a dike around 70km or even more. We could get there of course, if this activity persists for weeks.
Still I think the region is more prone to a large shield eruption than a large Laki-like eruption. Just check the area and you find the historical/geological evidence.”

So, has an eruption started or is it about to start or …
No idea.. time will tell!
Geolurking shared some insights:
GeoLurking: A 4.7 in normal mode faulting has enough energy to open a fault face 3.2 km in width. That’s 1.59 km below and above the hypo center depth. At a 2 km depth, that would put the top of he fault plane at about 0.4 km below the surface. And about 3.5 cm wide, on average.
The surface manifestation of the quake could be about 2.19 long, if it reached the surface. The subsurface rupture length would be about 2.95 long.(Using Wells-Coppersmith)
The total area of the fault face would be about 9.64 km² and average 3.24 cm wide.

Image from Twitter which will help explaining what is where.
On the youtube live stream a (lets be nice and call it) discussion started and we dragons are glad that happens on Youtube and not on VC.

I took this image showing the inside flanks of Caldera de Taburiente La Palma today and thought i ´d share it so people can see what a dyke ( or a sill) looks like. Can you see the lines with differently colored rock. Earthquakes opened fissures and those were filled with magma. Erosion worked differently on rocks with different density. Now some of the lines stand out and are clearly visible
This shows what is happening deep under the glacier right now. ( Not the erosion, the intrusion 😉 )

Islander ( also called head of the imagery and flight department of the Vc institute 😉 ) flew over the region today and shot the following imaged especially for VC. All rights belong to him.

This is general overview of all Bárðarbunga north side face, involved in todays eruption alert is area in top center and towards Kverkfjöll in distance. Bárðarbunga Volcano is so HUGE it can not be caught in one photo unless its is wide angle (24 mm here). Shot from motorglider aircraft TF-SAA by Eggert Norðdahl, especially for VC, courtesy of pilot Dr. Ásgeir Bjarnason (Icelandic Gliding Club) steering.

All rights reserved Eggert Norðdahl, shot especially for VC.

All rights reserved   Eggert Norðdahl, especially for VC.

There were fireworks in Iceland today but just fireworks visible at the Jökursarlon cam


Screenshot from the Mila webcam

Screenshot from the Mila webcam Jökulsarlon

Mila Webcam screenshot by Sissel

Mila Webcam screenshot by Sissel

Thanks to all the commenters, without them i could not have written an update on the situation which causes so much interest.
Spica (devoted dragon but non expert)

Here is the update on the seismicity around Bardarbunga since August the 16th

Shows earthquake location and magnitude from August 16th to 24th – stops around 8h30 IMO time.
Magnitude scale is shown on the side.
The colorbar gives date and terrain elevation
Data is from IMO with a 98% quality filter.
Terrain data from NOAA etopo1 with icecaps.
Made with Gnu Octave

905 thoughts on “Bardarbunga eruption has started- Maybe NOT

    • I think it’s moving faster because it’s found a pre-defined pathway, ie one of Askja’s old dykes. 🙂

      • better map, for comparing with Down Unders eq plot above, is
        fig 12 page 37 of pdf

      • As far as I can tell, 64:95′ is the same latitude where the “stars” of the dike intrusion are most concentrated.

        • Hi Ian. You need to grab the IMG code to embed an image here – it’s the second one in the list:


          The you simply delete the [IMG] from the front and the [/IMG] from the end, place the code on a separate line, all by itself, and voila!

        • trajectory looks bang on !
          I wonder if they share the same tectonic rifting?
          There’s not a lot of rifting described south of Askja so the alignment may not be purely coincidental.

          • The tip of the Thorvalds Hraun fissure is cut off in that superimposition. The fig 12 of the thesis ( ‘skemman’ pdf above) shows the tip to be as far south as the southern edge of the circular Vadalda mountain where the webcam is, So the distance to union is about 6km.
            Grandstand view if they meet!

  1. Hello all. I started lurking here after finding this site close to the start of the latest events and have really enjoyed the conversation and information provided. I work in IT in Louisville, KY, USA so I don’t have much connection to the events in Iceland except that I find the whole thing to be intensely fascinating and my work productivity over the last week has suffered a bit from following updates from all of the various sources. I want to thank the contributors, operators and moderators of this site for making it a great place for people like me to come and learn and converse.

    I have also been following a volcanologist who does work in Iceland that I found on Twitter for more perspectives and insight on the situation and I wanted to share his latest string of tweets which I’ve concatenated together and formatted a bit. His name is Dave McGarvie and he is on twitter as @subglacial

    “There are 2 areas of activity: (1) NE dyke is still moving with EQs at 5-13 km; (2) caldera area, with two recent M5+ EQs. Caldera EQs interpreted as due to ‘settling’ as magma flows from under caldera into the dyke [ link from his tweet removed]. If M5+ caldera EQs are due to ‘settling’ linked to magma flow into dyke, this is good news if it’s depleting a finite chamber. Visualise this. Full cafetiere with horizontal pipe at base filled with foam. Push down to get coffee moving into pipe. The lid you push down is the sinking caldera ‘roof’ and horizontal foam-filled pipe the dyke moving ~NE. Magma is coffee. The chamber-dyke interpretation by IMO. Several events like this during 1975-84 Krafla Fires (c.17). All led to dykes. And there was no powerful explosive eruption at the main volcano (Krafla). A few dykes surfaced to form fissure eruptions. If the chamber-to-dyke model is correct (i.e. Krafla-like), and there’s no game-changer, then it’s a ‘good-case’ scenario. But there is still potential for disruptive local effects, especially if surfacing magma encounters and melts ice. Floods.”

    He also has two blog entries about Barbarbunga which I enjoyed reading. I don’t really have an opinion either way, I just like to watch the discussion and follow the events. The theory he presents, which I believe is the current IMO explanation does make a lot of sense. However, from a layman’s perspective it leaves some questions. Namely, what started the event? It seems that if the caldera and the magma chamber below were presumably at some sort of equilibrium state prior to the event it would have needed a trigger. Perhaps some tectonic movement weakened the radial rift or changed the pressure which caused the magma to push out into it, resulting in caldera roof subsidence, more pressure and rifting and creating a feedback loop and getting further fed by built up tectonic strain. The finite magma thought would offer some comfort to those in area of immediate impact, however I wonder if all the movements and energy released could also have the potential to release or tap into other sources of energy like rifting to fresh magma sources or releasing more built up strain (the dyke that broke the camel’s back?).

    Anyway, forgive my newbie speculation. Just trying to make sense of a vast and complicated system with many factors yet unknown. 🙂

    • Thank you Lee . A very clear and sensibly written comment on IMO thinking. Good to know that similar chamber to Dyke activity has been studied during the Kraftla Fires. I think I ought to go an read up on them again.

  2. It’s past my bedtime and I’m yawning…. 😕 Before I go, I have one more message to post:

    ☀*¨*•♫★ ░H░A░P░P░Y░░B░I░R░T░H░D░A░Y░░C░A░R░ L░★♫•*¨*☀

    May you all have a very happy and interesting day. 🙂

  3. Not sure if this has been posted yet, I may have missed it, but here is a youtube livestream channel of

    CAM1: Bardarbunga (front of the cam), Iceland
    [private camera, no link]

    CAM2: Kverkfjöll, Iceland (delayed)
    [link to vedur…is removed]

    CAM3: Bardarbunga, Iceland (live)

          • Not sure, but I had my directions wrong. SGSIG is going southeast, and DYNC is going northwest, pretty nice display of pulling apart a seam…..

            The south movement at the end looks like a reversal of DYNC, though.

            • The reversal is just due to the intrusion in the beginning pushing DYNC north since it was south of the GPS, but now the intrusion is North of DYNC pushing it south.

  4. From IMO:
    The most recent GPS measurements indicate continuation of magma flowing into the dyke under
    Dyngjujökull. This is supported by the current seismic activity at Dyngjujökull ice edge. Model
    calculations suggest that a total volume of 270 million cubic meters have intruded into the crust
    since the activity started.

      • If the inflow stays at the current level, it’ll be enough for a VEI-4 eruption by next weekend (assuming 90% stays in the ground). But if anything, it seems to be picking up pace. But anything major seems to be a long way off and will require some positively titanic geology, by the standards of what we’re seeing right now. This weekends rate of intrusion would need to keep up for half a year or so to get a VEI-6.

        But who knows. Maybe this IS how long it’s going to keep up …

        • My nature is to avoid alarmism. What has me concerned are the two large quakes that occured in or really close to the Barda crater. If they were reverse mode faulting, that could indicate subsidence of some sort. I have yet to verify the beach balls, but having something like that happening over a draining chamber would probably not be a good thing… the last thing we need is to have water dumped into the area recently drained of magma.

    • in other words, peanuts.
      But like Mike was saying earlier, I don’t think this is where the fat lady sings. Much more critical will be how the system evolves once an eruption is underway.

      • Dear Bruce,
        First of all: you’re very kind. Thanks very much for your attention.
        I already read your article (which is great and very elucidative, by the way), and it clarified some of my doubts.
        After everything I’ve read here, I have one certain: what’s going to happen is just unpredictable…

        There are two things that scare me: 1. Not being able to fly to London – in other words, having my trip cancelled. If I get stuck there, I surely won’t matter! 🙂 But I’m worried that British Airways might prohibit flights from other countries.
        2. Getting caught in an ash cloud while flying. I’m afraid this could happen and having my plane crashed… I know I can be overeacting, but I just can’t help it… 😦

        Anyway, I’ll keep reading the news, studying the subject and trying to be positive.

        Again: I really don’t want to seem selfish, because I know this is a huge event that can cause big damages, specially to Icelanders.

        So – and this is directly to GEOLOCO – I’ll keep praying for Icelanders, because unfortunatelly there is nothing else I can do.
        But I’m also glad the Icelanders rather chose to act and do what is necessary to be prepared.

        Bruce, thanks again. You’re being very patient and gentle with me. Hope you’re at a safe place. XXOO

  5. What would be interesting is if the dike meets up with the Askja fissure swarm. Something tells me if that happens, it won’t be pretty.

  6. Now two earthquakes popped also up in the Tjörnes Fracture Zone (TFZ) in the North. They are already checked by IMO, and are nearly identical. TFZ is also reacting due to the stress build up?

    24.08.2014___18:04:48___66.254___-16.644___7.4 km___1.9___99.0___10.1 km WSW of Kópasker
    24.08.2014___17:57:04___66.254___-16.656___6.5 km___1.9___99.0___10.5 km WSW of Kópasker

    • And from IMo
      Earthquake count:

      Magnitude less than 1 in all: 315
      Magnitude 1 to 2 in all: 1192
      Magnitude 2 to 3 in all: 522
      Magnitude more than 3 in all: 55
      Total: 2084

  7. Fabulous article to read, that puts things into context and can give us a window of what it to come

    Eight centuries of periodic volcanism at the center of the Iceland hotspot revealed by glacier tephrostratigraphy Laesen et al (1998)
    {tweaked by a dragon}

    Basically, at a hotspot peak every 140 years, activity rises at Vatnajokull and there is at least one episode of rifting in Vatnajokull, one episode of rifting elsewhere in Iceland, and also seismic crises at same time in south Iceland transform zone. Sometimes the rifting occurs without eruptions too. It’s like every 140 years, rifting occurs in most of Iceland for a few years or decades and then things go relatively quiet for about 50 to 80 years.

    This peak is just around now. And this why we see this.

  8. GPS at DYNC shows 19cm west movement, and a reversal of the 5cm north movement, now it already moved 1cm south, this is because the dike is moving northwards.

    Grimsvotn still continues at 8cm southwards.

    I estimated around 35-40cm of rifting. That’s almost half a meter, and about 1/4th of a normal fissure eruption.

    This means at this rate the eruption will likely happen around 1 month after the start of the rifting event. This is around 16th September. If it continues for a few months, then we will be into a Laki or Veidivotn-like scenario. If it erupts by September then it would be similar of the scale of 1862 rifting event, or slightly larger than Krafla fires.

    There is a possibility that it erupts earlier, in smaller scale, when the dike reaches about 60km, as it loses intensity. Or otherwise it triggers an eruption at Askja. Or it continues for a longer time, and it triggers a caldera event at Bardarbunga.

    At this point, everything is possible, all options are on the table.

  9. The dyke swarm appears to be having a halt in any further forward progress. Has it hit the immovable object? I doubt it, probably needs to build up more pressure.

    • Looks like it is heading north again.
      24.08.2014 18:54:38 64.843 -16.852 10.1 km 3.8 99.0 18.2 km ENE of Kistufell

  10. Given that IMO says its Bardarbunga’s Magma chamber emptying into the dike and lets assume there is no fresh lava from underneath the dyke. Could that Lava even fill all the dyke we seen so far? I have no clue on the size of the magma camber but the dyke seems quite big.

    • I have the feeling even IMO isn’t totally sure of things and is doing a bit of speculation. Just shows how complicated this event is.

      • I like this bit.

        “Overnight, the intrusion migrated outside the margin of the Dyngjujokull outlet glacier, and the northernmost tip of the seismic activity is now about 4 kilometers north of the margin of the glacier. The propagation seems to have slowed, but is still continuing. Several strong earthquakes larger than magnitude 3 have occurred at the tip of the intrusion today. One interpretation could be that the magma is hitting colder and more resistive rock as it migrates further away from the volcano, but this is only an idea so far.“

        Seems to explain the current slowdown too.

  11. oh exciting but slightly anxious times.
    IF we do get an eruption perhaps we should name it something simple like you did with BOB

    • If it causes an outburst flood, it should have the name of Gjalp’s sister Greip. If not, maybe we just call it “Carl’s Hat.” in whatever Icelandic equivalent it would be.

    • I like Kevin for a name. I named a cockerel Kevin, he had big outbursts but deep down he was just a pussycat..

    • Since we’re looking at a marriage between Bárðarbunga and Askja, how about Askba’s Wedding? (I originally thought Askba’s Roar but ‘wedding’ seems more appropriate) 🙂

      Mind you, I do like “Carl’s Hat” (maybe Carl’s BBQ Hat since he has the recipe! 😕 ) and “Kevin” does have that certain…. something… 😀

  12. RÚV reporters in the field:

    This morning:

    Just a couple of quick requests from Down Below

    1) if you add more than three links to your comment it automatically goes into the ‘pending’ folder (otherwise known as the Dungeon). A Dragon then has to manually approve and release it

    2) please do not use shortcut links such as ‘’ or ‘’ etc. They have been a source of problems in the past and are not encouraged here as they can carry trouble for us all. Please use the full link

    Thanks 🙂

  14. @ GeoLurking 18:35

    arjanemm comment on the beach balls below.

    Also i haven’t read of BB having a crate lake, even if that appears strange, but if true there would have to be first an eruption to melt enough ice, assuming that what is in the roof by default is a long shot off the hook. And then there will still be close to 700m of ice on top of it .

    What i am wondering is how much rhyolite is being remobilized as a result of depressurization (beyond just more bubbles). That might potentiate a phreatomagmatic event, but i guess to really explode it would require an intrusion from below. Also the intrusion that blew Katla had to have a pretty special composition to react optimally, and it wasn’t basaltic at all. According to GVP known ejecta are either rhyolite or basalt, no intermediate magmas.


    Juggling here, what do i know?

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