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NASA Footage Shows Widening of Öræfajökull Cauldron

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NASA Footage Shows Widening of Öræfajökull Cauldron

Photo: Dagmar Trodler

The cauldron in the main crater of Öræfajökull has grown wider, as well as crevasses becoming clearer in the ice-covered volcano, the Volcanology and Natural Disasters Group of the University of Iceland reports. This turn of events in the glacier became clear after comparing images taken of Öræfajökull on the 17th of November and 10th of December.

There has been increased activity around Öræfajökull in 2017, such as small tremors in the area which started last August. The Aviation Colour Code of the United States had previously been raised to yellow on the 17th of November after the ice-cauldron in the main crater had appeared. The Icelandic Meteorological Office had previously raised its safety code to yellow.

A radar-equipped aircraft will fly over Öræfajökull today to assess the current size and depth of the cauldron, as well as assessing the amount of water that has melted from the glacier, RÚV reports.

A special permission from NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was granted for the photos, which come from the Landsat 8 observation satellite. The University of Iceland and the Icelandic Meteorological Office had requested this in order to survey the area. This is necessary in order to monitor the volcano during the darkest months of winter.

Landsat 8 does not, under normal circumstances, take pictures when the solar angle is low. This means that the satellite does not take photos in December and January in the Northern Hemisphere at higher latitudes, where Iceland is situated.

Authorities have been carefully monitoring the Öræfajökull volcano, which has not erupted for 289 years. Öræfajökull, which can be translated as 'Wasteland Glacier', has the highest peak in Iceland - Hvannadalshnjúkur which has an elevation of 2109.6 metres (6,921 feet). Öræfajökull gathers its name from its eruption in 1372, as it was renamed after the eruption which desolated the nearby area. The volcano that was once known as Knappafellsjökull know had the name Öræfajökull. The word 'öræfi' is translated as wasteland in Icelandic.

Öræfajökull is within the boundaries of the Vatnajökull National Park. Vatnajökull (Water Glacier) is the largest ice cap in Iceland as it covers around eight percent of the land.

In this image, from the Volcanology and Natural Disasters Group of the University of Iceland, 'ketill' is the cauldron, and 'sprungur' are the crevasses. The image on the left is from the 17th of November, 2017 and the image on the right is from the 10th of December, 2017.

The text in the top right of the image reads: "The crevasse formation has densified and the cauldron has widened considerably in the time between the pictures, as well as the shape having transformed from circular to oblong".

A larger version of the photo can be viewed in the original post posted by the Volcanology and Natural Disasters Group of the University of Iceland.

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