Askja Trails Reopened in Northeast Iceland

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Askja Trails Reopened in Northeast Iceland

Askja rockfall

The rockfall in Askja. Photo: Claus Sterneck.

The Civil Protection Department of Iceland has reopened those trails near the crater lake Öskjuvatn in Askja, a popular tourist destination in the northeastern highlands, which were closed when a large rockslide fell into the lake two weeks ago, causing tidal waves.

Research done by the Icelandic Met Office and the University of Iceland indicates that there is no reason to keep the trails closed any longer. The office nonetheless warns travelers of the dangers that accompany massive rockslides and consequent tidal waves.

On their webpage, the Civil Protection Department outlines a basic summary of the situation:

1. Beware of the danger associated with tidal waves in Öskjuvatn that rockslides into the lake can cause and which can threaten people standing close to the water.

If people notice falling rocks near the lake they are advised to move away from the edge of the lake immediately, and up the sides of the crater. A tidal wave takes 1-2 minutes to cross the lake.

2. There is no evidence of increased volcanic activity in Askja in connection with the rockslide.

3. There is no evidence of increased seismic activity in Askja in connection with the rockslide.

4. There is no visible evidence to indicate that further rockslides are an imminent danger. At the location where the rockslide originated a disturbance can be seen in the layers which could in time move and become a rockslide, but there is no way to tell whether that will be next month, next year, or decades from now.

Additionally, there are cracks in an area about 30-50 meters (98-164 feet) wide on either side of the rockslide. There could be further rockslides there, but they would almost certainly be much smaller than the one that happened on July 21.

Therefore tourists are warned against traveling in the areas directly adjacent to the location of the rockslide, but those areas are unfrequented regardless, and so that restriction should not have much of an impact.

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