Will the Magma Flow North to Askja Volcano?

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Will the Magma Flow North to Askja Volcano?

Map showing center of earthquakes

Map showing center of earthquakes moving north. Photo: Jóhannes Benediktsson

Volcanologist Haraldur Sigurðsson claims that it is possible that the underground magma from Bárðarbunga may seep into the volcanic system of Askja volcano and ignite a powerful eruption in that region. Still, he thinks it is more likely that the current activity will not lead to any activity above ground.

Haraldur talked to reporters at Stöð 2 and RÚV yesterday and reminded them of the Askja eruption in 1875, which led to years of hardship in Iceland and contributed to the massive exodus of Icelanders to America.

The center of the seismic activity has moved north, from below Vatnajökull glacier towards the Askja region. The activity is quite deep, about 10 to 15 kilometers (6-9 miles) below the surface. Haraldur said the activity may be going deeper still. If so, that would reduce the possibility of an eruption.

He stresses that even though the activity seems to be moving towards north that does not guarantee that an eruption will not start under the glacier with an accompanying flood. When asked when an eruption might start, he replied: “I don’t know, nobody knows, you can really answer that as well as I can.”

The accompanying map by Jóhannes Benediktsson shows how the earthquake activity has moved since August 16. The numbers refer to the date and the size of the cubes shows the average size of the quakes, which are located at the center of the activity. It is clear that the activity has been moving north.

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