An earthquake of magnitude 5.5 shook the area to the northeast of Bárðarbunga this morning at 5:28 am.
The probability of an eruption in Bárðarbunga is now thought to be increased due to a steady lowering of the surface above the volcano’s crater. This greatly worries scientists and Civil Protection Department representatives, ruv.is reports.
An eruption in Bárðarbunga, which lies underneath Vatnajökull glacier, could potentially be massive, emitting high quantities of ash into the air, according to geophysicist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson. The glacial melt water would ultimately break out as a great flood in one of the glacial rivers. This is the scenario which the Civil Protection Department is preparing for.
Landsvirkjun national power company has moved water between its reservoirs to minimize risk, should a major flood occur. Víðir Reynisson, director of the Civil Protection Department, told mbl.is that it would be of major importance to know where a possible eruption might take place.
Toxic gases make it very difficult to operate at the eruption site and access is very limited, even to scientists, who are required to wear gas masks when they work in the area. The gases can be life-threatening.