Holuhraun Eruption: Status Report


Holuhraun Eruption: Status Report

Lava at Holuhraun

Photo: Jóhannes Benediktsson.

The largest earthquakes at Bárðarbunga last night measured magnitude 3.6 at 12:11 am, magnitude 3.7 at 12:14 am and magnitude 3.8 at 2:27 am. There have been no major changes in seismic activity, according to the latest update on the website of the Icelandic Met Office.

Stable subsidence is seen on the GPS in the Bárðarbunga caldera.

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management’s National Crisis Coordination Center’s status report from 12:30 yesterday afternoon included the following conclusions:

The eruptive activity at Holuhraun continues at similar intensity. The lava flows at slower rates than it did yesterday. The lava is now spreading more to the sides and there is less visible activity is in the eruptive craters.

The subsidence of the Bárðarbunga caldera continues and now measures 23 meters (76 feet).

Scientists flying over the area saw new tongues of lava breaking out from the main lava stream towards the east and west. The largest one of these lava tongues stretches towards the east and had become 300 m wide and 2 km long at 6 pm yesterday. An eruption cloud reaches 4 km (3 miles) in height but lowers with distance from the eruption site.

Seismic activity is similar to what it has been in the past days but earthquakes are starting to go down in numbers and magnitude. Over 60 earthquakes have been detected since midnight. Most of them have been by Bárðarbunga and the dike under Dyngjujökull.

High concentrations of sulfuric gases can be expected in Mývatnssveit, Kelduhverfi, Tjörnes, Húsavík, Aðaldalur and Reykjahverfi today.

People who feel discomfort are advised to stay indoors, close their windows, turn up the heat and turn off air conditioning, and use periods of good air quality to ventilate the house. Measurements of air quality can be found on the webpage The Icelandic Met Office issues warnings on their webpage.

Information and any questions on air pollution can be sent to the Environment Agency of Iceland through the email [email protected]. The Environment Agency is especially looking for information from people who have been in contact with high concentrations of gas; where they were, at what time it happened, how the gas cloud looked (color and thickness of the cloud) and how they were affected by it. In the near future, there will be a page on the Icelandic Met Office's webpage for this type of information.

Gas emissions at the eruption site remain high. As local gas concentrations at the site can be life-threatening, people at the eruption site, scientists and media representatives, should wear gas masks and carry gas meters. At the eruption site, local wind anomalies can occur due to thermal convection from the hot lava. This makes the conditions on site extremely dangerous as winds can change suddenly and unpredictably.

Three scenarios are considered most likely:

- Subsidence of the Bárðarbunga caldera stops and the eruption on Holuhraun declines gradually.

- Large-scale subsidence of the caldera occurs, prolonging or strengthening the eruption in Holuhraun. In this situation, it is likely that the eruptive fissure would lengthen southwards under Dyngjujökull, resulting in a jökulhlaup (glacial outburst flood) and an ash-producing eruption. It is also possible that eruptive fissures could develop in another location under the glacier.

- Large-scale subsidence of the caldera occurs, causing an eruption at the edge of the caldera. Such an eruption would melt large quantities of ice, leading to a major jökulhlaup, accompanied by ash fall.

Other scenarios cannot be excluded.

The Aviation Color Code for Bárðarbunga remains at orange and the code for Askja is green.



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