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Volcanologist: End of Eruption Not Necessarily Good News

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Volcanologist: End of Eruption Not Necessarily Good News

Holuhraun eruption by night, December 8, 2014

Photo: Ragnar Axelsson (RAX).

The activity in the Holuhraun eruption has decreased significantly in February. About two weeks ago, there were two active craters, now lava is being emitted by one crater. The seismic activity around Bárðarbunga volcano under Vatnajökull glacier, which feeds the eruption, has also decreased.

The earthquakes are fewer and smaller than in past months and last week it happened for the first time since increased seismicity was picked up in Bárðarbunga on August 16, that no earthquakes larger than magnitude 3.0 hit in a period of 48 hours. The same thing happened yesterday, as the last earthquake larger than magnitude 3.0 hit on Saturday, ruv.is reports.

No earthquake larger than magnitude 5.0 has hit since January 8. Gunnar Guðmundsson at the Icelandic Met Office’s seismology department said he doesn’t expect an earthquake of that magnitude to hit again and that there are indications that the eruption will come to an end in the coming weeks.

While the eruption’s end seems to be near, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson stated a bigger event may be imminent, as reported on Vísir. He spoke at the University of Iceland on February 17. “The mother of it all is Bárðarbunga,” Ármann said, explaining that the magna, which originates from a chamber at a significant depth under the volcano, could start a new eruption.

“It’s a series of divergence … and the alarm starts ringing now that the eruption on the sands [Holuhraun] is subsiding because the event isn’t over. The last divergence series lasted almost ten years with nine eruptions occurring during Kröflueldar,” Ármann pointed out of an eruption similar in nature.

There’s a risk of Bárðarbunga erupting under the glacier, leading to massive flooding. “It’s known that about 1 percent of the magma surfaces. Therefore 100-200 cubic kilometers of magma are still moving around under the volcano. That’s a lot and it’s likely that it will make itself known in the future,” Ármann concluded.

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