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Bárðarbunga Volcano Might Erupt Again

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Bárðarbunga Volcano Might Erupt Again

Holuhraun eruption 2014

The Holuhraun eruption. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Geologists are now investigating data, indicating that magma might be accumulating again under Bárðarbunga volcano in Vatnajökull glacier. The Holuhraun eruption, which took place between August 31, 2014, and February 27, 2015, was part of a series of events which started in the volcano in 1974 and might provide evidence about the behavior of the volcano in the future.

According to Páll Einarsson, professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, the next few months will determine whether magma is in fact accumulating. “That’s the big question,” he told RÚV. “There are some indications that this might be the case, but we have to investigate it further.”

The signals, gathered by new equipment on location, are not clear and come from a great depth. Geologists are still learning how to interpret such data.

The Holuhraun eruption is now seen as a chapter in a story that began in 1974. That year, a series of large earthquakes began, which hit at regular intervals in Bárðarbunga. The first chapter ended 22 years later with the eruption and glacial flood in Gjálp in 1996.

After the Gjálp eruption, the volcano was silent for many years, but a few years ago, a new series of earthquakes began, culminating in the Holuhraun eruption in the northeastern highlands in August 2014. The magma came from Bárðarbunga and the caldera sank by 60 meters (197 feet) in the course of the eruption.

Páll believes it’s possible that the next eruption might occur in Bárðarbunga itself. “Bárðarbunga is probably the most powerful volcano in Iceland … Bárðarbunga is the center of a volcanic system which often erupts at the periphery, but still more frequently in the volcano itself.”

It is difficult to predict when the next eruption might start and whether previous eruptions can be used as evidence as to what might happen next. Páll concludes: “We have 30 volcanic systems in Iceland and each one of them has its own personality. To predict what is likely to happen in the near future we have to get to know them a bit personally.”

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