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Öræfajökull Volcano Possibly Awakening

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Öræfajökull Volcano Possibly Awakening

Satellite images of Öræfajökull

Satellite images of Öræfajökull. The image to the left was taken today, while the one to the right was taken on November 1st.Photo: Icelandic Met Office

Recent satellite images reveal that a new, one-kilometre wide caldera has emerged in Öræfajökull glacier, South Iceland, following increased geothermal activity in the area.

Earlier this week, the Icelandic Met Office received reports of a sulphur-odour in the area, which was later confirmed by the police. Such an odour usually indicates geothermal activity.

Geothermal water appears to have leaked slowly from beneath the caldera in the vicinity of Kvíárjökull glacier but most of it has probably already come out.

The Met Office has issued a yellow alert for Öræfajökull, which indicates that the volcano is showing more activity than normal.

According to Bryndís Ýr Gísladóttir at the Icelandic Met Office, this is done due to the fact that there isn’t enough information on the volcano as of yet. “We issued a yellow warning for security reasons because we actually don’t know that much about Öræfajökull glacier nor how it behaves because its last eruption occurred in 1727, and 1362 before that.”

Bryndís believes the volcano might be waking up from a long slumber. During Iceland’s settlement, the glacier was called Knappafellsjökull. Its 1362 eruption completely destroyed the nearby farms, renaming the glacier Öræfajökull. Öræfi translates to wasteland.

Rögnvaldur Ólafsson at the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management told Bylgjan that the yellow alert was issued primarily to keep the public informed. There are no signs of volcanic unrest as of yet.

“It’s clear that there’s more heat underneath the mountain than normally, at least enough to form a caldera that people haven’t seen before. So there’s something happening there, although it is nothing special. There are no signs that indicate there’s going to be an eruption.”

Geologist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson flew over the area earlier today. According to his findings, the caldera appears to be roughly 21-25 metre (68-82 ft) deep. The caldera itself isn’t very deep, but the deepening itself developed very quickly.

The area will continue to be monitored carefully.

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