Risk of Phreatic Eruption in Iceland

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Risk of Phreatic Eruption in Iceland

Volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson said there is a risk of a phreatic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull glacier in south Iceland, which occurs when magma makes contact with water. The crater at the glacier’s summit is filled with ice which is starting to melt.

Volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson outside his Volcano Museum. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

“There have been indications for two to three months that the main movement of magma is straight underneath the summit crater at a significant depth,” Sigurdsson told mbl.is.

He said the crater is quite large, approximately five kilometers in diameter. Now the ice inside it is starting to melt as magma is flowing underneath the ice. “When it melts its way through there is a risk of a phreatic eruption.”

Sigurdsson said the magma is possibly similar to that which spurted to the surface in the 1821 Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

That was rhyolite magma, which is located higher up in the mountain and is more sour and different in character from the magma on Fimmvörduháls, which formed lava, the volcanoligist explained.

“It causes phreatic eruptions,” Sigurdsson iterated, adding that such an eruption could cause ash to fall over areas in the vicinity of the glacier.

A jet of tephra could form, Sigurdsson said, similar to what happens in volcanic eruptions in Hekla. The volcanologist stressed that these are just theories.

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