The sub-glacial volcano Bárðarbunga, located under the icecap of Iceland’s largest glacier Vatnajökull has exhibited signs of elevated unrest and increasing seismic activity since 4.00 am, 16th August. The National Commissioner of Icelandic Police and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management have declared a level of uncertainty phase as they continue to monitor the situation closely.
Bárðarbunga is the second highest mountain in Iceland, rising 2.009 meters above sea level (about 6590 feet). It is fully covered by ice but the underlying volcanic system is believed to span a vast area of about 200km long and 25km wide, making it the largest volcanic system in Iceland. The volcano is located in the highlands, far from inhabited regions of the country. If an eruption should occur, the biggest threat would be from glacial flooding which could quite possibly affect popular tourist attractions in the highlands, including Dettifoss, Europe’s most water-most waterfall. A number of hydroelectric power plants also in the area would likely be affected in the event of an eruption.
Bárðarbunga is considered to be one of Iceland’s most powerful and dangerous volcanoes. Long believed to be dormant, scientists have only recently discovered it to be very much alive. According to the speculative website eldgos.is the volcano is due to erupt soon given its historical behaviours. The recent earthquake swarm differs from the usual geological tension that occurs in the region and supplies further evidence that keeping a close watch on the area is a good idea. Many of Iceland’s leading geophysicists have warned that if the present earthquake activity continues to increase, an eruption is very likely. Earlier today a 4.5 magnitude earthquake was detected – the largest one by far since seismic activity began on August 16.
A webcam has been set up in Grímsvötn, 30km away from Bárðarbunga, where the public can follow developments online: https://vedur2.mogt.is/grimsfjall/webcam/
But please don’t be fooled by the present calm surface of the glacier. Conditions can change without warning and an eruption could have widespread repercussions, affecting air transportation, bridges, road systems and more.
Dear travellers, if you are planning to visit the area please be sure to take every precaution to ensure your safety. Consider hiring a professional local guide who knows the area well and is trained in all aspects of mountaineering safety in Iceland. Keep yourselves updated on developments by following the news media and official Icelandic websites such as:
Keep in mind that the information in the news media in your country could very well be skewed so it is important to stay updated with the local media and official sources of information in Iceland.