New eruption could be looming in Iceland, experts warn

Nov 01, 2010
The sun sets in a sky dusted with ash from Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano, in May 2010. An Icelandic volcano has shown signs it could be about to burst into life, just months after an eruption from another volcano caused Europe's biggest air shutdown since World War II, experts said Monday.

An Icelandic volcano has shown signs it could be about to burst into life, just months after an eruption from another volcano caused Europe's biggest air shutdown since World War II, experts said Monday.

"The water levels have tripled in (the river) Gigja since last night," water measurement specialist Gunnar Sigurdsson of the Icelandic Meteorological Institute told AFP.

The water flooding into the Gigja, on the Vatnajoekull glacier in eastern Iceland, comes from an icy lake in the crater of the Grimsvoetn volcano.

Due to increased thermal temperatures, the lake and surrounding glacier area has melted, filling the crater to a point where it has spilled over and caused a so-called river-run, which in turn could easily set off an eruption.

"When a river-run occurs, the pressure, in this case, in Grimsvotn, decreases, and with less pressure, there is a chance of an eruption from the volcano," Thorunn Skaftadottir, a geophysicist also with the Icelandic Meteorological Institute told AFP.

"This is not guaranteed," she pointed out, since an eruption "can only happen if the volcano has collected enough magma."

In 2004, a similar flood from the Grimsvoetn lake was closely followed by an eruption from what is considered Iceland's most active volcano.

Sigurdsson said an eruption was unlikely to occur "until the water levels in Gigja have reached a maximum.

"I don't know when we can expect the levels to reach their highest point, but I suspect it will be in a few days," he said.

Over the past 48 hours, the Meteorological Institute has also registered strong seismic activity in the area, and three moderate earth quakes ranging from 2.7 to 4.0 on the Richter scale.

Icelandic authorities were however unable Monday to say whether an eruption at Grimsvotn would hit air traffic as hard as in April when the Eyjafjoell volcano erupted, dispersing a massive cloud of ash which affected more than 100,000 flights and eight million passengers.

"It is near impossible to say if Grimsvotn erupts whether it will have an affect on air traffic at all," said Keflavik Airport spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir, pointing out it would depend if the volcano spewed lava or ash.

"If it is an ash eruption, then it would affect air traffic, but only if it is a strong eruption with ash clouds reaching significant heights," she said, adding "it will also depend on wind, so at this point it is hard to guess."

Skaftadottir meanwhile said that any eruption from Grimsvotn would be an ash eruption.

"However, the scale of the eruption will be much smaller than the Eyjafjoell eruption and I do not think it would have the same effect on air travel as Eyjafjoell did," she said.

Explore further: NASA balloons begin flying in Antarctica for 2014 campaign

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Iceland fears 2nd, even larger volcanic eruption

Mar 21, 2010

(AP) -- A volcano in southern Iceland has erupted for the first time in almost 200 years, raising concerns that it could trigger a larger and potentially more dangerous eruption at a volatile volcano nearby.

Hundreds evacuated after Iceland volcano erupts

Mar 21, 2010

A volcano in the area of the Eyjafallajoekull glacier in southern Iceland erupted early Sunday, forcing more than 500 people in its vicinity to evacuate their homes, authorities said.

New satellite image of volcanic ash cloud

Apr 15, 2010

This image, acquired today by ESA's Envisat satellite, shows the vast cloud of volcanic ash sweeping across the UK from the eruption in Iceland, more than 1000 km away.

Recommended for you

Scientists make strides in tsunami warning since 2004

Dec 19, 2014

The 2004 tsunami led to greater global cooperation and improved techniques for detecting waves that could reach faraway shores, even though scientists still cannot predict when an earthquake will strike.

Trade winds ventilate the tropical oceans

Dec 19, 2014

Long-term observations indicate that the oxygen minimum zones in the tropical oceans have expanded in recent decades. The reason is still unknown. Now scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.