Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Geology

Holuhraun eruption was actually preceded by four sub-glacial eruptions in the Bárðarbunga volcano

By Staff

  • Holuhraun lava field The 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recent Icelandic history, considering the volume of volcanic material emitted. Photo/Morten S. Riishuus/Institute of Earth Sciences

Research by volcanologists at the University of Iceland has revealed that the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption was preceded by four separate eruptions in the Bárðarbúnga volcanic system under Vatnajökull glacier. The eruptions, which took place in late August to early September 2014 were all relatively brief, but they demonstrate that the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption was part of a much larger chain of events which are not yet over.

Read more: The huge Bárðarbunga volcano in northern Vatnajökull glacier might be gearing up for an eruption

Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, told the local TV station Stöð 2 that there was no doubt that significant volcanic activity had taken place in the Bárðarbunga volcano prior to the actual eruption north of Vatnajökull, in the Holuhraun lava field.

“Yes, we are absolutely certain that there were eruptions beneath the glacier, probably in at least four different locations, one after the other, while this chain of events was unfolding, and the eruption was finding its way from Bárðarbunga north to Holuhraun.”

Holuhraun, Bárðarbunga
Bárðarbunga caldera and the Holurhaun lava field The Bárðarbunga caldera is in the lower right corner, and the the chain of eruptions during late summer early fall 2014 are marked with red circles. The four circles south of the caldera are considered one eruption. The Holuhraun lava field is north of the glacier. Photo/University of Iceland.

During the summer of 2014 scientists tracked seismic activity which showed how the magma was finding a way to the surface. A British doctoral student, Hannah Reynolds, who has been working with Magnús Tumi and the research team at the University of Iceland is similarly certain there were four separate eruptions before the Holuhraun eruption started. One of these was just South-East of the Bárðarbunga caldera, and three others further to the North under the Dyngjujökull glacier.

The seismic activity in Bárðarbunga has not yet died down, which indicates the most recent activity has not yet come to an end. However, Magnús Tumi doubts the recent earthquakes are an indication we can expect a second eruption anytime soon, although he stresses we can never be too sure when it comes to this largest and most powerful of Iceland’s volcanoes: “I don’t think these earthquakes are an indication the Bárðarbunga volcano is preparing itself for an eruption. We will most likely have to wait a while before the volcano erupts again. But, we cannot be certain, and we must continue to monitor the situation carefully, especially if there are any changes.”

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