Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

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Large earthquake swarm in northern part of Bárðarbunga volcanic system over the weekend

By Staff

  • Herðubreið mountain An inactive volcano formed during the last glacial period. Herðubreið is an unusual kind of mountain, a tuya. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

A large earthquake swarm has shaken the northern part of the Bárðarbunga volcanic system since Saturday morning, with more than 300 tremors being recorded on Saturday alone. The swarm continued, but slowed down on Sunday, with more than 200 additional tremors.

Large earthquake swarm 

earthquakes, 20.3.17

Unusually high activity The main center of activity is the cluster of dots furthest to the north on the map. Photo/IMO

Most of the tremors were relatively small, less than 2 on the Richter scale. According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office the center of activity has been to the South of Herðubreið mountain, one of the most iconic mountains in the Central Highlands.

A seismologist at the IMO told the local news site Vísir that the quakes over the weekend were part of a longer episode which began last week. The epicenter of the quakes is five kilometers (3.1 miles) south-west of Herðubreið mountain. The quakes do not seem to be linked to increased volcanic activity.

The queen of Icelandic mountains
Herðubreið mountain has been described as the Queen of Icelandic mountains. It stands 1,682 m (5,518 ft) above sea level. It is a volcano which was formed in an eruption beneath the thick ice sheet of the last glacial period.

Herðubreið is a relatively rare type of mountain, a tuya. Tuyas are formed by volcanic eruption beneath thick glacier ice sheets.  The steep sides and flat tops are formed by an eruption which takes place under a thick ice sheet, which it does not manage to melt through. As the lava erupts beneath the glacier the ice cools it down quickly, which causes it to pile up into a steep mountain. As the eruption continues the mountain climbs higher.

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