Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Nature

Powerful earthquake in Bárðarbunga early morning

By Staff

  • Bárðarbunga caldera The volcano has been very active in the past several months. Seismic activity in the caldera is liekly caused by the filling of it's magma chambers. Photo/IMO

Early Monday morning a 3.7 magnitude earthquake struck the northern edge of the caldera Bárðarbunga, the huge sub-glacial volcano in Vatnajökull glacier in the central highlands.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) recorded the earthquake at 2:40 on Monday morning, 4,5 km (2.8 miles) north east of the caldera center at a depth of 2.5 km (1.5 miles). The IMO detected several follow-up tremors, but the area around Herðbreið at the northern edge of the Bárðarbunga volcanic system also saw several smaller tremors.

Read more: All of Iceland‘s major volcanoes showing unusually high levels of activity

Earthquakes 13.3.17
Earthquakes in Bárðarbunga This morning's activity has been concentrated around mount Herðubreið north of Vatnajökull glacier, at the northern edge of the system and in the main caldera. Photo/Icelandic Met Office

Bárðarbunga has been very active in the past few months. The IMO continues to monitor its activity closely, but stresses that there are no signs of immediate volcanic activity.

One of the world's largest volcanic systems
The Bárðarbunga caldera is at the center of a 200 km (124 mi) long volcanic system, one of the world's largest. The 10 km (6.2 mi) wide caldera is located underneath a 600 to 850-meter (1,968 to 2,788 ft.) thick ice cap in Vatnajökull glacier.

The last eruption in the system took place in 2014-2015, and produced the largest lava field in Iceland since the 1700s. The Holuhraun eruption lasted for 181 days (31st August 2014 to 27th February 2015). Historically the Bárðarbunga system has erupted in drawn-out episodes with several volcanic events, accompanied by intense seismic activity and geothermal activity.

Read more: See the first photos from inside the burnt out Holuhraun crater

The Holuhrauneruption took place north of the glacier, about 41 km (25.5 mi) north of the caldera, and it left a new lava covering 85 square km (32.8 sq. mi). For scale, imagine an area roughly 1.5 times larger than Manhattan island covered with new 7 to 30 meters (21–90 feet) thick lava.

Could pose significant challenges for airline travel
The system and fissure swarm of Bárðarbunga has erupted on average once every fifty years, with large eruptions every 250 to 600 years. An eruption in Bárðarbunga could pose significant challenges for airline travel in the Northern hemisphere.

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