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Recent seismicity under Vatnajökull could be leading to a new eruption

For those of you interested in all the coming and going with volcanoes and earthquakes in Iceland, if you’re not following Jon Frimann’s blog, well, for shame. He usually has information about every (and I mean every) noise that the island makes as it sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Icelandic hotspot.

Over the weekend, Jon posted a couple interesting tidbits that came from the Icelandic media. First, the seismicity under Vatnajökull, the giant ice cap that dominates southern Iceland, has been increasing. University of Iceland geologist Dr. Páll Einarsson seems to think that this seismicity is foreboding, but in an article in the Icelandic Review, it seems more that Dr. Einarsson is looking for more instruments on Vatnajökull (which is by no means a bad idea), however, the conclusion seems to be Vatnajökull is a volcanically/seismically busy area, so it should be watched closely. Dr. Einarsson also popped up on, mentioning specifically the Kistufell volcanic field on Barbarbunga as a place of potential activity and we might expect an eruption similar to the 1996 eruption at Gjálp. However, Jon also mentions an interview with an Icelandic Met Office geologist, Dr. Sigurlaugar Hjaltadóttir, who suggests that we should expect an eruption under Vatnajökull in the next year – quite a daring statement for any volcanologist. Specifically, the northwest side of Vatnajökull is mentioned, near Grímsvötn and Bardarbunga, is where we should be watching – which should be no surprise to most of us.

So, even with all this news of seismicity in Iceland, we need to remember that this is par for the course for the island. Iceland is a very volcanically and seismically active region, so I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see another eruption there ~ and Dr. Einarson and Dr. Hjaltadóttir are both right, we need to keep a close eye on the Vatnajökull area. If anything, Iceland should be a shining example of how to manage the volcanic threat in their country.

Top left: Grímsvötn under Vatnajökull erupting in 2004.


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