Iceland has bumped up the alert level for its Bardarbunga volcano to the second highest level. According to Reuters, officials have noted higher seismic activity at the volcano since Aug. 16, although there aren’t yet signs that it will erupt. They also said that today they measured the strongest earthquake in the area since 1996 and that they have strong indications that there’s movement of magma in the area.
Concerns about ash eruption in Iceland
The big concern right now is ash. In 2010, the country’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, spewing ash into the air and closing a large portion of airspace in Europe for nearly a week. Over 10 million people were affected by the closure, which cost Europe $1.7 billion.
A seismologist from Iceland’s Met Office said the risk of a similar ash cloud occurring this year depends on how high the volcano might spew the ash and how far it might be thrown. Another factor is just how much ash there might be and how fine-grained it is, reports The Guardian.
Officials said that at this point, there aren’t any signs of an eruption at the Bardarbunga volcano, which is Iceland’s biggest system. It’s located under the Vatnajokull glacier’s ice cap but is in a different range than the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. They added that the current movement of magna at depths shallower than 10 kilometers suggests that there’s a higher potential of an eruption. As a result, they can’t rule out a possible “explosive subglacial eruption” that leads to an “outburst flood and ash emission.”
Flooding also a concern
Officials said the biggest risk for Iceland is from flood waves from the eruption that could occur under the glacier. They said the biggest part of the area that’s at risk for flooding is uninhabited, although they added that roads in that area have been closed as well.
Eurocontrol, the agency that coordinates airspace in Europe, said it is aware that Iceland has increased the status of the volcano and that it is carefully monitoring the situation.