Iceland’s Met Office said Wednesday that the heightened alert levels for aviation could be in place for weeks and months. The Bardarbunga volcano continued to rumble, posing a threat of eruption that could trigger a temporary shutdown of European airspace. The Icelandic Met Office has measured thousands of earthquakes in the area since the meteorologists started detecting the “anomalous seismicity” on August 16.

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Iceland

Iceland witnessed more than 600 tremors on Tuesday

Earlier Wednesday, a volcanic system near Bardarbunga was hit by an earthquake measuring 4.5 on Richter scale. It fueled concerns that the Bardarbunga magma could feed into the Askja volcano. The University of Cambridge scientists told BBC that 50 million cubic meters of molten rock has moved in a 24-hour period. It continues to move north. So, there is a possibility of it linking up with the Askja system, and triggering a large eruption.

Bardarbunga was also hit by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday. In total, the Met Office detected about 600 tremors in Iceland yesterday. Frequent earthquakes have led to road closures and evacuations. On Saturday, Iceland had raised the aviation alert to red, warning of an imminent eruption, after a minor volcanic eruption under the Dyngjujokull glacier.

Iceland and Cambridge researchers monitoring the site since 2006

The alert was lowered to orange on Monday as there were no signs of gases or ashes breaking through the ice. However, the seismic activity shows no signs of slowing down. Iceland has closed the airspace over the site, though Icelandic airports remain open. Iceland’s last week’s warning raised concerns of an Eyjafjallajokull-like volcanic eruption.

In April 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano caused a six-day closure of the European airspace. Airline carriers had to cancel over 100,000 flights and incur about $2 billion in losses. The glass-like particles in volcanic ashes could hurt airplane engines. Researchers from Iceland and the University of Cambridge have been monitoring volcanoes in the region for the last eight years. They have set up about 70 seismometers in the area.