Volcanic eruption this weekend “not unlikely”
The peak of the glacial flood late this weekend could potentially be the trigger for an eruption, Magnús Tumi says. The civil protection agency has declared an uncertainty alert over the flood—the lowest of three emergency alert levels used in Iceland.
Scientists flew with the coastguard to Grímsvötn yesterday to check the meters and equipment in the huts there. Water has been flowing out from Grímsvötn for over a week and is now counted as a jökulhlaup. The level of Gígjukvísl river, which runs from the glacier, has risen to approximate summer levels, when glacier melt is at its fastest. The current flow rate of meltwater from Grímsvötn is 800-1,000 cubic metres per second, but that figure could increase fourfold before the end of the weekend.
Glacial ice at Grímsvötn began visibly sinking a week ago and by yesterday it had sagged ten metres.
Magnús Tumi says the flood so far, and the events leading up to it, have been by the book. Things developed faster than in the 1996 flood, but slower than in 2010. The current flood is expected to peak late on Sunday or the early hours of Monday.
How likely is a volcanic eruption? “Fairly likely. We must be prepared for that. When the water drops at Grímsvötn. Grímsvötn could sink up to a hundred metres. That could be enough of a lightening of the load on top of the magma chamber for an eruption to break out, as happened last in 2004. If that happens, as conditions stand now, it is likely that will be when it [the release of water] reaches its maximum. All eyes will be on all the meters around the weekend. It happens sometimes, and sometimes not. We just need to be ready,” he says.