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Expert: Likely no eruption yet

23.08.2014 - 20:24
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Geoscientists in Iceland seem to be of differing opinion regarding the small eruption that is believed to have taken place today. The Iceland Met Office said today that an eruption had likely taken place, but a professor of geophysics at University of Iceland sees no signs of an eruption.

A group of scientists surveyed the glacier today from the air, aboard a surveillance plane from the Icelandic Coastguard. After the flight, Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, professor of geophysics at University of Iceland, was interviewed at RUV. 

„The most likely scenario is that an eruption has not begun. This morning we saw a large increase in seismic activity and tremors, so it was perfectly rational to assume that an eruption had begun. A subglacial eruption melts the ice and causes floods. We surveyed the glacier for three hours today. I can of course not assert that nothing has happened, but it is clear that there are no signs of abnormal melting or other signs that normally appear during a subglacial eruption. It is therefore likely that the magma has not reached the surface yet - regardless of what will happen later in this process, because this is a fairly large event and those who delay to give timely warnings can carry a large responsibility. Therefore, it was considered proper to be careful today but when more information comes in, the most likely conclusion is that an eruption has not begun, whatever happens later in this event,“ said Magnus this evening on RUV television newscast. 

Only time can tell

„The most current information I have is that the latest GPS deformation measurement shows that the dyke intrusion is getting wider and getting longer. That means that magma is still moving. Whether that results in an eruption or not, only time can tell. If we look at the Krafla eruptions, which are the most similar eruptions, we had a lot of dyke intrusions there at the beginning, but much smaller volcanic activity. We don´t know if this activity will show a similar pattern, but we have to be prepared. This run-up is positive in a way, because we have had time to prepare. There are no tourists in the area, so it´s positive that the process has not been more rapid. And of course, we all hope that this will end without an eruption and the ensuing damage.“

The dyke intrusion has been forming over the last few days. It is now believed to be around 25 km. long, and about 0,2 - 0,3 cubic kilometers of magma is thought to have entered the intrusion from a magma chamber beneath the Bardarbunga caldera. The intrusion has been propagating towards the north: it´s lenght seems to have increased by several kilometers just today. 

At this stage measurements taken are based on a small event. The Jökulsárgljúfur canyon has been closed and evacuation of tourists in that area and around Dettifoss waterfall has started. The situation at this stage does not call for evacuation of habitants in Kelduhverfi, Öxarfjördur and Núpasveit. People in those areas are encouraged to watch news closely and have their mobiles switched on at all times.

This story, by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV), was updated on 23 August 2014, at 20.20 GMT. 

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