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Magma gathers under glacier

25.10.2018 - 10:52
Mynd með færslu
Öræfajökull. Mynd úr safni. Mynd: Þorvarður Árnason
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Veðurstofa Íslands
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Hörður Magnússon
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Einar Rafnsson - RUV
Measurements at Öræfajökull, a prominent southerly outlet of Vatnajökull, suggest that magma is gathering under the glacier. Regular earthquakes in the area have become more intense this year and more wide-reaching.

The information was presented to local residents at an ICE-SAR open meeting at Höfgarði yesterday evening. Kristín Jónsdóttir, group leader of natural disaster monitoring at the Icelandic Met Office, told residents in southeast Iceland that more earthquakes above 2 on the Richter Scale have been recorded this year than last, and that they are releasing more energy than before. Magma pressure building under the glacier and the number of earthquakes are not decreasing—in fact, the number of earthquakes has gone up, she said.  

Measurements show physical changes are happening to the volcano. Magma is gathering at a depth of just under five kilometres. In November last year, pictures of Öræfajökull showed a significant deepening of the ice-covered crater and measurements showed increased electrical conductivity in Kvíá river. 

Kristín said at the meeting last night that the crater has shallowed this year and that there is less heat in Kvíá river than before. 

Kristín told RÚV that all measurements suggest Öræfajökull is preparing to erupt, but that it is not possible to say how much magma is needed to create enough pressure for an eruption, and that it is therefore necessary to continue monitoring the glacier carefully. 

Iceland is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world and an eruption occurs every couple of years, on average. Scientists, police, search & rescue volunteers, fire brigades, local councils, and more agencies work closely together to keep people safe. 

There is no indication of when an eruption will occur. Last night’s open meeting was held to keep local residents informed and prepared for the future; whether the eruption comes next week, next year, or a decade from now.