Thursday, 21 August 2014

Iceland evacuates area around Bárðarbunga Volcano.

Iceland has evacuated around 300 people from the area around the Bárðarbunga Volcano following a rise in seismic activity this week, with around 300 Earthquakes recorded close to the volcano since Tuesday 19 August 2014. The area where the volcano is located is remote and inhospitable, and has no permanent residents, but is popular with tourists in the summer. Reaching 2009 meters above sea level, Bárðarbunga is the second highest mountain in Iceland, although it is buried beneath the Vatnajökull Glacier, and not actually visible at all from the surface.

The approximate location of the Bárðarbunga Volcano. Google Maps.

Seismic activity beneath volcanoes can be significant, as they are often caused by the arrival of fresh magma, which may indicate that a volcano is about to undergo an eruptive episode. Bárðarbunga last erupted in about 1862, and has undergone several periods of raised seismic activity since then, most recently in 1996 and 2010, so there is no reason to believe that this weeks events will automatically lead to an eruption, and the evacuations are purely precautionary in nature.

Earthquakes around the Bárðarbunga Volcano in the 48 hours prior to 5.30 pm GMT on Thursday 21 August 2014. Icelandic Met Office.

Iceland lies directly upon the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a chain of (mostly) submerged volcanoes running the length of the Atlantic Ocean along which the ocean is splitting apart, with new material forming at the fringes of the North American and European Plates beneath the sea (or, in Iceland, above it). The Atlantic is spreading at an average rate of 25 mm per year, with new seafloor being produced along the rift volcanically, i.e. by basaltic magma erupting from below. The ridge itself takes the form of a chain of volcanic mountains running the length of the ocean, fed by the upwelling of magma beneath the diverging plates. In places this produces volcanic activity above the waves, in the Azores, on Iceland and on Jan Mayen Island.

The passage of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge beneath Iceland. NOAA National Geophysical Data Center.

See also...

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 4.8 Earthquake at a depth of 10.3 km roughly 8 km south of the...

The Icelandic Meteorological Office are reporting a series of steam explosions took place on Mount Kverkfjöll on the southeast of the Island on Thursday 15 August 2013. The explosions apparently occurred after increased glacier melting due to warm weather caused...

On Sunday 21 October 2012, at 1.25 am local time (which is GMT), the United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 5.7 Earthquake at a depth of 9.9 km, roughly 21 km north of Siglufjordur...

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