Updated 08:59 PM EDT, Fri, Oct 30, 2020

Icelandic Volcano Bardarbunga Showing Possible Signs of Eruption After Intense Series of Earthquakes

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The risk of an eruption at Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano has increased, after a series of earthquakes in the region indicate a possible eruption. A total of 2,600 earthquakes have been detected under Iceland's largest volcanic system, and that's only since Saturday.

Those earthquakes have elevated the threat level for an eruption, with the Icelandic Meteorological Office declaring an orange aviation alert -- the second-highest threat on the five-level scale -- and a confirmation that the risk of an eruption had increased yesterday. Color codes are intended to inform the aviation sector about a volcano’s status.

The largest earthquake of the group was 3.8 in magnitude, and occurred near Kistufell last night. It could be felt as far as Akureyri in Northeast Iceland, visir.is reports. The majority of the earthquakes, however, were between 1.0 and 2.0 in magnitude, but several earthquakes measured over 3.0 in magnitude, ruv.is reports.

The risk of eruption still seems to be looming, as Seismic activity remains active at the site today, with the Seismic events remaining 5-10km below the surface -- at least for now.

According to scientists, there has been intense seismic activity at Bardarbunga since August 16, although there are no signs of eruption yet. The area is being watched closely now that more signs of movement are emerging underneath the volcano.

Met Office seismologist Martin Hensch said the risk of any disruptive ash cloud similar to the one in 2010 would depend on how high any ash would be thrown, as well as how much there would be and how fine-grained it would be.

Bardarbunga is Iceland's largest volcanic system, and is located under the ice cap of the Vatnajokull glacier in the southwest of Iceland.

The Met Office said in a statement it measured the strongest earthquake in the region since 1996 early on Monday and it had now strong indications of ongoing magma movement. There is no indication that magma has reached the surface, however.

The statement continued, saying that "Over the last seven years seismic activity has been gradually increasing in Bárðarbunga and the fissure swarm north of the volcano. This activity dropped down at the Grímsvötn eruption in May 2011, but soon after, the activity started to gradually increase again and has now reached similar level of activity to that just before the Grímsvötn eruption. Earlier this year, in the middle of May 2014, there was a small swarm of over 200 events and now the present swarm has already generated at least 300 earthquakes. "

"Since early June 2014, displacements at GPS stations around Vatnajökull (Hamarinn, Grímsfjall, Vonarskarð and Dyngjuháls) show an increased upward movement and away from Bárðarbunga. Together, these two systems indicate magma movements in Bárðarbunga. Due to increased seismicity IMO has decided to turn volcano Bárðarbunga status to yellow. In case of a sub-aerial eruption, an ash plume of potential concerns for aviation will be generated."

The eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down most of Europe's airspace for six days, and affected more than 10 million people.

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