One of Iceland’s Volcanoes Is Rumbling

It looks like another one of Iceland’s volcanoes is ready to erupt

Clouds of ash from the 2011 Grímvötn eruption in Iceland Arctic-Images/Corbis

Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano has been rumbling with earthquake swarms for the past few days. As of yesterday, there had been well over 1,115, and the Icelandic Met Office has raised the aviation alert level of the volcano to orange—the second-highest color code available. The earthquakes on Monday were considered by the IMO to be the strongest felt in the region since 1996, the BBC reports.

An orange alert level means that the “volcano shows heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.” Scientists are currently watching the volcano closely for more signs of an eruption.

Over at Wired, Erik Klemetti reports that Bárðarbunga’s last confirmed eruption was in 1794. The volcano has a long history of notable eruptions, including one from 8,500 years ago that was the “largest basaltic eruption of the Holocene," he notes.

What will happen if the volcano does erupt?  At the Conversation, volcanologist Dave McGarvie discusses some of the many possible scenarios—it could be violent or gentle eruption; magma could cause flooding or a smoke plume; this could be just the beginning of a much more massive series of volcanic activity.

The Icelandic government is taking precautions, reports the Reykjavík Grapevine. It's calling back search and rescue planes and closing roads in the area. The Prime Minister is also getting regular briefings on the situation.

And, remembering the Eyjafjallajökull pronunciation disaster of 2010, when newscasters around the world struggled on-air to pronounce the name, enterprising journalists at have created a helpful how-to video for pronouncing Bárðarbunga.  

For more information on the volcano, check out the Twitter feeds of both McGarvie and Alexandra Witze, who recently authored a book about the 1783 eruption of an Icelandic volcano that severely impacted not only Iceland, but all of Europe. The Icelandic Met Office also has a webcam of the volcano available online, and the Reykjavík Grapevine has a link to a 3-D plot of earthquakes in the area of the volcano. 

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