Our colleague Gísli Pálsson wrote this morning from Iceland, “The show is on; this time a considerable eruption.”
At the Holuhraun lava field, lava has been erupting since Sunday morning. These lava fountains reach more than 50 meters high. Though they are dramatic, they do not release ash that would interfere with aviation. This activity is about five kilometers from Dyngjujökull Glacier. If the fissure opens under the glacier, floods might result.
— Daniel T Johansen (@dtlanghoff) August 31, 2014
These lava fountains are just part of the activity along the fissure that stretches to the northeast from Bárðarbunga. As the attached map shows, there have been a large number of earthquakes in recent days associated with this fissure, though there is earthquake activity nearby as well, linked to other fissures and faults. This map comes from a source tweeted out by Dave McGarvie, a remarkably well-informed volcanologist who is currently in Iceland. For more information, you can follow an animation of the earthquake activity, also tweeted by McGarvie.
At the northeast end of the fissure, directly at Bárðarbunga, the risk of a subglacial eruption has increased. The earthquake activity continues to be strong, with one earthquake today registering 5.1. A flight over the glacier on Friday noted new crevasses, a sign of melting at the base of the glacier. As a result, the risk to aviation has been raised again to red, for the third time. A small portion of the airspace north of the area has been closed to aviation, but no airports or commercial flights have yet been affected. The evacuation orders continue in effect.
Further reconnaissance will have to wait a day or two. The remnants of Hurricane Cristobal are approaching Iceland, bringing winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour and rains. The heaviest rains are expected in the southeast of the country, around the area of the eruption. The storm will pass, but the future of the eruptions remains uncertain.