August 2014 – ICELAND – Two earthquakes measuring over 5 in magnitude — the biggest yet — shook Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano Sunday after the country issued an aviation red alert warning that an ash-emitting eruption may be imminent. Iceland’s Meteorological Office recorded earthquakes of 5.3 and 5.1 in the early hours. It said there were no signs of an eruption. The volcano, underneath Iceland’s vast Vatnajokull glacier, has been rattled by thousands of small earthquakes over the past week. On Saturday scientists reported a small eruption under the ice, but it was not visible on the surface, and the Met Office later said it appeared to have stopped. Authorities have declared a no-fly zone of 100 nautical miles by 140 nautical miles (185 kilometers by 260 kilometers) around the epicenter as a precaution.
A 2010 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano caused a week of international aviation chaos, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled. Aviation officials closed Europe’s air space for five days out of fear that volcanic ash could harm jet engines. Any new eruption is likely to be less disruptive. European aviation authorities have changed their policy, giving airlines detailed information about the location and density of ash clouds but leaving decisions to airlines and national regulators. Britain’s National Air Traffic Service said it was monitoring what it called a “dynamic situation” but was expecting normal operations Sunday. –ABC News
Eruption has begun: Iceland’s Meteorological Office says a small lava eruption has begun underneath a glacier at the Bardarbunga volcano, the Associated Press reports. Seismic data showed ice melting beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, but it remains unclear if or when the eruption would break through the ice, sending ash and steam into the air. On Saturday, the agency changed the aviation alert for the volcano from orange to red, a move that signals an eruption is either imminent or already in progress. The country also put its Coast Guard on alert, Bloomberg reports. Earthquakes had been happening “so quickly that it is difficult for the seismologist to discern individual events,” a statement on the Met Office’s web site reads. As concern increased last week over a possible eruption of Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano, authorities evacuated tourists from area.
Iceland’s Civil Protection Department says 300-500 people, mostly visitors, have been evacuated from the highlands north of the Vatnajokull glacier, which is popular with hikers. Officials said Wednesday the measure was taken as a safety precaution, the Associated Press reports. Roads in the area have been closed in the event that an eruption would lead to flooding. Air travel experts are also watching the situation closely. The volcano sits in a major flight path from the U.K. to North America, and an eruption would cause chaos. –Weather Channel