Monday, June 20, 2016

Iceland's Hekla Volcano Primed For Eruption

Iceland's Hekla volcano is ready "To go at any time" according to Iceland geophysicist Páll Einarsson. (Link is in Icelandic). According to him, the Hekla volcanic system is at a higher state of pressure than the 2000 eruptions, and previous eruptions. I've personally been watching this volcano and it's goings-on for some time now, and what I've seen has been a bit worrying.

As pointed out by the article, it's nearly two decade long dormancy has given way to a booming tourist industry, where 40-50 flights occur daily over the volcano, in conjunction with a high population of hikers and photographers. The problem here is that Hekla, unlike many volcanoes, does not typically give much warning before erupting. Most volcanoes at least show some signs of volcanic quakes, which can give some forewarning of an eruption.

Hekla however is not that kind of volcano. Its eruptions are typically sudden and without much warning... but Hekla is having volcanic quakes, which could signal that the next eruption may be much larger than previous ones. As the volcano is not prone to showing much seismicity, rather, gradual deformation when its magma chamber is inflating, this is a bit worrying.

If the volcano is already displaying some warning signs (a 2.5 quake occurred within 48 hours of this writing according to, this could be all the warning we get.

Many scientists are cautioning against visiting this volcano within several tens of kilometers, as there is simply no way to tell when it will erupt - just that it will erupt in the near future.

Iceland's last major eruption from Bardarbunga's Holuhraun fissure North of Vatnajökull caused soem disruption due to gas emission, but was largely very harmless. An eruption of Hekla - much closer to tourist accessibility, and some small properties, makes this a more dangerous eruption, however the area is sparsely populated. The threats from this volcano would be rapidly melting ice which causes flooding, lahars, pyroclastic flow (due to magma interacting with ice), lava flow, and gases.

The biggest threats are ash (due to aircraft and nearby farmlands) and disruption of flight paths, gases, and flooding.

Keep an eye on this volcano too, Iceland has been very good about posting links to various volcano webcams, when it does erupt, it should put on quite a show.

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