Annual reports

Annual reports

Annual report 2014 (a short version in English, pdf 1,9 Mb)

Annual report 2013 (a short version in English, pdf 1.7 Mb)

Earlier annual reports have a summary in English and are available on our Icelandic web-page.

English summaries of IMO's Annual Reports

A summary of IMO's Annual Report 2011

In 2011 the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) moved some of its operation within Reykjavík and is now located at Bústaðavegur 7 and 9, with the reception, head office, library and canteen at Bústaðavegur 7, as well as division of Finance and administration. Bústaðavegur 9 now accommodates the divisions of Observations, Warnings and forecasting and Processing and research.

Iceland became a full member of the ECMWF, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in 2001, opening up access to a great amount of data, which will improve weather service and be useful in research.

The Icelandic government accepted last August a proposal by the IMO and others to initiate a large-scale volcanic risk assessment. The length of the project is estimated 15–20 years, and subdivided into multiple stages. The two first stages have already commenced; a catalogue of Icelandic volcanoes, and a pre-analysis of flood risk associated with volcanic eruptions.

Following eruptions in 2010 and 2011, the IMO has increased the emphasis on monitoring and research of volcanic eruptions, plumes, and airborne material. Research has increased in total, as shown by the fact that compared to 13 peer reviewed articles published by IMO staff members in 2010, and 15 in 2009, 28 articles were published in peer reviewed magazines in 2011.

One of the most noteworthy events of 2011 was the Grímsvötn eruption. The long-term precursors, i.e. the earthquake activity, were similar to the preceding eruption in 2004. However, the short-term precursors (volcanic tremor and surface deformation) gave a relatively short warning period of only 1 –1.5 hours. The eruption was a short, one-week-long event. However, it was intensive and the first 24 hours were the most energetic. The plume rose initially to an altitude of over 20 km. It was monitored by weather radars which are able to identify airborne particles. The plume was detected by the radar positioned near Keflavik airport, and the results were further improved by mobile radar placed near the eruption site, provided on loan from Italy following the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. The total volume of erupted material was 0.2–0.3m³ DRE. Volcanic lightning frequency was the highest on record.

Jökulhlaups from glacial calderas were frequent in 2011, with a total of three events from Mýrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull glaciers. The largest jökulhlaup came from Mýrdalsjökull, raising the water level in Múlakvísl river by 5 m in 7 min. The maximum flow rate reached 6000 m³/s. The surface of Mýrdalsjökull was mapped in the summer of 2010 with laser technology, and calderas were remapped following the jökulhlaup in order to estimate its volume.

Environmental monitoring is among the tasks of the IMO. Continuous measurements of persistent organic pollutants have been carried out at the Vestmannaeyjar islands since 1995. The concentrations of the pollutants are compatible to other northern regions, but significantly lower compared to southern regions, closer to the source. Measurements of airborne aerosol were initiated in the Eyjafjallajökull region shortly after the Grímsvötn eruption.

Climate and Energy Systems (CES), a four-year research project, was completed in 2011. CES was a large collaborative effort of 30 partners from the Scandinavian and Baltic states, managed by the IMO. The results depicted the effect of the 21st century climate change on renewable energy sources. A special focus was on the water-, wind-, and biomass energy resources. The data suggest that the warming climate may increase the potential for energy production in the coming decades.

The IMO and the Institute of Earth Sciences have collaborated on mapping Icelandic glaciers using laser technology. Over 80% (9000 km²) of Iceland‘s glacial surfaces have been mapped. Digital elevation models of glaciers are useful for various research projects, as well as for practical applications such as cartography, management of hydroelectric plants, tourism, and rescue work.
The SNAPS (Snow, Ice and Avalanche Applications) project was initiated in 2011. It is a Scandinavian collaboration, managed by the IMO. The Western fjords are the experimental site in Iceland. The project focuses on the link between the weather and snow avalanches, and the development of predictive avalanche models.

The IMO is involved in the Scandinavian glacial research project SVALI. It focuses on various aspects of the effect of climate change on the northern environments, such as glaciers. Research in Icelandic settings investigates the changes of glacial margins, volume of glacial rivers, and land uplift associated with glacier retreat.

The IMO also participates in the Scandinavian research project ICEWIND (Improved Forecast of Wind, Waves and Icing). Its aim is to develop the use of wind energy in Scandinavia, and investigates the effect of icing on transmission lines, masts, and power plants. The Icelandic sister project Ísvindar focuses in more detail on icing problems.

Volcano Anatomy, a consortium project in which the IMO participates, was initiated in 2011. The principal aim is to map out the magma movements associated with the Eyjafjallajökull 2010 eruption, by all-encompassing analysis of geophysical and geochemical data.

Work continued in three collaborative projects funded through the EU. EPOS (European plate observing system) aims to combine and network all geological monitoring systems, computing clusters, and research centres in Europe. NERA (Network of European research infrastructures for earthquake risk assessment and mitigation) endeavours to network instrument systems and databases related to seismic hazard in Europe. REAKT (Strategies and tools for real-time earthquake risk reduction) is a research project focusing on earthquake risk and hazard.

Recent law on water resource management, assigns an executive role to several public institutes, including the IMO, under the management of The Environment Agency of Iceland. For information management, IMO is responsible for the development and organisation of an information system. IMO also has a role in data management of hydrological and physicochemical properties of water, with ongoing work focusing on the definition and classification of water bodies. In addition, the IMO and the National Energy Authority collaborate on an overview of the utilization of groundwater.

Moreover, the IMO carries out the continuous work of monitoring and warning services related to weather, geohazards, and flooding, as well as system and instrument maintenance in the field of e.g. meteorology, hydrology and earth sciences. The institute also depends on its infrastructure, including project and financial management, human resources, and quality control.

A summary of IMO's Annual Report 2009-2010

A new Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) was established in January 2009 when the Hydrological Service of the National Energy Authority merged with former IMO to create a new agency with the same name. Hence, this is the first annual report of the new institute.

Two eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010, on the flank and in the summit caldera, affected all aspects of work at IMO. To monitor volcanism, several permanent networks are in operation: an automated seismic network, a continuous Global Positioning System (GPS) network, a network of automated hydrological stations for monitoring runoff in glacial regions, a regional network of borehole strain-meters and a lightning location system. Additionally, a weather radar in south-western Iceland is used to follow the dispersal of volcanic plumes and weather stations supply information on meteorological conditions and fallout of tephra.

Episodes of unrest in the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, interpreted as magma intrusions, had been recorded at IMO since 1994. Land deformation and increased earthquake activity was observed at GPS and seismic stations in the area in the months before the eruptions in 2010. Earthquakes became progressively shallower before the onset of the flank eruption on 20 March, reflecting the ascent of magma toward the surface. Shortly after the effusive flank eruption ended, the summit eruption began in the early hours of 14 April. An intense earthquake swarm followed by volcanic tremor at nearby seismic stations indicated that a new eruption had begun. This eruption had three main phases: an explosive phase when the crater was filled with melt-water, a phase of decreased ash production and lava flow and another explosive phase that persisted until 23 May. Seismic and geodetic measurements were used throughout the eruptions to follow the changing behaviour of the volcano.

The ash plume during the summit eruption was monitored continuously using IMO's weather radar, satellite images, webcams (owned by private companies) and observations from regular reconnaissance flights. Images from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) onboard the Icelandic Coast Guard aircraft also proved important for monitoring the plume, as well as volcanic activity and volcano-ice interactions. The ash plume was often too low to be detected by the radar. It was important to assess the height of the plume, which is proportional to the ash production and necessary in evaluating ash dispersal. ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) has participated in improving the monitoring by financing the purchase and operation of a transportable weather radar. IMO has also purchased a used weather radar that will be installed in the east of the country.

The likelihood of floods reaching inhabited areas is great when ice-covered volcanoes erupt. Because of increased activity at Eyjafjallajökull, additional gauging stations were installed in known flood-paths in the area a few weeks prior to the flank eruption. Floods were minor during the flank eruption, but large amount of melt-water was produced in the summit eruption. Two major jökulhlaups occurred on the first two days of the eruption causing damage to roads and rupturing levees. Thick ash layers on Eyjafjallajökull later resulted in mud floods.
Electrical storms were common in the ash plume of the summit eruption. Measurements of lightning by the IMO lightning location system gave new insights into how electrical charges form in ash plumes.

The IMO works closely with the Civil Protection Agency (CPA), London VAAC (Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre) and Isavia (Icelandic Aviation Service). Risk assessments of volcanic eruptions, floods and ashfall had already been made at IMO in 2010, and an evacuation plan for communities in the vicinity of Eyjafjallajökull had been developed by the CPA. These were put to the test during the summit eruption. At the CPA's request, IMO participated in information briefings at their agency and at help centres in the affected areas. Using information from IMO, London VAAC issued warnings of dangerous flight paths to aviation authorities. IMO staff members gave both domestic and international interviews and communicated with Icelandic as well as international monitoring and research institutes.

The IMO website was very frequently visited during the eruptions. New webpages were opened to facilitate access to information concerning the eruptions, both in Icelandic and English. Real-time information about the eruptive activity and general information was made available, for example articles on jökulhlaups and lava flows, photographs and satellite images. From 25 April, daily status reports were issued collectively by the IMO and the University of Iceland's Institute of Earth Sciences. The reports were made available on the IMO website, as were ashfall forecasts which were updated twice a day.

The IMO participates in various international research projects, including CES (Climate and Energy Systems), ICEWIND (Improved Forecast of Wind, Waves and Icing), SVALI (Stability and Variations in Arctic Land Ice), NERA (earthquake hazard in Europe) and EPOS (European Plate Observing System). The projects VOLUME, SAFER and TRANSFER ended in 2009. In collaboration with the Carnegie Institute, a new borehole strain-meter was installed near to the volcano Hekla in 2010 and other strain-meters in the regional network are being updated.

Most of the material in this report deals with the eruptions in the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Other aspects of work at the IMO include weather forecasts, processing of data from weather stations, climate and atmospheric research, forecasts of sea-ice drift, avalanche monitoring and research, upper atmospheric ozone measurements, monitoring and research of chemical pathways and measurements of mass-balance and surface changes of glaciers.

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