Bárðarbunga - update

Seismic events began 16 August 2014


Update on the continued Bárðarbunga seismic events and gas emissions from the Holuhraun lava field is given here with notes, factsheets and observations in March. New material is added to the top of the article. In combination, the monthly articles give an overview of events: August, September, October, November, December, January, February and the current update. A few photos from field excursions are stored in another article.


Below is a short-cut to additions in March. New material is only added when necessary.



Panoramic view towards the eruptive site in Holuhraun 3rd September 2014. Photo: Richard Yeo.

Updated information

16 March 2015 - reduction of the access controlled area

The Police District Commissioners in North Eastern, Eastern, Southern Iceland, and the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police have decided to change the restricted area in Holuhraun, see press release (pdf 0.9 Mb).

This decision is based on a risk assessment from the Icelandic Meteorological Office covering risk factors in the area. The Icelandic Meteorological Office has also proposed countermeasures to increase public safety close to the restricted area.

The Police, in cooperation with Vatnajökull National Park, will provide a presence in the area to secure public safety, in close collaboration with the Icelandic Meteorological Office. These institutions will try to install further monitoring equipment to add to the existing monitoring system in the area to increase monitoring so that warnings may be issued if necessary.

Vatnajökull National Park will issue locations of viewing areas. Information on evacuation routes will be issued by officers on site.

The restricted area extends 20 m outside the edges of the new lava field, to the edge of Dyngjujökull glacier on the south side, the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum to the east and to the westernmost branches of Jökulsá á Fjöllum in the west. Enlarge.

12 March 2015 - from the Scientific Advisory Board

Notes from the Meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board 10 March (pdf 0.3 Mb) are now available. No further meetings are booked; the board will convene when needed. The main points of the meeting are:

  • The hazards that may still be relevant, following the events in Bárðarbunga and Holuhraun, were discussed.
  • More equipment must be installed in the area, and the monitoring of the Icelandic Met Office must be secured, before the area is opened for the public.
  • Counter-measures to reduce risk in the area will be taken and decisions on further opening of the area will then be made.
  • The Aviation Colour Code for Bárðarbunga was changed from orange to yellow when the eruption ended.

5 March 2015 - field trip yesterday

Burn out
From Holuhraun lava field 4 March 2015. The photo is taken from the central part of crater Baugur, view to the North along the crater. The encrusted surface of the lava lake has collapsed; its remains are now a course, black rubble at the bottom of the crater. Small vents of blueish gas can be seen sporadically at the crater floor. The crater rim on the right hand side gave way and and allowed an outlet onto the lava field beyond; the channel is about 50 m wide and 40 m deep. Photo: Ármann Höskuldsson. More photos in an Icelandic field report, 4 March 2015, Institute of Earth Sciences.

4 March 2015 - field report with photos

A two day field trip, 3 March and 4 March 2015, was made in order to improve gas measurements and tend to various equipment; see two reports (in English) with photographs (pdf 0.7 Mb).

3 March 2015 - surveillance flight confirmed the end

Last week, Thursday evening 27 February, a surveillance flight was made in order to confirm the news that no glow was visible on webcams at Holuhraun. It was too dark to take any photographs.

According to thermal measurements (FLIR, IES) there was still considerable heat on the rims of the crater but colder at its bottom. A gas detector showed max 0.5 ppm SO2 in flight and max 0.4 ppm when tested on ground, at the southwestern edge of the lava field.

In the northeastern part of the lava field there were still embers in old outbreaks; the maximum temperature detected was 560°C (compared to 1200°C before). After comparison with other data at the Met Office it is concluded that probably the eruption ended early morning 27 February.

3 March 2015 - from the Scientific Advisory Board

The volcanic eruption in Holuhraun came to an end on Friday 27th of February.
Scientists are now analysing data and examining the eruption site to reassess the hazard assessment. It was decided to use this week for that assignment. The Scientific Advisory Board will meet again next Tuesday, 10th of March, based on that meeting it will be decided if the hazard assessment and the restricted area will be changed.
Notes from the Meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board (pdf 0.4 Mb)

2 March 2015 - gas emissions continue

The eruption in Holuhraun has come to an end but the Icelandic Meteorological Office still monitors gas dispersal closely. Other lava eruptions have taught that the lava field continues to emit gas for a long time yet and without the thermal rise from an open vent, the volcanic gases will tend to follow the ground. Therefore, even higher values of more polluting gas may be expected now than in recent weeks.

Vatnajökull and Holuhraun
LANDSAT 8 image from NASA of northwestern Vatnajökull 1 March 2015. Bárðarbunga in the lower left half of the image and Holuhraun in the upper rigth part. Cauldrons and depressions in the glacier are clearly visible and in the lava field slight embers can be seen here and there although the craters seem lifeless. Enlarge. Institute of Earth Sciences, NASA & USGS. Keep in mind that to the untrained eye, hollows may appear like highs and vice versa.

1 - 28 February 2015

Observations from the month of February are found in another comparable article, including a declaration from the Scientific Advisory Board that the volcanic eruption in Holuhraun has come to an end and that gas emissions still continue.

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