The eruption that seismic experts have been waiting for has begun. Bardarbunga, the volcano under Iceland’s biggest glacier, is spewing lava.
“Magma broke through a rift in an older lava flow around midnight local time (about 8 p.m. ET),” reported LiveScience.com on August 28.
Early estimates put the new fissure at just over half a mile long, LiveScience.com said, with a lava field forming 5.5 miles north of Dyngjujokull glacier, between Bardarbunga and Askja volcano, not far away. Bardarbunga is on red alert, raised from last week’s orange, and planes are being diverted, LiveScience.com said, although there is no ash cloud.
“Molten rock is tunneling sideways underground toward Askja from Bardarbunga,” Livescience.com said, explaining that the narrow magma intrusion is known as a dike, and stretches about 25 miles.
The eruption follows weeks of escalating earthquake activity that has had the country’s volcano experts on alert. On August 27, according to the University of Iceland in a tweet, some sinkholes have opened up southeast of Bardarbunga measuring from 2.5 to 3.7 miles wide and 33–50 feet deep.
There’s a chance this could be the end of it, though scientists still aren’t sure.
“At this moment it is unclear how the situation will develop,” the Icelandic Met Office said on its website. “However, three scenarios are considered most likely.”
The first scenario involves… nothing. That would mean that the volcano had taken enough pressure off and would quiet back down again. Or, the lava dike could surface north of Dyngjujökull and cause another eruption, one that could generate lava and “explosive activity,” the office said.
Another possible scenario is that the flowing lava emerges, erupting through other fissures under Dyngjujökull.
“This would most likely produce a flood in Jökulsá á Fjöllum and perhaps explosive, ash-producing activity,” the Icelandic Met Office said. For this reason Badarbunga’s flight code has been upped to orange to indicate that significant ash emissions are unlikely, the office said.
“Other scenarios cannot be excluded,” the office said, noting that Barbardunga still has the potential to erupt inside the caldera.