Bárðarbunga caldera possibly lowering

This is a short no-picture update on the status in Bárðarbunga volcano. This information is going to get outdated quickly.

There are now clues that Bárðarbunga volcano caldera is getting lower. While there are no signs of imminent collapse such event might happen since this process has started. This explains the earthquake the activity in the caldera, that has been taking place for the past 48 hours. What this means in terms of an eruption I do not know, what I do know is that this type of event if it happens are never small and the following eruption might be huge. This is also going to change the landscape in Vatnajökull glacier forever (that is common thing in Iceland during an eruption cycles).

There has also formed a 25 km long dyke trench in the crust that goes north-east at the moment. There are clues that it might be getting wider at this moment. It appears to have stopped going north-east for the time being.

More details on this later when I know more (and my health is slightly better).

This entry was posted in Bárðarbunga, Caldera, Collapse, Dyke intrusions, Earthquakes, Glacier flood, GPS data, GPS Monitoring, Harmonic tremors, Magma, Monitoring, Mountain, Swarm, Volcano. Bookmark the permalink.

95 Responses to Bárðarbunga caldera possibly lowering

  1. Hi Jon

    I’m following the developments closely from San Francisco because I have a flight from Newark back home to Oslo Sunday night, unless Bárðarbunga somehow gets in the way. And some of the quakes are now so powerful that they might even show up on my geophones or seismometer in Oslo.

    Just a quick question: What’s the meaning of the name? My Norwegian ears hear it as Bård’s (Bárður’s) lump. Is that a right interpretation? And who’s Bárður?

    • Villi says:

      You are right Steinar, Gnupa-Bardur was from Sogn in Norway so it’s the same name as Bård. http://icelandreview.com/news/2014/08/19/bardarbunga-volcano-named-after-norse-viking

    • Bjarki says:

      Bárður was a viking from Norway who settled in the north around 900 AD, he then migrated south via the highlands and Bárðarbunga is in that path, so either he named it after himself or someone later named it after him.

    • Chris Gordon says:

      Bárðarbunga is named after settler Bárður Bjarnason, later called Gnúpa-Bárður, from the Sognefjord in West Norway, who came ashore near Húsavík and settled in the valley still bearing his name, Bárðardalur in North Iceland, around the year 900.
      Several years later Bárður sent some of his sons—he had nine—to check the land in South Iceland. They made the return journey over the still uninhabited highlands near Bárðarbunga and through the pass Vonarskarð. The path from North to South Iceland is still named Bárðargata.
      After his sons returned from the journey to his farm Lundarbrekka in Bárðardalur valley and told him that the vegetation was much better in the south, he moved and founded the farm Gnúpur near Núpsstaður just east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
      In Landnáma, the book of the Icelandic settlement, Bárður’s wife’s name is not mentioned but the names of his nine sons were: Sigmundur, Þorsteinn, Egill, Gísli, Nefsteinn, Þorbjörn krum, Hjör, Þorgrímur and Björn.
      Bárðarbunga is Iceland’s second-highest mountain rising 2,009 meters (6,591 feet) above sea level. It’s Iceland’s largest volcanic system, 200 km (120 miles) long and 25 km (16 miles) wide.

    • Eggid says:

      Bárður was an Norwegian that lived in Bárðardalur (norð part of Iceland) He discovered that the south part of Iceland was also inhabitable and seems to have walked from Bárðardalur to the south part, and crossed Vatnajökull. Here is an Icelandic story about Bárður – not sure how good a google translation is, but feel free to to drop me an email if you want to know more — eggid77@gmail.com


    • Valdimar says:

      To Steinar: Bárður was actually a Norwegian who emigrated to Iceland. The book of Landnáma tells his story. He actually came first to the north but realized it would be better for him and his family to live in the south. So the story goes that he traveled across the highlands past Bárðarbunga before settling in the south.
      More here in Icelandic, http://www.ruv.is/frett/hver-var-bardur-sem-bungan-heitir-eftir

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I have been reading Dave McGarvie’s and Gisli Olafsson’s twitter feeds. They aren’t calling it one way or another but they seem to still think no explosive eruption is possible, also that air travel may not be adversely affected to a 2010 level. You seem, on the other hand, to be waving a bit of an alarm. Care to clarify?

    • zyfly says:

      These volcanologists don’t know what is going to happen so they typically error on the side of down playing in my experience. Their reputation comes into play when they start predicting things. If they use language that scares people such as saying it’s quite possible this could be a very large catastrophic eruption, and people change their plans, etc, etc and this doesn’t happen, they look worse than if on the other hand, they say, its’ probably not going to be bad. They can always say later, “I said probably” and not look as bad. In the end, no one can predict geological events and this thing may take years to play out.

    • I don’t know why they say this. In my view there is a good chance of eruption taking place. While it would be good if no eruption took place the reality is that we have here a volcano. A highly active volcano that has not erupted for at least 200 years.

      I also consider the data and from the looks of the data, this is heading to a eruption. When and how big is not something I can say anything about. I just know it is coming.

  3. Christopher Mathews says:

    “Bárður’s lump” or “Bárður’s bulge” would be close enough.

    Bárður Bjarnason was a 10th-century settler in eastern Iceland. A number of landmarks in the area are named for him.


  4. Scots John says:

    I had a feeling something was imminent Jon, the graphs (especially Dyn) are showing phases that are increasing and then dropping, we are in the upcycle of a phase at the moment which looks like a might jump around midnight tonight, before dropping again. However what you are saying could mean we are reaching the point of an event of some magnitude.

    We shall see.

    • Unmentionable says:

      I saw the same thing, all 4 dropped, now going up for another cycle.

      The larger quakes extension the crust and make room so the vertical drops. Then the magma gush catches up, so a few hours later so the site verticals all rise again. At it builds pressure again we’ll get more larger quake swarms and the verticals will all drop again.

      You can only do that for so long. Either the magma source supply declines or something gives, or a tectonic tension response takes it to a new level.

    • daveS says:

      I think we will see some bigger more shallow quakes before any surface activity. This could go on for days. There do seem to be more inder 5Km deep but still very small.

    • Scots John says:

      Well I said it may jump around midnight and we got a 4.7 at 11.50PM, so I think I am right about these cycles. The next cycle has started and is looking at the moment to be equally intense. We’ll see as the day progresses.

  5. Ana says:

    Hi Jon
    I’m Ana, from Spain. I’m following the Vulcano news too. We are travelling to Iceland on Saturday and we are worry about it. We don’t know if it would be safe to be there even if the eruption doesn’t start. Do you think that the vulcano could stay in that situation for weeks? Or the eruption is ready to come in few days?
    Thank you very much for your news!
    We hope everything is ok!!
    Kind regards from Madrid:)

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Ana,

      As long as you steer clear of the immediate area around Vatnajokull you’ll be safe. I lived in Iceland for a few years and have full faith in how they handle eruptions.

      Keep an eye on the news reports and current events and there shouldn’t be an issue. Even if there were delays due to an eruption and ash floating in the air you shouldn’t be in any immediate danger.

      At any rate it will be a story to tell. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

      • Hi Ana and all, same here only we are flying next wednesday.
        For the moment trusting and looking forward to a great trip – but yes of course trying to stay up to date with all updates and, if any, major developements – If I am correct and stay on the positive but realistic side it seems the only really serious threat might be an ash rain influencing the flights. Does that sounds naïve or???

    • It isn’t known yet if an eruption is going to take place. There is no risk of air travel disruptions, since no eruption has started. Even if a eruption starts it is going to take few days for any eruption to melt the glacier. That is also does not mean that the ash cloud is going to reach the altitude that air plains travel in (that is 10 km).

      This type of situation might last for years, if this is a rift type of event, and it is starting to look like that might just be the case now.

  6. Ásgeir Ásgeirsson says:

    Steinar Midtskogen,
    According to the ancent book of Landnámabók, Bárður son of Heyjangurs-Bjarna arrived by ship at Skjálfandi (north-east of Iceland). Most likely from Norway.
    He settled in Bárðardalur and lived in Lindarbrekka for awhile. But do to cold and strong northren winds from an open see he decided to move to the south cost. He packed everything he had and went by foot over the highlands. He must have had
    a strong ego because he named many things in his name, (Bárðarbunga, Bárðardalur and Bárðargata) to name a few.
    He settled in Fljótshverfi in the south-east and lived at Gnúpum, that´s where he gets his name “Gnúpa-Bárður”
    Your interpretation of the name is correct “Bárður´s lump”.

  7. Gummi says:

    You are just about spot on with the translation, I’d call it Bárður’s bulge. This particular Bárður was one of the early settlers of Iceland. He moved his settlement from the north of the country south to an area close to the southern part of Vatnajökull, transporting his livestock and everything on sleds and in the process, he was probably one of the first people to ever lay eyes on Bárðarbunga as it is quite far from inhabitable parts of the island. Or so the story goes, true or not 😉

  8. Chris Gordon says:


    Bárðarbunga is named after settler Bárður Bjarnason, later called Gnúpa-Bárður, from the Sognefjord in West Norway, who came ashore near Húsavík and settled in the valley still bearing his name, Bárðardalur in North Iceland, around the year 900.
    Several years later Bárður sent some of his sons—he had nine—to check the land in South Iceland. They made the return journey over the still uninhabited highlands near Bárðarbunga and through the pass Vonarskarð. The path from North to South Iceland is still named Bárðargata.
    After his sons returned from the journey to his farm Lundarbrekka in Bárðardalur valley and told him that the vegetation was much better in the south, he moved and founded the farm Gnúpur near Núpsstaður just east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
    In Landnáma, the book of the Icelandic settlement, Bárður’s wife’s name is not mentioned but the names of his nine sons were: Sigmundur, Þorsteinn, Egill, Gísli, Nefsteinn, Þorbjörn krum, Hjör, Þorgrímur and Björn.
    Bárðarbunga is Iceland’s second-highest mountain rising 2,009 meters (6,591 feet) above sea level. It’s Iceland’s largest volcanic system, 200 km (120 miles) long and 25 km (16 miles) wide.

  9. ohr says:

    Steinar, your Norwegian ears are correct.

    Bárðarbunga is named after a Norwegian settler in Iceland.
    The later half of the name “bunga” means bulge – it is the shape of the mountain.

    Bárður (Bard) was son of Heyangurs-Björn. Bárður settled first in the north part of Iceland – in Bárðardalur – but later moved all his people and stock south to Fljótshverfi, south of Vatnajökull. Some claim that he went through Vatnajökull glacier which they suppose had a pathway through iceless valleys most of the way through the glacier. Later as it got colder these valleys supposedly got filled with ice.

  10. Karen says:

    I would like to thank Jon and the many contributors of comments to this page for all this great info. It seems some of the mainstream media has picked up on this (late), and I see a lot of regurgitated old news showing up that is alarmist and sensationalist. I, like others, have a trip planned (through Iceland) in less than two weeks, and I appreciate the honest, in-depth, accurate and non-alarmist information of people such as you. Even if I didn’t have a trip planned, I find this information provided to be fascinating and quite an interesting learning experience.

    • zyfly says:

      Excuse me while I say something alarmist rather than be dismissive and cavalier. Bardabunga is very dangerous volcano and could be heading for a catastrophic eruption. You do what you want with “could” as that’s your choice. Reality is not “alarmist”, its reality.

      • Karen says:

        Oh by “alarmist” I mean some of the websites that are implying that it’s imminent or a prelude to the end of the world. It’s serious, certainly – but from airline reports, it’s not quite yet to panic and cancel trips yet.

      • zyfly says:

        Agreed. Of course those people have reasons for their beliefs and time will only tell if they are right.

      • I’ll be over Iceland early Monday, but until there is clear evidence that an eruption has begun, I see no reason even to consider options. There is a real possibility that this will erupt within days, though. Of course. It’s an active volcano and Iceland is full of them!

        I don’t think it’s alarmist to say that this could become big. But it would be alarmist to say that people around the world should alter their plans. Unless you plan to hike in this area of Iceland, stick to your plans for now.

  11. MrExplosion says:

    If this is true, it could indicate an eruption is already underway. Jon is correct, if the ice collapses into the caldera… well… boom…

  12. I am still sick. It seems that I got food poisoning yesterday. I hope this passes soon.
    I am going to do my best to keep things updated, but it might be difficult for me to do so while I am sick.

  13. wurzeldave says:

    Hope you feel better soon Jon.
    Jumping ahead with Bardabunga, if /when the eruption starts what are peoples thoughts on the VEI (will it be a 2 a 4 etc)?

  14. wurzeldave says:


  15. Sally ward says:

    Get well soon Jon

  16. I have a simple mrtg earthquake counter. It has now just gone over 1000 earthquakes recorded today. This is the first time that happens since I started using it.

  17. wurzeldave says:

    1000 quakes so far today, wonder what tomorrow will bring!

  18. Treacleminer says:

    Yes and IMO have published a graph of seismic events against year for Bardabunga and this has been taking off exponentially since last year! It does look as though the question is when, not if, just as Jon said.

    Jon, you still have not said whether you still have a Paypal account.

    • I do have a paypal account. There is a paypal button at the top of this page under the “Donation” text.

      The current sequence of events appears to have started in week 20, it has been slow moving until last week when all hell broke loose.

  19. Barbara says:

    Very informative blog, thanks Jón for your efforts.
    Get well soon!

  20. Kim says:



    mb 4.7



    Date time

    2014-08-21 23:50:23.4 UTC


    64.54 N ; 17.73 W


    10 km

    • shane johnston says:

      M 4.8 – 117km WNW of Hofn, Iceland
      DYFI? – I

      2014-08-21 16:50:22 UTC-07:00
      64.560°N 17.548°W

  21. That last quake just before midnight (4.7 accing to emsc, 4.8 according to usgs) clearly shows up in my seismometer in Oslo. That’s impressive for a quake of volcanic origin.

    • Dmh says:

      I agree, do you know if there is a “threshold”, in terms of the EQs magnitude related with volcanic activity, to indicate an imminent eruption?

  22. James says:

    I’ve been following this volcano for a while now, it’s been fascinating so far, and testament to the availability of data thanks to modern networking. I’ve been following the development of the quakes on this site here, which I presume is reasonably accurate:

    I can’t help but notice that there seems to be two distinct columns now, and it’s the smaller, “newer” column that has been the origin for a series of stronger quakes. I’m no volcanologist, (Though I am a natural sciences graduate), what exactly are we looking at there? The formation of a second plume? A branch from the main magma chamber? Shifts in ground structure?

  23. Dmh says:

    I’m expecting a VEI 4, a beautiful one like Grímsvötn in 2011 ( 🙂 ), but it’s just my intuition.
    I’m not expecting a larger one, like VEI 6+, etc., because I believe that these very large eruptions happen only in certain periods during which no very large EQs (Mag 8.8 or greater) happen.
    The reason for “my belief” are the historic records that seem to indicate the existence of some periodicity (for these very large geophysical events) and a correlation between large EQs and large eruptions.
    On the other hand we have had quite a few large EQs since the beginning of this XXI century- 3 with Mag 8.8 or more- and if “my theory” is correct, this would preclude any large eruption for at least 10 years, possibly more.

  24. Dmh says:

    What is the biggest, Jon? Is there a “threshold”, like e.g. Mag 4.0 or 4.5, to indicate an imminent eruption?

    • StridAst says:

      There hasn’t been a significant eruption here since data collection started. So no way to tell just what to expect. Some volcanos (Hekla) often have similar characteristics before an eruption. (M5)

      Others vary each time. Bárðarbunga has had such a huge range of eruptions, everything from the small hiccup to the biggest lava flows in the Holocene, that any assumption about what to expect would be meaningless. After all, why would it have the same signs before two completely different eruptions.

  25. Kees says:

    Thank you all for the informations! Very interesting and allthough I have never been in Iceland, in documentarys I recognized an beautifull country with great nature.
    Kees from Holland.

  26. Daniele says:

    The general activity of the earthquakes is well dropped but at the same time, although being light, the activity under the Bárðarbunga volcano has increased this morning.

  27. Eric says:

    Love following this blog. And all I can add are the only 2 webcams available for now. Not much contribution I am afraid since I expect you guys to have them: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/viewer?mid=za83J0dFGG5s.kL8kvbk959Eo&cid=mp&cv=tCkQllHVtMg.nl.

  28. Fiona Swanson says:

    Hi there… been watching the live web cam on Bardarbunga…. can anyone else see steam rising .. look at the camera image.. right hand side… half way down… it looks as if its rising from a valley?

    I have been seeing it drifting to the far right of the screen for about 20 mins now??

    Or is it my eyes playing tricks!

    Thanks for all your hard work Jon, hope you are on the mend.

  29. Craig P says:

    Hi Fiona,

    Your eyes are not playing tricks – There is something there.

  30. Peter says:


    i can see the steam too. I wonder about that. Melting Snow/Ice?
    Is the ground going warm? Or maybe the beginning of an eruption?
    I have the feeling it becomes more and more.
    Maybe just fog in the sun?

    Greetings from Germany
    sry 4 my english

  31. Fiona Swanson says:

    Oh…. excellent. 🙂

    I am living in Angola Africa but have been glued to the volcano activity as my hubby is flying back here from the Aberdeen,UK today. When the last eruption happened in 2010 he was supposed to be travelling the first day the airspace was closed.

    What are the odds!!!….

    • Craig P says:

      I think he’ll have plenty of time to make it back. I think this has a long way to go yet.

  32. whistler says:

    Interesting change in the activity, the frequent earthquakes are lower magnitude, just around 1 or below, but we seem to now have more stronger earthquakes (mag 3+). Also the strong M4,8 quake came just at the predicted top of the cycle, and so far this cycle has seen the strongest quakes. So most likely we will see each cycle increase in activity and provide stronger and stronger quakes.

  33. Brian says:

    It doesn’t appear to be fog to me, only because it has a fairly focused point of origin rather than passing across a wider area. Whatever it is, it is definitely moving from left to right then off camera.

  34. Al says:

    Hi Jon,

    I’ve not posted for a while, I think about two years!

    Hope you are making a good recovery from your recent bug.

    I came across this abstract concerning the Septmber 1996 earthquake and eruption of Bárðarbunga.

    A Seismological Portrait of the Anomalous 1996 Bardarbunga Volcano, Iceland, Earthquake

    I am not sure of the scale of the seismic swarms within the Caldera in 1996, but I assume the current activity within Bardarbunga Caldera is far greater now than then. Is this correct? Is the current seismic activity within the Caldera below the ice caused by fractures opening or moving within various regions of the existing plug or is it just in the wall?

    My concern is this time we could have a total collapse, obviously this may never happen, we may not even get a Leki style eruption. Lets hope we get no surface eruption, but am I correct in saying a Leki style eruption would be less damaging (although still very serious) than a full Stratovolcano eruption?

    Thanks for keeping this excellent website going. I currently have very little money, but hope this will change soon, at which point I will make a donation, you certainly deserve some reward for all your efforts.

    All the best

    Al (from near Edinburgh)

  35. Craig P says:

    Looking at the Mila webcam there seem to be separate sources of this steam/dust – again it could be eyes playing tricks…

  36. Al says:

    By the way I should have mentioned in my last post, but this is an excellent website. It shows the seismic data in real time and plots it on a 3D (can be rotated in all directions) graph at the same time. Also includes a live camera view.

    I should also so add that as much as I like watching volcanoes, I really don’t want to see a full Bárðarbunga eruption!

    another good website for watching seismics

    • zydefly says:

      One idea is to round up all ISIS members and corral them into a pen over the caldera. Certainly better than some holy virgins.

  37. Fiona Swanson says:

    Just an observation but the clouds are moving right to left on the horizon where the dust seems to be rising along a ridge going left to right as you view it …

    Weird but obv nothing to worry about…

    • Daniele says:

      because there is wind shear: winds on the soil and at 3-4000 m of height come from different direction usually.

  38. I am going to try and write a new post later. I am still sick, I am improving I hope. I have two geophones in Iceland that show the largest earthquakes in Bárðarbunga volcano. Both geophones are more then 100 km away from Bárðarbunga volcano.

    They can be viewed here: http://www.jonfr.com/webicorders/tremoren.htm

  39. Jens says:

    Sandstorms are common in that area and the conditions were just right for that. When the weather is dry the normally emerge late morning and are getting bigger until the meltwater of the Dyngjujökull floods this area and binds the fine sand again.

  40. zydefly says:

    Jon, I bought something from Amazon by using the link in the “Amazon Web Store” page you have. You get credit, correct?

    Many of you don’t know, but Jon’s income barely keeps him afloat, so if you want to support him and this blog, buy from links on this site and send this site to others you know to join in on the amazing (euphemism) events that take place in Iceland.

    • Yes. I get 5 to 10% of each sale that happens trough the Amazon links here (more sales, the higher percentage I get). It doesn’t matter what is bought from Amazon.

      I plan on moving back to Iceland in December due to my income problem here in Denmark. I don’t expect to be returning to Denmark. Since I find it difficult to monitor volcanoes in Iceland from Denmark on the level that I want to do. My endless income problem also plays it’s part in this, since I don’t expect to go off social welfare for a long time now.

      I wrote about moving back to Iceland here, http://www.jonfr.com/?p=8500

      Thanks for your support. 🙂

  41. Charlie says:

    USGS showing a M4.3 at 15:41 UTC. Does anyone know why it’s not showing on the vedur.is site? http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/usb000s5e5#summary

  42. Scots John says:

    Hi Jon,

    Tracking the last down and upcycle was quite accurate, I have been following the graphs all day for signs of when the current cycle will finish its down cycle, only to find it appears to be on the upcycle already. This appears as though an event may occur around 10 pm. We have just had an event of M3.5 at 17.53 which is outside my assumed parameters.

    It looks as though your predictions may be closer than IMO believe. The fall in the caldera is I believe indicative that all the surrounding activity are magma conduits leading to Bardabunga magma chamber. IMO are surmising that these are being opened up wider by the continued flow.

    I the mantle plume theory is correct, and the magma temperatures at this location are much higher than elsewhere then these conduits can only become more aggressive unless the source depletes. If the source is the plume then it will not deplete.

    Just my theory, for what it’s worth, but I’ve not been that far out so far.

  43. Henning says:

    I’m a complete novice in this field (but engineer by trade), but looking at the earthquakes it seems like they have lessened in magnitude over the past 24 hours:

    Additionally, it seems like the tremors are decreasing as well (at least the lower frequency ones).

    Does this indicate that it might be slowing down? Also, where is the data coming from that says the caldera is lowering?

    • David J says:

      I’m not so sure. Just a few hours ago there was a magnitude 3.5 in the caldera, and there have been a number of M3+ earthquakes in the last 36-48 hours. There have still been around 2000 earthquakes in the last two days. I don’t think it’s going to calm down just yet. But none of us know what will happen.

      What’s interesting is that all the M3+ quakes seem to now be taking place in the caldera, including the M4.8. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens.

      • Dmh says:

        “What’s interesting is that all the M3+ quakes seem to now be taking place in the caldera, including the M4.8″
        How do you know that? It seems a very important information, possibly indicating a source of pressure from beyond the fissure itself.

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