Uncertainly level declared for Öræfajökull volcano, aviation code moved to yellow alert

Yesterday the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management declared uncertainty level for Öræfajökull volcano. Aviation colour code was also moved up to yellow alert level (can be viewed here).

Current status is that a ice cauldron has formed in the centre of the Öræfajökull volcano caldera. It is about 1 km wide and around 21 to 25 meters deep according to early measurements. This is the first time in documented history that such ice cauldrons has formed in Öræfajökull volcano. It is now believed that the ice cauldron has been emptying it self all week resulting in smell of sulphur in Kvíá glacier river. The glacier river can be viewed here on Google Maps Street View. Currently there is not a lot of earthquake activity happening in Öræfajökull volcano. This is to be expected (I guess). It is also worth noting that Öræfajökull volcano did do in few months what took Eyjafjallajökull volcano 16 years to do until an eruption happened.

There is not a lot of details on earlier eruptions from Öræfajökull volcano. Earliest eruption to our in time took place between 1727 and until 1728 (289 years). Before that an eruption took place in 1362 (655 years) and lasted for five months. Currently I don’t have a lot of information about the current status. This is due to lack of measurements as it was not expected that Öræfajökull volcano would do this even if earthquake activity was happening in the volcano. It was only from October (it seems) that it was figured out that something was going on in Öræfajökull volcano.


No earthquake activity in Öræfajökull volcano during the past 48 hours (blue dot in the south part of the image). Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

Images of the new ice cauldron can be found here on Icelandic Met Office website.

I’ll post new information in this article as needed. If anything major happens I’ll write a new article.

Article updated at 16:26 UTC. Added information that I forgot.

43 Replies to “Uncertainly level declared for Öræfajökull volcano, aviation code moved to yellow alert”

  1. Is there something quietly brewing under the ice? If there was some fresh, hot basalt actively rejuvenating older rhyolite-like stuff how would this manifest itself on the surface?

    “A major silicic eruption in 1362 CE was Iceland’s largest historical explosive eruption”

    1. Not the weather, because you would see ash or mineral traces on the glacier by now, but the glacier itself perhaps. Acc. to German Wikipedia, the caldera is about 550 m deep and filled with ice.

      But geophysicist Magnús Tumi Gudmundsson says, there is (just?) a new and intensive high temperature system in the middle of the caldera under the ice. (see: IngeB, 22:58)

      BTW: Google translates “ketill” often by “caldera”, which is wrong. A ketill is a cauldron,much smaller than a caldera, calderas are sort of very big craters, whereas this cauldron phenomenon means indentations within a big glacier cap covering a volcano, like here in case of Öraefajökull. See the photo links here by others.

      1. So it is the heat from below that melts the the glacial ice from below causing part of the caldera glacial to collaps and form an ice cauldron?

  2. New player in the game:
    The Dalek (-look-alike) ash-radar, which we know from BB eruption, standing all alone on mount Vaðalda, will be installed next to the volcano.
    https://twitter.com/i/web/status/932279168905240581

    This is the new cauldron. I believe the photo is taken during the scientific surveillance flight yesterday. In the middle, not the broken ice on the right.
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DO-wj6DX0AA7EvB.jpg
    Photo is from MT Guðmundsson.

    While writing this, there seems to be an eq swarm… http://hraun.vedur.is/ja/drumplot/drumplot/hox_highpass_2.0.png

      1. Being located at the outer edge of the glacier, there must be some exposed bedrock, surely? Maybe not, I have no idea. But even if there is, maybe it would be too difficult to access, thus making maintenance nearly impossible.

  3. About the biggest eruption in Öraefajökull since beginning of settlement in Iceland (1362):
    http://folk.uio.no/rtronnes/Publ-sci/JVGR07-Selbekk-RhyoliteMagma-Or-1362AD.pdf
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0377027308004381

    On the other hand, it could a) be some 16-18 years til the glacier volcano has its next eruption and b) most of the known eruptions were not very big (citing geophysicist and professor Magnús Tumi Gudmundsson).

    1. You have to cite him correctly:

      “Holocene volcanic activity before the 1362
      eruption was modest, with two minor lava
      flows on the east side of the volcano. One is
      on the lowlands west of Kvíárjökull while the
      other is higher up on the slopes in Vatnafjöll
      on the north side of Kvíárjökull.
      Tephro chronology of soils around Öræfajökull has
      been studied, suggesting that a few, relatively small rhyolitic eruptions
      occurred during the period
      (Guðmundsson, 1998). Thus, apart
      from the 1362 eruption, activity in Öræfajökull has been
      modest in Holocene times.”

      http://www.vedur.is/gogn/vefgogn/jokulhlaup/haettumat/oraefajokull_markarfljotsaurar/bok_en/chapter_II.pdf (2.3. Volcanic production rate and Holocene activity).

      He also mentions a volume growth of 0,25 cubic kilometre every thousand years since approx. 800.000 years ago and that considering the erosion due to ice and jökulhlaups the long-term mean eruption rate must have been considerably higher.

  4. Latests news is that the water samples show that the hydrothermal system has just gotten warm and doesn’t show any sign of magma powering it at this point.

    It seems that magma is at this point only entering Öræfajökull volcano at depth resulting in earthquake activity at shallower depth at the moment.

  5. Evolved magma causing geothermal activity,causing glacial melt,purely heat driven event ,hence no indication of magma interaction in glacial melt.Seismic activity driven by evolved magma induced heating of shallow crust driven by the upwelling of primitive magma at depth…but that’s just a guess

  6. A geology professor with ISOR (company) says that an eruption has already started in Öræfajökull volcano. His reasoning is that hydrothermal activity does only starts when magma is at shallow depth in Öræfajökull volcano.

    This does make sense if the magma is of rhyolite magma and slow moving. I’ll post the news when it’s published at Vísir.is (in Icelandic).

    1. Interesting!
      What would the professor say to the BB-activity, which Shane C posted here?
      http://www.jonfr.com/volcano/?p=7199#comment-74968
      – a couldron filled with water
      – a second one coming steam out of it
      – high conduktivity in Jökulsá á Fjöllum!
      This is even a step further than Öræfajökull shows at the moment!

      Meanwhile a few kilometers away…
      Some earthquakes show up under Þórðarhyrna (belongs to Laki-Grimsvötn system) with 2,7 to 4,1 km depth.

      1. Bárðarbunga volcano is not connected to Öræfajökull volcano. Since Öræfajökull volcano is on its own volcano belt that contains the following volcanoes.

        Öræfajökull
        Esjufjöll
        Possible unnamed volcano
        Snæfell (east Iceland).

        This map shows this properly. Along with low hydrothermal areas of Iceland.

        http://www1.mms.is/jardfraedi/pictures/kort_isor.jpg (red dots are hydrothermal areas above 100C, orange dots are hydrothermal areas with temperature between 30C to 80C.)
        https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Volcanic_zones_of_Iceland.svg

  7. Here is the article I did mention in earlier comment. It’s in Icelandic but it argues that eruption started in Öræfajökull volcano at least 1 month ago. The magma is then rhyolitic (Felsic) in nature and is now pushing up lava dome under the glacier. This article also says that the glacier in the caldera is up to 540 meters thick. If this is the case parts of Iceland are going to have serious ash problems in next few months as the rhyolitic lava dome breaks trough the glacier and becomes unstable. Next earthquake swarm might give more information about what’s going on in Öræfajökull volcano.

    http://isor.is/frettir/hugleidingar-um-eldsumbrot-i-oraefajokli (Icelandic)

    The eruption in 1362 was rhyolitic in nature.

    https://www.nhm.uio.no/english/research/arctic/min-geo/vulkan-island.html
    It was also Plinian eruption.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plinian_eruption

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