Holuhraun, from Bárðarbunga Volcano

So one of our lovely volcanoes, Bárðarbunga, has been slowly but steadily building up activity over the last 7 years. It’s been acting out lately, giving us a few earthquakes of magnitude over 3, and the mountain is expanding to the east. These are clear signs that magma is building up below the earth, and that might mean that we’ll be facing a new volcanic eruption soon.

Bárðarbunga activity

Bárðarbunga (pronounced BOW-r-th-ar-BOON-ga more or less) is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes and Iceland’s second highest mountain (2009 meters). Like most of Iceland’s volcanoes, it’s located right on the tectonic plate boundary and it’s right underneath Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull.

Bárðarbunga is a part of the same volcanic system as the last eruption we had, which was from August 2014 to March 2015. A new lava field was formed and named Holuhraun, just like the old one underneath it. Original, isn’t it? In fact there was a popular suggestion to name it “Nornahraun”, or “Witches’ lava field,” due to the large amounts of “Witches’ hair” (in English “Pele’s hair”) in that eruption. But a committee of presumably very boring people decided it should be called Holuhraun. (I will still call it Nornarhraun though, no matter what they say).

We don’t know yet what the next eruption in Bárðarbunga will be like – that depends on where the magma decides to come out. Last time, in the 2014 Holuhraun eruption, the magma travelled through underground fissures and came out of the ground just north of Vatnajökull, resulting in a mostly peaceful and incredibly photogenic eruption of flowing lava. However, if the magma decides to erupt underneath the glacier, it’ll cause an explosive eruption, probably complete with a massive cloud of ash much like the one Eyjafjallajökull produced in 2010.

Some scientists say that this build-up of activity in Bárðarbunga might mean a new series of eruptions in this volcanic system for the next decade or so. Luckily the next populated place is 75 kilometers away so we’re not expecting too much damage from it, but now it’s only a matter of time until we see something big happen in Bárðarbunga. We’ll keep you posted!

If you’re going to Iceland and have a thing for volcanoes, you can actually visit Eyjafjallajökull, go lava caving or of course visit us here at Volcano House. You can find out about volcanoes in our Volcano Exhibition or see our Documentary Show every hour on the hour!