Evidence that Grímsvötn Volcano is Preparing for Next Eruption Skip to content
Vatnajökull Grímsfjall Grímsvötn Bárðarbunga Kverkfjöll Jöklar Jökull Vísindi
Photo: Golli. Grímsvötn, 2019.

Evidence that Grímsvötn Volcano is Preparing for Next Eruption

The Scientific Advisory Board of Iceland’s Civil Protection Department is meeting today to discuss the latest measurements done at Grímsvötn volcano. Recent gas measurements indicate there is magma near the surface of the volcano and the volcano may be preparing for an eruption. Grímsvötn last erupted in 2011 and erupts on average every 5-10 years during active periods.

Earlier this month, scientists from the Icelandic Met Office measured sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the southwest corner of the caldera in Grímsvötn, close to where the last eruptions in 2004 and 2011 took place.  “This is the first time that we measure so much SO2 at a volcano in Iceland that is not in an eruptive phase and its presence is indicative of magma at shallow level,” says Melissa Anne Pfeffer, a specialist at the Met Office who participated in the recent trip on Vatnajökull glacier. In addition to the high level of SO2, Melissa also reports that the area where geothermal activity can be detected at the surface of the volcano has notably increased.

Grímsvötn measurements June 2020
A specialist of Iceland Icelandic Met Office performs gas measurements in Grímsvötn, June 2020. Photo: IMO/Melissa Anne Pfeffer.

Experts say an eruption in Grímsvötn could be triggered by a glacial flood, as the removal of a large volume of water stored in the lake could facilitate the magma rising to the surface and trigger an eruption. “Therefore, the possibility of an eruption triggered by a glacial flood, which could occur in the coming weeks or months, has to be considered,” a notice from the Met Office states. “However, this may not be the case, and the next glacial flood may not lead to an eruption.”

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