GPS measurements taken at Grímsvötn volcano in Southeast Iceland show that the land there is starting to rise again, RÚV reports. Scientists say this means that there will not be a glacial flood in the immediate future, as was thought a possibility only days ago.
Scientists and Civil Defense authorities have been closely monitoring the area around Grímsvötn all weekend. “Our data indicate that a glacial flood isn’t imminent right now, but the water level in Grímsvötn is very high, so we fully expect that there will be a flood this year,” explained Kristín Jónsdóttir, coordinator of the Icelandic Met Office’s Earthquake Hazards team. Glacial meltwater collects in a subglacial lake and caldera in Grímsvötn’s core, both of which are covered by an ice cap. The water level of the lake rises slowly but surely, until finally, it overflows in a glacial flood.
Grímsvötn, located under the Vatnajökull ice cap, is the most active volcano in Iceland and has erupted as many as 100 times since the time of Iceland’s settlement, and 13 times since 1902. It is part of a volcanic system that is over 100 km long and extends down to the Laki craters. Grímsvötn last erupted in 2011—the volcano’s largest eruption in 140 years.
A glacial flood at Grímsvötn can trigger a volcanic eruption. Although these eruptions can be strong, the primary side effect has usually been disruptions to air traffic. If there is an eruption of Grímsvötn in coming year, scientists say it is unlikely to be as big as the one in 2011.
Grímsvötn will continue to be closely monitored, with scientists travelling to the area on Sunday to conduct checks on the equipment there.