Geophysicist Helgi Björnsson said a magma intrusion caused the glacial flood from Köldukvíslarjökull, a part of Vatnajökull in southeast Iceland, on Tuesday night. It is possible that a minor eruption occurred underneath the icecap.
Vatnajökull. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The Köldukvíslarjökull flood originated in a previously unknown high-temperature geothermal area in the western part of Vatnajökull, ruv.is reports.
Björnsson explained that the magma intrusion occurred near the bottom of the glacier, possibly extending into the ice, and thus furthering glacial melt.
He reasoned that it is possible that a minor sub-glacial volcanic eruption occurred, even though it didn’t penetrate the icecap, which is 300 meters thick in this area.
Björnsson added it is fairly likely that further seismic activity will occur in the area in the near future—the glacial flood was preceded by tremors—and therefore it should be monitored closely.
Earth scientists say both recent glacial floods, from Mýrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull, can be explained by volcanic activity and therefore a close eye must be kept on the volcanoes that lie underneath these glaciers, even though there are no indications of imminent eruptions, visir.is reports.
Geologist Oddur Sigurdsson at the Icelandic Meteorological Office noted there has clearly been an increase in volcanic eruptions in Iceland since the mid-20th century.