Scientists Worry about Air Quality Skip to content

Scientists Worry about Air Quality

Scientists from the Icelandic Met Office and Institute of Earth Sciences and representatives of the Civil Protection Department in Iceland met this morning with representatives from the Environment Agency of Iceland and the Chief Epidemiologist from the Directorate of Health.

Their conclusions were as follows:

The eruptive activity at Holuhraun:

The situation at the eruption site is the same as before. Lava flows to the east at similar rates as yesterday. Although the lava is now in contact with the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, it does not reduce the lava flow rates significantly. No explosive activity due to the lava and river water interaction has been observed, but steam rises from the lava. The extent of the lava is now approximately 19 square km (7.5 square miles).

No activity is now detected in the southernmost fissure, although small amounts of gas and steam are rising from it.

Air quality in urban areas in East Iceland:

Measured concentrations of SO2 in Reyðarfjörður suggest that people with underling respiratory problems might be affected, although others should not experience any significant discomfort.
Efforts to increase the gas monitoring in inhabited areas are on-going, by the Environment Agency of Iceland.

If eruptive activity continues at similar rates, the air quality in East Iceland will remain similar.

Air quality at the eruption site:

Gas emissions at the eruption site remain high. As local gas concentrations at the site can be life-threatening, people at the eruption site should wear gas masks and carry gas meters.

Scientists on site, have had to leave the area as concentrations of gas reached dangerous levels, due to sudden changes in wind conditions.

At the eruption site, local wind anomalies can occur due to thermal convection from the hot lava. This makes the conditions on site extremely dangerous as winds can change suddenly and unpredictably.

Seismic activity:

The seismicity has reduced since yesterday. Around 80 earthquakes have been recorded since midnight. Around 07:20 UTC, a magnitude 4.7 earthquake occurred on the rim of the Bárðarbunga caldera. Small but continuous low frequency tremors have been observed over the last few days.
GPS observations show insignificant crustal movements supporting the assumption that the amount of magma flowing into the dike continues to be similar to the magma erupted to the surface.

Four scenarios are still likely:

  • The migration of magma could stop, resulting in a gradual reduction in seismic activity and no further eruptions.
  • The dike could reach the earth’s surface at different locations outside the glacier. Lava flow and/or explosive activity cannot be excluded.
  • The intrusion again reaches the surface under the glacier and possibly leads to a significant eruption. This would most likely produce a flood in Jökulsá á Fjöllum and perhaps explosive, ash-producing activity.
  • An eruption in Bárðarbunga. The eruption could cause an outburst flood and possibly an explosive, ash-producing activity. In the event of a sub-glacial eruption, it is most likely that flooding would affect Jökulsá á Fjöllum. However it is not possible to exclude the following flood paths: Skjálfandafljót, Kaldakvísl, Skaftá and Grímsvötn.

Other scenarios cannot be excluded.

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