The National Police Commissioner has declared an “uncertainty phase” for the volcano Askja owing to ongoing surface uplift. The Icelandic MET Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland will ramp up their monitoring of the volcano next week.
The National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Chief of Police in Northeast Iceland, has declared an “uncertainty phase” owing to the ongoing surface uplift at the Askja volcano in central Iceland. Since late August, GPS observations and satellite data have registered deformation changes (i.e. changes in the shape of the surface of Askja); the surface has risen approximately seven centimetres, which is a substantial uplift for the given period.
The most likely explanation for the uplift is magma accumulation at a depth between 2-3 km. Next week, the MET Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland will ramp up their monitoring network to keep a closer eye on the volcano. Furthermore, the MET Office has changed the aviation colour code for Askja from green to yellow.
The declaration of an “uncertainty phase” by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management signals the necessity of increased monitoring of a developing situation, which could threaten the health and safety of the citizenry, the environment, or infrastructure. The procedure ensures formal communication and the exchange of information between relevant response parties.
No indication of an imminent eruption
As reported by Iceland Review earlier this week, surface uplift can culminate a volcanic eruption; however, it is also conceivable that the magma will cool and congeal without ever reaching the surface. There are currently no indications that an eruption is imminent.
The Askja volcano is seismically active and earthquakes are regularly detected in the area. There has, however, been no change in seismic patterns, which would indicate increased volcanic activity, according to Sigþrúður Ármannsdóttir with the Icelandic Met Office. The last eruption at Askja was in 1961 and lasted roughly six weeks.
The Met Office notes that active volcanoes in Iceland are often characterized by periods of inactivity, lasting years to decades, with intervals of enhanced seismicity, geothermal activity, and inflation. In most cases, magmatic intrusions do not culminate into an eruption. The ongoing eruption in Reykjanes began about a year after land started to rise in the area. At this stage, there is no immediate danger to travellers in the area. It is very difficult to anticipate how the situation will evolve but the Met Office will continue to monitor the situation.