Gas Pollution and Water Level Rise Near Mýrdalsjökull Glacier

Katla volcano

Hot water is flowing out from the geothermal system underneath Mýrdalsjökull glacier in South Iceland and conductivity remains high. Activity has, however decreased as compared to several days ago and there are no signs of volcanic unrest, RÚV reports.

An earthquake swarm was detected beneath the glacier last week, with the largest quake measuring M 4.4 and occurring on June 30 at 2:45 AM. Earthquake activity in the area has calmed since but continues nevertheless, with M 3.1 and M 2.2 earthquakes detected around 11:00 PM last night.

Gas pollution has also been detected near the site, and the Icelandic Met Office is warning travellers against being in the Katla volcano area due to the associated gas pollution risks. The Met Office also warns of a possible rise in water levels in Múlakvísl river due to the geothermal activity beneath Mýrdalsjökull.

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake in Mýrdalsjökull Glacier Last Night

Earthquakes in Mýrdalsjökull

A swarm of earthquakes struck South Iceland’s Mýrdalsjökull glacier last night. No evidence of volcanic activity has been found, a natural hazards expert with the Icelandic MET Office confirmed to Mbl.is this morning.

No evidence of volcanic activity

A swarm of earthquakes was registered in South Iceland’s Mýrdalsjökull glacier last night, with more than 70 earthquakes recorded since the initial tremor at 1.18 AM, Mbl.is reports. Bjarki Kaldalóns Friis, a natural hazards expert from the Icelandic MET office, anticipates ongoing seismic fluctuations in the region.

“The initial swarm lasted approximately 45 minutes, followed by a brief pause before resuming. Since 1 AM last night, approximately 70 earthquakes have been recorded. Among them, five registered above magnitude 3, with the largest measuring 4.4 magnitude at 2:45 AM. Notably, there is no evidence of volcanic activity or similar phenomena,” he added. Bjarki also mentioned that seismic activity was felt in populated regions, particularly in Þórsmörk.

“The swarm is related to a geothermal system situated beneath the Mýrdalsjökull glacier; we’re not expecting an eruption or anything like that,” Bjarki remarked, adding that there was nothing to indicate an increase in electrical conductivity or water level.

Bjarki also highlighted the possibility of geothermal water leakage occurring at the Markarfljót or Múlakvísl rivers due to the ongoing activity. Nevertheless, current measurements show no evidence of heightened electrical conductivity or of water level changes.

“This activity in Mýrdalsjökull has been ongoing for several weeks, representing a continuation of the same pattern possibly linked to the geothermal systems beneath the glacier,” Bjarki explained. “It’s not over, as seismic activity tends to fluctuate,” he added.

All Quiet on the Katla Glacier Following Yesterday’s Quakes

Katla volcano

No significant earthquakes were registered in the vicinity of the Katla caldera last night. A natural hazards expert at the Icelandic MET Office has told RÚV that it is “impossible to say” whether yesterday’s three earthquakes were an isolated event or the beginning of something bigger.

Road to the Katla Glacier closed

The Katla caldera in South Iceland has calmed down significantly since the earthquake swarm yesterday morning. Seismic activity began to diminish significantly yesterday afternoon, with only a single small tremor having been recorded since midnight, RÚV reports.

Kristín Elísa Guðmundsdóttir, a Natural Hazards expert at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told RÚV that it was “impossible to say” yet whether yesterday’s earthquakes were an isolated event or the start of something bigger: both possibilities must be kept open.

The National Commissioner’s office declared an uncertainty phase after the earthquake swarm yesterday; three earthquakes over M4 were recorded yesterday morning. The road to the Katla glacier has been closed and travellers are advised to keep their distance from the glacier’s roots.

As noted by RÚV, the earthquakes were likely caused by hydro or geothermal energy as opposed to the movement of magma. The quakes originated in the watershed area of the Múlakvíslar river. According to Kristín, however, there is currently no indication of an imminent run. “We are not seeing much change in Múlakvísl. The electrical conductivity is not high,” Kristín observed.

Activity in Mýrdalsjökull may be accompanied by gas pollution, RÚV notes.

“So there is absolutely every reason for people to exercise caution if they are near the glacier. There is an uncertainty phase in force at the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, and people are advised not to hike on the Katla Glacier. It is both because of the gas, which can be very dangerous, but also because we cannot be sure that something else will happen.”

The Icelandic MET Office is on duty 24 hours a day and monitors the situation closely, Kristín added.

Earthquakes by Bárðarbunga, Mýrdalsjökull

earthquakes iceland

Around 1 AM this morning, a magnitude 3.8 earthquake was recorded by Bárðarbunga, a volcanic system underneath Vatnajökull.

A relatively inactive system, Bárðarbunga last erupted in 2014 in the Holuhraun eruption, which caused relatively little disruption except for decreased air quality in the surrounding area.

The same fissure system has also seen significant seismic activity to its southwest, in the highland area between Vatnajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. Significant quakes (magnitude 3.0) were also detected by Góðabunga last night, a volcanic system under Mýrdalsjökull, a glacier on the South Coast of Iceland. These quakes occurred approximately 20 minutes after the activity under Bárðarbunga.

Earthquakes by Mýrdalsjökull Likely Caused by Warm Weather

Reports from the Meteorological Office indicate that the recent quakes on the South Coast have not affected settlements in any way.

Several other significant quakes were detected by Mýrdalsjökull on Saturday night, November 26. Nine earthquakes were recorded around 4 AM, with the largest recorded on Sunday at 3.4.

Lovísa Mjöll Guðmundsdóttir, natural scientist at the Meteorological Office, stated to RÚV that the recent activity can be attributed to warmer-than-average weather. Glacial melt and flooding atop Iceland’s many volcanic systems have been known to trigger both seismic and volcanic activity, as often happens in the Grímsvötn system.

The most recent quakes underneath Mýrdalsjökull are attributed to activity in the Katla system.

“There are changes in tension when there are warming periods, and it has been unusually warm for this time of year,” stated Lovísa. “It often comes in pulses like this, but it is often a long time between these periods.”

See the Meteorological Office of Iceland for more information.

 

 

Travel Ban to Mýrdalsjökull Lifted

Katla volcano

After a meeting with Iceland’s Meteorological Office, authorities in South Iceland have lifted the travel ban which was in place following increased seismic activity from Katla.

Significant earthquakes were recorded under Mýrdalsjökull this Sunday, October 16. The largest of the recent quakes was measured at 3.8M. Because of this increased activity, Katla, one of Iceland’s most dangerous volcano systems, was placed under special monitoring and trips to the region were temporarily suspended.

Notably, this affected many ice cave tourist trips.

Read more: Increasing Seismic Activity under Mýrdalsjökull

Increased seismic activity meant both an increased chance of glacial flooding and also potential exposure to volcanic gases. Now, however, authorities believe the disturbance have passed and trips to the area can resume.

The authorities recommend that tourism operators carry with them gas meters and be ready to leave the area if conditions change.

Increasing Seismic Activity Under Mýrdalsjökull

mýrdalsjökull earthquakes iceland

The Meteorological Office of Iceland reports increasing seismic activity underneath Mýrdalsjökull, a glacier on the south coast of Iceland.

In the announcement by the Meteorological Office, seen below, a magnitude 3.0 earthquake was registered yesterday morning at 07:54AM.

Following the initial seismic activity, a string of stronger quakes was registered. The largest was measured at magnitude 3.8 yesterday at 11:50AM.

The subglacial volcanic system is notable, as Mýrdalsjökull’s sister glacier, Eyjafjallafökull, caused significant disruption  to European air travel in 2010.

Although there are no imminent signs of an eruption, specialists at the Meteorological Office have stated that some glacial flooding may be possible.

Travellers to the south coast are asked to use caution and refer to vedur.is for travel bulletins.