Fizzy Bubbles in Lagoon No Cause for Concern

The Icelandic Met Office has determined that unusual air bubbles in the Kvíárlón lagoon to the southeast of the Öræfajökull volcano neither pose a health hazard to travellers nor indicate the onset of volcanic activity. Vísir reports that a local landowner contacted the meteorological office after seeing unusual air bubbles in the lagoon that “sounded like a soft drink.”

In a post on its Facebook page, the Met Office explained that employees visited the lagoon on Wednesday with a device that can measure carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, and hydrogen in its environment. Repeated attempts to take measurements of these compounds under the surface of the lagoon, however, returned only trace-amount readings. Based on this, experts agree that the whatever is causing the bubbles in the lagoon does not pose a safety concern for travellers.

Further tests will be run on water samples taken from the lagoon, but the current hypothesis is that carbon dioxide emissions from the volcano are causing the carbonated effect. Such emissions are normal and do not in and of themselves indicate an increase or onset of volcanic activity. Indeed, earthquake and expansionary activity at Öræfajökull has been on the decline this year.

Magma Collecting Under Öræfajökull Volcano

Measurements at Öræfajökull volcano indicate that magma is collecting in a magma chamber under the glacier on top of the volcano, RÚV reports. Earthquakes at the ice-covered Öræfajökull volcano have increased this year, along with the inflation and disforming of the volcano due to the magma collecting in the magma chamber.

This was revealed in citizen’s meeting held by the Civil Protection and Emergency Management group of Hornafjörður, which was held in Hofgarður in Öræfi yesterday evening. Kristín Jónsdóttir, group leader of Iceland Meteorological’s Office disaster monitoring, stated that an increased number of earthquakes larger than two on the Richter scale was measured at Öræfajökull compared to last year.

In an interview with RÚV, Kristín revealed that all measurements indicate that Öræfajökull is preparing to erupt. However, a timetable cannot be set at this point in time as it’s impossible to tell how much magma is needed to create the pressure needed for an eruption. The Icelandic Met Office will continue to keep a close eye on developments in the area.

Measurements indicate a clear inflation and deformation of the volcano. Magma is collecting at a depth of just over five kilometres deep. In November 2017, satellite images revealed that the cauldron in the glacier had sunk noticeably. Iceland Review covered that turn of events here. Measurements at that time also showed an increased electroconductivity in Kvíá river, which is derived from minerals found in glacial run-off. Measurements also indicated that geothermal heat in the river had reduced in the last year. The Kvíá river has not been displaying signs of changes in recent times, but will continue to be monitored.

Area of desolation

Authorities have been carefully monitoring the Öræfajökull volcano, which has not erupted for 289 years. Öræfajökull, which can be translated as ‘Wasteland Glacier’, has the highest peak in Iceland – Hvannadalshnjúkur which has an elevation of 2109.6 metres (6,921 feet). Öræfajökull gathers its name from its eruption in 1372, as it was renamed after the eruption which desolated the nearby area. The volcano that was once known as Knappafellsjökull know had the name Öræfajökull. The word ‘öræfi’ is translated as wasteland in Icelandic.

Öræfajökull is within the boundaries of the Vatnajökull National Park. Vatnajökull (Water Glacier) is the largest ice cap in Iceland as it covers around eight percent of the land.