Eruption at Mt. Askja Likely “Sooner Rather than Later”

Lake Askja, Askja, Volcano

Ármann Höskuldsson, a volcanologist and geochemist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences, told Fréttablaðið on Wednesday that the Askja volcano was likely to erupt “sooner rather than later.” Temperature patterns at the surface of Lake Askja suggest that geothermal flux had significantly increased over the past few weeks.

“It’s about to erupt”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the University of Iceland’s Volcanology and Natural Hazard Research Group (i.e. Rannsóknastofa í eldfjallafræði og náttúruvá) revealed that the surface water of Lake Askja (situated in the crater of the volcano Askja in the northeast of the glacier Vatnajökull) had reached a temperature of 2°C and that a thermal analysis of a satellite image showed that the water was heating up steadily.

Ármann Höskuldsson, a volcanologist and geochemist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences, spoke to Fréttablaðið regarding this update: “This means the geothermal fissures have opened up. It is the effect of magma flowing into the mountain. The roof of the mountain gives way and cracks open. This means that the heat reaches the surface faster and that the water heats up and the ice melts.”

Ármann added that under normal conditions there would be ice over the lake. This increased ground temperature in the area was, therefore, abnormal – which could only mean one thing: “It’s about to erupt,” Ármann concluded. The volcanologist was, however, careful to caveat this statement by saying that it was impossible to predict exactly when the eruption would occur.

“But we’ll hopefully be given reasonable notice when the time comes,” Ármann remarked.

Read the full post from the University of Iceland’s Volcanology and Natural Hazard Research Group here.

Teigarhorn: Average Temperature Has Risen 2°C Since 1880s

Djúpivogur is home to Iceland's latest art museum

The average temperature in Teigarhorn, East Iceland has risen by 2°C since measurements began in the late 19th century, Austurfrétt reports. Five of the area’s warmest summers have been recorded after the turn of the century.

Higher temperatures, fewer snowy days

Last week, Kristín Björg Ólafsdóttir, a climatologist with Iceland’s MET Office, marked the 150th anniversary of continuous temperature measurements at Teigarhorn by giving a talk in Löngubúð in Djúpivogur.

As noted in her lecture, the Danish Meteorological Institute began conducting measurements in Djúpivogur in 1872 but measurements were moved to Teigarhorn in 1881. The average temperature in Teigarhorn has risen by 2°C over that time (meanwhile, Earth’s average global temperature has risen by 0.8°C since 1880).

Kristín also noted that three of the area’s warmest summers had recently passed, i.e. in 2014, 2016, and 2017. The coldest summers, on the other hand, occurred well over 100 years ago, in 1881, 1887, 1888, and 1892. Five of the area’s warmest summers have been recorded after the turn of the century.

As noted by Austurfrétt, Teigarhorn distinguishes itself from other places in Iceland as the site where the country’s hottest temperature was recorded: 30.5°C on June 22, 1939. (The original measurement was 30.3°C, but as the thermometer was later deemed 0.2°C too low, the measurement was revised).

Kristín also pointed out that the annual average number of “all-white” days (when the ground is covered by snow) in Teigarhorn only amounted to 18, i.e. just over two weeks.

Austurfréttir reports that Teigarhorn was awarded Centennial Observing Station status from the World Meteorological Organisation for over 100 years of continuous meteorological measurements. This is the second weather station in Iceland to be awarded the status (the first was in Stykkishólmur).

November One of the Warmest Ever

weather iceland

Although this November has been one of the warmest on record, it has not quite broken any records.

Much of Iceland has experienced unusually warm temperatures for this time of year, with no snow so far in the capital region. 

In a recent Facebook post, Meteorological Office specialist Einar Sveinbjörnsson published a short report, stating that ultimately, the record was not broken.

In Reykjavík, the average temperature for November was 5.1°C (41°F). While not an all-time record, it is nevertheless the highest average temperature for November in the 21st century. The all-time record was in 1945, when average November temperatures reached 6.1°C (43°F).

Likewise, it was also unusually warm in Akureyri, but not record-breakingly so. The November average was recorded at 4.2°C (40°F), with an all-time record of 4.8°C (41°F) in 1956. However,  Einar notes that an error in data entry may have affected the number for this month.

When asked by Vísir whether these unusual temperatures were anomalies or parts of a larger trend, Einar stated: “The short answer is that it is anomalous, and that we do get these warm Novembers every decade or so. But on the other hand, if these patterns, which we know so little about, begin to accelerate, then we can begin to talk about climate change.”

Hottest July of this Century in North and East Iceland

Akureyri Iceland

This July has been the hottest of this century across North and East Iceland as well as the Central Highland, according to figures from the first 20 days of the month. The highest average temperature throughout the past weeks has been in the Highland, at Upptyppingar, and it is highly unusual for the area to average warmer than coastal regions. Weather in West and Southwest Iceland has been cooler and overcast in comparison. There has been less precipitation across the country than seasonal averages, though not all regions have stayed dry.

Highest average temperature 14.8°C

RÚV reported first on the data, which comes from Meteorologist Trausti Jónsson’s blog. According to Trausti, the average temperature in Akureyri, North Iceland for this period was 14.4°C [57.92°F], more than one degree higher than ever recorded at this time of year. Data is available as far back as 1936. The average temperature is 3.6°C [38.48°F] higher than the average for 1991-2000.

The warmest weather has been recorded at Upptyppingar, in the Highland, where the weather station also shows the highest positive deviation from the average temperature: 6.2°C [43.14°F]. The average temperature at Upptyppingar has been 14.8°C [58.64], the highest in the country for this time period. That is an unusual development, as the Highland is not normally warmer than Iceland’s coastal regions.

Cloudy but dry in Reykjavík

There has been little precipitation this month compared to seasonal averages. In Reykjavík it measured 7.9mm, just one fifth of the average precipitation and has only been lower eight times in the past 125 years. The capital has however been cloudier than usual, with just 64.3 hours of sunshine recorded over the first 20 days of July, around 50 hours less than usual.

Akureyri has received just 2.4mm of precipitation, near the record low of 1.3mm recorded in 1940. Parts of West and Southwest Iceland have received more rain than the above-named locations, however.

December Heat Record Broken

Neskaupstaður

December heat records were broken or equalled by at least 53 remote weather-monitoring stations and three manned stations in the first days of the month. The cause was a mass of warm air that moved across the country. The data comes from Meteorologist Trausti Jónsson.

The highest temperature previously measured in Iceland in December was 18.4°C (65.1°F), recorded on December 14, 2001 near Siglufjörður. That record was broken at three separate locations on December 2, when temperatures reached 19.7°C () at Kvísker, Southeast Iceland, 19.0°C (66.2°F) at Bakkagerði and 18.7°C (65.7°F) at Vestdalur (both in East Iceland).

Daily temperature records (as opposed to monthly) were broken at over 200 locations, though some of them had only been operation for a few years. When only those operating for ten years or longer were considered, then daily temperature records were broken at 178 stations on December 2 and 111 station on December 3.

Best Practices for Saving Beached Whales

Two separate pods of pilot whales have gotten beached on Icelandic shores this summer, RÚV reports, leading experts to apprise locals of how best they can respond to such situations. Marine biologist Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir says that such beachings are becoming a yearly occurrence – an indirect result of warming ocean temperatures – and likely happen when whales pursue their prey too close to the shoreline.

In mid-July, 50 pilot whales were found dead on the shore of Löngufjörur in a sparsely populated part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland. Edda Elísabet assessed the situation at the time, saying that there were many reasons the animals could have gotten stranded. For one thing, she explained, pilot whales are pack animals with strong social bonds, and do not easily abandon members of their pod. Moreover, strong tidal and seabed currents in the Löngufjörur area could have made it harder for the whales to get back out to sea. Pilot whales depend on sonar for navigation, but sonar would have been quite limited in the area, which also could account for the whales getting stranded when the tide went out.

Only last week, however, 50 more pilot whales beached in front of the Útskálakirkja seaside church in Garður, on the Reykjanes peninsula in Southwest Iceland. This time, the outcome was far more positive. Rescuers worked through the night and were able to save 30 whales.

Keep them wet, keep them calm

Edda Elísabet has important advice for anyone who encounters beached whales in Iceland. First and foremost, she said, the police should be contacted immediately. Police will then take care to notify the right people, the better to move rescue efforts in the right direction.

Next, she said, you should attend to the animals, albeit with extreme care. “One of the most important things you can do if the whale is alive,” she said, “is to keep it damp.” Whales are poorly suited to dry environments and unable to control their body temperatures on land, which means they overheat easily. Beached whales also need to be protected from the sun, to prevent burning.

Beached whales will be under an enormous amount of strain and distress, says Edda Elísabet, and easily disturbed by loud noises and abrupt movements, such as people just splashing water on them without them being able to see where it’s coming from. “We’ve seen that if there is someone with each whale, placing their hands on it and speaking gently to it or humming or creating a calm environment, that they seem to relax,” she explained.

There have been instances abroad of people contracting illnesses from dolphins and other related species, and so Edda Elísabet says it’s also important that rescuers wear gloves and be sure that the animals do not breathe in their faces. Professional responders don’t take such risks, she noted, and the public shouldn’t either.

Edda Elísabet said that the rescue efforts in Garði were so successful because they focused first on saving the adult females. “If a calf is released first, it’s likely that it will beach itself again because it’s chasing its mother. So it’s important to prioritise healthy females.” However, if a female is not in good condition, it can be dangerous to release her, because she may not be able to lead the pod to safety.

Following the food

Asked about what is causing whales to beach at this rate, Edda Elísabet said that research is still ongoing, but that there is evidence that whale migration patterns around Iceland are changing. They are increasingly traveling around the western and southwestern coasts of the country, most likely following their prey to unfamiliar hunting grounds.

“It’s very likely that their prey is leading this. Their food sources are more sensitive to sea temperatures. In this instance, we’re probably seeing them chasing mackerel and it’s possible that they’re pursuing mackerel more often [because] they’ve had a bad season for squid,” she explained. “Mackerel comes in very close to land, and that could explain why we’ve got a lot of them just off the country’s southwestern and western coasts.”

Temperature Record Broken Two Days in a Row

Nauthólsvík geothermal beach.

 

The summer’s hottest temperature of 25.9°C (78.6°F), recorded in Ásbyrgi, North Iceland only two days ago, did not hold onto its first place ranking for long, RÚV reports. It was surpassed the very next day in two locations in South Iceland. Temperatures of 26.9°C (80.4°F) were measured at Hjartaland yesterday, while at popular tourist site Geysir, temperatures reached 26.7°C (80°F).

The aforementioned temperatures are the highest recorded in Iceland this year. According to the Icelandic Met Office, however, they are not the hottest ever to be recorded in the country. The standing record is 30.5°C (86.9°F), measured in East Iceland on June 22, 1939.

Though they are admittedly milder, Iceland is currently feeling the effects of the heat wave gripping mainland Europe. Meteorologists say temperatures will stay high in the coming days.