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.

Life-Threatening Conditions in Eldvörp Caves, Warning Issued

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Following gas measurements conducted yesterday, the Icelandic Met Office has issued a warning for caves near the Eldvörp crater row in the Reykjanes peninsula (west of the Blue Lagoon). The Met Office conducts such analyses every week after a series of earthquakes, which resulted in considerable land uplift near Mt. Þorbjörn by Grindavík, occurred in late January.

A warning issued by a natural hazard expert with the Met Office states that changes in gas concentration have been measured, and in light of this the Met Office warns against exploring caves in the area. Measurements within one cave, in particular, indicated a life-threatening concentration of carbon dioxide along with a lack of oxygen.

“There are many caves in the area, but the cave in question is near a parking lot popular among travellers seeking to visit the Eldvörp crater row,” the statement reads. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has been apprised of the situation.

In an interview with RÚV, Kristín Jónsdóttir, team leader with the natural disaster watch at the Met Office, stressed that the Met Office’s warning only applied to caves in the area: “Walking in the area should be safe. It’s a beautiful area and it’s fun to explore. But we’re warning travellers to refrain from exploring the caves.”

This article was updated at 2.33 pm.

Travellers Advised to Steer Clear of the Múlakvísl River

The Icelandic Meteorological Office advises travellers to keep their distance from the Múlakvísl river, on the western side of Mýrdalssandur in south Iceland due to heavy gas pollution. A small glacial flood is ongoing in Múlakvísl. Heavy gas pollution is accompanying the flood. The flood has not reached its peak and could increase.

The warning was issued following measurements at the Láguhvolar seismic station, indicating that hydrogen sulphide levels were above the level of concern for public health (20 ppm). Travellers who experience symptoms such as nasal burns or eye irritation are advised to leave the area.

Conductivity (indicating the inflow of geothermal water) has risen in the last two days and is now around 260/microS/cm. Increased conductivity and gas pollution are common side effects of glacial floods and a small flood is currently ongoing.

According to Kristín Elísa Guðmundsdottir, natural hazard expert at the Icelandic Met Office, the warning will be in effect until noon tomorrow: “Generally speaking, we advise travellers to keep clear of the area for the time being.”

Floods of this magnitude are common in Múlakvísl. Earlier this summer, experts warned that a larger than usual flood might be imminent but although water levels in the river are high for this time of year, they’re still lower than top summer levels.