More Intense Fissure Eruption Started in Iceland

Rocky Planet iconRocky PlanetBy Erik KlemettiSep 1, 2014 1:50 AM


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After the opening salvo (at least of the eruptions that aren't under half a kilometer of ice) on Thursday night, the activity in the Holuhraun lava field between Barðarbunga and Askja sprang back to life this morning (see video above and picture below). The new fissure eruption is typically for what you expect in a Hawaiian-style eruption, with a "curtain of fire" made of several lava fountains that have been sending lava up to 50 meters in the air. This eruption has now been going much longer and been emitting much more lava than the eruption of August 28. In the Barðarbunga 2 webcam, you can clearly see the fissure and lava flows moving slowly in the foreground. The new fissure is ~1.5 km long, while the lava flow issuing (video link!) from the fissure was 3 km long and 1 km wide earlier today (August 31). Icelandic Meteorological Office geologists suggest that activity like this could last for more than a year, with fissures opening and new lava flows emerging, similar to the Krafla Fires that lasted from 1975-1984. Most of the current seismic activity (totally over 1,100 earthquakes) have been centered under the area where these two fissure eruptions are occurring.

The new fissure that started erupting on August 31 in the Holuhraun lava field in Iceland. Photo by Webcam capture, Considering how benign this eruption has been, the aviation alert even during the eruption today is only orange, mostly thanks to the almost total lack of ash production. It is also the kind of eruption that the daring can get pretty close to, leading to some amazing pictures of the eruption and the lava flows. IMO geologists estimate that the current eruption is producing ~1000 cubic meters of basaltic lava every second (or about half the flow rate of Niagara Falls). University of Iceland's Institute of Earth Science released preliminary data on the composition and mineral of the lava that erupted on Thursday night. Not surprising, it was a fairly standard basalt (low silica magma), but was higher in sulfur that many observed in Iceland. It also appeared to be high vesicular (full of bubbles), meaning the lava was degassing prior to eruption. This might explain the sluggish behavior of the lava during that eruption, thanks to the abundant bubble and tiny crystals (microlites) found in the basalt - the more bubble and crystals in a lava, the more viscous (sticky) it becomes. One question that hasn't been answered by the geochemical analysis is whether the basalt is more like those previously erupted from Askja or Barðarbunga. Be sure to watch the eruption on the two webcams - one (located further from the eruption) and two (with a great view of the eruption). There are also the webcams, but they have been a little less reliable to load and a livestream on YouTube. So many options to watch a volcanic eruption from the comfort of your home!

Video: Icelandic Meteorological Office, taken by Benedikt G. Ófeigsson

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