Iceland raised its eruption alert level on Monday for the Grimsvötn volcano, the most active in the country, after the detection in the morning of earthquakes nearby, including one of magnitude 3.6.
Located in an uninhabited and inaccessible area in the center of the country, this volcano located under a huge glacier was already under surveillance due to a flood linked to the rupture of a glacial lake, likely to trigger an eruption.
During its last eruption ten years ago, its ash cloud had caused small disruptions to air traffic, with around 900 canceled flights, however not in common with the Eyjafjallajökull (100,000 canceled flights and ten million passengers stranded) in 2010.
Orange alert level
The alert level has been raised to "orange" instead of "yellow" due to "high seismic activity", the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) said on its website.
Intended for aviation to signal the risk of eruption, the color code assigned to the Grimsvötn means that the volcano "shows increased activity with a higher probability of eruption", according to the scale defined by the IMO.
Several earthquakes up to magnitude 3.6 were recorded Monday morning by the authorities.
Code red indicates that an eruption is considered imminent with a likely significant emission of ash harmful to air traffic, or while a problematic eruption for aviation is in progress.
One last eruption in 2011
If, these last two days, the seismic activity of the volcano has intensified, no earthquake followed by a rise of underground magma (a "tremor", in volcanology) has been detected for the time being, underlines the IMO.
"This seismic activity is perhaps due to the decrease in pressure above the volcano, since the flood waters have left the subglacial lake" of Grimsvötn, underlines IMO.
A brutal natural phenomenon known under the name of "jökulhlaup", this tumultuous flow of water which began ten days ago reached its maximum flow on Sunday morning.
The drop in pressure on the volcano caused by the flow of millions of tons of water can trigger an eruption, as was the case in 2004, but also in 1934 and 1922. Located under the largest glacier in Iceland called Vatnajökull , Grimsvötn volcano last erupted in 2011. Recent eruptions of Grimsvötn have occurred approximately every five to 10 years.
Iceland's most active volcano is under close surveillance after a "jökulhlaup"
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A fault ?