Iceland Evacuates Area Near Bardarbunga Volcano

Icelandic authorities have evacuated the area directly to the north of the Bardarbunga volcano, amid fears that an eruption may be imminent.

The area was cleared due to “intense seismic activity”, and authorities say that they can not rule out the possibility of an eruption, according to Yahoo News. On Monday, airlines were warned of increased activity in the region, amid fears that an Icelandic eruption could wreak havoc on Europe’s airspace.

Seismic activity under the volcano is nearly constant, prompting fears that an eruption may be imminent.

As The Inquisitr has noted, thousand of small yet strong earthquakes have been recorded in the area beneath the volcano. Iceland’s Meteorological Office reportedly raised its volcano alert to orange, the second highest rating on their scale.

Iceland’s Civil Protection Department evacuated between 300-500 people from the highland areas north of Vatnajokull glacier, according to U.S. News and World Report. While the area to the north of the volcano is uninhabited, it is popular with hikers, particularly in the summer months. Roads in the area have also been closed, due to fears that an eruption could cause serious flooding. Bardarbunga is a stratovolcano, and is located beneath the glacier; a volcanic eruption would melt vast amounts of ice.

Einar Einarsson, who works for Iceland’s met office, relayed that earthquakes were happening under the volcano almost every minute, and that the seismic activity was unrelenting. Magma movements were detected less than six miles from the surface, though Einarsson said that the nature of the activity was important:

“The fact that it is constant in motion and depth is probably good news… It doesn’t seem to vary a lot – it is concentrated in one area under the glacier.”

The Vatnajokull National Park, where the Bardarbunga volcano is located, covers 14 percent of Iceland’s landmass. In 2010, an eruption at Eyjafjallajokull snarled European air traffic and displaced more than 10 million air travelers. Over 100,000 flights were canceled when the volcano erupted, leading to chaos for airlines at a cost of $1.7 billion.

No major eruption has taken place at Bardarbunga since the late 1400’s, although a minor event happened in 1903. Iceland is home to 30 active volcanoes, and an eruption occurs on average once every three years, as Vox reports. While there is a strong possibility that a volcanic event may yet transpire, an eruption at Iceland’s Bardarbunga is also far from a certainty.

[Image via Bing and The Telegraph]