From Iceland — Ask A Scientist: What If Öræfajökull Erupts?

Ask A Scientist: What If Öræfajökull Erupts?

Ask A Scientist: What If Öræfajökull Erupts?

Published December 7, 2017

Jessica Peng
Photo by
Art Bicnick

By now most of you have probably heard of the ice-covered volcano Öræfajökull in Vatnajökull National Park. It has recently been showing signs of increasing geothermal activity, and everyone is wondering if and when it will erupt. Einar Hjörleifsson and Sigurdís Björg Jónasdóttir, two Natural Hazard Specialists at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, tell us what could happen if the volcano does erupt.

Worst case… not TOO bad

“The Öræfajökull eruption of 1362 CE was the the largest silicic eruption in Europe since Vesuvius, 79 CE. That was a major eruption, which we could expect to be an equivalent to a worst case scenario eruption, having major impacts on settlement and air traffic.”

Best case… no impact

“The best case scenario would be a small short lived fissure eruption in the flank of the volcano with minor glacial melting and little to no impacts. The last two eruptions in 1362 and 1727 were both larger than this best case example. One possibility is that the best case example could be a precursor to a large scale scenario. Therefore, our ideal development would be that the volcano falls back to hibernation for centuries more. With better monitoring we hope to improve response time for civil and aviation authorities and increase general understanding of volcanic threats. The Icelandic Meteorological Office continues to monitor the region with around-the-clock via seismic observations.”

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