Land around Askja has been rising steadily over the last year, resulting in about 35 centimeters of height increase. Experts predict that if this trend continues, there could be a volcanic eruption, according to RÚV.
“Askja is awakening from the sleep it has been in for most of the last fifty to sixty years,” says Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, professor of geophysics. “What characterized Askja was land subsidence for the last few decades. Then it turned around at the end of July or beginning of August a year ago and the land started to rise and has risen quite quickly.”
According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the land rising is caused by an increase in pressure at the base of the volcano. Experts believe the reason is the accumulation of magma about two kilometers below the earth’s crust. Probability calculations suggest the magma spreads horizontally in the earth’s crust in the center of the volcano.
Could end in an eruption
“What is interesting compared to how much land this is, is how little seismic activity is associated with it. Askja probably has to take on quite a lot before it starts to crack and before there will be an eruption, but it could end with one,” says Magnús Tumi.
If there is an eruption, the most likely scenario is a fissure eruption in the vicinity of Askja. “It’s most likely not going to be big,” Magnús Tumi says. “These are usually lava eruptions. Sure, we have Askjuvatn there, and it could erupt into it, and then it could be explosive, but probably not a big one. In 1926 there was such an eruption that formed the island that is there, but it was not felt beyond the caldera at that time.”
One scenario from the Icelandic Meteorologic Office is that the land rising could continue for some time and not end in an eruption. In the event of an eruption, increased seismic activity will likely indicate its approach. The notice may be short, even just a few hours.
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