It happened – the volcano erupted!

Posted on 29. Aug, 2014 by in Uncategorized


Eyjafjallajökull eruption by Daníel Örn Gíslason on

Good morning everyone, it’s currently around eight in the morning in Iceland and the news about the volcano are everywhere. There’s been an eruption to the north of Dyngjujökull (which is a name for one part of Vatnajökull on the north side) – see the English news about it here. And naturally… er eldgosið? Check here. :D

I decided to make a whole new post for the eruption itself since the volcano watching list one post down was getting quite long and hard to follow, besides this is quite exciting news. It can be seen on the north side, f.ex. from Grímsstaðir, and of course through web cameras unless the increased traffic will make it impossible. The Míla webcam can be seen here and the Veðurstofa cams are here. There’s a collection of photos taken at the site that can be seen here.

So far we’re quite lucky because this eruption is not sub-glacial. No worries for international air traffic, though there is an area that’s now closed it’s a small one and directly above the eruption area. Most international flights would fly on the south side of the island anyway so they’ll probably just change their course every so slightly – well, depending on the flight company of course. You can see the closed air space area here.

The eruption not being under the ice there’s no ash in the air as we speak. Though there’s always a possibility of the eruption moving back towards south and under the glacier it’s currently thought unlikely to happen. We’re watching over the situation in any case, Húsavík in the north is in particular keeping an eye on the situation since the town lies right next to the river that would bring a glacier flood if one were to happen, but thankfully at the moment there seems no danger of that. The civil protection level is on emergency (link), but that’s just a default for volcanic eruptions: if you see an international news site making big of that, or anything else concerning this eruption so far, you can be almost certain they’re trying to drum up the situation bigger than it is.

But what does this mean? Well, at the moment nothing much. No reason to panic, no ash cloud in the air. Interesting views and a possibility of going to see the eruption from a safe distance perhaps (though not too close because even this kind of an eruption still has its dangers – poisonous gas and explosions to name a few). Since there won’t be ash clouding the way the view ought to be quite good. I will be following things here in this post so stay tuned for your daily volcano updates!


08.31: the web camera at Míla seems a bit slow but for some reason the same camera works much faster here.

08.40: interested in going to see the eruption yourself? First find out what to do around an Icelandic eruption site and how to prepare for things going badly wrong. Most likely things won’t go badly wrong but if they do, rest assured Icelandic environment can quickly escalate even a catastrophic situation hundred times worse.

09.09: first aerial images of the eruption site here!

09.34: are you currently in Iceland? Check this map for the roads and the area that are closed because of the eruption.

10.20: more photos of the eruption site here.

10.41: the closed flight area has been reduced (link) and at the moment there’s no reason to limit air traffic to or from Iceland. TF-SIF, the Coast Guard plane, will nevertheless fly over the area today to gather more information.

11.30: the calderas that we wondered about a few days ago were most likely also caused by a volcanic eruption, but a lot smaller one (link). It would also explain why the water levels of Grímsvötn lake rose. It’s assumed though that this eruption was tiny in scale and might already be over.

12.04: TF-SIF flew over the area in the morning and took some photos, the first of which have now been published. You can look at them here and here. The eruption seems to be about 900m long.

12.27: Iceland wouldn’t be Iceland if we weren’t always eager to know what others say about us, so while the world follows the Icelandic volcano Icelanders follow the world’s reactions to it. :D They even made a news post (link) about how the British, Norwegian and Danish news are addressing the eruption. Not surprisingly, the news says, the Brits are the most worried about having yet another ash cloud blocking their air traffic.

Meanwhile foreign travelers are also worried and questions on the situation are raining in. Guðjón Arngrímsson, spokesperson for Icelandair, says there’s no need for such though: there’s no ash and flights are not affected by the volcano. For them it’s just a normal workday. :) (link).

12.56: ever wondered how the beginning of a volcanic eruption looks like in the middle of the night? You can see it on a video here!

13.35: earthquakes in the area are still quite powerful; one of 4,8 Richter in the morning half of the day and one of 5,2 Richter around midday – besides the hundreds of smaller ones of course (link).

13.47: the air traffic warnings for Askja and Bárðarbunga have been lowered to yellow and orange and there is no longer a ban for flying over the area as no ash has been detected in the air (link). As another important point, don’t miss the beautiful photos of Þorbjörg who’s currently working in the area (link).

13.59: there are now said to be three likely possibilities of how this eruption can go. The first one is that the one that began last night will settle down and nothing more will follow. Second option would be that the same eruption turns stronger, and third one would be the worst – that there would be another eruption underneath the glacier (link).

Iceland experiences periods of heightened volcanic activity such as the Kröflueldar 1975-84 and might be heading towards another such time – read about it in English here.

14.56: do you have a Tumblr blog? Love volcanoes? Check this one (it of course features the recent Iceland activity as well)!

16.02: the activity seems to be dying down and the emergency levels have been brought down to mere “danger” (link). The highest point of the eruption seems to have been last night, but as the area is still having large amounts of earthquakes it’s still being closely monitored.

17.16: There’s a new, short video taken of the eruption today here. You may want to turn down the volume before watching it though, it’s taken from a helicopter and there’s quite a bit of noise. Some amazing photos of the eruption site and the new lava have also been published – you can see them here.

19.21: Veðurstofan jokes here: the text says that they served soda pop and chocolates for dessert… except he situation as it is:that “gos” can also mean an eruption and “hraun”, while also being a name for this particular type of chocolate candy, means lava.

19.27: the eruption is now officially over – well, this one is at least. The earthquakes in the general area persist and aren’t slowing down in the least. Magma is still on the move according to this link, but no one can tell if it’ll mean more fireworks to come. There’s most likely more news tomorrow, so check this post every now and then for updates. ;)

Sat 30. Aug

11.19: Here’s a link for an article in English that summarizes well the situation as it is. No seismic changes despite the eruption and in fact there was another large earthquake (5,4 Richter) southeast of Bárðarbunga this morning (link). Fréttablaðið, a morning newspaper by Vísir, says that everything that’s been going on mimics the beginning of the Kröflueldar, the nine years of heightened seismic and volcanic activity that happened between 1975 and 1984.

21.44: there are possible new cracks in the ice over Bárðarbunga and the old ones seem to grow. Here‘s news about them in English. There are also a growing amount of strong earthquakes in this area, more than 1200 since midnight (link).

Sun 31 Aug

09.06: another, stronger eruption has happened on the same site (link). There’s code red for air traffic directly over Holuhraun. You can see a video of this eruption here, but alas there’s a storm in south Iceland and highlands now so the web cameras of Míla may not be useful. More photos of newest eruption here.

10.55: the Institute of Earth Sciences has some great photos of the new eruption here!

11.14: the danger area is quite small and there’s no affect on air traffic right now (link). The scientists of the area have had to leave because of the storm that’s on its way (link). People are asked to not drive motorhomes or other tall cars and in general driving outside of towns is not recommended (link). High winds in Iceland can strip asphalt off the roads and on highlands they cause sand storms.

11.39: you know how Icelanders figure out whether there’s ash in the air even if they cannot check the news? They put a plate outside – a white one – and see if any land on it. This is probably not ash however, but sand from the current sandstorm going on on highlands.

12.06: Míla now has a web camera pointed straight at the eruption here!

12.14: 60m tall lava fountains (link) at Holuhraun. Meanwhile eruption at Bárðarbunga considered more likely to happen (link).

20.20: the weather continues to be awful which makes studying the eruption very difficult. There has been no chance of flying over the eruption site yet and the visibility would be poor anyway due to the sandstorm. The eruption is much larger than the previous one, at least ten times larger (link). I also found a new video of the eruption here of some impressive lava “fountains”.

20.35: Míla cameras not working for you due to the heavy traffic? The one pointing at the lava is also available here.

22.08: new videos from the site! Here‘s one from the evening news today that was actually taken yesterday with special permission from the police – the reporters took a huge risk going in this area as it could have began erupting again, which it did just a few hours after they had left. They were all a bit afraid to be there and felt relieved to leave the area. You can see another new video here with lots of lava!

A small correction to earlier information: the eruption is not ten times larger than the previous one, it’s 50 times larger.

23.24: this picture of Holuhraun at night is amazing!

Mon 1 Aug

11.06: volcano still erupting. One large earthquake (5 Richter) this morning (link) but otherwise fewer earthquakes last night than in a long while. Here‘s a video taken very near the eruption – looks amazing! I also found a blog by Ómar Ragnarsson (link) where he discusses the topic of going to see an erupting volcano up close, whether this one is safe enough for that and also of how in the 70′s there were few if any bans on going to the eruption sites. He tells an amusing story of one Mr Lúdvík Karlsson who went tip-toeing over the hot lava dressed in nothing but slippers and a bikini bottom… :D

16.52: Situation at the moment in English (link) with lots of great photos. Meanwhile Icelanders are already turning their minds to an important future problem: what to call this new lava field (link)?

19.33: a small warning again, do not believe everything you see online. I’ve seen on FB alone several panic-drumming “news” links that are in reality just spam hitching a ride on the hot topic of the week. Don’t even click those. :P

Iceland’s ice cream day.

Posted on 27. Aug, 2014 by in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs


Despite the volcanic activity life in Iceland goes on as usual. I’m still following the volcanic activity in the (now somewhat faultily named) post Bárðarbunga eruption just hours away? but meanwhile let’s look at what else is going on on this little island.

Hveragerði is a small town on the south coast of Iceland that’s particularly well-known for its greenhouses and, once upon a time, its large botanical garden that sadly burned down to the ground a few years ago and has not been rebuilt since. Yet there is one more thing that Icelanders know it for: ice cream.

Ice cream is serious business in Iceland and enjoyed throughout the year, something which took me completely by surprise when I first moved here. One of the largest local companies, Kjörís, is based in Hveragerði and holds an annual ice cream tasting fest there where they bring out possible future flavour ideas and naturally also some flavours they’re really not considering for the market, they just make them for this fest in order to… well, I’m not sure, but maybe to have a giggle at people trying them. :D

is031The festival is massively popular going by an Icelandic scale. Most of the people you see in this picture are actually forming a very wide queue towards…

is029…the ice cream tasting tent, and here you see the same queue from the inside of said tent. The left side and the back were lined with long tables where staff were busily spooning ice cream samples into little bowls and the queue sort of milled around in an orderly fashion. I know, that sounded kind of contradictory but I have no way of properly describing the chaos that somehow still managed to move from table to table with almost no elbowing included.

is024Each flavour had a name to describe it with the actual ingredients listed below. Here’s Fyllerís (fyllerí = binge drinking, drinking lots of alcohol, ís = ice cream) and París (that’s an easy one – just a pun of Paris the city). Below the small text lets you know that Fyllerís is Guinness beer and París cognac ice cream. Both were unbelievably delicious, I know this because I sampled them very thoroughly. Just to be certain you know, the level of unbelievableness called for a scientific approach and whether this ice cream tastes just as good if eaten f.ex. from another box. Based on my research I’d say it tastes still as good 100% of the tries and should hopefully become a new ice cream flavour for the company.

is027The flavours seemed to have a country theme too – Grannís with green apple and berries represents Iran and Sinfonís (another easy pun) with Mozart chocolate naturally Austria.

is025Moving onto the more unusual flavours, Piri Pirís (piri piri ice cream) and Hafís, which coincidentally represents Iceland. It’s also a punny name because it can be read either as “sea ice cream” or “sea ice”. As for the taste… it had dry fish flavour. It was akin taking out a scoop of ice used for storing fish, adding milk and sugar and blending it all together. It was honestly revolting. The company had done this with the obvious idea of trolling people, at least judging by the size and amount of containers they had prepared for each flavour. For the more popular flavours they had tall stacks of them and several people manning the stalls, for Hafís… just a few boxes and one person.

is022However, sometimes trolling goes very, very right. This here is called Búbís. It doesn’t mean anything in Icelandic but try saying it out loud and you may get an idea of what the main ingredients might include! Hint: the “ú” is pronounced like “oo” in “good”. :D

is021Most of the tasting stalls were inside the large tent but the flavours thought most popular were outside instead. Ís ársins 2014 (= ice cream of the year 2014), Kvikkís that used Sunquick as flavour and the Búbís mentioned above. Móðurmjólkurís = mother’s milk ice cream, in other words breastmilk ice cream!

I admit doubting it at first. The idea actually came from a radio show prank where someone called the person in charge of the new flavours and suggested it. Little did they know that after everyone had laughed at the joke the idea behind it stuck on the other end and, she said, she just had to go with it. She had already began to plan it in all seriousness during the call and could not let go of the idea. Good thing she didn’t because you know what? It was delicious.

Sadly they cannot start producing this ice cream like other ice cream flavours because the source or the main ingredient cannot be guaranteed at all times, but it was definitely a great experience for the ice cream tasting day!

is019I tried to get a picture of the staff at work and the size of the samples but people kept literally walking in front of the camera. The pull of free ice cream is strong…

YouTube Preview Image

More photos and snips of one of Icelanders’ favourite songs that was played live at the fest; you can listen to it in full here. If you’re DJing and want everybody on the dance floor try Bahama eyja (= Bahama island). My apologies for the wind noise, Hveragerði is one of the windiest places I’ve ever been to (south Iceland in general gets the strongest winds).

is008The whole town was decorated for the day. So just in case you’re visiting Iceland in the summer keep your eyes open: little festivals like this happen all around the country throughout the summer, so if you have the chance do have a look!

Bárðarbunga eruption just hours away?

Posted on 18. Aug, 2014 by in Icelandic customs, Uncategorized


Eyjafjallajökull eruption: photo by Adam Rifkin at

Bárðarbunga volcano woke up on the night of the 16th August and by six in the afternoon it had had over 300 earthquakes. Today there’s been more than 1200 of them, the strongest one that happened last night being strong enough to be felt all the way to Akureyri. Icelanders are keeping a careful eye on the area just in case there’s going to be an eruption, which no one really wants. Bárðarbunga, you see, is one of Iceland’s most dangerous and destructive volcanoes.

…for Icelanders, that is, even if things go via the worst case scenario it’s most likely only Iceland that’ll suffer for it. Bárðarbunga (= Bárður’s bump) is a sub-glacial volcano just like Eyjafjallajökull, which does mean ash in case the eruption pierces the ice layer, but just like with Grímsfjall’s eruption it doesn’t necessarily touch the aerial traffic outside of Iceland. Grímsfjall had heavy type of ash, Eyjafjallajökull’s ash was light and therefore spread easily over the sea. Bárðarbunga erupts every 250-600 years so there’s very little documentation on its ash type, but Grímsfjall belongs to the same volcanic system so we may assume the ash type could be the same. At the moment it’s not even certain whether the eruption will even happen, or if it does will it actually pierce the ice layer so it’s best to not panic.

Ash is poisonous to animals but humans can get by with face masks if things get really grainy, taping the windows and washing the cars asap after the fall. It’s nothing new for Icelanders and therefore not even among the first worries. Worse is that Bárðarbunga is huge, and lies under a glacier. Let’s look at the possible scenarios that Eldgos (link) listed:


(= What could happen next; Icelandic uses the verb “geta” to mean “could”, which can be a bit confusing since the verb “can” is “kunna“. However, “kunna” means only one type of “can” – being knowledgeable enough to do something or to know something. The “being able to” -meaning of “can” is “geta“.)

1.  Virknin stöðvast.  Þetta segja sumir jarðvísindamenn að sé líklegast í stöðunni.

(= Activity comes to a halt. This, say some geologists, may be the likeliest to happen.)

2.  Gos norðaustur af Bárðarbungu, við mörk jökulsins.  Besta mögulega niðurstaða ef gos verður á annað borð er að fá það á íslausu svæði norðan við jökulinn.

(= Eruption northeast of Bárðarbunga, on the edge outside of the glacier. Best possible outcome if an eruption is to happen is to have it happen on the iceless area on the north of the glacier.)

3.  Gos austan til í kerfinu undir þykkum jökli.  Þar hefðum við sprengigos undir jökli með tilheyrandi öskufalli og jökulhlaupi að öllum líkindum á vatnasviði Jökulsár á Fjöllum.  Mjög stórt gos á þessu svæði mundi valda hamfaraflóði.

(= Eruption on the east side of the system under thick layer of ice. There we’d have an explosive eruption under the glacier with notable ash fall and most likely glacier floods in the water system of Jökulsár. A large eruption in this area could cause catastrophic floods.)

4. Kvikuhlaup til suðvesturs og gos í sprungusveimi Veiðivatna.   “Worst case scenario”  …og sem betur fer afar ólíklegt i stöðunni núna því engin virkni er sjáanleg í suðvesturhluta öskjunnar og reininni sem liggur til Veiðivatna.

(= A flood towards southwest and an eruption in the Veiðivatn fissure area. “Worst case scenario” …and thankfully very unlikely to occur now because no activity can be seen on the southeast side of Askja and route that leads to Veiðivatn.

So before you believe the media telling you Iceland’s trying to end the world again take a deep breath and have a look at these sites that are closely following the activity and can give you a more realistic idea of what the volcanic system really is capable of.

Hjörtur Smárason at Raving Ravens (link). English.

Haraldur Sigurðsson (link). Icelandic.


UPDATE: just as I was about to post this things changed a little. The status of the volcano went from yellow to orange and if the eruption will begin it will most likely do so suddenly. Veðurstofan is a great place for earthquake-watching (link) and I will also add information here if something interesting happens!

18.45: a web cam has been set to monitor Bárðarbunga. You can watch it here.

20.19: no sign of the shaking calming down though there’s as of yet no sign of an eruption breaking through the glacier either. The highland roads above Vatnajökull have been closed for all traffic including pedestrians, the areas can be seen here. The river Jökulsá has reportedly more water in it than would be usual for this time of the year. Want to see the earthquakes’ locations in 3D? Go here!

22.20: last update for tonight before I’m off to bed about how Iceland is informing the rest of the world – Reykjavik Grapevine gathers all the important parts of info into one tight package (in English) here, and MBL has also began to give out occasional English reports on the matter, here.

Tue 19. Aug

07.13: the morning shows nothing new and the volcano has now been shaking without a pause since Saturday. There are now more articles in English available about the earthquakes here and the possibility of the volcano erupting here. Another interesting 3D map of the eruptions (complete with possibility of seeing just how many have happened within f.ex. the last hour) can be found here.

11.00: situation is still the same. Currently measures are being taken to avoid losing the bridges near Vatnajökull in case of a glacier flood (last time this area flooded the water swept away 17km of the most important road of Iceland, Ring Road 1). 200 people are still reported to be in the area now closed (link).

13.50: new web cam added, this time one that you don’t have to keep refreshing (link)! Another useful place is the FB page of Almannavaradeild here. Currently traveling here or planning to? Safetravel (link) is keeping up with all of the info that’s important for travelers. Situation at Bárðarbunga has not changed during the day, it’s still level orange.

20.20: danger phase declared at Bárðarbunga. The area is being evacuated (link).

21.17: learn to pronounce Bárðarbunga here. :D

Wed 20 Aug.

08.35: the area above Vatnajökull has been successfully evacuated. There are now earthquakes every minute in the area (link).

08.48: TF-SIF, a plane of the Coast Guard, flew over the glacier last night on its way back home from Sicily. You can see the material they managed to collect here.

22.29: no new news today, the situation is still very much the same. The earthquakes have not even slowed down and are moving in a straight line towards the northwest as can be seen here.

Thu 21 Aug

08.43: still no change, Bárðarbunga as shaky as before. We’ll just have to wait and see whether this volcanic activity will at some point melt its way through the glacier as happened with Grímsfjall in 2011, or eventually calm down underneath like happened with Katla, also in 2011. Here‘s again a compact info of where we presently are, in English. Icelanders are meanwhile getting steadily more amused by the foreign reactions and naturally tourists are being asked to pronounce Bárðarbunga (link).

14.27: hahahaha look what I found (link)! :D Er eldgos = is there a volcanic eruption.

Fri 22 Aug

08.41: something unusual happened last night – the largest earthquake yet, of 4,7 Richter (link). Since last night there have been a few strong ones again but overall nothing’s changed. Bárðarbunga is as lively as ever and shows no signs of either slowing down OR an imminent eruption.

Sat 23 Aug

09.19: for once the pattern of the earthquakes has slightly changed. They’re now a bit less in amount but there’s more of the larger ones, you can see here that they’re all happening on the same location (the larger earthquakes are marked with a star).

23.29: the volcano has been set to red alert meaning imminent or ongoing eruption. Regardless it’s not entirely certain yet whether or not an eruption is happening, or will happen – we’re told that the situation will be re-assessed tomorrow morning.

Sun 24 Aug

09.23: although yesterday the eruption was assumed to have begun no sign of it is yet to be seen. If you’re following the web cams of the area and saw a lot of what seemed to be smoke, alas, that was just a sandstorm (link). The red alert is still in effect and there’s no reason to lower it at the moment – here you can see the size of the no-flying area. No actual trouble o aerial traffic is expected at the moment. Most interestingly though, last night saw the largest earthquakes on the area yet, according to the Veðurstofa map two over 5 Richter (link)!

10.10: Míla has added a second camera for Bárðarbunga (link)!

10.33: correcting myself a little – the suspected eruption site is no longer at Bárðarbunga but Dyngjujökull, where ice is much thinner.

17.39: the red alert has been brought back to orange as no sign of eruption is yet seen. The earthquakes have grown in both size and frequency though. Grapevine has made an excellent post about volcanic activity in Iceland and its history and why you shouldn’t worry (link), bonus points for comparing the fame of Bárðarbunga to that of Justin Bieber. :D

19.26: as you may know many Icelanders believe that some people are capable of seeing the future. One such person, Klara Tryggvadóttir (link), actually predicted earlier this week that the eruption would begin today either at seven in the morning or eleven at night. As we can tell from the Vedurstofan earthquake list the other one of the over 5 Richter earthquakes happened a little before six a.m. and now we’re waiting to see how well she could predict the intentions of the volcano!

21.45: while we wait to see if Klara was right, why not watch 15 years of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in 4 minutes? (link) :)

Mon 25 Aug

09.25: no eruption yet in sight, although because of the glacier on top if and when it happens it’ll first have to melt its way through the ice. This will be seen first as huge dents, sigkatlar, in the ice as it collapses downward. You can see how they look like here. On a bit more worrisome news tourists are quite set to going as near the volcano as possible regardless of the danger. Thankfully the roads that lead to it are few and can be guarded, but apparently the guards now have to work in shifts to make sure no one sneaks past them (link).

22.10: today we had another one of those big, over 5 Richter earthquakes (link) but aside of that nothing else seems to be going on at the moment. This does follow Krafla, another volcano’s eruption pattern though, and the general consensus seems to be that the eruption is only a matter of time now. It’s important to stress though that there’s no way of telling what a volcano is planning to do, so we’ll just wait on our shaky little island for now. :)

Tue 26 Aug

09.31: the largest earthquake yet happened last night – 5,7 Richter! (link, link and link)

Wed 27 Aug

08.46: the earthquakes are again growing in both amount and force (link). No one currently alive has witnessed anything like this before according to the article here so naturally the local scientists are having some very interesting times – well, we all are to be honest. The earthquakes that originally began at Bárðarbunga seem to be moving towards mountain Askja in the north (link).

23.40: remember the dents and fractures in ice caused by earthquakes and/or the glacier melting from below, sigkatlar? They’re currently forming into the glacier – you can see a photo of one of them here!

Thu 28 Aug

08.13: the first signs of a possible eruption have arrived, those dents and cracks in the glacier. There’s still uncertainty about the state of things but here‘s what we know now, they’re currently 10-15m deep and form a 6-8 km long line in the ice. There’s also a heightened possibility of a glacier flood either north in Jökulsá or south over Skeiðarársand where it would damage the Ring Road 1. TF-SIF got this picture yesterday and is scheduled to fly over the area today at 9.00 a.m. so if anything new is found out I’ll let you know.

11.46: TF-SIF has returned – here‘s the report so far. A more detailed one will be released after the noon.

19.53: a very thorough look at the volcanic activity in the area though the times here. Meanwhile the aviation colour code map is getting, well, colourful! (link)


News articles about the situation:

Óvissustig vegna Bárðarbungu (= on uncertainty level because of Bárðarbunga). (link)

Eitt öflugasta og hættulegasta eldfjall Íslands (= one of the most powerful and dangerous volcanoes of Iceland). (link)

Bárðabunga geti valdið hamförum við Dettifoss (= Bárðarbunga could cause a disaster at Dettifoss). (link)

Vegum lokad á hálendinu af ótta við eldgos (= roads on the highlands closed for fear of eruption). (link)

Stærsti jarðskjálftinn til þessa (= the strongest earthquake thus far). (link)

Nokkurra klukkustunda fyrirvari yrði á eldgosi (=eruption may give only a few hours warning). (link)

Possible volcanic eruption in Iceland (link). This one’s in English.