Glacier river flood: alert level raised

Skaftá flood water in 2010.

Skaftá flood water in 2010. Photo: Þorvaldur Örn Kristmundsson

Tourists are strongly advised to keep away from the edges of the Skaftárjökull, Tungnárjökull and Síðujökull glaciers, as South Iceland Police raise alert levels for the Skaftá glacier river flood, which began yesterday.

Emerging flood water will bring with it hydrogen sulphide in concentrations that can damage mucous membranes of the eyes and respiratory tract, and cracks will quickly appear around the east cauldron of Skaftá.

The banks of the Skaftá river will experience flooding over the next few days and flood water may take over nearby roads.

Previously, 36 months was the longest ever that the east cauldron of the Skaftá glacier river had gone without flooding. This time the gap has been over five years, raising concerns that this new flood may be a particularly voluminous one.

Floods from the east cauldron are, in any case, bigger and rarer than floods from the west cauldron.

The flood has 40 km to travel under the glacier, then 28 km further until it reaches the first water-level metre at a place called Sveinstindur. The flood is expected to reach Sveinstindur this evening or tomorrow.

During a glacier river flood, water flow in the river can rise from it usual 120 m3/s to 1,000-1,500 m3/s in under a day.

A team from the Iceland Met Office is monitoring the situation.

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