Threat of gas pollution from South Iceland glacial river flood

Photo: Iceland Monitor/Árni Sæberg

A minor glacial river flood is under way in South Iceland – with authorities warning of gas pollution at the river source.

A glacial river flood (or ‘jökulhlaup’ in Icelandic) is defined as a sudden burst of meltwater from a glacier, which may last up to several weeks. The South Iceland river of Skaftá was hit by a major glacial flood in early October last year.

This latest jökulhlaup originates from the Entujökull section of South Iceland’s well-known Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

MORE: VIDEO: See the Skaftá river flood

Measurements taken by the Icelandic Met Office have detected higher conductivity and water levels in the Markarfljót river in recent days. Increased conductivity is most likely caused by geothermal water from under the Entujökull ice cap.

Entujökull is a section of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap in ...

Entujökull is a section of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap in South Iceland. Kort

Small river floods from Entujökull accompanied by a strong gas smell are relatively common in the Emstrur area, to the north-west of the glacier. The Emstrur hut warden and various tourists have reported a strong smell of sulphur in recent days.

MORE: PHOTOS: Biggest Skaftá flood ever

“We reiterate that the flood water itself is not expected to pose a threat, rather the gas pollution at the source of the river and in low-lying areas around the river,” says the Icelandic Met Office.

The IMO will be monitoring the situation over the next few days.

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