Glacial Outburst Flood Imminent

Vala Hafstað

Scientists are closely monitoring the Grímsvötn volcanic system under the ice cap of Vatnajökull glacier, because they believe a glacial outburst flood, or jökulhlaup, to be imminent, since the ice cap has started subsiding. Besides, there are examples of a volcanic eruption occurring in the wake of a glacial outburst flood, mbl.is reports.

The Scientific Council of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management held a meeting yesterday to discuss the situation.

At 9:15 this morning, the Icelandic Met Office posted an update on the situation, noting that since 10 am yesterday, the ice cap had subsided about 25 cm. Prior to that, it had already subsided about 60 cm. Still, no major change has been detected regarding water level, electrical conductivity or gases in Gígjukvísl river.

A jökulhlaup is expected to begin at the edge of the glacier today or tomorrow, with discharge reaching a maximum of 5,000 m3/sec four to eight days later. The flood is not expected to cause much damage to infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.

There are examples of a volcanic eruption following a jökulhlaup. It is thought that the sudden drop in pressure resulting from the falling water level can trigger an eruption. The last time that happened was in 2004, and prior to that in 1934 and 1922.

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