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The History Behind Bardarbunga Volcano in Iceland

Due to its unique diverse geography, Iceland attracts more and more tourists every year. The number of natural attractions is uncountable. There are the famous ones, you probably have a whole list taken from your guidebook, but there are also those hidden gems waiting right around the corner. Viti volcano in Askja is definitely on that list. Anywhere you go, you will be surprised how the landscapes can change and differ and still amuse you. When you think that you have already seen it all, Iceland surprises you and proves you wrong. The most famous attractions are not the only thing worth seeing.

The eruption from 2014 of the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland

Volcanic forces beneath the surface of the earth formed some of the most popular attractions in Iceland. These are natural hot springs, geysers, caves, and dramatic cliffs. These places bring tourists from all over the world. Among those there is also a part who wish to experience one of the most amazing phenomenon on Earth: a volcanic eruption. Nowadays, volcanic activity has become a trend among tourists as well. There are many volcanoes in Iceland and tours with activities related to them.

Bardarbunga Iceland volcano

Bárðarbunga volcano is one of the less famous volcanoes in North Iceland. It is located under the ice cap of Vatnajokull glacier. It sits at 2,009 m above sea level, which makes it the second highest mountain in Iceland. Vatnajokull is located in the Highlands of Iceland, which is the central region of the island.  

It erupted several times in the 1800s (XVIII). The last notable eruption took place in 1910. The latest eruption started in August 2014, which was not that long ago. Scientists recorded over 200 seismic shocks before the eruptions occurred. Only some time after, the crevice eruption near the Holuhraun lava field started. It lasted untill February 2015. This is when the new lava fields were created in an area over 85 square kilometers wide. Its eruptions even altered weather and air traffic in the Northern hemisphere of the air throwing the volcanic ash away.

Bardarbunga volcano lies beneath the Vatnajokull glacier

What type of volcano is Bardarbunga?

Let’s start with some definitions so we know exactly what we are talking about and what type of volcano Bardarbunga is.

A volcano is a place where lava escapes to the surface of the earth, including the ocean as well. In the case of central volcanoes, we can distinguish two basic types of volcanoes. They differ in terms of  the nature and eruption producted and as a result also in the shape of the volcano. One of them is stratovolcano. They have the classic volcanic cone shape. The most famous stratovolcanoes include Vesuvius in Italy and Fuji in Japan. Lava which is ejected by this type of volcano is more viscous and contains more silica. During the eruption, not only is lava ejected, but also a lot of solid products like ash and pumice.

The volcano is made of several levels. Below the volcano there is a magma chamber. Molten rock can get out through the volcanic chimney gets to the crater from where it can be ejected outside. Lava freezes on the slopes of the cone as successive layers causing the cone to rise. If a sudden volcanic eruption breaks the top of the volcanic cone, a circular depression is formed which is called - caldera, like in Askja.

This volcano has a long history although it belongs to those less famous and popular and not many people even know it exists. You will probably not find it at the top list in a guidebook for tourists.

Its caldera hidden beneath the glacier cap has its diameter of 700 m. Bardarbunga is part of the volcanic system 200km long and 20 km wide.

Because of its location. the eruptions are accompanied by the phenomenon called jokullhlaup, which is a glacial flood.

Bardarbunga eruption at night in Iceland

The seismic activity in the volcano has been intermittent and is considered active although there were no recent eruptions. Outside the glacier to the southwest in the highlands between Vatnajokull and Myrdalsjokul there is frequent activity. It increased greatly during last few years in Bardarbunga volcano.

In June 2018 the earthquake swarm was detected and it was one of the largest since last volcano eruption. It took place in the northern rim of the Bardarbunga  volcano and measured 4.8. Three aftershocks took place after the initial earthquake meassuring 3.5 ,  3.7 and 2.8.

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