Science

Iceland's Hekla Volcano Is Unstable: Eruption Imminent?

By Pierre Dumont , Mar 28, 2013 12:03 PM EDT
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On Tuesday March 26, Iceland reported unusual seismic activity at Mount Hekla, one of the country's most active volcanos. Officials raised an alert level but indicated that no eruption was forthcoming.

Quakes and tremors in the Hekla area have been recorded by geologists at Iceland's meteorological office over the course of the last two to three weeks. The disruptions have been taking place roughly seven miles below the volcano, but the geologists believe they are being caused by a fracturing of rock under the volcano, which fails to imply an impending eruption.

However, the disruptive activity did prompt the Icelandic Meteorological Office to boost the aviation alert status for the area to Yellow. Increased monitoring of the volcano and the nearby area is also taking place. The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police declared an "uncertainty phase," which is the lowest level of warning for the volcano.

Additional warnings have gone out to those considering visiting Mount Hekla, which is a popular recreation area for locals and tourists.

"The State of Uncertainty means that surveillance is increased and precautionary measures are taken," "News of Iceland" reports. "Declaring a State of Uncertainty is standard procedure to insure official communications and flow of information. It is also issued to put emergency teams on stand by. This step is the first of three steps, and only considered to be a warning."

Mount Hekla is an almost 4,921 foot-tall "stratovolcano" located in southern Iceland. Europeans have allegedly called the volcano the "Gateway to Hell" since the Middle Ages.

While "micro-earthquake" activity is not generally uncommon, it is unusual in Mount Hekla.

"We are not very worried that an eruption is going to take place," earthquake expert with the Icelandic Met Office Martin Hensch told "News of Iceland,"... "but predicting an eruption in Hekla volcano is nearly impossible. The last time the volcano erupted we only knew it one hour in advance."

Mount Hekla erupted on Feb. 26, 2000, continuing to do so for 12 days and creating a nine mile-long cloud of ash. The last time a large volcanic eruption in Iceland took place was on April 14, 2010, when Eyjafjallajӧkull poured out smoke and ash that shut down Europe's air traffic for more than a week. Just last week a snowy volcanic eruption took place in the Kizimen volcano in Kamchatka. The eruption was visible from space.

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