Authorities in Iceland have raised its alert level to maximum after a small eruption occurred overnight in the Bárðarbunga volcano system. Airspace is now closed over the region up to 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) as a cautionary measure, despite no ash being detected by the radar system.
Update: Iceland has now lowered its alert to Orange. More here.
The eruption happened in the Holuhraun lava field, just north of Dyngjujoekull glacier. The event was not highly explosive, so it did not produce much of the fine ash known to affect aircraft engines.
Back in 2010, Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano erupted, kindling a week of international aviation madness, with thousands of flights cancelled. Europe's air space was closed for five days for fear of the volcanic ash harming jet engines.
Image: Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupting on May 12nd, 2010. Credit: J. Helgason/Shutterstock.
It's impossible at this point to know how things will develop. Reuters reports:
Nick Petford, a vulcanology expert at the University of Northampton in Britain, said fissure eruptions were often spectacular, but relatively low key and often died out in a couple of days. "If it carries on like this, it is very unlikely it will constitute any major hazard to aircraft."
But there could be a sting in the tail, he said.
"Exactly the same thing happened in 2010 with the Eyjafjallajokull volcano," Petford said. "The main eruption was in April, but in March there was a fissure eruption which was a precursor to the much larger eruption."
Petford says the next step for geologists is to look for signs that large amounts of magma are being stored within the volcano — a good indication that it could explode.