Iceland Volcano Alert Lowered to Orange; Small Eruption Overnight Near Bardarbunga Originally Pushed the Alert Level to Red

Associated Press
Published: August 29, 2014

A small fissure erupted near Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano on Friday, but no volcanic ash was detected by the radar system, officials in Iceland said Friday. Immediately after the eruption, they raised the aviation warning code to red as a precaution, but the alert level was lowered to orange by midday, after scientists could get a better handle on the situation.

The eruption took place at the Holuhraun lava field, north of Dyngjujoekull glacier, Iceland's Meteorological Office said. The event was described as being not highly explosive - and thus not producing much of the fine ash that can affect aircraft engines.

"If this eruption persists it could become a tourist attraction, as it will be relatively safe to approach, although the area is remote," said David Rothery, a professor of Planetary Geosciences at The Open University in Britain. "This event should not be seen as 'relieving the pressure' on Bardarbunga itself, nor is it a clear precursor sign of an impending Bardarbunga eruption."

New cracks and sinkholes were spotted Wednesday in the ice that encases Bardarbunga. That ratcheted up concern that an eruption was near.

Seismologists have been concerned about a possible eruption, particularly as earthquakes grow in size and frequency. Wednesday alone saw at least two tremors above magnitude 5 at the, the second highest.

In 2010, Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano erupted and sparked a week of international aviation chaos, with thousands of flights canceled. Aviation officials closed Europe's air space for five days, fearing that volcanic ash could harm jet engines.

(MORE: Papua New Guinea Volcano Erupts)

When a volcano sends ash thousands of feet into the air, it isn't visibility concerns that ground planes, reports. It's actually the chemicals in the ash that can damage a plane's delicate engines, while the ventilation holes can become clogged and stall the aircraft.

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