Iceland volcano professor hits back at eruption scare stories

The Icelandic geophysicist, Professor Pall Einarsson, whose words have caused something of an international volcano scare, says he is dumbfounded by how much his message has changed in translation. Pall Einarsson was interviewed by Icelandic broadcaster RUV in Icelandic about a series of earthquakes in the highlands.The interview was then translated and used by Britain’s Daily Telegraph, among others. Since then the message has morphed out of all recognition, Einarsson says.

“It is really strange how this news came into existence. I wasn’t even warning of a likely eruption at Bardarbunga [in the interview],” he told IceNews. “The things I emphasised in my interview with RUV’s Bjorn Malmqvist were that the earthquakes at Bardarbunga and Kistufell last week are not unusual, there are often movements there, and sometimes much bigger than this.

“In the long-term, we can see an increase in earthquake intensity at Bardarbunga. But it is still a lot less than between 1974 and 1996.

“And finally that Bardarbunga is an active volcano and could of course prove dangerous, which is why there is always reason to monitor it closely; which is why we do,” Einarsson explains.

Some foreign media sources have quoted Professor Pall Einarsson as saying that a massive eruption is about to begin that will make last year’s Eyjafjallajokull eruption seem tiny in comparison. The professor reiterates his confusion at such stories, telling IceNews that he did not say anything of the sort.

Volcanic eruptions are always possible in Iceland, Einarsson says. There have been at least 19 eruptions in just the last 40 years — the majority of which were small and caused very little damage.

Icelandic volcanoes are one of the reasons tourists visit the country and sometimes (as at Fimmvorduhals last year) the sheer number of visitors is more dangerous than the volcano itself. “There are few things more moving than to watch a volcano erupting from a safe distance,” Professor Einarsson enthuses.

Bardarbunga is located near the middle of the Icelandic ‘hot belt’. It was, however, not known as a particularly powerful volcano before 1971 when the first satellite images of the area were released. Eruptions connected to this particular volcanic system took place in 1477-80, shortly after 1700, 1862-4 and most recently in 1996. There are probably several historic eruptions missing from the list due to the sheer distance from the nearest human settlements, the professor adds. “Small eruptions at this remote volcano could easily have escaped people’s notice. They are no more dangerous than that.”

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