Iceland volcano threat ‘overestimated’

Foreign media claims that another Icelandic volcano may be about to erupt, causing even more damage than last year’s Eyjafjallajokull eruption, are being strongly contested by scientists.

An increase in seismic activity in the area around Bardarbunga – Iceland’s second largest volcano – is providing “good reason to worry [about a possible eruption],” Pall Einarsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, told RUV.

The story was then picked up by international media, including Britain’s Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail; both of which have understandably sensationalised the story, geologists agree.

As British newspapers come from a no-longer-volcanic island, it is natural that they should assume that a new Icelandic eruption would rival or surpass Eyjafjallajokull for causing travel chaos — and even more natural that their readers should agree. But in reality, there is often the risk of a volcano in Iceland and tourists sometimes visit the country without even noticing that an eruption is taking place.

During last year’s eruption, IceNews spoke to Ari Trausti Gudmundsson, one of Iceland’s most respected geologists and today we asked for his reaction to the latest news: “It is extremely sensationalised,” he said. “Way too much drama, and some of it just straightforward wrong.”

In response to increasing international speculation last night, the Icelandic Meteorological Office released a statement reiterating that there is no new volcanic eruption and no sign that an eruption is imminent at Bardarbunga, or anywhere else in the country. There have been no warnings released by the met office since the earthquakes last weekend.

The calm message coming out of Iceland is that an eruption could indeed take place in the coming months, weeks or possibly days; but that there is nothing unusual about that fact and that there is nothing to suggest it will cause aviation chaos like last year. A final thought for anyone planning to visit Iceland this year is that Eyjafjallajokull caused less disruption in Iceland itself than almost anywhere else in Western Europe.

Some parts of Ari Trausti’s last interview with IceNews are still highly relevant:

“The average eruption rate in Iceland is one eruption every 4-5 years or so. Sometimes a number of them may occur within a decade but a decade may pass with only one eruption, or none. So, we will see an eruption in the future but today there is no indication of where or when.”

Is it really safe to visit Iceland any more?
Yes it absolutely is. Think of the last 5-6 decades. It was totally safe to visit Iceland then, despite a number of volcanic eruptions. This time it is utterly safe as well.”

“The Icelanders have done everything in their power to prevent problems or damage and the monitoring system is good as well as measures taken by the Civil Protection Department. Some 99% of the population is safe and so will every visitor be.”

See the full interview here.

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