Iceland’s Met Office has raised its risk level to aviation for an eruption at its Bardarbunga volcano to orange; level four on a five-grade scale.
On August 18, experts recorded the strongest earthquake in the region since 1996. There are now said to be strong indications of ongoing magma movement.
“As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bardarbunga aviation colour code has been changed to orange,” a Met Office statement read.
Although there are no signs of eruption at the moment, there has been intense seismic activity since August 16, according to scientists.
“Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood and ash emission.
Seismologist Martin Hensch said the risk of an ash cloud that was disruptive to aviation would depend on the height to which the ash is thrown, its quantity and how fine-grained it would be.
In 2010 ash from Eyjafjallajokull, another Icelandic volcano, shut down much of Europe’s airspace for six days, affecting more than 10 million people and costing around a billion euros.
Hensch said flood waves from any eruption under the glacier currently pose the biggest threat.
Bardarbunga is Iceland’s largest volcanic system, located under the ice cap of the Vatnajokull glacier. It lies in a different range to Eyjfjallajokull.