Icelandic Hekla volcano shows signs of activity

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A gated field with a snowcovered Hekla in the background
Image: Sverrir Thorolfsson.

Yesterday, at 11:00am local time in Iceland, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police declared an "uncertainty phase", the lowest civilian volcanic alert level, for the country's Hekla stratovolcano which is located on the southern part of island nation. The warning was intended to aid in preparations of potential evacuations.

Given the uniqueness of the earthquake activity as it applies to this particular volcano, today, the Icelandic Meteorological Office upgraded their aviation alert for the area to Yellow. At the same time, Police advised against hiking in the area but were not enforcing this. Monitoring of the area has also been stepped up.

The United States Geological Survey international earthquake map showed no earthquakes in Iceland in the week prior. The Icelandic Meteorological Office also reported no earthquake activity in the Hekla area in the past 48 hours. The significant earthquake activity resulting in the phase change had took place on March 10 on the northeast side of the volcano's summit caldera. Dark clouds unrelated to any volcanic activity were reported at the base of the mountain. The clouds presented the potential for confusion as to whether an actual eruption had taken place.

Hekla last erupted in 2000, and has a history of exploding roughly every ten years. Icelandic volcanic activity attracted international attention as a result of an April 2010 explosion of another volcano that had shut down European airspace for several days.