Experts say the seismic activity near the Bardarbunga volcano on Iceland is calming down while tall fountains of fire and lava continue to lick the air along a volcanic fissure, producing a huge plume of steam and gas.
A massive white cloud nearly three miles tall was rising above the fissure eruption in the Holuhraun lava field north of the Dyngjujoekull glacier on Tuesday. No ash fall has been detected.
Iceland’s meteorological agency said the lava eruption appears to be less active. It said the number of earthquakes in the area fell to 300 on Tuesday, compared to 500 the previous day.
Thousands of small earthquakes have rocked the region in recent days, leading to concerns that Bardarbunga, which lies under a vast glacier, could erupt.
Lava fountains danced along a lengthy volcanic fissure near Iceland’s subglacial Bardarbunga volcano Sunday, prompting authorities to raise the aviation warning code to the highest level and close the surrounding airspace.
The red warning code – the highest in the country’s alert system – was raised early Sunday after the eruption in the Holuhraun lava field, about three miles north of the Dyngjujoekull glacier. The warning was lowered 12 hours later as visibility improved and it was clear that no volcanic ash was detected.
The fissure eruption appeared about 40 kilometers (28 miles) from the main Bardarbunga volcano, which lies under the vast Vatnajokull glacier that dominates the eastern corner of Iceland.
Though remote and sparsely populated, the area is popular with hikers in the summer. Officials earlier evacuated all tourists in the region after intense seismic activity there.
Although Sunday’s fissure eruption was more powerful than the one on Friday, experts say the situation is contained and is unlikely to result in the same level of aviation chaos as 2010. In April that year, an eruption at the Eyjafjallajokull volcano wreaked havoc on millions of travelers. More than 100,000 flights were canceled after officials closed Europe’s air space for five days out of fear that volcanic ash could damage jet engines.