Well maybe not. Yet paying attention to Iceland needs to be on everyone's list. It is the only natural source of catastrophic climate change in the Northern Hemisphere that we know for sure is capable of delivery.
Yet recall that this is the source of the largest basaltic flow this past ten thousands of years. Even a smallish event can ruin Europe's crops also and you all know just how much preparation has been done in such an event. It would be nice to have a simple agency in place who happens to know were the food stocks for example. Again it could be laid off to the military to have the needed intelligence.
We are far less prepared for all natural disasters than we need to be. A lot of it is common sense and easily put in place by integrating with what is in place anyway. That eliminates a lot of wastage incurred when operating on the fly.
Significant Earthquake Swarm Hits Iceland’s Barðarbunga
UPDATE 9 AM EDT 8/16/14: The IMO has raised the alert status at Barðarbunga to orange after the continued and now shallowing earthquakes under the volcano. This suggests that magma is rising under the volcano, which means that the chances of eruption are increasing. The IMO doesn’t say an eruption will happen — this could easily end as a shallow intrusion under Barðarbunga — but the heightened alert (2nd highest of the Icelandic scale) does allow for more preparation.
The last confirmed eruption from Barðarbunga was back in 1910 (Author’s note: As Jon Frimann in the comments below correctly points out, this 1910 eruption was from Loki-Fögrufjöll, which is near Barðarbunga but not the same edifice. However, these two eruptions are likely linked to the same subvolcanic system. The last confirmed eruption from the Barðarbunga edifice was in 1794), although since then there have been numerous unconfirmed eruptions that may not have breached the surface of the ice cap under which the volcano resides. Complicating matters, the earthquake swarms are not occurring directly underneath Barðarbunga, but rather to the east. Now, this is also not unexpected in Iceland where fissure eruptions of basalt have occurred in places away from known volcanoes (such as Laki in 1783) and we don’t have a great idea of exactly what lies underneath some of these massive ice caps. If the eruption is related to the Barðarbunga system, it could be interesting as the 1910 eruption was a mix of both basalt and rhyolite. Not only that, but Barðarbunga was the source of the Thjorsa lavas that erupted 25 cubic kilometers of basalt ~8,500 years ago – the largest basaltic eruption in the Holocene. There is no signs that would suggest that anything remotely close to this is in the works at Barðarbunga right now, but the volcano has quite a storied history of eruptions.
Curious how to pronounce Barðarbunga? Dave McGarvie (an Open University lecturer – if you want to know about Icelandic volcanism, follow him @subglacial) suggests “b-OW-r-tha-boon-ga” as the way to go. Special thanks to Dave for some of the information in this post and the excellent shot of the volcano.