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Report on Grimsvotn (Iceland) — 3 January-9 January 2024


Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 3 January-9 January 2024
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2024. Report on Grimsvotn (Iceland) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 3 January-9 January 2024. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (3 January-9 January 2024)



64.416°N, 17.316°W; summit elev. 1719 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A brief seismic swarm at Grímsvötn was recorded by the seismic network beginning at 1600 on 4 January, prompting Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) to raise the Aviation Color Code to Yellow (the second level on a four-color scale). The swarm consisted of seven earthquakes with magnitudes above 1, which was considered unusual. Since the beginning of December there had been evidence of water drainage from the lake; the earthquakes may have been related to the drainage, but it was not confirmed. Activity did not escalate on 5 January and only one M 0.6 earthquake was detected. The Aviation Color Code was lowered to Green. The report noted that seismic activity at the volcano had been above background levels during the previous four months.

Geological Summary. Grímsvötn, Iceland's most frequently active volcano in recent history, lies largely beneath the vast Vatnajökull icecap. The caldera lake is covered by a 200-m-thick ice shelf, and only the southern rim of the 6 x 8 km caldera is exposed. The geothermal area in the caldera causes frequent jökulhlaups (glacier outburst floods) when melting raises the water level high enough to lift its ice dam. Long NE-SW-trending fissure systems extend from the central volcano. The most prominent of these is the noted Laki (Skaftar) fissure, which extends to the SW and produced the world's largest known historical lava flow in 1783. The 15 km3 basaltic Laki lavas were erupted over 7 months from a 27-km-long fissure system. Extensive crop damage and livestock losses caused a severe famine that resulted in the loss of one-fifth of the population of Iceland.

Source: Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO)