Civil Protection in Iceland   

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29.08.2014 Just after midnight a fissure eruption started in the Northern part of Holuhraun lava, between Dyngjujökull Glacier and the Askja caldera, North of Vatnajökull glacier. The fissure is 300 meters long and  in direction Northeast and Southwest.  No volcanic ash has been detected with the radar system at the moment. The wind field conditions in the area are wind blowing toward NW at 12 m/s at 5 km altitude. Seismic eruption tremor is low indicating effusive eruption without significant explosive activity.
Scientists who have been at work close to the eruption monitor the event at a safe distance. The Coast Guard aircraft, TF-SIF is scheduled to take off at 9:30 this morning. The Icelandic Met Office has raised the aviation colorcode over the eruption site to red and the Icelandic Air Traffic Contol has closed down the airspace from the earth up to 18000 feet for instrumental flights (see picture below).

The National Crisis Coordination Center is active and the Commissioner of the Icelandic Police has raised the Civil Protection Phase to Emergency Phase in collaboration with the District Commissioner in Husavík..


Scientists from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences, together with representatives of the Civil Protection in Iceland, met today to discuss the on-going unrest at the Bárðarbunga volcano.
This morning, there was a flight over the Bárðarbunga area and the surface of the glacier was surveyed. No changes to the ice crevasses southeast of Bárðarbunga, that were seen yesterday evening, were observed. These crevasses (cauldrons) were likely formed due to melting at the ice bottom.
The depressions have been located southeast of the Bárðarbunga caldera, in all likelihood within the water divide of the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. There are three circular crevasse formations, about 5 km in total length. The ice thickness in the area is 400-600 m.
The water level in Grímsvötn Lake has been surveyed and has likely risen by about 5-10 m in the last days, which corresponds to an addition of 10-30 million m3 of water in the lake. A slight increase in conductivity in Köldukvísl River was measured this morning, but the cause is yet unknown. No change has been measured in the Hágöngulón lagoon, Jökulsá River and Skjálfandi River. It is assumed, that the water from the cauldron has flowed into the Grímsvötn Lake or the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum.
The seismic activity is similar to that of the last days. Around midnight, three earthquakes of magnitude around 4 were recorded and one of magnitude 5 at 08:13 this morning, all located within the Bárðarbunga caldera.
Shortly before 08:00 this morning, there was a slight increase in seismic activity in Askja volcano. Changes in the stress field due to expansion caused by the dyke have an effect on the Askja area.
Since yesterday, the length of the dyke under Dyngjujökull has increased by 1-1.5 km to the north, which is considerably less than in the last days. The dyke has now reached the fissure system of the Askja volcano and GPS measurements indicate that the area there is greatly affected.

The Icelandic Coast Guard aircraft TF-SIF will be  surveilling northwestern Vatnajökull this morning . Yesterday the scientists onboard TF-SIF detected a 4-6 km long row of 10-15 m deep and 1 km wide cauldrons on the surface of Vatnajökull glacier. Conditions for surveillance from air were not good when the cauldrons were detected, making it hard to estimate precisely their size. Conditions today are very good, bright and sunny, which will help the scientists to observe the surface of the glacier. News from the flight can be expected around noon.

Scientists from the Icelandic Earth Science Institute, the Icelandic Meteorological Office and representatives from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management were on a flight onboard the Coast Guard aircraft SIF, surveilling the surface of Vatnajökull tonight and discovered a row of 10-15 m deep cauldrons, 1 km wide, south of the Bárðarbunga caldera. They form a 6-4 km long line. The cauldrons have been formed as a result of melting, possibly an eruption, uncertain when. Heightened tremor level/volcanic tremor has not been observed on Meteorological Office´s seismometers at the moment. The area is on the watershed line and draining basins of north Vatnajökull and south Vatnajökull. The new data are still being examined. The Crisis Coordination Centre in Skógarhlíð has been fully activated

The Icelandic Civil Protection Scientific Advisory Board met today
Scientists from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences, together with representatives of the Civil Protection in Iceland, met today to discuss the on-going unrest at the Bárðarbunga volcano.
These are the conclusions of the meeting:
• Intense seismicity continues. Over 700 earthquakes have been recorded since midnight. Earthquakes are occurring mostly beyond the edge of the Dyngjujökull glacier and the intrusion itself has migrated about 1 km northwards since yesterday.
• At 00:16 UTC today, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake occurred in the caldera of Bárðarbunga. At 02:50 UTC, another similar-sized earthquake (magnitude 5.2) took place in the same region.
• At 01:52 UTC, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake was detected on the eastern side of the Askja volcano. This was followed by a few micro-earthquakes in the same area.
• The dyke intrusion beneath Dyngjujökull is thought to be about 40 km in length.
• Modelling of GPS data indicates that about 20 million cubic metres of magma have been added to the volume of the intrusion in the last 24 hours.
• Modelling results suggest that the dyke intrusion is causing stress changes over a large area, including the region to the north of the dyke’s extent; this could account for the increased seismicity at Askja volcano.
• There are no indications that the intensity of the activity declining.
• From today, the afternoon status report will no longer be produced. However, if the situation escalates (i.e. imminent signs of an eruption), daily status reports will be reintroduced. The results of the scientific advisory board (this factsheet) will continue to be distributed daily at around midday.
From the Icelandic Met Office: The Aviation Colour Code remains at the ‘orange’ level for Bárðarbunga.

26.08.2014 At 11:56 UTC an earthquake of M4,6 (EMSC M4,4) occurred at 8 Km depth in the dyke under the Dyngjujokull glacier margin. It was felt in Akureyri Northern Iceland

Seismic activity continues to be high. From midnight to noon over 500 earthquakes detected. Biggest earthquake in the current swarm was measured this night at 01:26. According to USGS the magnitude was 5.7. The event was localized in the northern/northwestern part of Bardarbunga caldera at 6 km depth.Most of the seismic activity is close to the rim of Dyngjujokull. The dyke is still migrating to the north and the tip of it is already around 10 km outside of the glacier. Most of the events are at the depth of 8-12km. There have been no signs of harmonic tremor.

No changes have been detected overnight. Seismic activity is still ongoing with over 500 events recorded, the largest being around MI 3,5.

24.08.2014 at 13:40 UTC

The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police has decided to move the emergency phase back to alert phase. This decision is taken in collaboration with the District Commissioners in Húsavík and Seyðisfjörður. Restrictions on roads and areas in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon up to Dettifoss waterfall is still in effect, as well as closures in the highlands North of Vatnajökull glacier.
This decision is based on scientific evaluation of the situation. Scientists´ observations conclude that a sub-glacial eruption did not occur yesterday as was previously believed. The Icelandic Met Office has decided to move the aviation color-code from red to orange. Therefore, all restrictions on aviation have been cancelled and all scheduled services airports in Iceland are open.

24.08.2014 at 11:40 UTC

Earthquake activity in NW-Vatnajökull is still very strong, 700 earthquakes have been observed since midnight and they are somewhat larger than previous days.
Two large earthquakes, over 5 where in the Bárðarbunga caldera this night.
The activity under Dyngjujökull has propagated northwards and is now mostly under the edge of the glacier, where an earthquake of size 4,2 was recorded this morning.
The dyke under Dyngjujökull is now estimated to be approximately 30 km long.
There are no indications that the activity is slowing down, and therefore an eruption can not be excluded.
Observations show that a sub-glacial eruption did not occur yesterday. The intense low-frequency seismic signal observed yesterday has therefore other explanations.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office has decided to move the aviation color-code from red to orange.


At 11:20 UTC today, seismic tremor measurements gave a strong indication that an eruption beneath Dyngjujökull was occurring. Tremor levels decreased during the afternoon, although intense earthquake activity continues.
At 14:00 UTC, an over-flight was made to Bárðarbunga by the Icelandic Coastguard with scientists from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the University of Iceland, in addition to a representative from the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police.
The over-flight covered the north-western region of the Vatnajökull ice-cap in clear conditions. Both visual observations and radar measurements confirmed no significant changes on the surface of Vatnajökull. Likewise, there were no signs of floodwater draining from the ice margin.
During three hours of aerial surveillance, there were no obvious signs of volcanic activity.
In light of the intense, ongoing earthquake activity and crustal deformation at Bárðarbunga, the Icelandic Meteorological Office has decided that the aviation colour-code should remain ‘red’. The situation will be reassessed tomorrow morning
The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police in collaboration with the District Commissioners of Police in Húsavík and Seyðisfjörður has decided that the emergerncy phase will stay in effect. The decision will be evaluated at noon tomorrow 24 August.

An indication of a minor eruption was issued by the Met Office earlier today at the Dyngjujökull glacier. There are no visible signs of the eruption yet.
The Icelandic Coast Guard aircraft TF-SIF is flying over the area with the representatives from the Civil Protection and experts from the Civil Protection,  Icelandic Met Office and the Institute of the Earth Science. Data from radars and web cameras are being received, showing no signs of the plume at the moment. The estimate is that 150-400 meters of ice is above the area.
The aviation color code for the Bárðarbunga volcano has been changed from orange to red.
All Icelandic airports are open even though an airspace, 140 x 100 nautical miles, is closed over the sub-glacial eruption site in Vatnajökull. (see picture below). All airports are open in Iceland.
The main road number 1 ( the ringroad) is open.

In accordance with procedure, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police has raised the Civil Protection level to Emergency Phase. On 18 August, the Icelandic Met Office changed the aviation colour code to orange and today the code was changed to red/emergency which is the the highest level .
Map of aviation closure as of 23.08.2014 1500 GMT



2308 at 1300 The seismic activity at Bárðarbunga area in Northern Vatnajökull increased significantly after 10:00 hrs this morning. Scientists believe that the dyke is propagating to the north. The National Crisis Coordination Center monitor the situation closely and will update information regularly.

20.08 2014

Last night the National Crisis CoordinationCentre was fully activated after a decision was taken to evacuate the highlands north of Dyngjujökull (part of Vatnajökull glacier). The area is now closed and has been evacuated. These actions were taken following seismic activity around the Bardarbunga caldera in the last few days. The area that has now been closed is both large in size and unpopulated  There are still no signs of eruption but these security measures have been taken since it would not be possible to evacuate the area in time should a sub-glacial outburst flood occur from Vatnajökull as a result of an eruption.
At 03.00 the area had been evacuated. A map of the closed area is available at the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration: In the northwestern part of Vatnajökull glacier the seismic activity is stable, with the main area being northeast of Bardarbunga. Over 300 earthquakes have been detected since midnight. The strongest event was of the magnitude 3.0. Another event happened inside the Bardarbunga caldera and was of the magnitude 2.7. 
Today The Coast guard airplane, TF SIF, will make a surveillance flight over the area with scientists and representatives of the Civil Protection, if weather conditions allow. Police and ISAR units will enforce the closure of the area. The situation will continue to be closely monitored.

The Police Commissioners in Húsavík and Seyðisfjörður have decided  to close and evacuate the area North of Vatnajökull following the seismic activity in Bárðarbunga.
This decision is a safety measure. It cannot be ruled out that the seismic activity in Bárðarbunga could lead to a volcanic eruption. There is no change in the seismic activity at the moment and no sign of an eruption but experience shows that seismic activity can be on going for a long time with out an eruption going off. This is first and foremost a precautionary action since the evacuation of the area is impossible on a short notice. 
In accordance with procedure, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police has raised the Civil Protection level to Alert Phase. All roads leading into the area are now closed and the authorities in Húsavík and Seyðisfjörður are evacuating the area North of Vatnajökull.
The Civil Protection Alert Phase is declared; “if threat assessment shows that hazard is increasing, a preventive measure must be taken immediately to secure the safety of those who are in the area. That is done by strengthening response measures in the area, and by taking preventive actions such as evacuation and closing off the area in question. Preparedness and warnings are also common in this phase. 

Seismic activity in Bárðarbunga NW Vatnajökull glacier continues, but there are no sign of an eruption. All mountain roads closure in the area North of Vatnajökull are still in effect. All traffic in the area is prohibited. That includes both driving and hiking. Civil Protection is still working on Uncertainty Phase.
The situation in Bárðarbunga volcano in NW Vatnajökull glacier has not changed today. The Civil Protection scientists committee held two meetings today with earth scientists from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the University of Iceland. There is a very strong indication of magma movement east of Bárðarbunga caldera and on the edge of Dyngjujökull near Kistufell. Conductivity is high in Jökulsá á Fjöllum for the time of year.
Around 800 earthquakes have been detected since midnight. The strongest event was at 02:37 of the magnitude 4,5.
Civil Protection is still on Uncertainty Phase, which means that course of events has started that may lead to natural hazard in the near future. The National Commissioner of Icelandic Police (NCIP) has today met with the Prime Minister of Iceland, the Minister of Interior and government officials to consult on the issue. The NCIP also met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foreign embassies in Iceland and from key stakeholders in Iceland.
Mountain roads North of Vatnajökull, F88 (completely) and F910 (partly), have been closed for all traffic. That includes cars, bikes and hiking. A map of the area can be seen here.
The earthquake activity in Bárðarbunga, in NW part of Vatnajökull glacier, continues. This morning at 2:37 an earthquake of magnitude 4,0 occurred 2,4 km NNE of Kistufell in NW part of Vatnajökull. There is no sign that an eruption has started. The mountain roads F88 and F910 (partly) are still closed. These roads can be seen in the map bellow. Up to date information on the roads in Iceland is available by phone in the number 1770.
There was a meeting this morning with the Department of Civil Protection and emergency management, Icelandic met office and the Institute of Earth Sciences to go over the situation. The earthquake swarm is still ongoing and the intensity is concentrated to the north and east of the Bárða...rbunga caldera, beneath Vatnajökull glacier. GPS measurements confirm that magma is intruding within the Bárðarbunga volcanic system. At the moment there are no indications that eruption has started.

Scientist have increased monitoring of the area and the local authorities have reviewed their response plans.

At the moment a helicopter from the Icelandic Coast Guard is in the area carrying scientist and people from the department of Civil Protection. Their objective is to install more seismic monitors and webcams in the area for increased monitoring.

The Police Commissioner of Húsavík has decided to close Gæsavatnaleið road and other highland roads east of Skjálfandafljót up to Askja. The road to Herðubreiðarlindir (F88) has also been closed due to potential flooding in the area following an eruption.

The National Commissioner of Police and the District Commissioner of Police at Hvolsvöllur and Húsavík have declared a Civil Protection Uncertainty phase due to unrest in Bárðabunga


Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Iceland

  • The tasks of the Icelandic Civil Protection System are:  Organizing and implementing measures to protect the well being and safety of the public and prevent them from harm, the protection of property and the environment from disasters, caused by natural or manmade hazards, pandemics, military action or other types of disasters; This includes prevention, preparedness and reductions of hazards and recovery.
  • to render relief and assistance due to any losses that have occurred, assist people during emergencies, unless the responsibility for his assistance rests with other authorities or organisations.

Structure of Civil Protection

Civil Protection in Iceland falls under the Ministry of Interior according to the Civil Protection Act. Civil Protection responsibilities at the national level are delegated to the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police (NCIP). The NCIP runs a Civil Protection Section which is responsible for daily administration of Civil Protection matters, maintains a national co-ordination/command centre which can be activated at any time and to be in charge of the centre in emergency situations. The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police is also responsible for monitoring and supporting research and studies related to risk factors and natural catastrophes, and co-ordination and support measures aimed at reducing risks of bodily harm.

The day-to-day functions of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management of the NCIP include risk analysis, mitigation and co-ordination (i.e. planning, training and equipment) and recovery. The role of the NCIP during emergency operations is to procure and deliver all outside assistance (national or international) for a stricken area, which is deemed necessary by the local Chief of Police.

Government policy on civil protection and security is drawn up by the Civil Protection and Security Council for periods of three years at a time. The following ministers have seats on the Council: The Prime Minister, who is also  the chairman of the council, the Minister of Interior, the Minister for the Environment, the Minister of Welfare the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Industry. In addition, the Prime Minister may co-opt up to two ministers to sit on the council at any time in connection with specific matter

The following also have seats on the Civil Protection and Security Council:

1.  The Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister.
2.  The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Interior
4.  The National Commissioner of Police 
5.  The Director of the Icelandic Coast Guard.
6.  The Director of the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration,
7.  The Director of the Post and TelecommunicationsAdministration 
8.  The Director of the National Roads Administration.
9.  The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for the Environment,
10 The Director of the Icelandic Meteorological Office,
11 The Director of the Iceland Fire Authority 
12 The Director of the Environmental Agency.
13 The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Wefare
14 The Director-General of Public Health,
15 The Epidemiological Officer 
16 The Director of the National Radiological Protection Authority.
17 The Permanent Secretary of State at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
18 The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry,
19 The Director of the National Energy Authority 
20 The Director of Landsnet, the Icelandic Power Transmission Company
21  A representative of ICE-SAR (Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg).
22  A representative of the Icelandic Red Cross.
23 A representative of the coordinated emergency telephone answering system.

In addition, the Prime Minister appoints two representatives to the council
in accordance with nominations by the Union of Local Authorities in Iceland. 

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