After nearly one month and a half of intense seismic activity caused by the moving magma beneath the surface, Galdungaladur volcano erupted last 19th march. The new eruptive fissure emitting lava and gases was formed in the southernmost part of the Reyjkjanes peninsula, 40km away from Reykjavic. Researchers from the University of Iceland, who are also members of the EVE project (European Volcanoes Early Warning System), led by Geosciences Barcelona (GEO3BCN_CSIC), have been closely monitoring the pre-eruption process of Galdungaladur volcano and its unrest phase. This eruption has provided a perfect scenario for testing in real-time the different forecasting tools that are being developed by the EVE project.

Researchers from the University of Iceland carried out in the previous days of the eruption several simulations with VOLCANBOX tools, a software pack developed within VeTOOLS and EVE project. By doing so, researchers identified the most probable locations where the eruption could occur generating volcanic susceptibility maps. Researchers also modeled the most probable pathway behaviour of lava flows.

"Thanks to all the different software tools we've been developing in our project, we have been able to identify in nearly real-time the places where the eruption was most likely to occur and carry out several simulations to forecast the possible paths followed by lava flows streaming from the erupting vents", said Joan Martí, researcher at Geosciences Barcelona-CSIC and coordinator of EVE project.

The Geldingadalur eruption started last 19th March in the Fagradalsfjall area, generating a nearly 500 meters-long volcanic fissure and forming a lava field. Susceptibility and lava flow maps generated in the previous days were compared with satellite images of the first hours of the eruption, showing a strong fit.

According to Martí, "the simulations generated by the software we have been developing during the last years were consistent with what finally happened". "This is a very pleasant experience since it shows that what we have been working on during the last years is useful and it works, and it can help to forecast similar future eruptions and enhance volcanic hazard assessment", said Martí.

EVE project is led by GEO3BCN-CSIC and is aimed at developing an Early Warning System for the European volcanoes. This new module is being designed to enhance the communications protocols between volcanological observatories and the civil protection agencies in case of an volcanic crisis.

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EVE project is funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). Institut des Sciences de la Terre d'Orléans (ISTO-CNRS) the Institute of Earth Sciences of the University of iceland, the Magmas and Volcanoes Laboratory (Clermont-Auvergne University - CNRS), Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) and the Facultade da Ciencias da Universidade de Lisboa are the partners of this european research consortium along with the civil protection agencies of their respective countries.

Further information

Martí, J., S. Bartolini, and L. Becerril (2016), Enhancing safety in a volcano’s shadow, Eos, 97, https://doi.org/10.1029/2016EO054161. Published on 21 June 2016.

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