Giant holes in Iceland’s largest glacier expose ground for first time

The landscape of the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in Iceland, has been altered dramatically with the creation of several giant holes that have exposed ground for the first time since the glacier was formed.

The holes, some as big as 1,300 feet wide, were created as a result of volcanic eruptions between 2014 and 2015, Icelandic news agency RUV reported.

“There was 100 meters of thick glacier before,” geologist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson told RUV, as translated by Google Translate. “Now we see it down in a rock that has not been seen before. So it can be said that Bárðarbunga in the wake of these events, it only gives us the opportunity to show the country that has been a glacier concealed for centuries if not thousands of years."

From the Iceland Review:

According to geologist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, the entire Bárðabunga landscape changed after the eruption, with increased geothermal heat that has melted away a hundred meters of thick, glacial ice, forming these calderas.

In fact, this marks the first time in hundreds or even thousands of years that the ground beneath the glacier can be seen. Magnús Tumi warns that this increases the chances of a glacial outburst flood, although nothing can be confirmed as of yet.

Seismic activity in Bárðarbunga has been high for the past years, due to its last eruption. Magnús Tumi says the area needs to be carefully watched in order to watch out for any more calderas that might trigger a glacial outburst flood.

Newsweek explained that a glacial flood, known as a Jökulhlaup, occurs when the dam that contains a glacial lake fails either from a buildup of pressure or a volcanic eruption or earthquake.

In 2010, a second eruption from a glacier-covered vent on the Icelandic glacier Eyjafjallajökull prompted an emergency evacuation of 800 people living in the flood zone. Glacial melt raised local river levels by up to 10 feet, causing major road closures, Newsweek reported, adding that seismic activity has led to a series of glacial floods in the area.

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