Subglacial Volcanic Eruption in Iceland Prompts Highest Aviation Alert

 / Updated 
Image: Warning sign blocks road to Bardarbunga volcano in iceland
A warning sign blocks the road to Bardarbunga volcano, some 12.5 miles away, in the northwest region of Iceland's Vatnajokull glacier on August 19, 2014.STRINGER / Reuters

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Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano burst forth with a small eruption Saturday under the ice of Europe's largest glacier, scientists said, prompting the country to close airspace over the area. Thousands of small earthquakes have rattled the volcano, located deep beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, in the last week.

Icelandic Meteorological Office vulcanologist Melissa Pfeffer said Saturday that seismic data indicated that an eruption had begun, with magma from the volcano melting ice within the glacier's Dyngjujokull icecap. The remote area, 200 miles east of the capital of Reykjavik, is uninhabited.

The Civil Protection Department said scientists flew over the ice cap Saturday afternoon but saw no visible signs of the eruption on the surface. Still, authorities raised the country's aviation alert to red — the highest level on a five-point scale — indicating the threat of "significant emission of ash into the atmosphere."

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