Iceland put the Coast Guard on standby and issued a red alert to the aviation industry Saturday after detecting a small subglacial eruption of lava under an ice cap at the Bardarbunga volcano — one of the country's largest.
Data from radar and web cameras show no visible signs of eruption at the surface level that would suggest ash will be shot into the atmosphere. However, Iceland's Meteorological Office is taking all precautions and the red alert level indicates an eruption could occur at any point.
"The rate of earthquakes has increased such that they are happening so quickly that it is difficult for the seismologist to discern individual events," Iceland's Meteorological Office in Reykjavik said in a statement on its website. "The activity continues and an eruption can therefore not be ruled out."
Melissa Pfeffer, a vulcanologist with the Meteorological Office, told the Associated Press that seismic data shows lava from the volcano is melting ice beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, but that it's not still clear whether the eruption will melt the ice and send steam and ash into the atmosphere.
Ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano resulted in canceled flights and millions of stranded travelers throughout Europe in 2010. However, changes in aviation regulations are likely to minimize the impact on air travel this time around. While the airspace in the immediate area of the volcano is restricted, all of Iceland's airports remain open.