Although we've seen what Iceland's volcanic eruption at Bardarbunga looks like on land, satellites in space haven't really captured it, thanks to cloud cover and bad weather. However, several of NASA's satellites recently photographed the event from space.
The first image came from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite. The imager used infrared and visible light to photograph the lava's heat (in the natural color image, the lava is black).
However, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA's Earth-Observing-1 satellite grabbed the best view of the volcano, in high resolution. The photo, taken at night in Iceland, combines natural color with an infrared view.
Last month, a series of earthquakes and tremors around Bardarbunga, signaled that magma was moving towards the top of the volcano, and that eruption was most likely imminent. That activity began on Aug. 16 and remained steady until the lava erupted several weeks later. Now, lava covers 4.2 square miles around the area.
The airline industry is monitoring the situation carefully. Travel alerts have gone from orange to red and back again within a matter of days. In 2010, another Iceland volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, erupted and grounded flights in Europe for nearly a full week. The result was stranded passengers and a loss of revenue of $1.7 billion.
Eyjafjallajokull, however, didn't spew just lava into the sky, but also ash, which caused the travel disruptions. At the moment, Bardarbunga shows no signs of ash. However, even if there is eventually some ash with this eruption, air traffic experts don't expect the sort of disruptions seen in 2010.
Scientists are watching closely to see how molten rock, on and below the surface, will interact with glacial ice, surface melt, and groundwater. Their concern is for flooding on or near the Holuhraun lava field, or for steam explosions as water is superheated by the magma. "Icelandic researchers also have surmised from GPS measurements of the deforming land surface that more magma is entering the dyke than is erupting on the surface," says NASA.
Bardarbunga is also still experiencing earthquake activity and as of Sept. 4, two new fissures of lava appeared south of the original eruption site. According to the Iceland Met Office, several scenarios could occur. The movement of magma may eventually stop with no other events or more lava could mean more explosions at different sites of the volcano.
The Iceland Met Office is most concerned, however, about two things: potential flooding and ash. Both would occur if there are further eruptions underneath the glacier where the volcano sits.
"The eruption could cause an outburst flood and possibly an explosive ash-producing activity," the agency writes.