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Updated: Sun, 24 Aug 2014 09:47:19 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Iceland volcano: 2 earthquakes shake Bardarbunga



A warning sign blocks the road to Bardarbunga volcano, some 20 kilometres (© 12.5 miles)

A warning sign blocks the road to Bardarbunga volcano, some 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) away, in the north-west region of the Vatnajokull glacier August 19, 2014. The threat of an eruption of Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano has increased, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, with 'intense seismic activity' and 'ongoing magma movement' reported at the site of the volcano. The heightened activity around the volcano which began with an earthquake on Saturday, was the strongest earthquake in the area since 1996. The aviation colour code, used to indicate the level of risk a volcano poses to air travel, has been changed to orange, the second-highest level the met office said. Picture taken August 19. REUTERS/Sigtryggur Johannsson (ICELAND - Tags: ENVIRONMENT) - RTR433B2 Sigtryggur Johannsson/Reuters

Iceland lowered its aviation alert level to orange from red Sunday, saying there was no sign of an imminent eruption at the Bardarbunga volcano. And scientists at the Icelandic Meteorological Office said their announcement Saturday that the volcano had experienced a subglacial eruption was wrong.

But the office cautioned in a statement that seismic activity at the volcano, which has been hit by thousands of earthquakes over the past week, was not slowing, and an eruption remained a possibility in coming days.

Two earthquakes measuring over 5 in magnitude — the biggest yet — shook the volcano beneath Iceland's vast Vatnajokull glacier early Sunday. The Met Office recorded earthquakes of 5.3 and 5.1 in the early hours.

Iceland had raised the alert for aviation Saturday to red, the highest level on a five-point scale, warning that an ash-emitting eruption could be imminent.

An orange alert indicates "heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption."

After the alert was lowered, aviation authorities lifted a no-fly zone that had been imposed for 185 kilometres by 260 kilometres around the volcano.

A 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano caused a week of international aviation chaos, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled. Aviation officials closed Europe's air space for five days out of fear that volcanic ash could harm jet engines.

Any new eruption would be likely to be less disruptive. European aviation authorities have changed their policy, giving airlines detailed information about the location and density of ash clouds but leaving decisions to airlines and national regulators.

"Even if there were to be a major eruption, it would not necessarily produce a high ash column, so the likelihood of interruption of trans-Atlantic and European air travel remains low," said Open University geoscientist David Rothery.

Britain's National Air Traffic Service said it was monitoring what it called a "dynamic situation" but was expecting normal operations Sunday.

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