Thousands of earthquakes shake Iceland as officials warn of a possible volcanic eruption
Grindavik, Iceland Officials urged residents of a town on the coast of Iceland to evacuate on Friday, as the alert status for the Reykjanes volcanic system near Reykjavik was raised to orange, according to local officials.
Iceland’s meteorological office said the orange warning means the volcanic system is showing increased unrest with an increased likelihood of an eruption. The most likely scenario is that it will take several days for the magma to reach the surface, they added.
“If the current breach develops further and magma begins to spread towards the surface in this area, the most likely outcome will be a massive eruption,” the Icelandic Meteorological Authority said. “However, the presence of shallow groundwater near ongoing magma accumulation may lead to some short-lived eruptions when magma encounters these reservoirs.”
Although there was no immediate danger, Grindavik residents were asked to evacuate as a precaution, officials said.
This comes after the island nation’s famous Blue Lagoon was hit by 1,400 earthquakes in 24 hours as of Thursday, causing the lagoon to temporarily close and unnerving resort guests.
The spa is located around a geothermal hot seawater lagoon that harnesses the power of the nearby Fagradalsfjall volcanic complex.
“Blue Lagoon has proactively chosen to temporarily suspend operations for one week, despite authorities not lifting the current level of uncertainty during this period of seismic activity,” the resort said in a statement. “This affects all our operations: Blue Lagoon, Celica Hotel, Retreat Spa, Retreat Hotel, Lava Restaurant and Moss.”
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Great set of shakes
The earthquake activity has increased recently after it began on October 25, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office. In total, local media reported that 22,000 earthquakes shook the Reykjanes Peninsula. Seven of the quakes had a magnitude of more than 4.0, with the strongest hitting just after midnight Thursday with a magnitude of 4.8.
“The seismic activity last night and this morning is an example of such episodic seismic activity that can be expected during magma accretion,” the IMO wrote. “The fact that there are now larger earthquakes than before in the region does not necessarily mean that the rate of magma accumulation has increased.”
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News reports of seismic activity rattled potential guests, including an American family traveling to Iceland who decided to stay away.
“We were all very aware of the earthquake/volcano situation,” Chase Nunes, who was vacationing in Iceland, told FOX Weather. “We mildly thought about going there (to the lake). However, once we heard about rocks entering the lake and some tour operators refusing to go there, that was a signal to avoid that area.”
4,700 earthquakes in 72 hours could indicate an Iceland volcano eruption
Earthquakes may indicate a volcanic eruption
Magma collects in what the International Maritime Organization calls an “inflation event.”
They noted on Friday that the seismic activity currently being measured in Sundhnjúkagígar is occurring in an area about 3 km northeast of Grindavík. The most likely scenario now, considering the activity that peaked at the start of the March 19, 2021 eruption, is that it will take several days (rather than hours) for the magma to reach the surface.
Beginning on October 27, molten rock began accumulating in a horizontal sill about 3 miles below the surface, causing the ground to rise or swell. The bureau estimated the magma flow at 176 cubic feet per second. That’s enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every eight minutes.
The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management announced that the level of civil protection service is uncertain due to earthquakes. The level of uncertainty means increased monitoring of a situation that may result in a threat to the health and safety of people, the environment or the settlement.
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“A series of earthquakes began earlier this week and are still ongoing,” the Visitors Bureau website stated. “This does not mean that an eruption is imminent, but the area is being closely monitored for any changes. Visitors and hikers are encouraged to stay away from the mountains and slopes in the area due to the risk of rockslides and landslides.”
The website indicated that the increased seismic activity is similar to the events that preceded the eruption of Mount Fagradalsfjall last year and this summer.
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The International Maritime Organization noted that Monday’s magma flow was four times greateran Highest flow during previous inflation events.
“Signs of magma coming towards the surface may appear as increased, shallower earthquakes and rapid crustal deformation at the surface, as well as volcanic tremor, which is a high rate for many small earthquakes,” the IMO wrote on November 4. “At the moment we cannot see any clear signs of any of this, but the situation could change in a short time.”
This summer’s eruption was part of Fajrandalsfjall volcano areaIt previously erupted in August 2022 and March 2021. Before that, it was considered dormant for more than 6,000 years.