A volcanic eruption in the coming days “is the most likely scenario” as a magma tunnel under southwest Iceland expands, experts say, amid warnings that lava could completely destroy a fishing town.
Geophysicist Benedikt Ofeigsson said there were clear signs that a huge magma corridor beneath the Reykjanes Peninsula was expanding, and the Icelandic Meteorological Office detected more than 1,000 earthquakes on Friday.
Zone prepares for the eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano or one of the fissures that have opened nearby, and huge chasms are tearing apart houses and roads in the abandoned city of Grindavik.
Evacuated residents return to the city every day to collect their belongings, but were forced to flee on Tuesday when the Met Office said meters detected sulfur dioxide.
Then on Thursday, magmatic gas was detected in a well in Svartsengi – 3.7 km north of Grindavik – which experts say is a signal that an eruption is imminent.
The port of Grindavik is preparing for the eruption of the nearby Fagradalsfjall volcano or one of the fissures that have opened in the area. In the photo: a crack on one of the main roads
Work is underway at the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, near the evacuated town of Grindavik, to protect it from possible lava flows
An Icelandic port is at serious risk of destruction from an impending volcanic eruption, an expert told local media. In the photo: A policeman checks a crack in the road in the fishing town of Grindavik, November 15
The Nordic country is currently preparing for the eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano, which is located on the southern Reykjanes Peninsula.
A small volcanic eruption on Mount Fagradalsfjall in southwest Iceland in March 2021.
An eruption of molten rock from a magma tunnel beneath Reykjanes is likely in the coming days, following weeks of seismic activity at the site.
This is the most likely scenario, Kristin Jonsdottir, head of the weather service’s volcanoes division, told radio station RUV on Friday.
Monitoring shows that there is a corridor of magma, or semi-molten rock, beneath the community, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. The city of 3,400 people is located about 51 miles southwest of the capital, Reykjavik.
Volcanologist Haraldur Sigurðsson said that if an eruption occurred, he expected it could erupt into the nearby sea and argued that Grindavik should be “reorganized” to mitigate the disc of future widespread destruction.
– I’m also worried about the port. It doesn’t take much to destroy this port, just fill it with lava.” – Haraldur said Icelandic Morgunblaðið (MBL) Newspaper.
“There are both cracks in the harbor and even if the magma flows out somewhere, it flows into the harbor because it is a depression.
“So overall, this city needs a complete reorganization,” he added.
When asked by an MBL reporter whether he foresees a future in which Grindavik residents will be able to return to their homes, he replied: “What didn’t the people in Vestmannaeyjar (the town affected by the 1973 eruption) do? I believe that the city should be reorganized.
MBL says what he means by this is that the city will need to be moved – possibly to the east or west. Anyway. It’s nice out west,” he said.
His comments came after a warning from the Icelandic Met Office that decades of instability could lie ahead on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula.
Earthquakes and growing fears of an imminent massive eruption mark the start of a new “eruption cycle”, the IMO’s Matthew Roberts told the BBC.
Eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula began again in 2021 after an 800-year hiatus and thousands of people have been evacuated.
“We expect volcanic eruptions along the peninsula, not just repeated in the same place,” Dr Roberts told the British broadcaster.
A policeman stands by a road crack in the fishing town of Grindavik, which was evacuated due to volcanic activity in Iceland, November 15
A member of a search and rescue team jumps over a gap in the road in the fishing town of Grindavik, which was evacuated due to volcanic activity in Iceland, November 15
Last Friday, his team made the shocking discovery that magma was seeping into the ground and breaking up rocks over a distance of nine miles.
The expert said magma broke through the ground beneath Grindavik “almost like an underground freight train.” Photos showed cracks appearing in the ground and further damage to buildings and roads is expected.
The western part of Grindavik also collapsed into the ground.
Haraldur said it is now clear that the peninsula has awakened and can now be considered an active volcanic belt.
“For some reason, Reykjanesíð has woken up and you can expect activity here and there on the headland,” he said, adding that he expected small volcanic eruptions that could damage nearby settlements.
– But Icelanders are stubborn, and the smaller the city, the more stubborn. Therefore, it is difficult to change the structure,” he said, and then expressed hope that moving the city would not be necessary.
I hope this all sinks to the bottom and nothing boils over. But there will be other events in the future. This is not the only case,” Haraldur told a local newspaper.
Haraldur downplayed fears of a massive eruption, saying he didn’t think the magma pressure was high enough to come to the surface this time.
However, he admits that experts disagree and other volcanologists have different opinions about where an eruption might occur.
“This is how volcanology works. It should be closed,” he joked.
“If the corridor is active and moving south – we see that earthquakes reach all the way under the sea, south of Grindavík – the most natural thing would be for it to move sideways and into this system to the southwest of the city,” Sigurðsson said. In this way, a new island would be created south of Grindavík.
On his blog, Sigurðsson even wondered what the new island should be called.
Local residents wait in their cars to gain access to their homes in the fishing town of Grindavik, which was evacuated due to volcanic activity in Iceland, November 16
Fagradalsfjall volcano spews lava after erupting in Reykjavik, July 16, 2023.
While reviewing recent aerial photos of Grindavík this week, he said he saw two fissures running parallel west of the city, about 200 meters apart.
He said old photos taken by the U.S. Army in 1954 also show cracks. Yet a city was built around them.
“We see it in aerial photos of the US Army from 1954 and everything is clear there. However, the then district director did not think about this. They were just old cracks and there was no reason for them to think about it. This [the town] it was built on that,” he told MBL newspaper.
That was just the mentality. But now it’s a bit more of a problem.