Risk of Volcanic Eruption in Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula: What You Need to Know

2023-11-10 11:18:09
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A huge magma river runs beneath Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula. In places the ground rises threateningly. The authorities are worried.

Reykjavik – Things are simmering near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. For almost two weeks, underground activity in a volcanic area on the Reykjanes Peninsula has been causing earthquakes. As the Icelandic weather authority Vedurstofa announced on Monday (November 6th), it recorded a total of 1,300 earthquakes in the period of 24 hours alone. A volcanic eruption is becoming increasingly likely. Last year, thousands of earthquakes announced an outbreak on Iceland.

A large river of magma flows underground on Mount Thorbjörn on the Icelandic peninsula

In the past there have been several volcanic eruptions on the Icelandic Reykjanes peninsula. © Ragnar Visage/dpa

Three of the most recently measured earthquakes exceeded magnitude 3 – the strongest reached a magnitude of 3.6. According to the weather authority in Iceland, this occurred around three kilometers northeast of Mount Thorbjörn. The ground there has so far risen by seven centimeters, which indicates an impending eruption, the authority continued. There is a magma flow underground that is significantly larger than during previous volcanic activity.

Reykjanes Peninsula

The Reykjanes Peninsula is located in Iceland, southwest of the capital Reykjavik. In the past three years, earthquake swarms in this region have indicated volcanic eruptions three times: most recently, an eruption took place there in July 2023, which lasted several weeks but did not pose a major threat to inhabited areas.

The Icelandic public broadcaster RÚV is following the situation at Thorbjörn in one Livestream. According to the broadcaster, however, there is so far no evidence that the underground magma is getting closer to the earth’s surface and emerging from the ground.

Impending volcanic eruption in Iceland: Authorities are particularly concerned about a geothermal power plant

If the magma does make its way to the surface in the coming days, it would mean a volcanic eruption. Like the Vulkan news portal Vulkane.net explained, it is currently not possible to locate an exact location of the eruption. Nevertheless, an eruption on the peninsula near Iceland in the area between Thorsbjörn and Eldvörp is most likely due to the significant ground elevation.

Icelandic authorities are particularly concerned about a geothermal power plant in the region. Right next to the power plant is the so-called Blue Lagoon, a much-visited thermal bath. In the event that a volcanic eruption actually occurs on the peninsula near Iceland, there is already an evacuation plan for the town of Grindavík. However, an evacuation is only carried out if human life is threatened. Vídir Reynisson, the director of Icelandic Civil Defense, said this at a press conference on Monday (November 6).

Meanwhile, there is also a threat of a volcanic eruption in Italy: a supervolcano on the southern Italian coast is currently under close observation. There have already been several small earthquakes in the region. (dt/dpa)

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