Powerful earthquakes on Iceland rock country’s southwestern Reykjanes peninsula, increasing likelihood of event
In the past few days, more than 2,000 earthquakes, including some with a magnitude exceeding 5.0, have shaken Iceland, which is home to hundreds of volcanoes. This has led to a state of emergency and evacuation announcements due to the possibility of volcanic eruptions, putting the safety of thousands at risk.
From Friday evening at 4 o’clock until now, over 800 earthquakes have been recorded in the country. The Icelandic Meteorological Office has stated in a release that there is a significant likelihood of future volcanic eruptions. Several earthquakes, some with a magnitude exceeding 5.0, have occurred near the Reykjanes Peninsula, where the city of Grindavik, with a population of 3,400, has been evacuated.
Officials have mentioned that predicting when and where magma might reach the surface is challenging, but there are indications that magma was moving towards Grindavik. The amount of magma observed underground in Fagradalsfjall, associated with the recent volcanic activity, is described as “quite substantial” compared to the largest magma intrusion related to the eruption that started in March 2021 and lasted for more than six months.
According to the volcano alert from the U.S. Embassy in Iceland, volcanic hazards may include lava, toxic gases, and heavy smoke. On Friday, the aviation color code was raised to orange, indicating an increased likelihood of an eruption, which could result in engine damage and navigational failures for aircraft.
The depth of the magma intrusion beneath Grindavik, as observed by meteorologists north of the city, is reported to be the deepest in the top of the crater series. As a result of the seismic and volcanic risks, the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool known for its warm and tranquil waters, has been closed for at least a week starting from Thursday.
According to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, Keflavik International Airport, the main airport in Iceland just 18 miles northwest of Grindavik, has not been affected operationally as of Saturday. The foreign department has not issued travel advice for Americans, stating that American tourists can exercise “normal precautions” during their travels.
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Following the magma tunnel beneath Grindavik, which follows a 2,000-year-old series of craters, Professor Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist, noted that it is challenging to predict where an eruption will occur and how long the resulting fissure will be. Iceland has more than 100 volcanoes on its islands, with 32 of them considered active. One of the most infamous volcanic eruptions in the country’s history was the Eyjafjallajokull eruption. According to the Icelandic tourism website, this eruption stranded thousands of tourists worldwide, leading to the suspension of over 100,000 flights in one week.
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