Iceland is on high alert for an imminent volcanic eruption that experts warn could occur within “hours or days.” Approximately 3,000 residents of Grindavik, near the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system, have been evacuated due to the impending threat, according to The Independent. Over the past 48 hours, the country has experienced a seismic swarm, with 1,485 earthquakes recorded. A magma tunnel is forming beneath the town, estimated to be potentially 12km long.
The UK Foreign Office has warned of an increasing likelihood of eruption, updating travel advice but not prohibiting flights at Keflavik International Airport.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office has highlighted a “considerable” risk of an eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula due to the significant size of the underground magma intrusion and its rapid movement.
Iceland’s susceptibility to natural disasters is rooted in its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent plate boundary where the North American and Eurasian Plates are drifting apart, resulting in volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
Professor Thorvaldur Thordarson from the University of Iceland states, “I don’t think it’s long before an eruption, hours or a few days. The chance of an eruption has increased significantly.” Professor Páll Einarsson adds that considering the intensity, it is probable that an eruption will occur from the magma tunnel, though the exact location and duration are uncertain.
Despite the impending threat, the UK Foreign Office has not discouraged travel to the region, noting heightened seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula in its official warning.
Recent eruptions in the Reykjanes region have primarily occurred in uninhabited areas, but the current situation poses an immediate risk to Grindavik. The closure of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa on Thursday underscores the seriousness of the situation.
Reykjanes, a volcanic and seismic hotspot southwest of Reykjavik, witnessed spectacular lava fountains in March 2021 from the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system. Subsequent eruptions occurred in August 2022 and July of the current year. The Fagradalsfjall system, dormant for over 6,000 years before these events, spans approximately 6km in width and 19km in length.