May 30, 2024

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Officials in Iceland warn that the Fagradalsfjall volcano could erupt soon

Icelandic officials evacuated the town of Grindavik, warning of an imminent volcanic eruption. Cracks appeared in the ground there, creeping under buildings, dividing streets, and billowing steam into the air. Although the magma has not yet risen to the surface, experts say it is likely to happen soon.

The volcanic activity occurs on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 25 miles southwest of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The peninsula is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates break apart, allowing magma to rise to the surface periodically in a long history of eruptions.

The volcanic activity lay dormant for nearly 800 years, until it suddenly awakened in 2020. Then came the Fagradalsfjall eruption on March 19, 2021. There has been a volcanic cough since then, but a larger eruption may be inevitable in the coming days.

In fact, Iceland’s meteorological office warned on Monday of “a high possibility of a volcanic eruption in the coming days.” It is believed that an “intrusive dike”, or a fissure of compressed magma between crustal rocks, is excavated beneath Grindavik. The Met Office said on Saturday that the magma may have been 800 meters, or 2,624 feet, from the surface.

Initially, a barrage of quakes — including last week two with a magnitude of 5.0 and thirteen with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater — were centered two miles northeast of Grindavik, a town of 3,300 on the Reykjanes Peninsula. It is believed that this is where the bottom water rises Of magma is.

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Over the past 72 hours, the quakes have slowly moved southwest, alerting scientists to the possibility of magma moving. The ground also rose by nearly three feet in western Grindavik. The total length of magma intrusion is estimated at about 10 miles, and continues southwest out to sea. About 100 earthquakes still hit the region every hour.

On Sunday, police allowed displaced residents of Thorkutlustadavervi, a suburb of Grindavik, to return to their homes “only to retrieve vital items, pets and livestock.” According to the Met Office. Roads to and from Grindavik remain closed. Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon hot spring is also closed until at least 7 a.m. on Thursday, when a decision is made. It will reopen or remain closed.

Iceland is no stranger to earthquakes and volcanoes. In 2010, the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, on the southern coast of Iceland, ejected 330 million cubic yards of material and spewed ash 30,000 feet high. The ash plume closed most of European airspace for much of the week.

To the southwest, an entirely new island — Surtsey — appeared out of nowhere after an undersea volcanic eruption reached the ocean surface on November 14, 1963. The eruption continued until June 5, 1967, when the island was 1.68 miles wide and 509 feet wide. high. Since then wave action has eroded much of the island.

In the case of the Reykjanes Peninsula, the original Fagradalsfjall volcano remained quiet for 6,300 years until December 2019. That’s when a swarm of earthquakes, including a pair of 5.6 magnitude tremors, rocked the peninsula. A larger 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck on February 4, 2021, causing damage. On March 19 of that year, a 2,000-foot-long fissure opened and lava oozed out.

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The new feature, called Geldingadalsgos, is considered a potential new shield volcano, a broad volcano with gently sloping sides. Several other fissures opened in April 2021, but only one remained active until May of that year.

Another eruption from a separate fissure occurred in Fagradalsfjall on August 3, 2022.

Then in early July this year, a new eruption began near Litli-Hrutur, which is also part of the Fagradalsfjall volcano. It was about 10 times the size of the first two explosions. It diminished by August 5.