From Iceland — "Unusual, Very Active" Seismic Activity In Southwest Iceland

“Unusual, Very Active” Seismic Activity In Southwest Iceland

Published February 24, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Roman Zacharij/Wikimedia Commons

A series of still-ongoing earthquakes centered almost entirely in southwest Iceland is prompting experts to warn that we may need to prepare for a much larger event.

Earthquakes are fairly continuous in Iceland, as the entire country lies on a fault line. The vast majority of these do not reach a magnitude of 3 on most days. Today, however, at around 10:00 Icelandic time, dozens of earthquakes measuring 3, 4 and 5 began—with the largest so far reaching 5.7—all this morning. Almost all of these have been on the Reykjanes peninsula.

The size, frequency, and duration of these quakes is prompting experts to look for answers.

Ármann Hösk­ulds­son, a volcanologist at the University of Iceland, told Kjarninn that the focus right now is on whether this recent activity is due to the two tectonic plates upon which Iceland rests rubbing together or pulling away from each other. Also included in these measurements is seeing whether the surface of the ground is lifting up, using sensitive GPS technology, in order to determine if a volcanic eruption is on the way.

The area is indeed volcanically active, and the volcano Mt. Þórbjörn attracted attention last year for what appeared to be increased activity in the region.

Kristín Jóns­dótt­ir, who leads a natural disasters work group at the Icelandic Met Office, told RÚV that today’s activity has been powerful and unusual. She said that Civic Protection has met today about the matter and concluded that “we are in the midst of an event right now and while things are unstable there is an increased chance of more and even stronger quakes.”

Measurements of seismic activity from Kleifarvatn to Bláfjall were recorded that have not registered any quakes at all this year. “This may indicate that the area is seized up and will not break without a larger earthquake,” she said. “There have been larger quakes there, up to 6.5, so we need to ready ourselves for larger quakes”.

There have been, at the time of this writing, some 11 quakes measuring 4 and above since the quakes began this morning. The Grapevine will keep you apprised of any major developments. You can also follow the activity in real time on the official site of the Icelandic Met Office.

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