From Iceland — Seismic Roundup: Chance Of Eruption Increases, Grindavík Residents Fed Up

Seismic Roundup: Chance Of Eruption Increases, Grindavík Residents Fed Up

Published March 15, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

While last night was a fairly calm one in Reykjanes, seismically speaking, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 struck yesterday at about 14:15 near Fagradalsfjall. People in nearby Grindavík are reaching the end of their patience with the constant quakes, and scientists believe the chances of a volcanic eruption are increasing.

“Everyone was terrified,” Grindavík resident Snædís Ósk Guðjónsdóttir told RÚV of yesterday’s quake. “Everything was shaking, there was a lot of noise because all around us something was falling down.”

“I’m just hoping that a rift opens up there that releases the tension here,” Sigurður Enoksson of Grindavík told Vísir. “This has become more annoying than a football game.”

The sentiment that a volcanic eruption would be preferable to the constant earthquakes is shared by a lot of people in Reykjanes. Bergur Brynjar Álfþórsson, the chair of Vogar town council—on the northern shore of Reykjanes, almost directly across the peninsula from Grindavík—summed it up well in a conversation with Vísir.

“You don’t get used to [these earthquakes],” he said. “What I miss most these weeks is a full night’s sleep. You wake up almost every night. Sometimes because you felt the shaking, sometimes you wake up after it’s passed. We’ve had enough. Maybe it’ll erupt to finish out these quakes. I’d prefer that as it is now.”

These residents and others might just get their wish. Benedikt Ófeigsson, a specialist at the Icelandic Met Office, told RÚV that the chances of a volcanic eruption increase with each day.

“Pressure is building,” he said. “We see that in our GPS measurements, we see that in our seismic measurements and with time, if nothing else changes, I would say the chances [of an eruption] increase with each day. It could take days or weeks. I’d think we won’t have to wait for very long. But it depends on how the earth’s crust holds there. How much pressure it can handle before it gives out.”

Kristín Jónsdóttir, earthquake hazards coordinator at the Icelandic Met Office, echoed these sentiments in an interview with Vísir, without specifically saying the chances of an eruption are increasing by the day.

“I would say the chances of an eruption are increasing when these disturbances are happening,” she said. “Especially when it’s these kinds of quakes that are breaking a lot up. Tension is then being released and space is being made and we’re still in the midst of that. While this is going on and there’s a lot of activity, it indicates that the magma is still on the move and pressure is building—and with that, there is an increased chance of an eruption.”

More on the current situation and possible future scenarios can be read about in our latest cover story, The Sleeping Giant: Earthquakes And Volcanoes In Reykjanes.

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