Earthquakes on the Reykjanes Peninsula continued through the night, the strongest of which was a 4.6-magnitude quake centered 3.4 kilometers southeast of Fagradalsfjall around 5:30 this morning.
In the last 48 hours, there have been more than 2,000 earthquakes in the region, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office. More than 50 of those have been larger than magnitude 3, with many being felt throughout the peninsula and capital area.
As a result of the increased seismic activity, officials have changed the civil defense alert level to uncertain. The chances of an eruption in the next few weeks is now considered significant.
A magma tunnel about 1 kilometer below the surface is causing the trigger earthquakes, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office. The influx of magma is about double the rate leading up to last year’s eruption.
A new eruption could be more powerful than the one last year, geophysicist Freysteinn Sigmundsson told RÚV. An eruption would most likely occur between Fagradalsfjall and Keilis, with the potential for magma to travel north toward Reykjanesbraut.
At least one false alarm occurred when smoke was spotted on a webcam in the area around midnight. RÚV reports a moss fire with an unknown cause was the source of the smoke. A Coast Guard helicopter investigated the smoke and found that no further action needed to be taken for the wildfire and no magma was visible.
Earthquakes at Grímsvötn
In other volcano-related news, officials changed the aviation colour code for Grímsvötn to yellow, indicating the area is under surveillance for a potential eruption. Several large earthquakes, the largest being of magnitude 3.7, occurred there yesterday afternoon, prompting officials to raise the alert. The last eruption at the volcano, which is located below Vatnajökull glacier, was in 2011, reports Vísir.
“This is very unusual in Grímsvatn. This actually happened in December last year, but it is by no means certain that this is a precursor to an eruption,” says Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, professor of geophysics.
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