From Iceland — Eruption Approaching: Magma Ascending Towards the Surface

Eruption Approaching: Magma Ascending Towards the Surface

Published July 7, 2023

Photo by
Emma Ledbetter

In a recent update from the Icelandic Met Office, it is stated that since the onset of the ongoing earthquake swarm on July 4th, approximately 7,000 earthquakes have been recorded between Fagradalsfjall and Keilir. Around 300 earthquakes have surpassed the magnitude of 3.

Seismic activity in the area between Keilir and Kleifarvatn continues, mainly consisting of micro-earthquakes. Despite the decreasing seismic activity, the recorded land deformation strongly indicates that the magma is moving closer to the surface.

The Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland, specializing in volcanology and natural hazards, states in a recent Facebook post that all indications suggest that the magma chamber beneath the area between Fagradalsfjall and Keilis is heading towards an eruption.

If an eruption occurs in this area, the eruption’s force and the characteristics of the magma are expected to be similar to the 2022 eruption.

Travelling in the area discouraged, but not banned

On July 7th, The Environment Agency of Iceland reiterated that all off-road driving is prohibited by nature conservation laws, reports RÚV.

Exceptions to the ban apply to search and rescue operations, police activities and research conducted by institutions with a legal research mandate, according to the relevant legislation governing those institutions.

The traffic in the area between Keilir and Fagradalsfjall, where an eruption could occur soon, has slightly increased during the seismic activity. Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, the spokesperson for the National Civil Protection Agency, urges people not to travel through the area. “We genuinely ask people to listen to what we are trying to convey. This is not the safest area to be in today. One can truly ponder why one needs to be somewhere knowing that a volcanic eruption may potentially occur,” she emphasizes.

Hjördís says that experience has shown that closures are not always a solution. “If we had a house where we knew there was a risk of entering, it would certainly be easier to close the house. But we simply don’t have a house, we have a large area of land. Experience has shown us that when an area has been closed, people find a way in. So sometimes we create more problems by closing it than by not doing so,” she explains.

Residents and tourists have received an SMS from the National Civil Protection Agency saying: “Reykjanes peninsula earthquakes! Increased seismic activity in the area. Stay away from slopes and cliffs due to danger of rockfall and landslides. A volcanic eruption might start with short notice.”

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