As earthquakes continue to rock the Reykjanes peninsula, new GPS data and satellite readings confirm that magma is collecting west of Þorbjörn at a depth of three to four kilometres.
According to the Icelandic Met Office, there are clear signs of ground uplift centred around the Svartsengi power plant near the Blue Lagoon. The Civil Defense has declared a level of uncertainty due to the earthquake swarm – more than 10,000 quakes have been recorded in the area since October 25.
Potential for disruptions
In addition to throwing a major wrench into the relaxation of would-be visitors to the Blue Lagoon, an eruption in the are where magma is accumulating could cause disruptions to the Reykjanes peninsula at large. In addition to providing that silica-rich water in the Blue Lagoon, the Svartsengi power plant provides hot water and electricity to much of the peninsula, including the town of Grindavík and Keflavík, where the international airport is located.
HS Orka CEO Tómas Már Sigurðsson told MBL.is that while power can continue to be generated by the Reykjanesvirkjun power plant further to the west, the Reykjanes peninsula would be left without hot water and heat. There is no backup plan in place.
One big volcano?
As the Grapevine reported in June when there was last an eruption in the Fagradalsfjall region, the peninsula is in a period of volcanic activity that could last hundreds of years. Eruptions occurred in 2021, 2022 and 2023 in Fagradalsfjall.
From west to east, the volcanic systems along the Reykjanes peninsula and into the mainland of Iceland are Reykjanes, Eldvörp-Svartstengi, Fagradalsfjall, Krýsuvík, Brennisteinsfjöll and Hengill. The Reykjanes Fires hundreds of years ago saw chains of eruptions occurring in the Reykjanes and Eldvörp-Svartstengi systems. Now the eruptions are centred on the next system to the east, with each year seeing fissures opening farther east than the last. This latest ground rise is west of the past three eruptions.
While these systems had been considered separate, with individual magma storage zones deep in the Earth, the recent Met office readings indicate that might not be the case.
In fact, GPS data has been indicating that the entirety of the Reykjanes peninsula has been inflating since April, 2023, not only the area associated with the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system. This could indicate that the entire peninsula is actually a singular system, fed by a single magma storage chamber – one large volcano that is now in an eruptive cycle.
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