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Iceland is on high alert as the possibility of a volcanic eruption looms

The UK Foreign Office has issued a warning indicating a growing likelihood of a volcanic eruption. Travel advice has been updated, but flights at Keflavik International Airport are not currently prohibited.

By: Team Pardaphash  Pardaphash Group
Iceland is on high alert as the possibility of a volcanic eruption looms

Iceland is currently on high alert for a potential volcanic eruption that experts warn could happen within a matter of “hours or days.” The imminent threat has led to the evacuation of approximately 3,000 residents in Grindavik, near the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system. Over the past 48 hours, the country has experienced a seismic swarm, recording 1,485 earthquakes. A magma tunnel, estimated to potentially be 12km long, is forming beneath the town.

The UK Foreign Office has issued a warning about the increasing likelihood of an eruption, updating travel advice but not imposing flight restrictions at Keflavik International Airport. The Icelandic Meteorological Office has emphasized a “considerable” risk of an eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula due to the substantial size of the underground magma intrusion and its rapid movement.

Iceland’s vulnerability to natural disasters is linked to its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent plate boundary where the North American and Eurasian Plates are drifting apart, leading to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Professor Thorvaldur Thordarson from the University of Iceland suggests an imminent eruption, stating, “I don’t think it’s long before an eruption, hours or a few days. The chance of an eruption has increased significantly.” Professor Páll Einarsson adds that considering the intensity, an eruption from the magma tunnel is probable, though the exact location and duration remain uncertain.

Despite the looming threat, the UK Foreign Office has not discouraged travel to the region, acknowledging heightened seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula in its official warning.

Recent eruptions in the Reykjanes region have mainly occurred in uninhabited areas. However, the current situation poses an immediate risk to Grindavik. The closure of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa on Thursday underscores the seriousness of the situation.

Reykjanes, a volcanic and seismic hotspot southwest of Reykjavik, witnessed spectacular lava fountains in March 2021 from the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system. Subsequent eruptions occurred in August 2022 and July of the current year. The Fagradalsfjall system, dormant for over 6,000 years before these events, spans approximately 6km in width and 19km in length.

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