Southwest Iceland is shaking and about to blow up

Greater than 17,000 earthquakes have been recorded within the Reykjanes Peninsula previously week

Greater than 17,000 earthquakes have been recorded in southwest Iceland, within the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the course of the previous week. Folks within the space have been suggested to be very cautious on account of risks of landslides and rockfall. A lot of the greatest earthquakes have even been felt within the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik (the place greater than half of the inhabitants lives), which is simply 27 km away.

This has led to elevated considerations concerning the results of even bigger earthquakes and in addition of a potential eruption of the Krýsuvík volcanic system within the zone.

South West Iceland has a historical past of centuries of calm, which we all know may be interrupted by turbulent durations of intense seismic exercise accompanied by volcanic eruptions. Seems like we’re coming into the subsequent interval of turbulence.

The latest earthquake swarm is definitely the newest in a interval of dramatically elevated seismic exercise that started over a yr in the past. The earthquake is the obvious manifestation of the discharge of monumental quantities of power. However magma has additionally collected quietly nearer to the floor – and when that occurs, there’s elevated chance floor breaking and erupting volcanoes.

On March 3, concern elevated sharply as a kind of seismic exercise attribute of magma motion has been detected, indicating that an eruption could also be imminent. Civil Protection and different authorities held press conferences, closed roads and stepped up visible surveillance of the world above the potential eruption website. Certain, magma can transfer by means of the crust after which cease, nevertheless it’s at all times wiser to plan for an eruption after which shrink if nothing occurs.

Large uncertainties

The issue is, the final time southwest Iceland noticed such a turbulent interval of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. was within the 1300s – when there was no gear to observe seismic exercise. There have been additionally lots much less individuals round, which suggests we do not actually know what alerts there have been earlier than the eruptions. So there are large uncertainties.

Panoramic view of Reykjavik. Boyloso / Shutterstock

Nevertheless, Iceland has a number one community for monitoring seismic and volcanic disturbances and a very good monitor file in anticipating eruptions and preserving its individuals secure. So if a rash does happen, there’s a good probability that every thing will probably be superb.

An eruption on this space will probably be nothing just like the extremely disruptive explosive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, or the a lot bigger however a lot much less disruptive explosive eruption of Grímsvötn in 2011. The eruptions in southwest Iceland are of a kind of flowing rock referred to as basalt. This leads to sluggish lava currents fed by gently exploding craters and cones.

In Iceland, they’re warmly referred to as “vacationer eruptions” as a result of they’re comparatively secure and predictable, and supply the chance for tons of of individuals to witness a magical pure spectacle – the creation of recent lands. Previously, vacationers have flocked to Iceland to witness such eruptions, however at present there’s a five-day quarantine interval for vacationers coming into Iceland because of the pandemic.

Within the present unrest zone, there are not any houses close by – it’s reassuringly remoted. Lava streams escaping from the world are extremely unlikely to break properties on the deliberate lanes, but when the lava is heading out to sea it can reduce off a number of roads.

Worldwide influence?

The largest worldwide concern a couple of volcanic eruption in Iceland is the disruption of air journey. Not solely can winds rapidly carry ash clouds to Western Europe (as we noticed with the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010), however ash clouds can rise by means of the environment and within the stratosphere the place industrial airways traverse the busy Atlantic flight lanes.

Image of the volcanic system.
Volcanic panorama of southwest Iceland. Dave McGarvie, Writer supplied

However the volcanoes in southwest Iceland have a tendency to not produce a lot ash, and the chance of disruption to worldwide air journey is subsequently thought-about very low. Within the occasion of an eruption, flights would robotically be interrupted on the Keflavík Worldwide Airport, which is barely 22 km away, till a extra complete evaluation has been accomplished.

Wind course has a serious impact right here, and provided that the prevailing wind is from the west and Keflavík is on the west facet of this southwestern peninsula, the winds ought to carry the ash away from Keflavík. The essential impact of wind course was superbly highlighted in 2010 when Keflavík Airport remained open whereas airports in Western Europe have been closed for weeks.

Whereas the present COVID-19 restrictions on entry to Iceland will stop hoards of vacationers from touring to see a possible eruption, many Icelanders will journey to look at it. They’ve a unusual saying in Iceland “whereas in most nations individuals normally run away from volcanic eruptions, in Iceland we normally run in direction of them”.The conversation

Dave McGarvie, Volcanologist, Lancaster College

This text is republished from The dialog below a Inventive Commons license. Learn it unique article.

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