Iceland: Volcanic eruption could be imminent after 17,000 earthquakes in the past week.
The biggest quake, a magnitude 5.6 on the Richter scale, took place on the early morning of February 24. It was the loudest in a swarm that continues to rattle citizens in the neighboring capital city of Reykjavík and the towns around it, where two-thirds of the Icelandic population lives. 2 bigger earthquakes — over magnitude 5.0 — likewise struck on February 27 and March 1.
The quakes have actually triggered little damage up until now, though Iceland’s Roadway and Coastal Administration has actually reported little fractures in roadways in the location and rockfalls on high slopes near the center of the swarm.
In the fishing town of Grindavík, residents have actually had a front-row seat to the tremblings. “I’ve not experienced anything like this before,” states Páll Valur Björnsson, who teaches at the regional College of Fisheries and sits as a deputy member of Parliament.
“We are used to it; it started one year ago. But it is much more now — very unsettling. I’m not afraid but this is uncomfortable. I woke up twice last night because of [tremors]. There was a very big one when I went to sleep, and I woke up with one. It is difficult but you have to learn to live with it,” he stated.
Just this time, there appears to be no end to the rumble under the ground.
Þorvaldur Þórðarson, a teacher of volcanology at the University of Iceland, stated issues over the current activity are easy to understand. “Of course it worries people. For this region, this is actually fairly unusual, not because of the type of earthquakes or their intensity, but for their duration. It’s been going for more than a week now.”
“We are battling with the ‘why’ at the moment. Why is this happening? It is very likely that we have an intrusion of magma into the [Earth’s] crust there. It has definitely moved closer to the surface, but we are trying to figure out if it’s moving even closer to it,” he stated. With numerous volcanoes in the location, regional authorities have actually cautioned that an eruption might be impending.
Elísabet Pálmadóttir, professional in natural dangers at the Icelandic Meteorological Workplace, informed CNN that authorities are releasing monitoring devices in the location, from GPS and earthquake displays to web cams and gas detectors.
She too can’t keep in mind having actually ever experienced many earthquakes over such a long time period. She cautions that a more effective occasion might be trigger for issue, and approximates that the location might experience a magnitude 6 earthquake or above.
“In this particular area, where we’ve seen activity in the past week, we could experience a magnitude 6.0 earthquake. But we could have a 6.5 to the east of the area, east of the Kleifarvatn Lake,” she states.
No towns seem at danger from lava streams in case of a volcanic eruption, according to the current modeling by the University of Iceland’s Volcanology and Natural Danger Group, which launched maps of possible circulations on Wednesday.
“Based on the current model, no major town is in harm’s way,” volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson informed CNN, including that Keflavík International Airport — among the most direct connections in between Iceland and the rest of the world — would likewise be spared.
Nevertheless, the primary roadway linking the airport to the capital, Reykjavík, might be affected, as might some powerlines, he included.
Pálmadóttir notes that such designs do not represent possible unsafe gases that might be released from a volcanic eruption.
Þórðarson adds that “the magma composition here is very different, the intensity of explosive activity would be significantly less.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a tremor close to the Keilir volcano, just 20 miles south of the capital, prompted authorities to ban traffic in the area. On its webpage, the Icelandic MET Office states similar activity has previously preceded eruptions.
Víðir Reynisson, Chief Superintendent at Iceland’s Department for Civil Protection and Emergency Management, told a news conference on Wednesday that an eruption was “more likely than not” within the next few hours. It would be the first in the area since the 12th century.
For now, residents await signs of an eruption, some with excitement, others with anxiety. Víkurfréttir, a local news service, has installed a video camera pointing at Keilir, which will start livestreaming should an eruption start.
In the last 24 hours, the large earthquakes felt the previous days have largely subsided — but the existing lull may not last for long. “It’s definitely not over,” states Pálmadóttir.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.