Icelandic officials warn that Fagradalsfjall volcano could erupt soon

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Icelandic officials have evacuated the town of Grindavik, warning that a volcanic eruption is imminent. Cracks have appeared in the ground there, swimming under buildings, splitting streets and pouring steam into the air. And although magma has not yet reached the surface, experts say it may soon.

Volcanic activity is occurring on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 25 miles southwest of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The peninsula is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates pull apart, allowing magma to bubble up to the surface from time to time in a long history of eruptions.

The volcanism was dormant for nearly 800 years, until it suddenly awoke in 2020. Then came the eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano on March 19, 2021. Volcanic coughs and sputters have occurred since then, but could A larger eruption is inevitable in the coming days.

In fact, the Icelandic Meteorological Office warned on Monday that “there is a high probability of a volcanic eruption in the coming days.” A “dike intrusion,” or a magma fissure squeezing between crustal rocks, is believed to be excavated beneath Grindavik. On Saturday, the Met Office said the magma was probably within 800 metres, or 2,624 feet, of the surface.

First, a cluster of earthquakes – including in the past week two over magnitude 5.0 and thirteen at or above 4.5 – about two miles northeast of Grindavik, a town of 3,300 on the Reykjanes peninsula. It is believed that this is where the increase is There is magma.

Over the past 72 hours, the earthquakes have moved slowly to the southwest, alerting scientists to possible magma movement. The ground has also risen up to about three feet on the western side of Grindavik. The magma vent is estimated to be about 10 miles long, and continues southwest into the sea. Around 100 earthquakes are still shaking the area every hour.

On Sunday, police allowed displaced residents of Thorkotlustadahverfi, a suburb of Grindavik, to return home “only to retrieve essentials, pets and livestock,” according to the Met Office. Roads to and from Grindavik remain closed. Iceland’s popular Blue Lagoon hot spring is also closed until at least 7 a.m. Thursday, when a decision will be made to reopen or remain closed.

Iceland is no stranger to earthquakes and volcanoes. In 2010, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, on the south coast of Iceland, released 330 million cubic yards of material and a plume of ash 30,000 feet high. The ash plume closed most of Europe’s airspace for the better part of a week.

To the southwest, an entirely new island – Surtsey – appeared out of nowhere after an undersea volcanic eruption reached the surface of the ocean on November 14, 1963. The eruption continued until June 5, 1967, when the island was 1.68 miles wide and 509 feet high. Wave action since then has eroded much of the island.

As for the Reykjanes peninsula, the parent volcano Fagradalsfjall had been dormant for 6,300 years until December 2019. That’s when earthquakes, including a pair of magnitude-5.6 quakes, shook the peninsula. An even larger 5.7 earthquake struck on February 4, 2021, causing damage. On March 19 of that year, a 2,000-foot-long fissure opened, spewing lava.

The new feature, named Geldingadalsgos, is considered a possible new shield volcano – a broad volcano with gentle sides. Several more fissures opened in April 2021, but only one remained active through May of that year.

Another eruption from a separate fissure of Fagradalsfjall occurred on 3 August 2022.

Then in early July this year, a new eruption started near Litli-Hrutur, which is also part of the Fagradalsfjall volcano. It was about 10 times as big as the first two eruptions. It went down by August 5th.

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