Reykjavik, Iceland – November 21, 2023
As southwestern Iceland continues to be shaken by hundreds of earthquakes, authorities are sounding the alarm, warning of a “high likelihood” of a volcanic eruption in the coming days. The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) has been diligently monitoring the seismic activity beneath the Reykjanes Peninsula.
The Reykjanes Peninsula, home to the coastal town of Grindavik, has been on high alert for weeks. In response to the escalating threat, the entire town of Grindavik was evacuated, leaving residents anxious about the potential volcanic eruption.
According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the region has been experiencing a staggering 1,500 to 1,800 earthquakes daily in recent days. Such intense seismic activity is often associated with the movement of underground magma, or molten rock. While earthquake swarms can indicate an impending volcanic eruption, precise forecasting remains a significant challenge for scientists.
The IMO has been closely monitoring a volcano beneath the Reykjanes Peninsula, where a substantial 9-mile-long magma chamber has formed, extending from Kálfellsheiði southwest to the sea, off the coast of Grindavik. Earthquake swarms have been concentrated around this underground magma tunnel, raising concerns about the uncertain emergence of magma on the Earth’s surface.
On November 10, all 3,400 residents of Grindavik were ordered to evacuate the area, with local officials stating that evacuations would persist until seismic activity subsided. The Icelandic Civil Protection Agency has allowed evacuated residents brief returns to their homes for essential needs.
As of Monday, more than 700 earthquakes were recorded in the region, but Tuesday saw a significant drop, with only 165 earthquakes detected since midnight. The IMO cautioned that adverse weather conditions over the next two days might affect earthquake detection sensitivity and real-time GPS monitoring.
Despite the seismic activity, operations at Keflavik Airport remain unaffected. However, Iceland’s Civil Protection Agency emphasized that the possibility of air traffic disturbances from a potential eruption “cannot be entirely ruled out.” As the situation unfolds, Iceland remains on edge, with residents and authorities closely monitoring developments and preparing for potential volcanic activity.