Status: 03.12.2023, 14:43 PM
By: Johannes Welte
A volcanic eruption south of Iceland's capital Reykjavik is approaching. Near the legendary Blue Lagoon, an underground magma bump has formed.
Grindavik – On October 25, earthquake swarms caused volcanic alarms in the small town of Grindavik on the Reykjanesskagi peninsula, southwest of the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. The quakes reached their peak on the evening of November 10, when a 15-kilometer-long magma tunnel gathered underground.
Volcano eruption in Iceland is getting closer: "A new chapter has begun"
The port city of Grindavik, about 3700 kilometers from Reykjavik, which has about 50,<> inhabitants, was evacuated. The Blue Lagoon – a bathing paradise fed by volcanic thermal water – which is very popular with tourists – has also been closed.
After earthquake swarms temporarily subsided and residents were temporarily allowed to return to collect personal belongings, the national weather and disaster warning service Veðurstofa Íslands reported on Friday (1 December): "It is safe to say that a new chapter has begun."
In and around Grindavik, new holes in the ground are constantly being created. © IMAGO/Raul Moreno
An examination of data from GPS stations and satellite images had shown that a "ground uplift" was taking place in the area of Svartsengi, north of Grindavík. In the area of Svartsegi there is also the Blue Lagoon and a thermal power plant. In recent weeks, dams have been bulldozed to protect the power plant from incoming lava.
Lava collects near the Blue Lagoon – Iceland expects volcano to erupt soon
"It is believed that the magma that is now accumulating under Svartsengi, causing rapid and constant land uplift, feeds the magma tunnel that runs under Sýlingarfell and Hagafell," Veðurstofa Íslands continues. Seismic activity is now highest there, but continues to decline." In the meantime, there are even significantly fewer and smaller earthquakes than in recent weeks. During Friday night, 250 weak tremors were recorded along the magmatic vein. The day before, there were 360 quakes during the day. On Friday night, there were only 90. However, this is not a sign of easing – quite the opposite.
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"The eruption is still considered probable as the influx of magma continues," it said. Further, the weather service reports that "the highest probability of an eruption is in the central part of the dam between Hagafell and Sýlingarfell". The power plant and the Blue Lagoon are located just one kilometer west of the line between these two locations.
The port of the Icelandic city sinks
According to the Icelandic news portal RUV, the earthquake activity has also led to the deepening of the port of Grindavik. The change in depth is due to the effects of the earthquakes, port manager Sigurður Arnar Kristmundsson is quoted as saying. "The docks seem to have sunk by 20 to 30 centimeters when we measured about <> days ago, and then there's a possibility that, yes, the bottom has sunk accordingly."
In light of the ongoing series of earthquakes and a possible imminent volcanic eruption, Iceland has temporarily closed one of the country's biggest tourist attractions. The Blue Lagoon geothermal bath is expected to remain closed until November 16. © Blue Lagoon Iceland/dpa
Noisy volcanoes. New sinkholes have formed in the urban area of Grindavik due to collapsed underground cavities. Some of them are said to be 20 meters deep. New building cracks also appeared. The reason could be tectonic shifts. Iceland lies at the seam between the North American and Eurasian plates, which are drifting apart – the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Lava rises along this ridge, and in a few places, such as in Iceland, this ridge rises above the surface of the sea.
It is not only in Iceland that an imminent volcanic eruption is feared: There are also increasing signs of an imminent eruption in the Phlegraean Fields – a supervolcano in southern Italy. Off the waters of Sicily, three new volcanoes have just been discovered under the surface of the sea.