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Is a New Eruption Imminent ?

Over ten thousand earthquakes have been detected on the Reykjanes peninsula over the weekend. The swarm, (yes they swarm!) started at noon on Saturday the 30th July. The image above, from vedur.is, shows activity on August 2nd, with green stars indicating quakes greater than 3 on the Richter scale.  

While the vast majority of the tremors are too weak to be felt, there have, so far been 15 events above Magnitude 4 that were felt in Reykjavík. The strongest registered at 5.4 on the Richter scale.

This all feels a bit like deja-vu as similar events preceded last year’s eruption in March. The current activity is taking place around the craters left by the 2021 eruption at Fagradalsfjall, a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, outside the small town of Grindavík nearby the Blue Lagoon.

Despite the peninsula being covered in sensors, scanned by satellites and closely monitored by a small army of vulcanologists, it remains difficult to predict an actual eruption with accuracy. Many scientists were caught off guard by last year’s eruption. The fissure opened up just as it seemed the activity had fizzled out. The final few kilometres of the magma’s journey to the surface offered little resistance for the sensors to detect as upper crust is a Swiss cheese of vents and caves.

Last year’s tourist class eruption, though small in historic terms was an awesome sight. If there’d been a cult of volcano worshippers taking names in the car park, I would have been all in. At the very best spot to view the volcano, from where you could see into the bubbling cauldron I met two were friends, a software engineer and a musician from Reykjavík that travelled every evening after work to with flasks and gaze into the inferno and sip tea. 

While there is a good chance there will be an eruption in the coming days, no one can be sure. On the civil protection website the status is posted as Óvissustig, which translates, imperfectly to ‘an official state of uncertainty’.   

Time will tell, but for now people are advised to be careful on steep slopes, near sea cliffs and to avoid areas where rocks can fall as the recent tremors may have loosened things up.  

Watch this space. 

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