Reykjanes Eruption: Alert Level Lowered, Eruption Site Still Hot

eruption reykjanes geldingadalir

After consulting with the Reykjanes Peninsula Police Commissioner, the National Police Commissioner has decided to lower the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Response’s Readiness level from Alert to Uncertainty.

The Geldingadalir crater activity has been dormant for the past four weeks, and the seismic unrest has been compatible with that. While there has been some seismic activity around Keilir recently, it has died down in the past few days. The area is still being monitored for increased seismic activity, seismic unrest, or land rise. The site is still considered dangerous, and visitors are advised not to step on the fresh lava or approach the crater.

When the eruption began, March 19, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Response raised their alert level to Emergency, the highest level. The day after, March 20, when the extent of the eruption was clear, it was lowered to Alert.

Is it true? Is it over?

“This is one of the hardest questions geologists hear,” Natural Hazards Co-ordinator of the Icelandic Met Office Kristín Jónsdóttir told Fréttablaðið when asked if the eruption had ended. “There are many different factors. We need to consider the dangers in the area, and the considerable amount of liquid lava in the lava field by the crater. The lava has pooled there, covered by a thin shell of hardened lava,” she adds.

It’s been over a month since fresh lava flowed from the crater in Geldingadalir, but Kristín states that it doesn’t necessarily mean the eruption has ended. “Right now, there’s not much activity there, and you ask yourself if the eruption is over. It’s possible, but the activity might still pick up again. We have a plethora of examples of eruptions pausing like this,” Kristín states. She added that such a pause might last for months.

Danger, Danger

Even though there’s no new lava, there’s still flowing lava underneath the black lava field. Both the dormant crater and the fresh lava continue to emit volcanic gasses. Kristín reiterated that it’s dangerous to walk on the new lava, as even though the top layer has cooled and hardened, it’s now acting as insulation for liquid lava underneath. “The top layer is very thin. It’s like a thermos keeping its contents hot. The lava is still red-hot, and at night, you can even see embers. It’s extremely unwise to taka stroll on the lava.” Kristín states.

 

When the eruption began March 19th this year, seven months ago, many geologists called this the beginning of a new volcanic period in the Reykjanes peninsula that could last for years. Kristín told reporters that such a period can last for 2-300 years and that it’s impossible to say what happens next. “Such a period lasts much longer than a human life span. If a new volcanic period has begun, we could expect an eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula every few years.”

Read more on the volcanic eruption at Reykjanes

Russia Gives No Explanation of Navy Ships off Iceland’s Coast

Russia ship navy military severomorsk

In late summer of this year, a convoy of Russian military ships set off from the northern port of Severomorsk. The expedition was intended to be a routine Arctic voyage, but it did not end up that way. Three ships from the convoy took an unexpected turn west, sailing close to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago and then into Icelandic waters on August 20, RÚV reports. The ships made their presence clear to Icelandic authorities, yet Russia has not answered their inquiries as to why the ships entered Icelandic waters, or why the destroyer Severomorsk circumnavigated the country.

A press release from the Russian Ministry of Defence states that the ships were directed to Iceland to respond to and monitor NATO warships and unexpected air exercises in the northeastern part of the Norwegian Sea, east of Iceland. Iceland’s Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson said it was far-fetched that Russia needed to carry out military exercises near Iceland to defend itself. “But they of course have their own approach to international affairs, as we know,” Guðlaugur stated. Still, he added, it was not surprising that Russia would use NATO exercises as an excuse for such activity.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Guðlaugur Þór in Reykjavík last spring, where he expressed his concern about the military conduct of neighbouring countries, stating that “There are unresolved issues related to militarisation and reconstruction in Norway and the Baltic states.”

Iceland’s defence policy is founded on its membership in NATO and the 1951 defence agreement signed with the United States. Iceland has greatly increased its defence spending in recent years, increasing spending by 37% between 2017 and 2019. In its 2020 budget, the US Air Force allocated ISK 7 billion [$56.2 million, €49.5 million] to construction projects at Iceland’s Keflavík Airport.

Election Supervisors Fined as Investigation Continues

parliament Alþingi

A preparatory committee met in Borgarnes yesterday to investigate ballot papers in the Northwest Constituency, RÚV reports. Thirteen people have filed legal complaints over the election results in the constituency following the September 25 election, including five politicians who lost their seats after votes were recounted. Ballot papers were not sealed and were left unsupervised after the initial count, both breaches of regulation that have led some to wonder whether votes could have been tampered with.

Same number of unused ballot papers

Unused ballot papers were recounted yesterday by staff of the National Electoral Commission and the District Commissioner’s Office. The counting revealed that the number conformed with voting document records. Birgir Ármansson, chairman of the preparatory committee, stated that staff were working to “rule out all sorts of possibilities to try to get a holistic picture of what really happened.”

Read More: 13 Legal Complaints Filed Over Election 

The committee questioned staff at Hotel Borgarnes, where ballots were counted and stored, as well as Ingi Tryggvason, chairman of the constituency’s election supervision committee. All of these individuals had already been questioned by police. Birgir says the committee will continue to gather information in the coming days and could not tell reporters when its work would be completed.

Fines issued to election staff

The West Iceland Police department’s investigation of the matter is, on the other hand, complete. The Chief of Police has issued fines to Ingi and all other members of the Northwest Constituency’s election supervision committee, as a proposal for closing the case. According to RÚV, the fine is likely issued on the basis that ballots boxes were left unsealed after the initial count, though this is not confirmed.

According to RÚV’s sources, Ingi has been fined ISK 250,000 [$1,938, €1,666] while others on the committee were fined ISK 100,000 [$775, €667]. If the committee members refuse to pay the fine, the police must decide whether to issue an indictment, which would bring the case to court.