Reykjanes Earthquakes: Uncertainty Phase Declared

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared a phase of uncertainty due to the ongoing earthquake swarm on the Reykjanes peninsula in Southwest Iceland. Six earthquakes over M3 were detected on the peninsula yesterday, with the strongest measuring M4.7. Specialists say earthquakes and uplift in the area are likely signs of magma collecting below the surface. There are no signs an eruption is imminent.

Likely magma is gathering below surface

“We have seen, since before the weekend, indications that expansion and uplift are occurring by Svartsengi similar to what happened in 2020,” Met Office Earthquake Hazards Coordinator Kristín Jónsdóttir told RÚV. “That is we think it is quite likely that we are seeing the beginning of magma collecting below the surface at Svartsengi and it’s of course not unthinkable that could end in an eruption, but it is still much too early to say.”

The 2020 activity Kristín is referring to was a period of uplift (land rise) by Þorbjörn mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula. The uplift ended without an eruption ever occurring. An eruption did occur on the peninsula last year, however, as many readers know, and it was preceded by weeks of powerful earthquakes felt across Southwest Iceland. Volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson has stated there is a 50% chance of another eruption on Reykjanes this year.

Falling objects and landslides

Travellers and hikers on the Reykjanes peninsula are warned to stay away from steep inclines, where earthquakes can cause landslides or rockfall. The Civil Protection Department encourages residents in or near the active are to secure loose objects in their homes that could fall in the event of an earthquake, particularly those that could fall on individuals while they are sleeping. The Civil Protection Department website features earthquake preparedness information in English.

Read more about the geology of the Reykjanes peninsula.

Municipal Election Results: Gains for Progressives Across Iceland

iceland election

Last Saturday’s municipal elections will go down in Icelandic history books, both for the Progressive Party’s success across the country, and the Independence Party’s worst-ever outcome in Reykjavík. The Progressive Party doubled its following nationwide compared to the last municipal election, held in 2018, and more than tripled its number of councillors from 22 to 67.

Iceland holds municipal elections every four years, in all municipalities concurrently. While the results gave the Progressive Party much to celebrate, several other parties saw losses in their number of seats on local councils, including the Centre Party, the Social-Democratic Alliance, and the Reform Party. While the Independence Party lost following across the country, it remains the party with the most local councillors nationwide: 110.

Reykjavík results

Reykjavík’s four-party governing coalition – consisting of the Social-Democratic Alliance, Reform Party, Pirate Party, and Left-Green Movement – lost two of its 12 seats in the election, and therefore has lost its majority on the 23-seat Reykjavík City Council. The Social-Democratic Alliance and Reform Party both lost seats, the Left-Green Party held its single seat, while the Pirate Party increased its number of seats from two to three.

As elsewhere in the country, the Progressive Party saw great success in Reykjavík, going from zero seats on the City Council to four. The Socialist Party also saw an increase in voters, doubling their seats from one to two. While it received the largest proportion of the vote, or nearly 25%, the Independence Party lost one seat, going from seven to six councillors following the election.

Poor voter turnout

Voter turnout decreased in all of the country’s largest municipalities except Hafnarfjörður, where it increased by 2.4%. The lowest voter turnout was in Reykjanesbær, where less than half of registered voters turned up to the polls. Voter turnout was 63% across the country, a drop from 68% in the last municipal elections.

In Reykjavík, voter turnout was 61.1%, or 5.9% lower than in 2018. It bears noting, however, that amendments to election legislation that took effect in January increased the number of registered voters in the city by around 10,000. A total of 61,359 people voted in the city in this year’s election, while in 2018 that number was 60,417.

Coalition talks begin

In light of the weekend results, parties across the country are beginning coalition talks. In Reykjavík, Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has announced that his Social-Democratic Alliance has begun negotiations with the Pirate Party and the Reform Party on forming a governing coalition. Progressive Party councillor Einar Þorsteinsson said he was open to collaborating with all parties with seats on the council. Independence Party councillor Hildur Björnsdóttir stated she had had several informal talks with other councillors, while Left-Green Movement councillor Lif Magneudóttir has stated the party will not participate in majority coalition talks this term.