Uncertainty Phase Declared as Earthquakes Rock Reykjanes Peninsula

An Uncertainty Phase was declared on Reykjanes after earthquakes started rocking the peninsula around noon on Saturday, RÚV reports. As of 3:00 PM, the earthquakes were still underway. The most significant seismic activity is concentrated to the northeast of Mt. Fagradalsfjall.

At time of writing, small quakes were happening on a more or less constant basis; nearly 700 had been measured as of 5:30 PM. However, a much larger quake, measuring 4.0, occurred earlier in the day, around 2:00 PM, and that one was felt not only around Reykjanes, but also throughout the capital area as well as the villages of Akranes (roughly 95 km [59 mi] to the northwest) and Hvolsvöllur (about 120 km [75 mi] to the southeast). An even bigger earthquake occurred  3 km northeast of Fagradalsfjall at 4:00 PM, this time at a magnitude of 4.4.

Einar Hjörleifsson, an expert in natural hazards at the Met, said that the first large earthquake occurred at a depth of 5-7 km [3-4 mi]. He said the increasing magnitude of the eruptions may indicate that some significant seismic event is afoot; the activity may be a precursor to another volcanic eruption. Einar noted that the seismic activity currently underway on Reykjanes is reminiscent of that which occurred in the area around the end of last year. But in that instance, there was no eruption, as the lava did not rise to the surface.

Later in the day, Sigríður Kristjánsdóttir, who is also a natural hazards expert, said the Met believed there was lateral magma movement occurring at a depth of 5-7 km. The Met was paying close attention to any change in depth of the seismic activity, particularly if it were to get any more shallow, “as that would be an indication that the magma is pushing its way a bit higher.”

See Also: 50% Chance of Another Reykjanes Eruption this Year, Expert Says

An Uncertainty Phase means that there will be additional monitoring of the Reykjanes peninsula and any developments in seismic activity there. An Uncertainty Phase is not indicative of a current state of emergency, but signifies that if conditions continue to progress, there could be danger to the safety of people, inhabited areas, or the environment. During an Uncertainty Phase, first responders and emergency services such as the Department of Civil Defense and Emergency Management review their preparedness plans and get ready to put them into action if needed.

The Met has also issued a yellow aviation weather alert and noted that falling rocks and landslides could easily begin on steep terrain. Travellers are advised to be careful on mountain roadways and in areas surrounded by sheer hills.

Peninsula residents were directed to take precautions with furniture and household items that can fall during an earthquake and take special care to ensure that no loose objects can fall on people who are sleeping.

This article was updated to reflect ongoing developments.

Iceland Needs to Import Cooks, Servers, and Tour Guides, Says Industry Expert

Dill restaurant Michelin star

Iceland needs to import chefs, wait staff, tour guides and other specialized workers to support the tourism industry during the current boom, says Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, Managing Director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF). Mbl.is reports.

“We need cooks, we need waiters, we need all kinds of specially trained staff, specialized tour guides, etc,” remarked Jóhannes Þór in an interview on the news program Dagmál on Friday. “If we just look at cooks and waiters, there are a couple different dimensions to the problem.”

At the base level, he continued, there just aren’t enough people in Iceland going into training programs for these professions, which means that there is currently a shortage of qualified professionals on the local job market. Jóhannes Þór said the government should be putting more effort into drawing students into these programs and advertising the future opportunities that would be available to people who completed these courses of study.

“But that won’t be enough,” he said, particularly in the present moment. In order to meet its present needs, Iceland needs “to import a group of cooks and trained waiters” right now. But while Jóhannes Þór wasn’t willing to name a specific number of trained service professionals he thought Iceland should be seeking to bring in from abroad, he would concede that “clearly several dozen” are needed at least.

More Overnight Stays Booked This June Than Pre-Pandemic

Icelandair Marina Hotel

Foreign tourists booked 405,000 overnight stays in Icelandic hotels in June 2022, which is an increase of 6%, or roughly 23,000 more stays than were booked in June 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Túristi reports that there was also a jump in hotel bookings among Icelanders, with just over 91,000 overnight stays booked in June 2022, as compared to 38,000 in June 2019.

These were among the findings in a new report issued by Statistics Iceland on Friday.

Americans have had by far the most overnight bookings in Iceland over the years: 127,163 in 2019 up to 140,651 in 2022, for an increase of 11% between the years. Icelanders had the second most overnight bookings in June 2022, or 91,388 to be exact. Percentage-wise, this is the most significant increase by nationality since the pre-pandemic years. Germans had the third most bookings by total in June 2022: 58,453, or a 27% increase from the 46,170 overnight stays they booked in June 2019. In terms of percentage increases, however, Italians had the next highest increase in overnight June bookings after Icelanders: 11,728 in June 2022, or an increase of 89% from 6,200 in June 2019.

The new figures show that between June of this year and last year, 2021, occupancy rates around Iceland went up from 40% to 78.8%. Regionally, the biggest jump in hotel bookings was, unsurprisingly, in the capital region, with 5,400 hotel rooms booked in 2022 versus 3,277 in 2021. The second largest increase was seen in the Southwest: 1,017 in 2022, up from 880 in 2021. East Iceland has seen the least change in overnight stays in the last year, with only two more overnight stays booked in 2022 (441) than in 2021 (439).

Take a look at a summary of Statistics Iceland’s new overnight stay data on their website, in English, here.