Continued Seismic Activity on Reykjanes Peninsula

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Two earthquakes, one of magnitude 3.4 and another of 3.0, rattled the Reykjanes Peninsula last night, amidst a series of around 400 tremors. Geophysicist Páll Einarsson describes this seismic activity as a typical feature of the peninsula’s long geological history, marked by intermittent volcanic action.

Two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0

Two earthquakes reached a magnitude of three on the Reykjanes Peninsula last night, RÚV reports. The larger one, measuring 3.4, occurred approximately two kilometres north-northwest of Grindavík at 12.30 AM. Just after 5 AM, another quake, registering at 3.0, also occurred. Around 400 tremors have been detected since midnight, with seismic activity remaining similar to recent patterns.

The latest satellite data from the Icelandic Meteorological Office confirms the continued uplift near Þorbjörn. The same data show no signs of magma accumulation in Eldvörp or near Sýlingarfell, where seismic activity has been recorded in recent days.

Concurrent volcanic and seismic activity rare

In an interview with Mbl.is, published this morning, geophysicist Páll Einarsson provided insight into the ongoing geological drama unfolding on the Reykjanes Peninsula, including the seismic activities near Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon. “If we look at this from the beginning, what is happening on the Reykjanes Peninsula is part of a long history,” he stated.

Iceland’s dynamic landscape is shaped by its position straddling the boundary of diverging tectonic plates. This geological setting is the foundation for the sequence of events that characterise the Reykjanes Peninsula’s activity.

Read More: What’s the Situation on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Páll further elaborated on the region’s distinctiveness: “This is a part of the tectonic plate boundaries of Iceland, and this particular section has the unique nature that volcanic activity comes into play for a relatively short period of time and then there is a pause.”

In geological terms, “short” is relative; in this context, it refers to active periods lasting 200-300 years, punctuated by 700-800 years of quiescence in magma activity. During these quieter times, the plate boundaries’ activity is primarily expressed through earthquakes.

Páll also noted the rarity of the Peninsula’s geological features: “These plate boundaries are somewhat unique in that this is a so-called oblique rift zone, with movement at an angle to the belt, which means that this belt has both volcanic and seismic activity, which is unusual.”

In contrast to most regions where belts are exclusively earthquake or volcanic zones, the Reykjanes Peninsula exhibits a rare combination of both. According to Páll, there are only two known examples of this phenomenon on a significant portion of the earth: the Reykjanes Peninsula and the oblique rift zone near Grímsey, both marked by concurrent volcanic and seismic activity.

Mystery of the Langjökull “Polar Bear” Likely Solved

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The suspected polar bear tracks on Langjökull glacier, which prompted an investigation by the Icelandic Coast Guard, have been attributed to American mountaineer Jon Kedrowski. Kedrowski, training for a South Pole expedition, had switched to oversized, insulated boots after his rented ski boots caused him discomfort, leading to the misidentification.

Mysterious tracks in the snow

On Monday, the West Iceland Police received a tip regarding possible polar bear tracks on the Langjökull glacier in West Iceland. To investigate, the Icelandic Coast Guard conducted an aerial survey of the glacier yesterday afternoon.

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Kristján Ingi Kristjánsson, temporarily appointed Chief Constable for the West Iceland Police, stated that the survey was being conducted as a safety precaution, although he doubted that the search would yield any meaningful results.

“Have people gone mad?”

A few hours after the media reported on the Coast Guard’s expedition, Arngrímur Hermannsson, a seasoned guide known for pioneering glacier and winter tours in Iceland, shed possible light on the mysterious tracks: “A polar bear on the Langjökull glacier – have people gone mad?” Arngrímur wrote in a post on Facebook.

Arngrímur went on to explain that ski-mountaineer Jon Kedrowski and explorer Colin O’Brady had visited the Langjökull glacier last week to train for a cross-country ski expedition to the South Pole. “Jon had rented cross-country ski boots that ended up hurting him, so after two days, he packed the boots away and switched to these huge polar boots, like those used in the South Pole for setting up tents.”

Jon is not a small man.

“Jon is 194 cm tall and weighs 83 kg; he wears size 48 shoes. Over the next four days, he trudged around Langjökull in these boots, which are more like giant socks.”

Arngrímur then shared a map of Jon’s tracks, explaining that Jon had now left the country and flown to Colorado with Icelandair. “That’s where you’ll find your ‘Polar Bear’.”

This article was updated at 02:14 PM and again on November 10 and 12.57 PM.

Culling, Delousing of Farmed Salmon Ongoing in Westfjords

Salmon Farm.

Sea lice infestations are prompting ongoing culling of farmed salmon in Tálknafjörður, though outbreaks have proven less severe in nearby Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður, RÚV reports. A veterinarian with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has stated that treatments in the latter fjords have been effective, although colder winter temperatures, affecting the salmon’s ability to convalesce, pose challenges.

Sea lice in the southern Westfjords

The culling of farmed salmon severely damaged by sea lice is still ongoing in Tálknafjörður in the southern Westfjords. As noted in an article on RÚV yesterday, there has also been an excessive presence of sea lice in the nearby fjords of Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður. In one area of Arnarfjörður, the salmon are beginning to show signs of lice-induced lesions.

Veterinarian Berglind Helga Bergsdóttir from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) does not consider the situation dire enough to necessitate culling. “The situation is much better in both Arnarfjörður and Dýrafjörður. It’s not really comparable,” Berglind told RÚV yesterday. In Arnarfjörður, lice cleansing with hot water has been completed and has proven effective. Elsewhere in Arnarfjörður and in Dýrafjörður, medications are being used to rid the salmon of sea lice.

The treatment, however, is a race against time. As noted by RÚV, the intervention becomes more problematic for the fish as winter progresses. “All treatments lead to some degree of scale loss, and the healing and defences of the fish decrease with the lower sea temperatures,” Berglind concluded.

As noted in a press release from MAST in October: “Medications for sea lice can have negative effects on the ecosystems surrounding fish farms. Experience from neighbouring countries also shows that sea lice can develop resistance to drugs. Therefore, the use of medications in the fight against lice is a remedy that should not be applied except in absolute necessity. Consequently, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority has encouraged companies to seek other methods to control lice infestations.”