Hazard Area Around Grindavík Expanded

grindavík hazard area

The Icelandic Met Office updated its map of the hazard area around Grindavík yesterday, November 20.

The updated map was made with new data from satellite mapping of the area, in consultation with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, the IMO, and experts from University of Iceland.

As can be seen on the map, three zones are marked.

Hazard zone A, the largest zone, indicates an increased likelihood of seismic activity.

Hazard zone B indicates a danger of volcanic eruption, including fissures that may open with little warning, dangerous gases, sinkholes, and lava flow.

Hazard zone C indicates the same dangers posed by zone B, but at a heightened level. ICE-SAR, police authorities, and workers in this area are advised to have escape routes in mind, in addition to carrying gas metres and gas masks.

Making predictions

In an interview with Vísir, geophysicist Benedikt G. Ófeigsson stated that the most likely scenario is that an eruption may occur near Hagafell, a mountain east of Þorbjörn.

“That’s where we’ve seen magma influx occur after the formation of the magma chamber. It’s shallow, and we have good data on this, so we are looking at it as the most likely location for the source if an eruption occurs,” he stated.

Benedikt also reiterated the difficulty in predicting what this means for Grindavík. Importantly, the impact on the town of Grindavík would heavily depend on the exact location of a fissure and models of lava flow can only be made once it has reached the surface.

Barrier Construction Temporarily Halted Due to Poor Weather

Reykjanes peninsula

Construction of protective barriers in the Reykjanes peninsula has been temporarily halted due to the Icelandic Meteorological Office’s difficulty in monitoring air quality amid poor weather. The project, involving over 50 workers alternating between 12-hour shifts, aims to protect the Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant in the event of an eruption.

12-hour shifts

About 165 earthquakes have been recorded near the town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula since midnight. All of them were below magnitude two and were detected along the magma conduit. According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), this number is somewhat fewer than in recent days, when about 1,500 to 1,800 earthquakes were measured per day.

Due to the IMO’s challenges in monitoring air quality in the area due to poor weather conditions, construction of the protective barriers near the Svartsengi Power Plant was temporarily suspended last night and today. (Svartsengi provides hot water, cold water, and electricity to residents on the Reykjanes peninsula.) In an interview with Mbl.is today, Arnar Smári Þorvarðarson, a construction engineer at Verkís, stated that the team would reassess the situation before potentially resuming work later today, just before the next night shift begins.

Arnar Smári noted that the first phase of the project, which includes building barriers three metres high, is nearing completion. This progress is particularly evident in the area stretching from east of Grindavíkurvegur to Sýlingarfell, where a relatively tall barrier has been erected. The construction initially started at the northern end of Sýlingarfell and has been progressing westward.

Involving over 50 workers, the project operates continuously with 12-hour shifts. Arnar Smári observed that the determination of the barriers’ height follows the guidance of volcanologists and predictions about lava flows, targeting at least three metres but potentially higher in some regions to adapt to the landscape.

The well-being of the workers is emphasised, with supervisors urging them to voice any discomfort and offering reassignments when necessary. According to reports, the team is managing well in these challenging conditions.