Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula could be preparing another eruption less than a year since its last one ended. Magma is collecting in an intrusion only one kilometre below the earth’s surface beneath Fagradalsfjall, the site of last year’s eruption. A notice from the Icelandic Met Office states the chances of an eruption have increased and are now considerable.
Strong earthquakes have been shaking the southwest region for days, leading authorities to declare a state of uncertainty for the area. However, the earthquakes have calmed over the last day or so, which may be a precursor to an eruption, if last year’s is any indication.
“Preliminary deformation modelling results suggest the top depth of the new dike intrusion beneath Fagradalsfjall is very shallow – about 1 km,” the notice from Met Office reads. “The magma inflow rate is rapid, almost double that observed during the first dike intrusion in february-march 2021. There are indications that the deformation and seismicity is declining and this was precursory to the eruption which started on 19th March 2021. Considering all of the above, the likelihood of an eruption at Fagradalsfjall within the coming days is considered to be substantial.”
Could be more powerful eruption than Fagradalsfjall
If the ongoing activity leads to an eruption, Geophysicist Freysteinn Sigmundsson told RÚV it may be more powerful than last year’s Fagradalsfjall eruption, as the rate of inflow into the magma intrusion is much higher than with last year’s.
“Because the flow is greater, there could be more force in this eruption, but the nature of the eruption would most likely be the same,” Freysteinn explained. “An effusive eruption with craters, and that the flow would be limited to certain craters.” If the flow is greater, that could mean more lava on the surface, more gas, and even a little bit of ash, Freysteinn explained. Last year’s eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula did not produce ash or gas in amounts that caused significant safety or travel issues.
Response crews prepared
The Civil Protection Department held a briefing yesterday for authorities, Met Office staff, and members of the scientific community to review the ongoing activity on Reykjanes. They emphasised that response crews are prepared to respond should an eruption occur.
Glowing red lights on the Fagradalsfjall live feed around 1:00 AM last night led observers to believe an eruption had started – it was, however, only a brush fire.