Eruption Likely Marks a New, Active Chapter for Reykjanes, Geologist Says Skip to content

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Photo: Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra/Facebook. The eruption at Geldingadalur valley, March 20, 2021.

Eruption Likely Marks a New, Active Chapter for Reykjanes, Geologist Says

The ongoing eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula is likely the beginning of a long period of intermittent volcanic activity in the area, according to Geologist Páll Einarsson. “I think that’s the conclusion we have to make, it’s very likely,” Páll told Iceland Review. “Volcanic activity has begun after a long pause, that is likely the beginning of a volcanic period that can last for quite a long time, especially if we look at the history of the past few thousand years, this volcanic activity appears to come in waves.”

Chain of Events Began 15 Months Ago

Páll described the current eruption occurring in Geldingadalir valley, Southwest Iceland, as a chapter in a long chain of events that started 15 months ago on Reykjanes, with increased earthquake activity and land rise indicating that magma was moving below the surface. “There was a turning point when earthquake swarms began on the peninsula and land rise has happened three times under Þorbjörn [mountain] during this period.” Smaller magma intrusions causing land rise occurred at other sites in the area as well.

On February 24, 2021, an earthquake swarm began on Reykjanes with an earthquake of magnitude 5.7. Scientists soon deduced that magma was flowing into a passage some 1-2km [0.6-1.2mi] below the surface of the Reykjanes peninsula and could result in an eruption. On March 19 around 8.45pm, the eruption began.

Read More: The Geology of the Reykjanes Peninsula

The eruption will release some of the tension that has been building up in the area, according to Páll. “It’s mainly the magma passage that will release tension [via the eruption] and the earthquake activity around it appears to be diminishing, which could be an indication that the eruption has released tension in its nearest surroundings.” It must be assumed, however, that tension remains quite high in the area, he added.

Difficult to Predict What is Ahead

Though the eruption has slowed since it began last night, Páll says it’s difficult to say exactly what shape the activity will take in the coming days and months. “This is a new chapter in a serial, and it’s difficult to say what will happen in the next chapter. There are many possible scenarios. There is just one scenario that has become obsolete due to these events now, which is that there won’t be an eruption.” Whichever of the remaining scenarios proves true, Páll concluded: “This is an important turning point in the story.”

Iceland Review will live-tweet Icelandic authorities’ briefing about the eruption, beginning shortly at 2.00pm UTC today.

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