As the eruption that began near Sýlingafell on Monday night appears to be ending, scientists say there are indications of a magma chamber underneath the nearby Svartsengi area. Construction of an underground pipeline has begun to ensure heating will not be cut off in case of an eruption affecting the Svartsengi Power Plant.
The eruption by Sýlingafell is part of a chain of events that has been ongoing since at least 2020, Halldór Geirsson, an associate professor in geophysics at the University of Iceland, told RÚV. This chain of events stretches across the Reykjanes peninsula, whose multiple volcanic systems have shown increased activity since the 2021 Fagradalsfjall eruption.
Magma in current eruption likely travelled under Svartsengi
Halldór says the magma in the ongoing eruption “probably comes from some kind of magma chamber that is there under Svartsengi, or possibly lies from Eldvörp and to the Sundhnúkar area, or at least that is one way to look at it.” The chamber is likely located at a depth of 5-7 km [3.1-4.3 mi]. Geochemistry, earthquake data, and the eruptions in the area since 2021 all point to its existence, according to Halldór.
Digging begun for new pipeline
Svartsengi is the site of a power plant that supplies most of the Reykjanes peninsula with water and electricity. Around 30,000 people depend on the supply of hot water from the plant, which is provided through the Narjðvík pipeline. This pipeline, however, is above ground, and is vulnerable to lava from potential eruptions, particularly where it passes through low-lying areas. RÚV reports that construction on an alternative underground pipeline has begun, but will take some time to complete.
Construction of above-ground barriers to protect the power plant from lava flow is nearly complete.