An Uncertainty Phase was declared on Reykjanes after earthquakes started rocking the peninsula around noon on Saturday, RÚV reports. As of 3:00 PM, the earthquakes were still underway. The most significant seismic activity is concentrated to the northeast of Mt. Fagradalsfjall.
At time of writing, small quakes were happening on a more or less constant basis; nearly 700 had been measured as of 5:30 PM. However, a much larger quake, measuring 4.0, occurred earlier in the day, around 2:00 PM, and that one was felt not only around Reykjanes, but also throughout the capital area as well as the villages of Akranes (roughly 95 km [59 mi] to the northwest) and Hvolsvöllur (about 120 km [75 mi] to the southeast). An even bigger earthquake occurred 3 km northeast of Fagradalsfjall at 4:00 PM, this time at a magnitude of 4.4.
Einar Hjörleifsson, an expert in natural hazards at the Met, said that the first large earthquake occurred at a depth of 5-7 km [3-4 mi]. He said the increasing magnitude of the eruptions may indicate that some significant seismic event is afoot; the activity may be a precursor to another volcanic eruption. Einar noted that the seismic activity currently underway on Reykjanes is reminiscent of that which occurred in the area around the end of last year. But in that instance, there was no eruption, as the lava did not rise to the surface.
Later in the day, Sigríður Kristjánsdóttir, who is also a natural hazards expert, said the Met believed there was lateral magma movement occurring at a depth of 5-7 km. The Met was paying close attention to any change in depth of the seismic activity, particularly if it were to get any more shallow, “as that would be an indication that the magma is pushing its way a bit higher.”
An Uncertainty Phase means that there will be additional monitoring of the Reykjanes peninsula and any developments in seismic activity there. An Uncertainty Phase is not indicative of a current state of emergency, but signifies that if conditions continue to progress, there could be danger to the safety of people, inhabited areas, or the environment. During an Uncertainty Phase, first responders and emergency services such as the Department of Civil Defense and Emergency Management review their preparedness plans and get ready to put them into action if needed.
The Met has also issued a yellow aviation weather alert and noted that falling rocks and landslides could easily begin on steep terrain. Travellers are advised to be careful on mountain roadways and in areas surrounded by sheer hills.
Peninsula residents were directed to take precautions with furniture and household items that can fall during an earthquake and take special care to ensure that no loose objects can fall on people who are sleeping.
This article was updated to reflect ongoing developments.