Risk of Eruption In the Next Few Hours Diminished Skip to content

Risk of Eruption In the Next Few Hours Diminished

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

reykjanes peninsula keilir
Photo: Golli.

The likelihood of an eruption occurring on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the next few hours have diminished, according to the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Response Scientific Advisory Board. The Icelandic Met Office five projected scenarios for the Reykjanes Peninsula earthquake swarm remain the same, one of which is an eruption that likely wouldn’t threaten inhabited areas or air traffic. Around 3,000 earthquakes occurred yesterday and since midnight, more than 700 were detected. Overall, more than 20,000 earthquakes have occurred since the earthquake swarm started just over a week ago. No tremor pulse is currently detected but there’s still significant seismic unrest and experts maintain that tremor pulses must be taken seriously as they could indicate that an eruption is imminent.

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Response Scientific Advisory Board had a remote meeting yesterday to discuss the earthquake swarm at the Reykjanes Peninsula. After reviewing new data, their estimate is that the data does not indicate that an eruption will occur in the next few hours. Seismographs show that there’s still a great deal of seismic unrest in the area, although it has diminished after Wednesday’s tremor pulse. The seismic activity has shifted slightly.

The Scientific Advisory Board reviewed the latest InSAR satellite images over the period of February 25-March 3. They still show signs that a magma passage is forming in the area between Fagradalsfjall and Keilir. GPS data also support that theory, showing a relatively constant movement, although it seems to have slowed down in the past few days. The GPS data and the InSAR images indicate that there hasn’t been a significant increase in magma movement during Wednesday’s seismic activity. The Board found that the imminent danger of an eruption in the next few hours had diminished considerably. Seismic unrest and magma movement will nevertheless continue and an eruption remains one of the five possible outcomes.

The Met Office Statement notes that tremor pulses such as the one detected Wednesday afternoon need to be taken seriously and such signals are often detected in the run-up to eruptions.  A tremor pulse is different from regular seismic unrest as it is the constant buzzing of low-frequency tremors of less than M2 instead of a more irregular frequency, a sudden release of tension. We must watch the continuing development in the area closely and we have to be prepared for sudden tremor pulses like the one detected on Wednesday. An example of this is the Krafla eruptions 1975-1985, where the activity consisted of considerable seismic unrest and magma movement as well as tremor pulses. In some cases, that led to eruptions and sometimes it didn’t. The Scientific Advisory Board will meet again today to discuss the latest data.

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