New Eruption Likely This Weekend

Grindavík volcanic eruption January 2024

A new volcanic eruption could happen this weekend, according to Ármann Höskuldsson, volcanologist with the University of Iceland. The most likely place for it would be Sundhnúkagígar, where eruptions took place in December, January and February, damaging the nearby town of Grindavík.

Last night, the Icelandic Meteorological Office reported some sixty earthquakes over a 24 hour span in the magma corridor that lies under the area. The area with the highest level of activity was to the east of Sýlingarfell, where the first signs of a magma intrusion are expected to come to light.

Eruptions in Eldvörp possible

In an interview with Mbl.is, Ármann said that there’s no reason to think that a new eruption won’t occur in the area in the coming days. “Except if it were to occur in Eldvörp,” Ármann said.

Eldvörp is a row of craters to the northwest of Grindavík, the town of 4,000 inhabitants that was evacuated during the series of seismic activity and eruptions since November. Ármann explained that nearby Svartsengi, home to a geothermal plant and popular tourist destination Blue Lagoon, is something of a trap for magma, which is why it’s become the centre of activity.

Were the magma to reach Eldvörp, the activity around Svartsengi will cool off, as Eldvörp provides an easier route for the magma to reach the surface, due to its location on the boundaries of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Ármann added that persistent seismic activity was the only way for the magma to break through to Eldvörp, with each volcanic eruption making it more likely.

Waning Volcanic Activity Hints at End of Reykjanes Eruption

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

Volcanic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula is waning, suggesting the current eruption may conclude soon. A volcanologist anticipates more eruptions in the area, predicting a cyclical pattern of intense but brief activity, potentially altering if magma gathers in the Eldvörp craters.

More eruptions likely to follow

In an interview with a radio programme on the National Broadcaster this morning, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson stated that volcanic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula was slowly decreasing; the eruption could end as soon as tomorrow or the day after.

The northern crater of the fissure continued to spew lava westward, while lava from the southern crater was flowing out onto the plain. Ármann noted that eruptions in the area could not become any larger while issuing from the fissure near Sundhnúkar. Future eruptions are expected to be powerful but short-lived.

According to Ármann, it is likely that the current pattern of eruptions in the area will continue: a short eruption would occur, it would end, magma would begin accumulating again, and another eruption would occur. In the event that magma would begin accumulating in Eldvörp — a series of craters approximately ten kilometres long, where lava flowed during the Reykjanes Fires between 1210 and 1240 — this pattern would, however, likely change; the eruptions would become larger and last longer.

The current eruption is the third volcanic eruption to occur on the Reykjanes peninsula since December 18. The two previous eruptions have been relatively short-lived.

No lava fountains visible

In an interview with Vísir this morning, Sigríður Magnea Óskarsdóttir, a natural hazard specialist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, stated that the MET Office had not observed any lava-fountain activity since between 8 and 9 this morning.

“That does not mean that the eruption is completely over; there could still be some bubbling inside the craters. Ideally, we would need to fly over the area to verify. The geological unrest has, however, completely calmed down, and there is little or no seismic activity. So, it is very likely that the situation will fully settle down shortly,” Sigríður observed.

Too Soon to Discuss Protective Barriers for Hafnarfjörður

Protective barrriers in Reykjanes

An earthquake near Trölladyngja has led to a discussion of the possibility of erecting protective barriers in Hafnarfjörður. The director of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has stated that such discussions are premature.

No observable change in Svartsengi

On Wednesday, a large earthquake occurred near Mt. Trölladyngja, a volcano located on the Reykjanes peninsula, between Grindavík and the capital area. Speaking to Vísir yesterday, a geologist on duty at the Icelandic Meteorological Office stated that there had been about 640 tremors since the earthquake. Their frequency had rapidly decreased, however. The geologist also stated that there had beeen no signs of geological unrest in Svartsengi, where a volcanic eruption occurred in December, after the earthquake.

Speaking to Stöð 2’s evening news on Wednesday, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson discussed the earthquake and its potential implications. He expressed interest in exploring the construction of protective barriers in the westernmost part of Hafnarfjörður given that the tremor might indicate possible eruptions near the town in the coming years.

Discussion of protective barriers premature

Víðir Reynisson, Director of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, told Vísir yesterday that any discussion of protective barriers for the capital area was premature while a comprehensive hazard assessment for volcanic activity in the area was still underway.

“This work on hazard assessment for Iceland’s volcanoes started in 2012 and has been ongoing since. Some locations have been addressed, and the assessment for the capital area began over a year ago. We are working as quickly as possible. Many scientists are involved,” Víðir stated.

Several volcanologists have called for such a risk assessment, and Víðir was surprised that they were not aware that this work had long been in progress: “We know to some extent where eruptions can occur and are familiar with these areas. It’s possible to simulate lava flows from these locations, but the hazard assessment is the foundation of everything we do. It’s being actively worked on,” Víðir noted.

As noted by Vísir, land uplift near the Svartsengi Power Station has continued, although the rate has significantly slowed in recent days. A similar pattern occurred before the eruption in Sundhnúkagígar in mid-December.

Premature to Declare Official End of Eruption, Experts Caution

A volcanic eruption near Sýlingafell in 2023

Experts are in consensus that the volcanic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula has ceased, though an official declaration marking the end of the eruption is still pending. The Chief of the Suðurnes Police hopes that after today’s meeting with the Icelandic MET Office, the authorities will be able to lift the restrictions in Grindavík.

Important to proceed cautiously

In an interview with RÚV published this morning, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson stated that the eruption near Sýlingafell on the Reykjanes peninsula was over. Kristín Jónsdóttir, a department head with the Icelandic MET Office, agreed with his assertion; there is no longer any measurable volcanic activity in the area.

Nevertheless, Kristín cautioned that it was too soon to officially declare the end of the eruption given that the situation could change rapidly; it is important to proceed cautiously, especially given the proximity of the eruption site to critical infrastructure.

Magma accumulation resumed

As reported by IR yesterday, there are indications that magma accumulation has resumed beneath Svartsengi. Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, a geophysics professor at the University of Iceland, told RÚV that this renewed magma accumulation at Svartsengi closely resembles the conditions prior to the Sýlingafell eruption.

“If the magma continues its upward movement into the chamber beneath Svartsengi, we may witness a similar series of events,” he noted. Magnús Tumi added that it could take weeks or months for this to occur, however, and there’s also a possibility that the process might cease entirely.

Hoping for a homecoming

Úlfar Lúðvíksson, the Chief of Police in Suðurnes, told RÚV yesterday that scientists would review new data this morning, with a meeting with the Icelandic MET Office being scheduled for 1 PM today.

“I expect that the meeting will involve a review of the risk assessment map and, of course, I hope for a change that will allow residents to return home,” Úlfar stated. He mentioned that such speculations had already started before the eruption completely subsided. “One is always hopeful, and we will lift these restrictions if we find that such a thing is warranted.”

As noted by RÚV, applications for rental apartments for residents of Grindavík through the leasing company Bríet opened today. The application deadline is 10 AM tomorrow. The aim is to allocate most of the apartments on the same day.

Grindavík Awaits End of Land Uplift for Return Home

Grindavík

Grindavík residents cannot return home until the ongoing land uplift ceases. Despite geological challenges, including a newly formed 25.7-meter-deep hole, Grindavík’s business sector is showing signs of revival.

Waiting on zero

Earlier this week, Víðir Reynisson, Head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, fielded questions from Grindavík residents on the news programme Torgið. When asked about the prospect of a homecoming, Víðir remarked that Grindavík residents would be unable to return home until land uplift — the geological process where the Earth’s surface rises due to tectonic activities like magma intrusion — in town ceases.

Víðir noted that the land was currently rising faster near the Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant than before November 10, when the magma intrusion extended into Grindavík, necessitating the evacuation of the town. “This geological event is far from over,” Víðir observed.

According to Víðir, only when the land uplift had reached a zero point could any discussion of homecoming commence. “Only then can we possibly start counting some days until it can be declared safe to return home.”

A deep hole

Examples of how the ongoing land uplift is affecting Grindavík have been noticeable over the past few days. On Wednesday, a deep hole was discovered in one of the neighbourhoods in Grindavík. When RÚV arrived on the scene, Ármann Höskuldsson, a professor of volcanology at the University of Iceland, was conducting measurements:

“This hole exemplifies the cracks emerging in the area as the land shifts apart. Unlike solid rock, the soil doesn’t move in unison when it fractures, causing it to fill the cracks. The crack we’re examining is approximately 25.7 metres deep, reaching the water’s surface, which means it’s even deeper below the water,” Ármann explained. “Remarkably, the groundwater level here is at 25.7 metres depth, a significant depth for such cracks.”

The hole is part of an extensive fissure bisecting the town into eastern and western sections. Regarding the type of water at the bottom of the hole, Ármann was uncertain: “I haven’t tested it, but it’s likely just groundwater.”

Ármann expressed no alarm over the presence of groundwater in the hole. “Groundwater is a common feature beneath us, no matter where we are in this area … it’s not a cause for concern.”

Awaken, industry

Despite the challenges posed by holes, cracks, and other damages, Grindavík’s business sector is showing signs of revival. Fannar Jónasson, the town’s mayor, expressed optimism in a recent interview with Vísir.

“We’re seeing a variety of businesses expressing interest in reopening. With available housing and machinery for production and services, people are returning and taking advantage of these opportunities to keep their businesses afloat,” he stated.

Fannar emphasised the growing sense of community and mutual support in Grindavík.

“It’s great to see how supportive everyone is. Those working need access to food and services. There are also machine shops and wood workshops , among other businesses, which are reopening. So it is all interconnected, and life here is in its infancy, once again, ushering in what we hope marks the start of a positive era.”

 

Eruption at Mt. Askja Likely “Sooner Rather than Later”

Lake Askja, Askja, Volcano

Ármann Höskuldsson, a volcanologist and geochemist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences, told Fréttablaðið on Wednesday that the Askja volcano was likely to erupt “sooner rather than later.” Temperature patterns at the surface of Lake Askja suggest that geothermal flux had significantly increased over the past few weeks.

“It’s about to erupt”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the University of Iceland’s Volcanology and Natural Hazard Research Group (i.e. Rannsóknastofa í eldfjallafræði og náttúruvá) revealed that the surface water of Lake Askja (situated in the crater of the volcano Askja in the northeast of the glacier Vatnajökull) had reached a temperature of 2°C and that a thermal analysis of a satellite image showed that the water was heating up steadily.

Ármann Höskuldsson, a volcanologist and geochemist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences, spoke to Fréttablaðið regarding this update: “This means the geothermal fissures have opened up. It is the effect of magma flowing into the mountain. The roof of the mountain gives way and cracks open. This means that the heat reaches the surface faster and that the water heats up and the ice melts.”

Ármann added that under normal conditions there would be ice over the lake. This increased ground temperature in the area was, therefore, abnormal – which could only mean one thing: “It’s about to erupt,” Ármann concluded. The volcanologist was, however, careful to caveat this statement by saying that it was impossible to predict exactly when the eruption would occur.

“But we’ll hopefully be given reasonable notice when the time comes,” Ármann remarked.

Read the full post from the University of Iceland’s Volcanology and Natural Hazard Research Group here.

Ice Melting Atop Askja Volcano – Near-Future Eruption Unlikely

Lake Öskjuvatn

Scientists flew a Coast Guard plane over the Askja volcano yesterday, RÚV reports. Since last year, there have been frequent earthquakes and ground uplift – followed by a thaw last weekend. A volcanologist at the University of Iceland has stated that an eruption in the near future is unlikely, although he was unwilling to rule the possibility out completely.

Ice melting at an unusually quick rate

Yesterday, scientists aboard the TF-SIF surveillance aircraft flew over the Askja volcano in the central highlands of Iceland. The scientists hoped to observe the unusually quick melting of ice on Öskjuvatn lake; the water is normally frozen until April. A satellite image from Wednesday showed that snow had melted on the slopes east of Öskjuvatn. Ice had also melted from half of the Öskjuvatn lake, which is 1,100 hectares.

“I think it’s pretty clear that [the melting owes to] geothermal heat. The mountain is expanding and something is giving way. This is accompanied by geothermal heat on the surface,” Ármann Höskuldsson, professor of volcanology at the University of Iceland, told RÚV yesterday.

Scientists expect results from instruments on board TF-SIF, such as radar and temperature data, to be available today. The team also dropped a GPS device, a buoy, and a thermometer from the plane into Öskjuvatn lake. It’s been over a year since seismic activity began to increase at the Askja volcano. Since then, the land has risen by a total of 50 centimetres, and a magma chamber has formed underneath.

“It’s been flowing in for over a year since land began to rise. And then, of course, there is this data from the Cambridge people who assume that there are at least ten cubic kilometres of magma down there.”

When asked if there would be an eruption soon, Ármann replied thusly: “Not soon anyway. Although it could happen before long. But, of course, I can’t say; I think it’s pretty clear that we’ll see it on the seismometers at the MET Office some hours or days before it happens.”

As noted by RÚV, tourists are not visiting the Askja volcano at this time of year. Ármann observed that it would be necessary to monitor conditions closely when spring comes and tourists begin to visit.