In Due Force

Seyðisfjörður

Autumn’s gauze curtain On Sunday, October 3, Hlöðver Hlöðversson stared into a camera in Northeast Iceland. He wore a cream-coloured cap, a grey jacket, and a stern expression. Behind him, there was mist and marshland – only that marshland would not have been an accurate description of the landscape a few days previous. “Is this […]

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Seyðisfjörður May Have to Evacuate Again

Residents of Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland may have to evacuate their homes once again for risk of landslides, RÚV reports. Civil Defense has declared an Uncertainty Phase in the village and residents are urged to closely monitor the forecast and safety advisories throughout the weekend.

Forecasts predict as much as 120 mm [5 in] of rain in the area this weekend, starting late Sunday night/early Monday morning and continuing through Wednesday. Depending on conditions, homes at the base of Botnabrún mountain may need to be evacuated. The same area suffered a series of landslides in December 2020, later determined to be the “largest landslide to have damaged an urban area in Iceland.” In a village of 659 people, fourteen homes were destroyed or collapsed.

See Also: Seyðisfjörður Mudslides: 14 Houses Destroyed

The residents in Seyðisfjörður have been on landslide-watch for weeks. Twenty residents were evacuated and an Alert Phase declared by Civil Defense at the start of the month. This was downgraded to an Uncertainty Phase just days ago and residents allowed to return home.

Civil Defense and the Met will monitor conditions over the weekend. The expect to make a decision on Sunday afternoon as to whether there will need to be another evacuation and if so, how extensive that evacuation would need to be.

Seyðisfjörður Residents May Return Home

The evacuation order in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland has been lifted and the alert phase due to landslide risk has been lowered to an uncertainty phase, the Civil Protection Department announced in a notice sent to media yesterday afternoon. According to calculations presented on October 11, the deflecting and catching dams above the town should divert any landslides toward the sea and prevent damage to buildings in the town. Residents living in the defined risk area have thus been permitted to return to their homes.

A series of landslides destroyed 14 buildings, including residential homes, in Seyðisfjörður last December. Around 20 residents were evacuated earlier this month after movement was detected in a mountain ridge above the town. That movement has slowed in recent days, according to the Civil Protection Department. However, fissures have formed in the ridge, increasing the likelihood it will break apart. “If it falls, it will probably do so in a few sections,” the notice states. “This can be expected during a rainy period sometime in the near future.”

Even if the ridge falls all at once, calculations showed the existing barriers should divert the resulting landslide away from the town. In light of that information, East Iceland Police has lifted the evacuation order on the remaining five houses that were still evacuated and lowered the alert phase placed on the area to an uncertainty phase. Hikers are reminded to exercise caution on the paths near Búðará and other locations where the barriers divert potential landslides.

The Icelandic Met Office provides regular updates on data collected in the area.

Landslide Risk Lowers, Evacuation Order Lifted

Residents of 11 farms in the Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla region of North Iceland may return home after the evacuation order on the area has been lifted. Locals were evacuated as heavy rains caused over 20 landslides in the region and flooding in some areas. The residents of Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, are not as lucky: authorities have stated the partial evacuation order in the town will remain in force until next week, as there is rain in the forecast. Some 20 people have had to leave their homes in the town, where landslides destroyed 14 buildings last December.

Heavy rains led to landslides in Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla last weekend, where some residents had to be evacuated by helicopter as flowing mud had cut off the roads. The residents have now been told it is safe to return to their homes. Roads in the area are, however, still considered at risk and are closed to thorough traffic.

Geologist Þorsteinn Sæmundsson told RÚV that there is evidence of landslides occurring more frequently in Iceland. “I think it is quite possible to say that the frequency of these big events is increasing,” he stated, while pointing out that heavy precipitation is not always the cause. Þorsteinn suggests Icelandic authorities should increase assessment and monitoring of landslide risk areas, as well as educate more specialists in the area: as is done for avalanches.

Risk of Landslides Returns to Seyðisfjörður

An alert phase has been declared in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, due to the risk of landslides. Around 20 residents have been evacuated from their homes in order to ensure their safety. The town was devastated by a series of landslides last December, which destroyed or damaged 14 buildings in the town. Many residents are now being evacuated for the second or third time.

Meanwhile, in Tröllaskagi, Northeast Iceland, an uncertainty phase due to the risk of landslides remains in effect. Some 30 residents who were evacuated from farms in the area have not yet been permitted to return to their homes. At least two additional landslides fell in the area today, bringing the total number to at least 22 since heavy rain saturated the mountains last weekend.

An emergency response centre has been opened in Seyðisfjörður for those who have had to leave their homes. The Civil Protection Department and the Icelandic Met Office are evaluating the risk on a regular basis with the help of equipment on the mountain slopes that collects data on land movement.

Davíð Kristinnsson, vice-chair of the Seyðisfjörður Search and Rescue team, says residents have been affected by the news of landslides from Tröllaskagi, as well as the heavy rain that has hit the town. Last year’s landslides have left their mark on the community: “once you’ve heard the mountain scream, it isn’t easy to forget.”

Over 20 Landslides in North Iceland Last Weekend

landslides suður þingeyjarsýsla

Over 20 landslides fell in North Iceland last weekend, in the Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla district, RÚV reports. Two of them occurred just last night and while the mountains remain saturated with water, others may yet follow. An uncertainty phase remains in effect in the Tröllaskagi region in North Iceland due to continued rainfall.

Around 30 people have been evacuated from their homes in the region due to the landslide risk. The residents of the farmstead Björg were evacuated by helicopter after landslides cut off the roads. The heavy rain also flooded some 18 houses in Ólafsfjörður, where Search and Rescue crews were at work throughout the weekend pumping water out of basements. The water formed a large lagoon in the town which crews were working to empty yesterday.

Effects on Ocean Among Primary Climate Concerns for Iceland

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

Ocean acidification, increased frequency of landslides, and possible changes to ocean currents are some of the impacts of climate change that could most affect Iceland, according to the country’s experts. Responding to the newly released report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Iceland’s Environment Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson says government around the world need to step up their response to the climate crisis.

The PICC’s newest climate change report, intended as a resource for policymakers, compiles the latest data on climate change. Compared to the panel’s earlier reports, its findings are categorical about climate change being caused by humans and about the severity of the consequences it has in store.

Ocean acidification as concerning as warming

Tómas Jóhannesson is Director of Glaciology and an expert on the avalanche team at the Icelandic Met Office. He says the impact on the ocean surrounding Iceland is one of the biggest concerns regarding the local impact of climate change. The earth’s ocean’s have absorbed around 90% of the heat that has accumulated due to the increased greenhouse effect.

Considering Iceland’s dependence on the ocean, its acidification as a result of the carbon it absorbs from the atmosphere could be a long-term issue for the country. Acidification can affect the survival of smaller ocean organisms, in turn affecting the survival of fish and sea birds. “The acidification of the sea is unequivocal and is just as much a reason to stop emissions as warming,” Tómas stated.

Read More: Iceland’s Plan to Become Carbon Neutral by 2040

Weakening currents and more frequent landslides

Weakening and even halting ocean currents is an unlikely but significant change that could occur as a result of continued global warming. Changes in the Atlantic Ocean’s system of currents, known as the AMOC, could affect climate and precipitation in Iceland and its tipping point is not known, according to Tómas. “The possibility of this is one of the reasons why it is very urgent to take action to stop this development.”

Global warming could increase the risk of landslides in Iceland, especially as permafrost in mountains and glaciers thaws. Warmers winters that bring rain rather than show could magnify that risk. “We are seeing landslides in areas where we have not expected landslides to occur or they were previously rare.” Whether the devastating landslides that occurred in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland last winter are a result of global warming is, however, uncertain, according to Tómas.

Iceland must address agriculture and fisheries

Responding to the IPCC report, Iceland’s Environment Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson called it “yet another confirmation that we need to do even better.” Energy exchange in fisheries and agriculture are two areas where Iceland needs to achieve better results, he told RÚV. Road transport, however, “has gotten off to a much better start and is beginning to yield results,” the Minister added. He added that authorities must ensure climate measures do not come down harder on low-income or marginalised groups.

Flooding and Landslides in North Iceland

flooding meltwater North Iceland

Warm temperatures and thawing snow are causing rivers to flood their banks in North Iceland. Two landslides have caused property damage in the region and police have encouraged residents to avoid driving on the Ring Road unless necessary. Warm weather and increased runoff are expected in North and East Iceland in the coming days.

One landslide damaged two houses in Varmahlíð, Northwest Iceland last Sunday while another the same evening felled a power line at the nearby Tindastóll ski area. Further east, the rivers Fnjóská and Hörgá are both flowing over their banks. At a campsite located by Fnjóská, guests had to flee the rising water, where the flow has increased six times over in less than a week.

Northeast Iceland Police warned residents to avoid travel along the Ring Road last night, saying there was a possibility that flooding rivers could damage or destroy bridges. Akureyri residents were encouraged to avoid walking along Glerá river and exercise caution near rivers and other bodies of water.

The Icelandic Met Office forecasts ongoing warm weather in both North and East Iceland and increased snow melt in the regions. “Increased runoff will result in a rise in water levels in rivers and streams, especially where there are high temperatures and snow in the mountains,” the Met Office website states.

Seyðisfjörður Mudslides: Residents Evacuated Again

Residents of Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, were evacuated from six of the town’s streets yesterday evening due to the danger of landslides. The National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the East Iceland Chief of Police and the region’s Met Office, has declared a phase of alert in the town due to landslide risk. Over a dozen of the town’s buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged by mudslides last December.

There was heavy rainfall in the town yesterday evening and across the region. Rain combined with thawing snow and above-freezing temperatures are conditions that increase the likelihood of landslides from the steep slopes above the fjord town. The evacuation was called “precautionary” by authorities, who are still evaluating whether the Botnabrún slope has destabilised further following the largest of the December landslides. Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing in the mountains on Thursday.

East Iceland experienced a high number of avalanches, slush floods, and landslides over last weekend. Three houses in Seyðisfjörður were also evacuated on Sunday, February 14 but the evacuation order was called off the following day.

Avalanches, Landslides, and Slush Floods in East Iceland

Seyðisfjörður

A state of uncertainty has been declared in East Iceland due to the ongoing danger of avalanches and landslides. It rained heavily in the region yesterday and avalanches, slush floods, and rockfalls were reported in a dozen areas spanning from Höfn in Southeast Iceland to Borgarfjörður eystri in the country’s northeast. The events have led to property damage and damaged a power line, but no injuries have been reported.

The most precipitation yesterday was measured at Borgarfjörður eystri, or around 130 mm, while measurements were almost as high in Neskaupsstaður, Fáskrúðsfjörður, and Eskifjörður. In Seyðisfjörður, where devastating mudslides destroyed over a dozen buildings in December, rainfall measured 70mm. The rain has since let up. Weather will be warm and windy today and the risk of avalanches is ongoing.

Three homes were evacuated in Seyðisfjörður last night, but the evacuation order has since been called off.