Grindavík and Blue Lagoon Evacuated, Next Eruption Uncertain

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Following increased seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula, Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon have been evacuated. Though an eruption was previously considered imminent, it is now considered less likely for the immediate future.

Earthquake swarm

An earthquake swarm began around 15:55 today, according to the Met Office. The seismic activity moved southeast following the magma intrusion from December 2023, stopping near Hagafell mountain.

The Met Office notes that the current deformation measured is smaller than previously measured in the lead-up to volcanic eruptions. This could potentially indicate a smaller eruption, but it is also possible for a magma dyke to form without forming an eruptive fissure.

Currently, the depth of the seismic activity does not indicate that the magma will break through to the surface. The Met Office considers an eruption in the immediate future to be unlikely, but it cannot be entirely ruled out.

Grindavík and Blue Lagoon Evacuated

Both the town of Grindavík and the neighbouring Blue Lagoon were evacuated out of precaution.

RÚV reports that the evacuations were completed around 5:00 pm.

Víðir Reynisson from Civil Protection stated to RÚV that the evacuation went smoothly and that responders are still in the area to ensure that all residents have left. Responders are reported to be on standby in case of an eruption.

Helga Árnadóttir, director of the Blue Lagoon, also stated to RÚV that the evacuation went well, with all staff and guests having left the area.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office has updated their risk assessment, which is valid for the next 24 hours.

M4.5 Quake Rocks Southwest Iceland

svartsengi power plant reykjanes

An M4.5 earthquake registered near Trölladyngja on the Reykjanes peninsula shook Southwest Iceland around 10:50 this morning.

A smaller, secondary M3.9 earthquake was registered soon after, at 10:54 local time. Smaller aftershocks were also registered.

reykjanes earthquake
Met Office Iceland

According to the Meteorological Office of Iceland, the earthquakes originated at a depth of 5 km [3 mi]. The Meteorological Office further stated that they are likely “trigger” quakes, which accompany magma movement.

The quakes were felt throughout much of South and West Iceland. The epicentre was located at around 20 km [12 mi] north-northeast of the Svartsengi power plant, where recent land rise due to magma intrusion has been detected.

Stay up to date with the latest on the Reykjanes peninsula here.

 

Barrier Construction Temporarily Halted Due to Poor Weather

Reykjanes peninsula

Construction of protective barriers in the Reykjanes peninsula has been temporarily halted due to the Icelandic Meteorological Office’s difficulty in monitoring air quality amid poor weather. The project, involving over 50 workers alternating between 12-hour shifts, aims to protect the Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant in the event of an eruption.

12-hour shifts

About 165 earthquakes have been recorded near the town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula since midnight. All of them were below magnitude two and were detected along the magma conduit. According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), this number is somewhat fewer than in recent days, when about 1,500 to 1,800 earthquakes were measured per day.

Due to the IMO’s challenges in monitoring air quality in the area due to poor weather conditions, construction of the protective barriers near the Svartsengi Power Plant was temporarily suspended last night and today. (Svartsengi provides hot water, cold water, and electricity to residents on the Reykjanes peninsula.) In an interview with Mbl.is today, Arnar Smári Þorvarðarson, a construction engineer at Verkís, stated that the team would reassess the situation before potentially resuming work later today, just before the next night shift begins.

Arnar Smári noted that the first phase of the project, which includes building barriers three metres high, is nearing completion. This progress is particularly evident in the area stretching from east of Grindavíkurvegur to Sýlingarfell, where a relatively tall barrier has been erected. The construction initially started at the northern end of Sýlingarfell and has been progressing westward.

Involving over 50 workers, the project operates continuously with 12-hour shifts. Arnar Smári observed that the determination of the barriers’ height follows the guidance of volcanologists and predictions about lava flows, targeting at least three metres but potentially higher in some regions to adapt to the landscape.

The well-being of the workers is emphasised, with supervisors urging them to voice any discomfort and offering reassignments when necessary. According to reports, the team is managing well in these challenging conditions.

MET Office: Likelihood of Volcanic Eruption Remains “High”

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management will hold a press conference at 11 AM to address the ongoing geological unrest on the Reykjanes peninsula and the response of the authorities. The Icelandic MET Office still believes that there is a high likelihood of a volcanic eruption.

120 homeowners to be granted access

Since midnight, the Reykjanes peninsula has experienced 460 earthquakes, with the strongest reaching a magnitude of 2.7, RÚV reports. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management is holding a press conference at 11 AM today to update the public on the ongoing geological unrest in the area.

Starting at 9 AM today, homeowners from Grindavík, who had registered on Island.is and received notifications, were allowed access to their properties via Suðurstrandavegur (as opposed to Grindavíkurvegur). This access is permitted until 3 PM, after which businesses will be allowed entry. A total of 120 homeowners are expected to be allowed into Grindavík today.

According to RÚV, information from an Icelandic MET Office interferogram indicates accelerated land uplift near the Svartsengi area. The MET Office still believes that there is a “high likelihood” of an impending volcanic eruption.

A range of officials, including government ministers, local government representatives, Grindavík municipal staff, the National Police Commissioner, and emergency response teams, will be available at the Grindavík residents’ service centre at the Toll House (Tollahúsið) on Tryggvagata 19 in downtown Reykjavík from 4 to 5 PM today.

Continued Seismic Activity on Reykjanes Peninsula

Svartsengi

Two earthquakes, one of magnitude 3.4 and another of 3.0, rattled the Reykjanes Peninsula last night, amidst a series of around 400 tremors. Geophysicist Páll Einarsson describes this seismic activity as a typical feature of the peninsula’s long geological history, marked by intermittent volcanic action.

Two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0

Two earthquakes reached a magnitude of three on the Reykjanes Peninsula last night, RÚV reports. The larger one, measuring 3.4, occurred approximately two kilometres north-northwest of Grindavík at 12.30 AM. Just after 5 AM, another quake, registering at 3.0, also occurred. Around 400 tremors have been detected since midnight, with seismic activity remaining similar to recent patterns.

The latest satellite data from the Icelandic Meteorological Office confirms the continued uplift near Þorbjörn. The same data show no signs of magma accumulation in Eldvörp or near Sýlingarfell, where seismic activity has been recorded in recent days.

Concurrent volcanic and seismic activity rare

In an interview with Mbl.is, published this morning, geophysicist Páll Einarsson provided insight into the ongoing geological drama unfolding on the Reykjanes Peninsula, including the seismic activities near Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon. “If we look at this from the beginning, what is happening on the Reykjanes Peninsula is part of a long history,” he stated.

Iceland’s dynamic landscape is shaped by its position straddling the boundary of diverging tectonic plates. This geological setting is the foundation for the sequence of events that characterise the Reykjanes Peninsula’s activity.

Read More: What’s the Situation on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Páll further elaborated on the region’s distinctiveness: “This is a part of the tectonic plate boundaries of Iceland, and this particular section has the unique nature that volcanic activity comes into play for a relatively short period of time and then there is a pause.”

In geological terms, “short” is relative; in this context, it refers to active periods lasting 200-300 years, punctuated by 700-800 years of quiescence in magma activity. During these quieter times, the plate boundaries’ activity is primarily expressed through earthquakes.

Páll also noted the rarity of the Peninsula’s geological features: “These plate boundaries are somewhat unique in that this is a so-called oblique rift zone, with movement at an angle to the belt, which means that this belt has both volcanic and seismic activity, which is unusual.”

In contrast to most regions where belts are exclusively earthquake or volcanic zones, the Reykjanes Peninsula exhibits a rare combination of both. According to Páll, there are only two known examples of this phenomenon on a significant portion of the earth: the Reykjanes Peninsula and the oblique rift zone near Grímsey, both marked by concurrent volcanic and seismic activity.

Orange Weather Warning For Much of Iceland

Björgunarfélag Vestmannaeyja

Today, there is an orange warning in effect due to a severe storm from the north and heavy precipitation in the northern part of the country. Snowfall is expected in the mountains in addition to sleet and rain in the lowland.

The Met Office has also stated that the first snow avalanches of the autumn cannot be ruled out if snow accumulation is rapid. Likewise, rockslides and landslides cannot be ruled out in the lower parts of mountain slopes in this weather, given the expected precipitation. The Met Office notes that there is no perceived threat to settlements.

Damage Caused to Residences

Sharp winds have however caused some damage to residences throughout Iceland. The Westman Island ICE-SAR team was called out today to assist in fixing roofs when sheet metal began to fly around Heimaey.

Björgunarfélag Vestmannaeyja
Björgunarfélag Vestmannaeyja helping to fix roofs in Heimaey.

RÚV also reports that rescue teams were called out in Höfn in Hornafjörður due to a door that had flown off a building.  The door flew off from the Glacier World guesthouse, which is about 19 kilometres from Höfn and approximately three kilometres from the main road.

Impassable Roads in North Iceland

The orange weather warning has also caused difficult driving conditions, and motorists are advised to avoid highland areas. Conditions are particularly bad in North Iceland, where a severe storm is expected overnight. In the Southeast, there will be a blizzard east of Vatnajökull Glacier starting in the afternoon and continuing into the evening.

For more information on weather conditions and safe travel, see the website of the Icelandic Met Office.

MET Office Forecasts Frost in Most Parts of the Country Tonight

MET Office

The Icelandic MET Office forecasts frost in most of the country from Friday evening to early Saturday. Sunday should see an increase in temperature with concomitant wind.

Cold snap followed by warmer temperatures, more wind

As noted by the Icelandic MET Office, the country is experiencing a shift in weather, with a decrease in pressure causing the wind to subside. Today, a gentle breeze is expected in many areas, although scattered showers are anticipated along the southern and eastern coasts of Iceland.

As evening approaches, the combination of mild winds and partly cloudy skies will usher in a cooler atmosphere. The MET Office forecasts frost across most of Iceland tonight, with a significant chill sweeping over the northwestern parts by morning.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, temperatures are set to rise once more. In West Iceland, the sky will become more overcast with a possibility of a light drizzle. A cold breeze from the southwest is expected across many areas, while the brisk cold will continue in the northwest. Nonetheless, the east is slated for some sunshine, making for a brighter day in that region.

“We Must Adapt” – Authors of Iceland’s New Climate Report

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

Altered weather patterns, increased landslides, and heightened flood risks are among the challenges Icelanders will face in the coming years, according to an expert from the Icelandic MET Office. A report entitled “Climate Resilient Iceland, which was unveiled yesterday, emphasises the urgent need for Icelandic society to adapt to the already evident impacts of climate change, Vísir reports.

“Humans have always adapted”

Yesterday, a report titled “Climate Resilient Iceland” (i.e. Loftslagsþolið Ísland in Icelandic) was unveiled. Commissioned by the Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate, a steering committee produced the report to assess the necessary measures for society to adapt to climate change, emphasising that the impacts of climate change are already evident.

When questioned by a Vísir journalist about whether emphasising adaptation to climate change signified a form of resignation, Anna Hulda Ólafsdóttir, Office Manager of Climate Services and Adaptation at the Icelandic Meteorological Office and a co-author of the report, replied, “Yes and no; this is the reality we are facing. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. Humans have always adapted to changing circumstances.”

Anna Hulda emphasised that environmental changes are accelerating and becoming more evident through natural events. “We’re witnessing an increase in landslides, floods, and shifts in precipitation patterns, with intense rainfall in short durations followed by prolonged droughts,” she stated.

Data collection and dissemination

As noted by Vísir, the report delves into the consequences of these threats. Drought conditions elevate wildfire risks, which can jeopardise human lives and threaten infrastructure. The global warming phenomenon is reshaping ecosystems and heightening the risk of infectious diseases. Intense rainfalls escalate flood hazards, causing potential damage to infrastructure. The melting of glaciers is redirecting river courses, and the thawing of permafrost is triggering landslides, each with its inherent risks. Furthermore, marine ecosystems are changing due to ocean acidification and warming, affecting marine biodiversity.

The report recommends a comprehensive approach, suggesting an evaluation of the insurance system in light of these risks. It outlines four priority actions, with an emphasis on enhancing data collection and dissemination.

One of the highlighted actions, for example, is the development of a “Climate Atlas,” envisioned as a visual guide to the United Nations’ climate change projections. Canada’s existing model, which provides insights into shifts in precipitation, temperature, and other elements, serves as an inspiration for this initiative.

The report also advocates for a comprehensive monitoring strategy to assess the repercussions of climate change. It recommends the launch of a data portal, offering access to historical records of natural phenomena. This portal would also help pinpoint risks tied to global climate shifts, such as potential disruptions to supply chains and migration patterns of refugees.

A comprehensive approach is necessary

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, the Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate, acknowledged that while some of these initiatives are funded, there’s potential to optimise the use of human resources: “To simplify, when implementing countermeasures and adaptation strategies, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive understanding to guide our actions. A consistent team should manage this effort. Furthermore, it’s essential to disseminate accurate information to all, particularly those involved in infrastructure planning and zoning.”

First “Autumn Storm of the Year” to Make Landfall This Weekend

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

A meteorologist with the Icelandic MET Office has warned of an upcoming storm that is unusually early for the season. Its impact is expected across various parts of the country this weekend, although no official warnings have been issued.

“An honest storm”

“It looks like we’re going to get an honest storm,” Eiríkur Örn Jóhannsson, a meteorologist on duty at the Icelandic MET Office, told Vísir yesterday.

“There is a slight autumn flavour to this low-front, and it is coming – that’s quite clear. However, it is not yet clear which area of the country will be most affected. But it is quite clear that there will be a storm somewhere and even heavy rain in some parts of the country,” he added.

Eiríkur pointed out that this kind of storm was unusually early in the seasonal cycle. As a result, the MET Office believed it is prudent to warn the public in advance, despite not having issued any official warnings yet. Eiríkur indicated, however, that official warnings were forthcoming, although the specifics remained undetermined at this time.

According to the MET office’s current analysis, the most severe weather is expected in South and West Iceland in the early hours of Saturday. When questioned about the potential impact on the annual Ljósanótt festival in Reykjanesbær, he cautioned: “I would at least monitor the weather forecast closely and take the appropriate actions.”

Warm and Sunny in the Capital Area

Locals and tourists enjoy the sunshine in Reykjavík's Austurvöllur square.

It’s been a warm and sunny weekend, and today will continue the trend in the capital area, with a high of 16°C (61°F).

Today will be cloudier and colder in the East, with a high of 9°C (48°F) in Egilsstaðir. The North is also cloudier and cooler, with highs of 12°C (54°F) in Akureyri.

This week’s forecast

Here is the most recent information from the Met Office on what to expect in the coming days:

On Wednesday: Southwesterly or variable winds at 3-8 m/s, cloudy with occasional light rain, but dry in the northeast. Temperatures between 10-18°C (50-64°F).

On Thursday: Southeast direction winds at 3-10 m/s, increasing to 10-15 m/s in the evening, especially in the south. Widespread rain with intermittent showers, but generally dry in the northeast.

On Friday: Easterly winds at 8-15 m/s, but lighter in the north. Rain, with very little precipitation in the North. Temperatures between 11-16°C (52-61°F).

On Saturday: Predominantly easterly winds and cloudy with intermittent showers.  Widespread precipitation in many areas. Temperatures between 8-18°C (46-64°F).

On Sunday: Expecting easterly winds. Mostly cloudy with occasional light rain in most places, but more precipitation towards the southeast. Temperature changes will be minimal.