Alert Phase Revoked, Three Weeks after Eruption Ceases

iceland eruption 2022

The National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Suðurnes Police, has decided to revoke the Alert Phase that has been in effect due to the volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula. Three weeks have elapsed since any volcanic activity was detected in the area.

Uncertainty Phase declared

On July 30, an Uncertainty Phase was declared on Reykjanes after a swarm of earthquakes rocked the peninsula. Four days later, on August 3, a volcanic eruption began, as magma began spewing out of several-hundred-metre-long fissures in a lava field near Fagradalsfjall, which had been created by last year’s eruption in the same location. An Emergency Phase was subsequently declared, which was lowered to an Alert Phase in light of the relative smallness of the eruption.

The eruption passed through several phases before all activity ceased on Saturday, August 20. Yesterday, the National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Suðurnes Police, decided to revoke the Alert and Uncertainty Phases that had been in effect in the area, RÚV reports. Authorities will continue to monitor the area closely, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has announced.

“We can expect intrusion activity and earthquakes in Reykjanes over the coming weeks. Residents are encouraged to secure furniture and other household items to prevent injury and/or damages to their homes,” a press release from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management reads.

The press release also states that rangers will be positioned at the eruption site to monitor foot traffic. The presence of police and rescue workers will be gradually diminished in the area, although they will be dispatched if needed. Lastly, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management underscores the hazard of venturing onto the lava, noting that craters and hot lava are protected by nature-preservation laws.

 

 

Reykjanes Earthquakes: Uncertainty Phase Declared

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared a phase of uncertainty due to the ongoing earthquake swarm on the Reykjanes peninsula in Southwest Iceland. Six earthquakes over M3 were detected on the peninsula yesterday, with the strongest measuring M4.7. Specialists say earthquakes and uplift in the area are likely signs of magma collecting below the surface. There are no signs an eruption is imminent.

Likely magma is gathering below surface

“We have seen, since before the weekend, indications that expansion and uplift are occurring by Svartsengi similar to what happened in 2020,” Met Office Earthquake Hazards Coordinator Kristín Jónsdóttir told RÚV. “That is we think it is quite likely that we are seeing the beginning of magma collecting below the surface at Svartsengi and it’s of course not unthinkable that could end in an eruption, but it is still much too early to say.”

The 2020 activity Kristín is referring to was a period of uplift (land rise) by Þorbjörn mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula. The uplift ended without an eruption ever occurring. An eruption did occur on the peninsula last year, however, as many readers know, and it was preceded by weeks of powerful earthquakes felt across Southwest Iceland. Volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson has stated there is a 50% chance of another eruption on Reykjanes this year.

Falling objects and landslides

Travellers and hikers on the Reykjanes peninsula are warned to stay away from steep inclines, where earthquakes can cause landslides or rockfall. The Civil Protection Department encourages residents in or near the active are to secure loose objects in their homes that could fall in the event of an earthquake, particularly those that could fall on individuals while they are sleeping. The Civil Protection Department website features earthquake preparedness information in English.

Read more about the geology of the Reykjanes peninsula.

Avalanche Risk in Westfjords and North Iceland

An uncertainty phase is in effect in the Westfjords and central North Iceland due to risk of avalanches. Some avalanches are expected to fall on roads in the coming days, but residential areas should be relatively safe from the danger. Multiple avalanches have fallen in the northern Westfjords and North Iceland’s Tröllaskagi peninsula late last week and considerable new snow and snowdrift is expected in the forecast.

Avalanches fell in Skutulsfjörður, Álftafjörður, and Önundafjörður in the Northern Westfjords two days ago. On the Tröllaskagi peninsula, several large avalanches fell onto Ólafsfjarðarvegur road. Some roads have been closed due to the avalanche risk, as well as the storm front that is travelling eastward across Iceland today.

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.

Ongoing Uplift at Askja Volcano, “Uncertainty Phase” Declared

The National Police Commissioner has declared an “uncertainty phase” for the volcano Askja owing to ongoing surface uplift. The Icelandic MET Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland will ramp up their monitoring of the volcano next week.

“Uncertainty Phase”

The National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Chief of Police in Northeast Iceland, has declared an “uncertainty phase” owing to the ongoing surface uplift at the Askja volcano in central Iceland. Since late August, GPS observations and satellite data have registered deformation changes (i.e. changes in the shape of the surface of Askja); the surface has risen approximately seven centimetres, which is a substantial uplift for the given period.

The most likely explanation for the uplift is magma accumulation at a depth between 2-3 km. Next week, the MET Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland will ramp up their monitoring network to keep a closer eye on the volcano. Furthermore, the MET Office has changed the aviation colour code for Askja from green to yellow.

The declaration of an “uncertainty phase” by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management signals the necessity of increased monitoring of a developing situation, which could threaten the health and safety of the citizenry, the environment, or infrastructure. The procedure ensures formal communication and the exchange of information between relevant response parties.

No indication of an imminent eruption

As reported by Iceland Review earlier this week, surface uplift can culminate a volcanic eruption; however, it is also conceivable that the magma will cool and congeal without ever reaching the surface. There are currently no indications that an eruption is imminent.

The Askja volcano is seismically active and earthquakes are regularly detected in the area. There has, however, been no change in seismic patterns, which would indicate increased volcanic activity, according to Sigþrúður Ármannsdóttir with the Icelandic Met Office. The last eruption at Askja was in 1961 and lasted roughly six weeks.

The Met Office notes that active volcanoes in Iceland are often characterized by periods of inactivity, lasting years to decades, with intervals of enhanced seismicity, geothermal activity, and inflation. In most cases, magmatic intrusions do not culminate into an eruption. The ongoing eruption in Reykjanes began about a year after land started to rise in the area. At this stage, there is no immediate danger to travellers in the area. It is very difficult to anticipate how the situation will evolve but the Met Office will continue to monitor the situation.

Situation at National Hospital Improves

Emergency room

The National and University Hospital is lowering its emergency level from ‘Alert Phase,’ to ‘Uncertainty Phase,’ which is the lowest preparedness level. This welcome news comes via a press release issued by the hospital on Wednesday.

The downgrade in emergency level comes as hospitalizations due to COVID-19 decrease. As of Wednesday afternoon, seven people, with an average age of 53, were hospitalized due to COVID-19, only one of whom was in intensive care. None of the patients were on a respirator. With fewer COVID patients to care for, the hospital has also been able to reopen Ward A7, which usually serves as the Infectious Diseases ward. A7 had been converted to a COVID ward when there were more patients than could be accommodated in the main COVID ward.

At the time of writing, there were 930 individuals in quarantine and 544 in isolation.

Improved situation comes in the wake of a difficult August

Only weeks ago, in mid-August, Intensive Care Units at the National Hospital were “at the breaking point.” Staff was stretched and exhausted and there was a real risk that if a non-COVID emergency situation occurred, the hospital would not have the resources to respond to it. Adding to the strain was the sudden influx of tourists: 15% of patients monitored by the COVID-19 ward in mid-August were foreign tourists, with 25-40% of patients in the ICU belonging to this group.

Most infections among children aged 6 – 12

On Wednesday, RÚV also reported that the highest number of COVID-19 infections are among children aged 6-12. At the time of writing, 139 children in this age group were infected. Vaccinations are currently available to children 12 and older.

Red Weather Alert Issued for South Iceland Tomorrow

Weather Alert

The Icelandic Met Office has issued a red weather alert for South Iceland tomorrow. An orange weather alert will be in effect for most of Iceland, as well. All roads leading to the Greater Reykjavík Area will be closed tonight and are expected to remain closed until tomorrow afternoon, RÚV reports.

Red Weather Alert

According to a recent update on the Icelandic Met Office’s website, extreme weather is expected tomorrow morning, with the possibility of hurricane-force winds in large parts of South Iceland. The weather will be at its most extreme between 6 am and noon tomorrow.

The Greater Reykjavík Area is expected to see “violent east winds … with [a] sustained wind speed [of] 28-35 m/s and violent and dangerous wind gust [that] may exceed 55 m/s near [the] mountains south of Borgarfjörður.” Somewhat calmer winds are expected in the northern part of the area. The Met Office predicts poor visibility, elevated sea levels due to storm surge, and a greater risk of damages from flying debris.  Travelling is not advised while the weather warning is in effect.

State of Uncertainty

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared a phase of uncertainty for the entire country tomorrow. From the Department’s website:

“[An] uncertainty phase … is characterised by an event which has already started and could lead to a threat to people, properties, communities or the environment. At this stage[,] the collaboration and coordination between the Civil Protection Authorities and stakeholders[is initiated.] Monitoring, assessment, research[,] and evaluation of the situation is increased. The event is defined and a hazard assessment is conducted regularly.”

For further information regarding road and weather conditions, see Safetravel.is.