Iceland: – In a new period of volcanic eruption

Iceland: – In a new period of volcanic eruption

After the volcanic eruption last weekend, the situation is currently much calmer in Grindavik.

Lava flowing from a fissure located just 50 meters from the small town engulfed or set fire to many homes. But after a few days the current subsided and the glowing blocks turned into stone.

However, for the evacuated residents of Grindavik, the outlook is bleak.

Many experts believe we have only witnessed the beginning of a new period of more frequent volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

The silence is broken

Grindavik is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula which extends five miles into the sea south of Iceland's capital.

There were numerous volcanic eruptions here for a few centuries until the 13th century. The activity continued while Snorri Sturlason and other Icelanders sat and wrote stories about the Viking Age.

Then there was silence. long.

Three years ago, the silence was broken, and since then five volcanic eruptions have occurred in Reykjanes.

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Pretty much everyone agrees that this won't end, says Erik Storkel, a volcanologist and professor of geophysics at the University of Gothenburg.

– It can last for 300 years

Storkel receives support from his colleague Olafur Gudmundsson, a professor at Uppsala University.

Gudmundsson points to an earlier outbreak of the disease in the Middle Ages and a similar phase about a thousand years before that again. He thinks he sees a pattern and comes to the following conclusion about what is happening in Reykjanes now:

– This appears to be the beginning of a new period of activity that may last for 200 to 300 years.

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– In other words, we cannot absolutely rule out new eruptions and the opening of more volcanic fissures, leading to serious damage.

Uncertain future

Returning to Grindavik and getting the city back on its feet could be difficult given these expectations.

The town of about 4,000 is a small community, but an important fishing port, Gudmundsson says.

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– It will be a political discussion, where one will hopefully weigh risks and financial interests against each other. And it's just getting started.

Storkel believes the outlook is bleak and that the city is unlikely to have a future in the current situation.

– Previous outbreaks were tourist outbreaks, but are now serious. This is a death sentence for Grindavik, the professor tells the TT news agency.

Slipping away

Residents of Grindavik were evacuated in November when an earthquake warned of a possible volcanic eruption.

On December 18, the first eruption began. Initially, several hundred cubic meters of lava per second flowed from a crack in the ground several kilometers long. But this was a good distance from the settlement.

The reason for the large number of volcanoes in Iceland is that the island is located at the meeting place of the continental plates: North American and Eurasian.

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They slide away from each other very slowly, and from the crack between them molten rock sometimes flows from the depths.

Molten rock is called underground magma and lava if it is ejected from a volcano.

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– Close to the surface

The period of new eruptions began in Reykjanes in March 2021. Thus ended eight relatively quiet centuries.

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– We have entered a new phase of plate separation that could last for several years, and perhaps decades, says French volcanologist Patrick Allard.

He points out that the two recent outbreaks were short-lived. There was relatively little seismic activity ahead.

– It indicates that the magma is very close to the surface, and is ready to erupt.

There will likely be little warning before the next outbreak, according to Allard. He also questions the future of Grindavík.

Ash fear

In addition, there is a risk of undersea eruption. Allard warns that this could cause an “explosive phenomenon” and send more volcanic ash into the air.

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In 2010, large amounts of ash flowed from the volcano below Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. Air traffic in large parts of Europe was paralyzed, and the word “ashproof” became part of the Norwegian language.

Volcanoes in Reykjanes are unlikely to cause similar chaos. Allard also doesn't believe there are massive amounts of magma rising to the surface.

The consequences are still great. In addition to putting Grindavik at risk of evacuation, new lava flows could threaten the Svartsingj power plant and the spa den Bla lagoon facility.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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