Iceland, home to hundreds of volcanoes, has been hit with more than 2,000 earthquakes in the last few days, prompting the country to declare a state of emergency and evacuations over a potential volcanic eruption putting the safety of thousands at risk.
More than 800 earthquakes have been recorded in the country since Friday at 4 p.m. EST, with Iceland’s Meteorological Office saying in a statement that the “likelihood of a volcanic eruption occurring in the near future is deemed considerable.”
Many of the quakes, some of which have exceeded magnitude 5.0, have occurred on the Reykjanes Peninsula — the home of the fishing town Grindavik, which is populated by 3,400 people and has been evacuated.
Officials said it isn’t possible to determine when and where magma might reach the surface, though there are “indications that a considerable amount of magma” was moving toward Grindavik.
The amount of magma being closely watched by officials is “significantly more” than the largest magma intrusions associated with eruptions at Fagradalsfjall — a volcano that erupted for more than six months starting in March 2021.
Volcanic hazards may include lava, toxic gas and heavy smoke, according to a volcano alert from the U.S. Embassy in Iceland.
The Aviation Color Code was elevated to orange on Friday, indicating an increased likelihood of eruption that could result in engine loss and navigational failure for aircraft.
.93 miles. That’s the shallowest depth of the top of the magma intrusion being recorded by meteorologists north of Grindavik, according to a statement.
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, a world-renowned geothermal pool known for its warm and calming waters, was closed for a week as a result of the tremors and volcanic threat, according to CNN. The lagoon will remain closed through at least Thursday.
Keflavik International, Iceland’s main airport, is just 18 miles northwest of Grindavik but has not has not had its operations affected as of Saturday, according to RUV, Iceland’s national public service broadcaster. The State Department has not issued any travel advisories for Americans, stating American tourists can “exercise normal precautions” when visiting for the time being.
Half of the magma tunnel now extending underneath Grindavik follows a 2,000-year-old series of craters, according to RUV, which cited Páll Einarsson, a professor of geology. Einarsson told RUV the biggest earthquakes originated under the crater series and that the magma tunnel has been getting longer, though the professor said it’s impossible to say where an eruption would occur and how long the crack formed by it would be. Iceland has more than 100 volcanoes on its island, 32 of which are active. The country’s most infamous volcanic eruption involved Eyjafjallajökull. The volcano’s eruption stranded millions of tourists worldwide and grounded more than 100,000 flights over the course of a week, according to Iceland’s tourism website.
Magma tunnel lies under Grindavík (RUV)
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon closed as 1,000 earthquakes hit in 24 hours (CNN)