Icelandic authorities warn of ‘high probability’ of volcanic eruption

Earthquakes continue to rock southwest Iceland, as authorities warn of a “high probability” of a volcanic eruption in the coming days.

Residents of the Reykjanes Peninsula have been on alert for weeks and the entire coastal town of Grindavik has been evacuated in response to the threat.

In recent days, between 1,500 and 1,800 earthquakes have been recorded daily in the region, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO).

Intense increases in seismic activity may be linked to the movement of underground magma or molten rock. So, earthquake swarms can predict volcanic eruptions, but it remains difficult for scientists to make accurate predictions of such events.

The town of Grindavik, Iceland, on November 16.Björn Steinbekk / AP

The Icelandic Meteorological Office is closely monitoring the rumblings of a volcano under the Reykjanes Peninsula, including the formation of a large 15 km long magma chamber that winds from Kálfellsheiði southwest to the sea off the coast of Grindavik.

Swarms of earthquakes have been concentrated around this underground magma tunnel, but it is not yet clear where the magma will rise from the Earth’s crust and reach the surface.

The town of Grindavik’s 3,400 residents were ordered to evacuate the area on November 10. Local officials said evacuations would remain in effect until seismic activity in the area subsides.

The Icelandic Civil Protection Agency has made arrangements in recent days to allow evacuated residents to return home for short periods to gather their basic necessities.

November 13: A line of cars on a road leaving the town of Grindavik.Brynjar Gunnarsson / AP

The Icelandic Meteorological Office announced on Monday that more than 700 earthquakes were recorded in the region that day. On Tuesday, that number dropped significantly, with authorities saying 165 earthquakes had been detected since midnight. The agency added, however, that the drop could be due to bad weather across the country, which can hamper the ability of seismic instruments to detect even the smallest tremors.

“Given the weather forecast for the next two days, which indicates significant precipitation and winds, the sensitivity of earthquake detection and real-time GPS monitoring by IMO can be expected to be affected,” the agency said in a statement.

So far, operations at Keflavik Airport have not been disrupted, but the country’s Civil Protection Agency said the possibility of air traffic disruptions following an eruption “cannot be entirely ruled out.” .

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