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Increased Seismic activity Returns to the Reykjanes Peninsula

Key Takeaways: 

  • This is a localized seismic event

  • There is not an ongoing eruption in Iceland

  • Flights are operating normally and unlikely to be affected in case of an eruption

  • Iceland is highly prepared for volcanic events. 

As of November 23, The National Police Commissioner of Iceland has downgraded the Civil Protection Alert Phase from Emergency to Alert over seismic activity on the Reykjavík Peninsula.

Reykjavík, November 24 - Since October 24, scientists at the Icelandic Met Office have been monitoring a rise in seismic activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula close to the town Grindavík, which could indicate potential volcanic activity in the area. As a precautionary measure, the town of Grindavík was evacuated on November 10 to prioritize the safety of its residents. These evacuations will remain in place until uncertainty is over.

It is impossible to predict whether a volcanic eruption will break out, or exactly when or where in the vicinity of Grindavík it might break out. The Icelandic Met Office, in collaboration with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and a team of scientists from the University of Iceland, is actively monitoring the situation and thoroughly analyzing any unfolding developments.

While the possibility of air traffic disturbance cannot be entirely ruled out, scientists consider it an unlikely scenario. Potential disruption to flight traffic would depend on factors such as the location and size of the eruption. Typically, the impact of volcanic eruptions is confined to a specific, localized area near the eruption. Notably, previous eruptions in the area did not impact flights to and from the country.

It is important to note that there are currently 46 volcanoes actively erupting around the world, without any major disruption to international air traffic.

Iceland is no stranger to volcanic activity. Three eruptions have occurred on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the last three years. Icelandic authorities and the public are highly prepared for such events, and Iceland has one of the world's most effective volcanic preparedness measures. Iceland's geoscientists possess vast experience in dealing with volcanic activities.

Iceland is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates diverge, making it one of the most active volcanic regions in the world. Regular seismic events are a characteristic feature of Icelandic geology, ranging from minor tremors to significant earthquakes. Seismic activity in Iceland is often due to magma movement beneath the earth's crust. It may sometimes result in magma seeking the easiest path to the surface and becoming a volcanic eruption.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office, The National Police Commissioner, The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, and a team of scientists from the University of Iceland have closely monitored this situation since the beginning and are constantly analyzing developments. There is no way of accurately predicting whether, where, or when this could result in a volcanic eruption or the possible size of such an eruption. However, the situation is being closely monitored and constantly evaluated based on the best scientific data available.

The National Police Commissioner of Iceland raised the preparedness level for Civil Protection from Alert to Emergency on November 10 in response to the increasing intensity of seismic activity. This is the highest level of Civil Protection Service Levels, meaning the Department will take immediate measures to ensure security due to an event that could lead to harm to people, communities, properties, or the environment. This is what prompted the evacuation of Grindavík. The emergency caused by the event does not extend beyond the vicinity of Grindavík.

The alert level was downgraded to Alert on November 23, but the town remains evacuated.

People are encouraged to stay alert and follow the news. The area surrounding Grindavík is closed, and Police will stop all access to the town.

More information:

Seismic activity on Reykjanes peninsula increasing again