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Volcano alert press conference: live updates

03.03.2021 - 16:01
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 Mynd: RÚV
The civil protection agency gave a press briefing at 16.00. It was broadcast live on most radio and TV channels and the highlights in English are below.

The briefing ended at 16.21 and the main messages were that an eruption has not begun close to Keilir mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula, but is likely to start within hours. The eruption will probably last a week or two and lava will not threaten buildings or infrastructure, though gas could cause some people some discomfort on some days. Daily life continues as before. The eruption is not expected to be large, if it occurs at all. People are nevertheless asked not to visit the site.

  • Víðir Reynisson, head of Civil Protection, and Kristín Jónsdóttir, team leader for operational natural hazard monitoring are leading the meeting.
  • Kristín says there is now an almost-constant stream of small earthquakes under Reykjanes peninsula right now.
  • The activity is centred along a line between Keilir and Litla Hrútar and the surface is showing signs of sinking, which would indicate an imminent eruption.
  • It is not yet known precisely where the lava will break through the surface, but it is clear it will be in an unpopulated area.
  • There is no emergency situation taking place.
  • People are asked not to try and visit the area.
  • Reykjanesbraut remains open as usual.
  • While the eruption will not pose a direct danger, the Met Office will pay close attention to wind directions. Gas pollution from the eruption could prove uncomfortable on some days, Kristín says, but historical data shows the gas cloud is unlikely to prove dangerous in towns.
  • The volcanic activity does increase the risk of larger earthquakes -- though the expected maximum magnitude is still between 6 and 6.5.
  • If an eruption does start, it would be typical for seismic activity levels to reduce.
  • The eruption is likely to be short -- though it is possible that it could be the start of a series of eruptions.
  • The updated likely lava flow scenario was updated at 16.00 and predicts a more southerly lava flow than previously forecast. That does not appear to increase the risk to buildings or infrastructure.
  • Such a volcanic eruption is dangerous close up, as gas concentrations decrease rapidly with distance. People are therefore asked not to visit the eruption, if one begins. Police hope not to need to close roads, but will be monitoring the situation closely.
  • The aviation alert level has been raised from yellow to orange, and will be set at red if an eruption begins. The colour codes are intended to help pilots and airlines flying to and over the peninsula.
  • Parents are advised to discuss the seismic and volcanic activity with children openly, and not to let children rely on the media for updates that they might misinterpret.
  • A red aviation alert would likely mean all flights to and from Iceland stopping for a short time, but the level will quickly be reduced to orange for areas away from the immediate eruption zone, allowing access to planes.
  • SMS messages will be sent to all mobile phones if very urgent information needs distributing to the public quickly.
  • The press briefing ended at 16.21.

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager

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