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Volcanic activity goes beyond Reykjanes

25.05.2022 - 11:58
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Einar Rafnsson - RÚV
Hundreds of tremors are detected daily on the Reykjanes peninsula. Some 7,300 earthquakes have been seen there in the past month, near Mount Þorbjörn and the Svartsengi power plant. Twenty-two of the recorded earthquakes were over 3 degrees on the Richter scale. Large quakes have also been recorded in the capital region and the north of Iceland, near the Askja volcano.

Hundreds of earthquakes a day 

The seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula has increased significantly in recent weeks. Hundreds of quakes a day have been recorded there; last Friday, there were 500, on Saturday 150, and Sunday 400. The largest earthquake in the ongoing seismic swarm, with a magnitude of 4.3, occurred on May 4. The quakes are caused by magma moving below the surface. 

Einar Hjörleifsson, an expert on natural hazards, told RÚV News that magma flow under the earth's crust explains underground rock shelves forming in the area. At the moment, however, there is no indication that magma is approaching the surface. 

How do you assess the likelihood of an imminent volcanic eruption? "We are conducting a very close observation of the area. The new satellite images we have just analysed indicate that magma accumulates under the crust. However, it is moving horizontally, forming a kind of rock shelf at a depth of 4-6 kilometres. We can't see any vertical movement of magma in the images," Einar said. 

On Sunday, RÚV also spoke with geologist Pál Einarsson about the seismic activity outside the Reykjanes Peninsula. Most capital area residents felt the 4,8 earthquake that occurred near the Þrengsli Pass. Páll said we could expect even stronger earthquakes in the area. 

"Volcanic activity is moving over a larger area," he said. "There is a certain regularity in how the tectonic plates move away. As the eastern part of the peninsula drifts away, volcanic activity increases on the peninsula's western side." 

The geologist believes there is an increased chance of a major earthquake, possibly near Brennisteinsfjöll, which has been regularly spoken about. "Yes, the chances of a major earthquake are higher today, but I wouldn't trust myself to determine how strong it might be," he said. 

Askja volcano relatively harmless 

However, volcanic activity on the island extends beyond Reykjanes and the capital district. Near the Askja volcano, the ground has risen about thirty centimetres due to magma accumulation. "These are not necessarily signs of an impending eruption, although it has happened around the Askja volcano. "Although Askja spewed huge amounts of ash in 1875, its eruptions are rarely noticed because they are mostly harmless."

Askja's 1875 eruption caused a disaster in Iceland, with many villages in the western part of the island destroyed and residents forced to evacuate. 

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