Hoppa yfir valmynd
Prime Minister's Office, Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Possible volcanic activity in southwest Iceland

Mt Keilir in Reykjanes Peninsula - myndWikimedia Commons
  • Risk to populated areas and critical infrastructure considered very low
  • Volcanic activity follows considerable seismic activity in the past week
  • The type of eruption expected will not have much impact on international aviation

Following a series of earthquakes, a volcanic tremor pulse was detected south of Mt Keilir, in the Reykjanes Peninsula, yesterday afternoon. The area is in southwest Iceland, about 20km (12.5 miles) from Keflavik International Airport and about 15km (less than 10 miles) from the Reykjavík metropolitan area. Such a tremor pulse is a strong indicator of intrusive magma movements that could lead to an imminent volcanic eruption. However, no eruption has been confirmed, but the area is being monitored closely.

A relatively small eruption, of the type classified as a fissure eruption (sometimes referred to as Icelandic-type), is expected. The type of eruption anticipated does not usually involve large explosions or significant production of ash dispersed into the stratosphere. Instead, a relatively slow flow of lava is likely to emerge from a fissure or fissures in the ground.

Scientists anticipate that an eruption could last for a few days up to a few weeks.

Due to the likely location of the emergence of lava, populated places and critical infrastructure, such as roads and electricity grids, are not expected to be in danger.

Furthermore, unlike the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, the current volcanic activity will not produce large fumes that have the potential to disrupt international aviation. However, due to the proximity to Keflavik International Airport, a volcanic eruption would cause temporarily disruptions to air traffic in the immediate vicinity. Initially, Keflavik International Airport, would be closed at the onset of an eruption and a danger area with a radius of 220km established around the eruption point. However, after a forecasted area for ash has been published aviation will continue in accordance with procedures. 

The response to any potential volcanic activity is led by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management of the police in cooperation with the Icelandic Meteorological Office and University of Iceland. "We are extremely well prepared to deal with any possible scenario. Iceland has highly trained, educated and experienced professionals in this area. Most important, the Icelandic public is used to dealing calmly with many different types of natural events related to the weather or geology," says Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland.

Iceland is located on the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and is a hotspot for volcanic and seismic activity. A series of earthquakes have occurred in the past week, beginning with a 5.7 magnitude earthquake Wednesday 24 February.

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