2010: Iceland volcano forces 600 people to flee from homes
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The residents of Reykjavik have been told to brace for an imminent volcanic eruption in the coming days. Experts predict the Krysuvik volcanic system is about to blow after 17,000 earthquakes rocked the nation’s Reykjanes Peninsula in the past week alone. Many of the stronger quakes have already been felt in Reykjavik and the Icelandic Met Office has warned of landslides and tumbling rocks and boulders in the region.
On Wednesday, March 3, the Met Office reported bursts of tremors that have been associated in the past with volcanic eruptions.
These tremors are likely caused by magma moving deep underground and it is possible a lava-producing blast is just around the corner.
Kristín Jónsdóttir of the Icelandic Met Office said: “We are not saying we have signs an eruption has begun but this looks like the type of activity we expect in the run-up to an eruption.”
The troubling tremors were concentrated near Mount Keilir, a volcanic mountain that towers over the landscape.
According to Dave McGarvie, a volcanologist at Lancaster University, the swarm of activity is just the latest in a period of seismicity that began more than a year ago.
The volcano expert said: “The shaking of the Earth is the most obvious manifestation of the release of huge amounts of energy.
“But magma has also been quietly accumulating nearer to the surface – and when this happens there is increased likelihood of the surface breaking and the volcanoes erupting.”
The expert added there is always the possibility of the magma stopping just short of breaking to the surface.
But Iceland’s authorities have already taken the necessary precautions by closing off roads and surveying the potential eruption zone.
Dr McGarvie said: “Of course, magma may move in the crust and then stop, but it is always wisest to plan for an eruption and then to scale back if nothing happens.”
There is some uncertainty over what might happen since the last time this part of Iceland witnessed such intense activity was in the 1300s.
What is clear, however, is the eruption – should it go off – will not rival the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull.
The eruption grounded flights all across Europe when it choked out the skies with volcanic ash.
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The blast itself was relatively small, but the amount of material Eyjafjallajökull belched out brought Europe to a standstill for nearly one month.
In the southwest of Iceland, the volcanic systems are much more predictable and erupt slow-moving streams of lava.
Dr McGarvie, who discussed the volcano in an article for The Conversation, said: “In Iceland these are warmly called ‘tourist eruptions’ as they are relatively safe and predictable, and offer the opportunity for many hundreds of people to witness a magical natural spectacle – the creation of new land.
“In the past, tourists have flocked to Iceland to witness such eruptions, but at present there is a five-day quarantine period for tourists entering Iceland due to the pandemic.
“At the current area of unrest, there are no nearby habitations – it is reassuringly remote.”
In this case, the expert said these volcanoes do not tend to produce much ash.
Consequently, there is not much risk to international air travel.
Dr McGarvie added: “Should an eruption start, flights would be halted automatically at the Keflavík international airport, which is only 22km away, until a fuller evaluation has been carried out.”
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