- Iceland has experienced 2000 mini-quakes in the last 24 hours
- The eruption is expected to occur in the mountainous Hagafell region
Iceland believe they have pinpointed the likely site of a major volcanic eruption after almost 2000 mini-quakes were recorded in the last 24 hours.
The Icelandic Met Office have warned that Hagafell is the ‘prime location for an eruption’, after magmatic gas was detected at a borehole in Svartsengi which experts say is a signal that an eruption is imminent.
4000 residents have already been evacuated from the nearby town of Grindavik after the state of emergency was declared with the high possibility that they will never return.
Volcanologist Haraldur Sigurðsson has said that if an eruption were to happen, he expects that it could erupt into the sea and that Grindavik would need to be ‘reorganised’.
‘I’m also worried about the port. It doesn’t take much to destroy this port, fill it with lava,’ Haraldur told Iceland’s Morgunblaðið (MBL) newspaper.
‘There are both cracks there in the harbour and even if the magma comes up somewhere outside, it flows into the harbour, because this is the depression.
‘So, in the big picture, this town needs to be completely reorganised,’ he added.
The Reykjanes peninsula did not experienced an eruption for eight centuries until 2021.
Since then, three eruptions have struck – all in remote uninhabited areas – and volcanologists believe this may be the start of a new era of activity in the region.
One lifelong resident of Grindavik Eythor Reynisson said: ‘There are going to be a lot of people who don’t want to go there. My mother said ‘I never want to go there again.”
Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at the University of Manchester, Margaret Hartley said an eruption was a case of when, not if.
‘I do think an eruption will take place, but the big question is when that might happen.
‘The most likely way to create this fracture is that a pressure build-up of gas bubbles in the dike will force magma towards the surface, breaking the crust apart,’ she said.
‘The process is a bit like shaking up a can of fizzy drink – as soon as a crack opens in the top of the can, the drink escapes with lots of frothing.’
Scientists revealed to MailOnline how big this eruption could be and whether it will rival Eyjafjallajokull, which saw 50,000 flights cancelled and 8 million passengers affected.
It led to the biggest global aviation shutdown since World War II.
Iceland is a particular hotspot for seismic activity because it sits on a tectonic plate boundary called the Mid Atlantic Ridge.
The Mid Atlantic Ridge is a long chain of mountains that stretches down the Atlantic ocean, meaning most of these mountains are underground. It’s gradually pushing North America and Eurasia away from each other.
Iceland is also located over a mantle plume – a column of hot, molten rock that rises from the deep mantle to the surface, becoming lava when it erupts.
Evacuated residents have been returning to the town each day to collect belongings, but had to flee on Tuesday after the Met Office said its meters had detected sulphur dioxide.
In the past week, Grindavik has become lined with massive cracks in the land that are billowing out steam – the result of magma moving underground that pushes up on the Earth’s crust.
Last Friday Iceland’s Met Office (IMO) discovered that magma was coursing into the ground and fracturing rock over a nine-mile distance.
IMO’s Matthew Roberts said the magma cut through the ground beneath Grindavik ‘almost like an underground freight train.’ Images have since shown fissures appearing in the ground, and further damage to buildings and roads is expected.
Western parts of Grindavik have also sunk into the ground.
Haraldur said that it is now clear that the peninsula has awoken, and can now be considered an active volcanic belt.
So far no one has been killed.
How a volcanic eruption in 2010 sparked almost a month of chaos for European air travel
A volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2010 sparked the worst air travel disruption since the Second World War.
Chaos descended within the European travel industry when an unfortunate series of phenomenons combined from a number of relatively small volcanic events at Eyjafjallajokull, on the south side of the island.
Seismic activity had started at the end of 2009 and had intensified up until March 20, when the volcano – which is covered by an ice cap – finally erupted.
The eruption was small – just one out of seven on the scale used to measure eruptions. Globally, it appeared a relatively small event at the time.
But around five days later, scientists began to notice unusual activity.
They found evidence at magma was flowing from underneath the crust into Eyjafjallajokull’s magma chamber and that pressure stemming from the process caused a huge crustal displacement.
Meanwhile, ice surrounding the volcano started melting and began flooding into the volcano.
This rapid cooling caused the magma to shear into fine and jagged ash particles. It also increased the volcano’s explosive power.
While the eruption began as an effusive eruption – where lava runs from the volcano along the ground – the volcano then entered an explosive stage on April 14. This time, the explosion was measured as a four on the volcanic scale.
A huge ash cloud was fired into the air, reaching up to nine kilometres in height. Around 250 million cubic metres of volcanic material was also spewed into the air as a result of the explosion.
To make matters worse, the volcano was directly under a jet stream and the rapid cooling from the ice water gave the volcano enough power to shoot the ash directly into it.
The jet stream was also unusually stable at the time and sent ash particles from the volcano continuously southeast – towards Europe.
From April 14-20, ash from the volcanic eruption covered large areas of Northern Europe.
About 20 countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic and it affected approximately 10 million travellers, with nearly 100,000 flights to and from and within Europe cancelled across the six day period.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) estimated that airports lost £80 million over the six-and-a-half days, while the knock-on disruption lasted for around a month.
In the United Kingdom alone thirteen travel firms collapsed during the summer of 2010. The ash cloud disruption was cited as one of the contributing factors.
Several sports matches were postponed, while Liverpool football club had to travel by coach to Madrid in order to play a match in the Europa League.
While the travel disruption mostly ran throughout April, volcanic activity continued at Eyjafjallajokull until October, when scientists declared the eruption was over.
In 2011, a volcano under the Vatnajökull glacier sent thousands of tonnes of ash into the sky in a few days, raising concerns of a repeat of the travel chaos seen across northern Europe.
Though the explosion was larger than Eyjafjallajokull, the impact was not as wide-spread.
A total of 900 flights (out of 90,000 in Europe) were cancelled as a result of the eruption in the period May 23-25.
In 2014, Bárðarbunga erupted in what was the biggest eruption in Iceland in more than 200 years. However, only local travel was impacted as a result.