EarthHuman World

Iceland braces for eruption of Fagradalsfjall volcano

Fagradalsfjall volcano appears poised to erupt again

The BBC and other media are reporting today (November 11, 2023) that Iceland has declared a state of emergency after a series of earthquakes raised fears of a volcanic eruption at Fagradalsfjall volcano. The BBC said that authorities have ordered the evacuation of thousands living in the town of Grindavík, a fishing town on the Southern Peninsula of Iceland. And BBC said:

The Icelandic Met Office says it is concerned large amounts of magma – molten rock- is spreading underground and could surface there.

Thousands of tremors have been recorded around the nearby Fagradalsfjall volcano in recent weeks.

And the Icelandic Met Office reported near midnight local time last night that:

The seismic activity has moved south towards Grindavík.

The tremors have been concentrated in Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula. This area had remained dormant to volcanic activity for 800 years before a 2021 eruption of Fagradalsfjall.

The 2024 lunar calendars are here! Best Christmas gifts in the universe! Check ’em out here.

Iceland: Glowing, very liquid appearing orange lava flowing in narrow streams from the top of a volcano.
Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano in 2021. A rash of earthquakes prompted Iceland to declare a state of emergency on November 11, 2023.

Report from the Met Office in Iceland

The Icelandic Met Office had reported earlier on November 10:

Significant changes have occurred in the seismic activity measured near Sundhnjúkagígar north of Grindavík and deformation observed in the Reykjanes Peninsula this afternoon … In light of this outcome, the police chief in Suðurnes, in cooperation with the Civil Protection Authorities, has decided to evacuate Grindavík.

An emergency level of civil protection is now in effect. This is not an emergency evacuation. Residents of Grindavík are advised to proceed with caution.

At this stage, it is not possible to determine exactly whether and where magma might reach the surface. There are indications that a considerable amount of magma is moving in an area extending from Sundhnjúkagígum in the north towards Grindavík. The amount of magma involved is significantly more than what was observed in the largest magma intrusions associated with the eruptions at Fagradalsfjall.

Further data is being collected to calculate models that provide a more accurate picture of the magma intrusion. It is currently not possible to say when this work will be completed.

‘Panic’ at a popular tourist area in Iceland

Authorities called for calm, but the evacuations haven’t gone entirely smoothly. Associated Press (AP) reported on November 10 that there was “panic” at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa – one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions. AP said the spa:

… closed temporarily as a swarm of earthquakes put the island nation’s most populated region on alert for a possible volcanic eruption.

Guests rushed to leave the spa’s hotels in the early hours of Thursday, after they were rattled awake shortly before 1 a.m. by a magnitude 4.8 quake, the strongest to hit the region since the recent wave of seismic activity began on October 25.

Bjarni Stefansson, a local taxi driver, described a scene of confusion when he arrived at the Retreat Hotel. Lava rocks had fallen on the roadway and the parking lot was jammed with 20 to 30 cabs.

‘There was a panic situation,’ Stefansson told The Associated Press. ‘People thought a volcanic eruption was about to happen.’

Watch the livestream

At this YouTube link, you can keep an eye on different views of the part of Iceland where the earthquakes have been happening. And – in the photos and video below – you can see some of the effects of the recent earthquakes.

When Fagradalsfjall volcano woke up

The Fagradalsfjall eruption of 2021 was unexpected. Since then, the volcano has become an attraction for local people and foreign tourists.

Another eruption, very similar to the 2021 eruption, began on August 3, 2022, and ceased on August 21, 2022. A third eruption appeared to the north of Fagradalsfjall on July 10, 2023, and ended on August 5, 2023.

Map showing locatioin of volcano.
Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland. Image via Wikipedia.

Bottom line: Iceland declared a state of emergency on November 10, 2023, for the area around Fagradalsfjall volcano. It was dormant for 800 years until a 2021 eruption. Now it looks poised to erupt again.


Via Icelandic Met Office

Via AP

November 11, 2023

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Deborah Byrd

View All