At times, the news is filled with headlines about abnormal volcanic activity and earthquakes, attempting to instill a sense of panic over the eruption of a major supervolcano. This has occurred with seismic activity in Italy, and Yellowstone National Park’s supervolcano is always the subject of discussion when so much as a little more seismic activity than average is recorded. While these threats of an extreme volcanic eruption are always – or almost always — false, there is current volcanic activity that poses an actual threat of eruption, and this eruption is brewing from the southwestern peninsula of Iceland after 800 years of dormancy.
In the past few weeks, the Fagradalsfjall Volcano has shown signs of increased seismic activity in the form of thousands of tremors, with over 20,000 tremors occurring since late October in the southwestern peninsula. Additionally, on Saturday, a magma tunnel extending across the Grindavik area, where the volcano is located, had risen from a depth of 1500 meters to 800 meters over the day. With the risk of reaching the town of Grindavik, the thousands of people living there have been evacuated. Even though the residents do not face any immediate threat this evacuation was done for safety.
The magma corridor has now expanded to a length of 9 miles, and the threat of the first major, potentially dangerous eruption since 1973 is now seemingly imminent. What would happen in the event of such an eruption, however, could vary greatly. A magma eruption at sea would be much more destructive than one on land, but an eruption on land would be much more threatening to the Grindavik area. The size of the eruption and the safety of Grindavik are also ambiguous at the moment, with no guarantees the eruption would be massive and no guarantees that Grindavik, a town so close to the potential eruption sites, would be safe. The closer to Grindavik the magma is when it reaches the surface, the worse prospects would be for the small town. Tourist areas like Blue Lagoon are also at risk and have been closed down, with the added risk of poisoning from the release of sulfur dioxide from the magma. An eruption may not even happen at all, even with all of the magma moving. Of course, this would not undermine the volcanic consequences already occurring. Earthquakes have damaged roads and broken sidewalks, leaving large cracks in the ground.
On a larger scale, this does not seem to be an eruption that could affect Reykjavik, the nation’s capital, or its major international airport — leaving a low risk of travel interruption. Furthermore, a major ash cloud akin to the one during a 2010 eruption would not occur either due to a lack of glacial ice in the area, meaning aircraft would not be stalled. Even with this lack of major risk to the rest of Iceland, this potential volcanic eruption is being taken seriously, with Iceland declaring a state of emergency. Whether or not the volcano erupts, or how it erupts, only time will tell. All that can be done is to be alert and wait.
Sophomore Chessie Bovasso is a Staff Writer. Her email is email@example.com