Scientists have reported an extraordinary river of magma flowing beneath the fishing village of Grindavik in Iceland. This came shortly after the volcano’s eruption on Thursday morning, which is the second volcanic eruption in the region this year. The rate of magma flow that occurred late last year set a new record and prompted authorities to declare a state of emergency. This is because the region is facing a volcanic eruption for the third time since December.
The western Reykjanes Peninsula, which had slept for 800 years without any eruption, is now in the news with a dramatic volcanic eruption. The latest crack, which emerged just hours before an important study is to be published in the journal Science, has prompted the evacuation of the village and raised concerns about the future of the area.
Fristein Sigmundsson of the Nordic Volcano Center at the University of Iceland has been at the forefront of this research. His team’s analysis showed that on November 10, over a six-hour period, a dam formed underground, 15 kilometers long and four kilometers high, yet only a few meters wide. Before the most recent eruption, an astonishing 6.5 million cubic meters of magma had accumulated beneath the area around Grindavik. The rate of magma flow reached an astonishing 7,400 cubic meters per second, dwarfing the average flow of Paris’ Seine River and rivaling the average flow of major rivers such as the Danube or the Yukon. This flow rate from 2021 to 2023 was 100 times higher than any previously recorded on the peninsula, indicating an uptick in volcanic activity.
The implications of this discovery are large, as rising underground pressure has caused not only explosions, but also hundreds of earthquakes and significant land uplift, resulting in large cracks and damage to local infrastructure. This poses additional risks to hidden cracks. One of which was recently found in the middle of a playground. The ongoing threat has led to the evacuation of several locations, affecting not only Grindavik but also the nearby Svartsengi Power Plant and the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.
As the community faces a period of uncertainty, debate has intensified over the long-term security of living on such unstable land. Sigmundsson cautions that the city of Grindavik is entering a phase of unpredictability, with more magma expected to come to the surface. The scientific community continues to monitor the situation closely, in hopes of better understanding the forces driving these unprecedented events.
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