Volcanic eruptions can shake Iceland for decades

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Published 5 July 2024 at 13.14

Foreign. Volcanic activity in Iceland over the past three years has scientists expecting similar eruptions in the coming years – or even decades.

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TwittraShare< p>A new study uses information from local earthquakes and geochemical analyzes of lava from different times during the eruption to reveal the geological processes behind recent eruptions in Iceland.

– By comparing these eruptions with historical events, strong evidence is provided that Iceland must prepare and be ready for the fact that this volcanic period will continue for some time, perhaps even decades, says Valentin Troll, professor of petrology at Uppsala University.

The study examines eruptions that began in 2021 in the Svartsengi-Fagradalsfjall-Krýsuvík area. A significant impact on the local communities is noted, including the evacuation of the entire town of Grindavik.

An international research team, which included researchers in Uppsala, has used earthquake data and geochemical analyzes of, among other things, lava and volcanic ash. They have revealed important details about the geological processes behind these eruptions. Historically, Iceland has had volcanic eruptions every three to five years. However, recent eruptions suggest a potentially longer period of activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Since 2021, there have been seven fissure eruptions.

– Based on previous outbreaks, this pattern is likely to continue in the future and pose a significant risk to the local population and important infrastructure, such as Keflavík airport, several geothermal power plants, the Blue Lagoon tourist spa and resorts such as Keflavík, Grindavík and Reykjavik, Troll continues in a press release.

An important conclusion drawn in the study is that the magma system under the peninsula is interconnected. Geochemical and seismic data suggest that the eruptions are fed from a common magma reservoir about nine to twelve kilometers deep beneath Fagradalsfjall, and not from separate sources or a larger reservoir covering the entire peninsula. This is why scientists believe in a recurring pattern of eruptions in the coming years and decades.

– Our results provide valuable information for predicting and managing future volcanic activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula. We want to emphasize the need for preparedness, says Frances Deegan, researcher at Uppsala University and co-author of the study.