Most likely nothing will happen

  • Almannavarnir
  • 29. janúar 2020

A town assembly was held this afternoon in Grindavik sports centre. Over 1000 people attended the meeting that was held to inform inhabitants about the current volcanic activity around Mt. Þorbjörn. The meeting was streamed live and a recording is available on youtube.

Speakers at the meeting included police chief Ólafur Helgi Kjartansson, geology professor Mangnús Tumi Guðmundsson, Earthquake Hazards Coordinator Kristín Jónsdóttir  and Bjarney Annelsdóttir from the police. Major Fannar Jónasson chaired the meeting and opened with a short report on the last 24 hours.

The main conclusion of today’s town meeting was that most likely nothing further will take place around Mt. Þorbjörn. In 9 out of 10 volcanic activities of this kind (possible magma accumulation), nothing becomes of it and therefore it is unlikely that an eruption will follow.

Furthermore, experience of similar event indicates that there will be a significant period of time to respond and evacuate the area in case of emergency, i.e. the unlikely event of eruption. Plans are in place for evacuation and other appropriate responses.

Important information about insurance regulations was also shared, emphasising that people should contact their insurance provider to get an update about to what extent their properties are insured and to make sure they are up to date with the current value of their home.

The following is based on Víkurfréttir,, coverage of the meeting.

Major Fannar Jónasson emphasised that inhabitants will be kept well informed.

Chief of police Ólafur Helgi said it is never easy to wait for something that may or may not happen but that is a situation Icelanders are familiar with. “Police and the local authorities are working closely together, preparing and coordinating. Yellow alert means we are preparing for a possible outcome, however unlikely it may be, i.e. the evacuation of homes”. It is important that people pay attention to instructions and stay informed. Police will be on extra alert 24/7 in the coming days.

There are three evacuation routes out of Grindavík; Grindavíkurvegur (leading to Reykjanesbraut), Suðurstrandavegur (South coast) and the route west on to the Reykjanes peninsula. It is important that people have thought about what they need to bring in case of evacuation, i.e. glasses, medications and other items that are often forgotten in the heat of the moment. This is a good opportunity to practice our responses. Also, he emphasised that people make sure to discuss this with their children and teenagers.

Kristín Jónsdóttir from the Icelandic Met Office explained that they provide a 24/7 surveillance of earthquakes and other natural phenomena. “We are always awake to help you sleep easy!” They also issue warnings when needed, coordinate with Department of Civil Protection, officials, aviation authorities etc.

The Met office conducts continual monitoring of earthquakes in all of Iceland as well as satellite and GPS surveillance. This has allowed them to monitor the recent earthquakes along with the inflation of 2 cm around Mt. Þorbjörn, occurring over the last few days with a steady rise of 3-4 mm per day.

Iceland is on tectonic plate boundaries. The plates move 1-2 cm per year and this commonly causes earthquakes. The earthquakes recently are closer to Grindavík than usually. This time there is also a continues inflation with Mt Þorbjörn as its centre, the continual inflation is considered unusual and it indicates magma several kilometres deep.

One of the scenarios that could occure is that there would be a larger earthquake. It is however very unlikely that it will be more than M5.5 or maximum 6 on the Richter scale which is not considered a very large earthquake.

If the worst-case scenario occurs and an eruption will take place in the area, it will not be a large eruption and it will not carry a lot of ash or be explosive. A fissure would form west of Mt. Þorbjörn and it will be a short lava eruption that will last a few days or weeks, similar to the Krafla eruptions that took place last century. More importantly there will be ample time to react and evacuate in time to prevent any harm to people in the area.


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