Iceland is bracing for what could be a potential volcanic eruption after detecting a series of tremors in the Earth near the capital city of Reykjavik. Over the past month, the region has seen over 20,000 earthquakes. Notably, this region of Iceland hasn’t experienced any volcanic eruptions for over 800 years, which leads some experts to believe it could be overdue for an eruption.
“…[T]his is the first time we see it here in the neighbourhood of the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik and it’s a new experience for a lot of people now, to feel earthquakes every day,” says Pall Einarsson, Professor Emeritus of Geophysics at the University of Iceland.
This situation has the country preparing for the worst as they contemplate the possibility of volcanic activity near one of the country’s most densely-populated areas. The good news is, the country is prepared to take action in the event of an eruption.
Iceland is not unprepared for volcanic eruptions. In 1973, Heimaey island saw an eruption that threatened its main town. In order to save the townsfolk and the buildings, heavy machinery was used to dig ditches in the earth and to erect walls of stone to divert the flow of the lava. Such tense, life-saving moves could be made near Reykjavik to prevent any potential eruptions from destroying much of the capital.
Of course, this kind of emergency diversion of lava can create unthinkable scenarios, where workers need to make snap judgments about where lava should be diverted. However, this is better than simply letting lava run straight into a densely-populated city center.
People in the region have noted that the recent series of quakes, while annoying, has been more of a nuisance than a serious risk to health. Dishes are flung from cupboards, furniture is overturned and sleep is disrupted, but there have been few injuries, and buildings have mostly stayed standing.
However, the high concentration of quakes in a short period of time has alerted researchers to the high likelihood of an imminent eruption. Given the nature of the fault lines in question, it’s unlikely that an eruption would be like the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption, which spewed mostly ash over Europe and halted travel.
No, instead, this eruption would be most likely to be comprised of primarily lava flows, making it the most immediately dangerous variety of eruption, the likes of which Iceland hasn’t seen in decades.