Eruptive activity at the new fissure in Meradalir stalled on 21st August 2022 at around 6:00 am. The seismic tremor ceased following the emission of a blue grey plume. Lava was seen on webcams to be still flowing from the crater just before then. We await to see whether or not this is the end of this eruptive episode.
To quote IMO, “A new chapter is about to begin in the Fagradalsfjall fires, but whether the seismic activity will recur and it will erupt again in the near future or not, time will tell.”
What do we know of the eruption so far? The eruption started on 3rd August 2022. The initial discharge rate was c. 32 cubic metres per second, dwindling to 2 cubic metres per second by 16th August 2022. The total volume of lava emitted by 16th August 2022 was 12 million cubic metres, c. 8% of that emitted by the Geldingadalir eruption last year. At the crater the lava is 20 to 30 metres deep and 40 metres deep by the crater rims, themselves. Over the rest of the lava field the lava is between 5 and 15 metres deep. The new lava has displaced cooling older lava causing it to rise by 3 to 5 metres in places.
The lava composition is similar to the basalt emitted by Geldingadalir in September 2021. The K2O / TiO2 ratio ranges from 9.3 to 9.4 and the MgO is around 8.4 wt(%).
So, it was hours, not days! The eruption started near Fagradalsfjall / Meradalir yesterday at around 13:18 about 1.5 km north of Stóra-Hrut on a north-easterly southwest fissure. The onset was detected by a local webcam and later confirmed by scientists. The alert level is currently orange (Volcanic eruption is underway with no or minor ash emission.)
Like the previous eruption, lava is contained by the local geography so no infrastructure is currently threatened. Gas emissions are, however, a hazard. The lava flow is estimated to be 5 – 10 times that of Geldingadalir at 32 cubic meters per second in the first 24 hours; gas emissions may well be similarly larger.
Visitors are advised not to approach the site at the moment. When the site is open, bear in mind that it is not an easy walk, so for the fit only, and visitors should be properly prepared, including having gas masks and metres.
Seismic activity has decreased since the onset of the eruption. We have now updated our earthquake plots to 4th August 2022 10:27- see below.
Updated earthquake plots
At the time of updating, we did not have confirmation of the coordinates of the eruption site, so we have guessed based on maps of the fissure. The plots will be updated when more up to date information becomes available.
Update 02/08/2022, 20:39:46, Fagradalsfjall and Grímsvötn
The earthquake swarm near Fagradalsfjall continues unabated. The aviation code for Grímsvötn has been raised to yellow following increased seismic activity there.
At the time of writing IMO were reporting 3,000 earthquakes in the last 48 hours detected by the SIL Seismic Network.
Rising magma has caused some large triggered earthquakes where existing faults slip to accommodate the strain, the largest so far being 5.47 on day 2 of the swarm.
The Icelandic media are reporting that new satellite images taken on 1 August 2022 show magma movements located between Fagradalsfjall and Keilir. The magma intrusion is shallow at c. 1 km below the surface. The magma influx is close to double the rate of the previous eruption. The chances of an eruption near Fagradalsfjall in the coming days or weeks have therefore increased and are considered to be significant.
We have updated our earthquake plots using confirmed earthquake data from IMO’s Skjálfta-Lísa for the area 63.75°N, 23.0°W to 64.0°N, 22°W (the western Reykjanes Peninsula). The geodensity plot shows that most of the action is centred north east of Fagradalsfjall.
The image from IMO below shows the earthquake activity at Grímsvötn.
Hopefully, eruptions are not like buses – wait for ages, then several show up together. On a more serious note, if Grímsvötn does erupt, ash may be problematic for Europe depending on the size of the eruption and the prevailing wind direction. A jökulhlaup caused by melting of the ice-cap is another hazard. An eruption near Fagradalsfjall is less likely to produce a lot of ash unless magma encounters an aquifer or other body of water; lava and any gas emissions depending on volume and location are likely hazards. Seismic activity remains a hazard for both; the public are advised of the risk of rockfall and landslip.
A large earthquake swarm started yesterday (30/07/2022) lunchtime north east of Fagradalsfjall, Iceland. At the time of writing, IMO had reported 1,597 earthquakes in the last 48 hours for the Reykjanes Peninsula from the SIL seismic network. This network automatically detects and locates earthquakes in Iceland and the surrounding offshore region. 199 of these earthquakes had been confirmed.
At the moment the swarm is being likened to the swarm in December 2021, which did not result in an eruption. The local authorities are warning of the increased risk of rockfall as a result of increased seismic activity.
We have downloaded the earthquakes reported from the Table tab and plotted the confirmed earthquakes (quality 99.9%).
Seismic activity continues in the Svartsengi area, extending to the Sundhnúkur crater row. The earthquakes in the vicinity of Mount Þorbjörn appear to be getting shallower today as at the time of writing.
The Sundhnúkur crater row erupted c. 2,360 years ago. It is accredited with creating the Hópsnes/Þórkötlustaðanes land spit to the east of Grindavík.
Here are our updated earthquake plots to 26th May 2022 15:06.
The following video shows both the geoscatter plots by day from 17th April 2022 to 26th May 2022 in the swarm for the western Reykjanes Peninsula, and the scatter plots for the same period for the area around Mount Þorbjörn.
While the earthquake plots are highly suggestive of more shallow magma ascent, we need to bear in mind that this area is on the plate boundary, the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Some of the seismic activity may be existing faults moving to accommodate the magma. Time will tell when and where magma emerges.
For the latest updates and alerts, please consult with IMO or the local authorities.
Original Post 24th May 2022
The earthquake swarm that started on 17th April 2022 on the western Reykjanes Peninsula continues. Today we are plotting activity at the Svartsengi area near Mount Þorbjörn, which lies to the north of Grindavík, Iceland. We have used Mount Þorbjörn as the marker for Svartsengi in our plots.
IMO reports that there has been significant uplift of 40mm to 45mm during the swarm in the area north of Grindavík indicative of magmatic activity.
Let’s look at the earthquakes.
Western Reykjanes Peninsula
Initially, we updated our plots of the area between 63.75°N,23.0°W to 64.0°N, 22°W. Here is a summary.
From a simpler scatter plot and a geodensity plot, we can see much of the activity has occurred near Mt Þorbjörn or Svartsengi in the area enclosed in the green box below.
Let’s look more closely at the area around Mt Þorbjörn.
Svartsengi Area, 63.81°N, 22.5°W to 63.90°N, 22.35°W
For more up to date information on the seismic activity and the latest alerts, please refer to the local authorities or the Icelandic Met Office, IMO.
An earthquake swarm started on the Reykjanes Peninsula on 17th April 2022 and is continuing at the time of writing. This swarm is part of a larger volcano-tectonic episode that started at the end of 2019 on the Reykjanes Peninsula, including the eruption at Geldingadalir.
Local volcanologists are reporting now that recent ground deformation of 3.5cm suggests a magma intrusion in the vicinity of Svartsengi, north of the town of Grindavík. Magma is believed to be pooling at a depth of c. 4km between Mount Þorbjörn and the Eldvörp crater row. This is an area which can produce large earthquakes of 6.5M. People are advised to avoid areas where landslip is likely.
We have updated our earthquake plots to show the swarm to date. Our plots exclude an earthquake occurring earlier today with a depth of 40.7km to keep the detail in the plots showing depth; the earthquake omitted is 19/05/2022, 00:11:14, 63.77°N , 22.75°W, 40.7km, 1 magnitude. Since we downloaded the data at 09:55 am today, there has been a 3.0 magnitude, 4.9 km NNE of Grindavík.
Our plots show possible doming in the vicinity of Mount Þorbjörn and the Svartsengi Volcanic System.
An earthquake swarm started near the Reykjanes and Eldey volcanic systems on 17th April 2022. A volcanologist was reported by the Icelandic media to have said that there is a 50% chance of another eruption on the Peninsula by the end of this year. If the eruption occurs offshore, the resulting ash may reach Reykjavik and beyond. Another possibility is that Fagradalsjall may erupt again.
So we decided to plot the earthquakes on the Reykjanes Peninsula from 1st January 1995 to 26th April 2022 for the area 63.6°N, 23.5°W to 64.2°N, 21.0°W by month. The results are interesting.
Intense earthquake activity starts early 1995 in the east of the region to the south east of Hengill near the Hrómundartindur volcanic system, which has not erupted since the early Holocene. Activity migrates slowly westward to Geirfuglasker via Krýsuvík, Fagradalsfjall, Reykjanes, and the intensity of activity near Hrómundartindur lessens. The volcano-tectonic episode which resulted in the eruption at Geldingadalir started in month 300, the eruption, itself, started in month 315.
We have discussed the Hengill, Brennisteinfjöll, Krýsuvík and Reykjanes volcanic systems in an earlier post (Recent Seismic Activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula, 14th May 2020) The Hrómundartindur system is about 25 km long, comprising a fissure swarm and a 500m high central volcano. The system lies at the junction of the Western Volcanic Zone and the South Iceland Seismic Zone. Its lavas range from picrite to basaltic andesite. There is an active geothermal field in the system. The Eldey volcanic system is a 40km long fissure system on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, here, the Reykjanes Ridge. There is no central volcano. It is mostly submarine; the island Eldey and the skerries, Eldeyjardrangur, Geirfugladrangur and Geirfuglasker, are the only subaerial features of the system. Six small submarine/explosive Basaltic eruptions have occurred in the last 1,100 years, the last eruption occurring in 1926 CE.
We would not like to predict where the next eruption will be based on the above earthquake plots alone, other than to say it could be anywhere between Hrómundartindur and Geirfuglasker. Our non-expert interpretation of the above plots is that magma is ascending between Krýsuvík and Reykjanes. The seismic activity to the east and west of that area is caused by resulting stress on the crust; whether there is enough activity to provide an additional path for magma remains to be seen. Time will tell where and when magma makes it to the surface again.
Kristján Sæmundsson (Iceland GeoSurvey) (2019 November 15). Hrómundartindur. In: Oladottir, B., Larsen, G. & Guðmundsson, M. T. Catalogue of Icelandic Volcanoes. IMO, UI and CPD-NCIP. Retrieved from http://icelandicvolcanoes.is/?volcano=HRO
Guðrún Larsen (Institute of Earth Sciences – Nordvulk, University of Iceland) (2019 November 15). Eldey. In: Oladottir, B., Larsen, G. & Guðmundsson, M. T. Catalogue of Icelandic Volcanoes. IMO, UI and CPD-NCIP. Retrieved from http://icelandicvolcanoes.is/?volcano=ELD
We have updated the earthquake plots for Fagradalsfjall, Iceland, for the swarm which started on 21 December 2021.
The swarm had an intense initial period while magma moved along a lateral dike, followed by a less intense period, accompanied by magma ascent. The Icelandic Met Office, IMO, say that the swarm is following the same pattern as that which preceded the eruption in March 2021.
Magma is ascending under Fagradalsfjall, itself. The outlying earthquakes, e.g., at Svartsengi and Krýsuvík, are what Iceland calls triggered earthquakes. Triggered earthquakes are tectonic in nature, arising as local faults respond to magma movement.
Following a drop in seismicity over the past couple of days, visitors are now advised to avoid the area.
A similar drop in seismicity was observed immediately before the March 2021 eruption.
If the volcano does erupt again, this would be considered a new eruption in the same place; the earlier eruption was declared over three months after the cessation of activity on 19 September 2021.
The earthquake swarm at Fagradalsfjall, Iceland, is continuing. While the swarm has slowed down a bit, 19,000 earthquakes have been recorded by the automatic SIL system since the swarm started. 14 earthquakes over 4.0 magnitude have occurred. An alert for the risk of rockfall and landslides in the area has been raised; visitors are advised to stay away from the area.
We have plotted the confirmed earthquakes from 20 December 2021 to 28 December 12:50. This shows the dike propagation south west of Geldingadalur, with additional activity near Kýsuvík and Svartsengi.
Only time will tell where and when lava will emerge. In the meantime, if you are lucky enough to be in the area, be aware of the risk of rock fall and landslip.
A large earthquake swarm started at Fagradalsfjall late on 21 December 2021, 2-4 km NE of Geldingadalir, thought to be caused by a lateral dike intrusion. Due to the increased seismic activity, the aviation code was raised to Orange yesterday, 22 December 2021.
The eruption at Fagradalsfjall had stalled on 18 September 2021, with no new lava flows to the time of writing. Ground deformation indicated that magma was still flowing into the crust.
We have downloaded and plotted the earthquakes from 1 September 2021 to 23 September 2021 (source for raw data: IMO ). This includes the swarm which started near Mount Kelir in late September 2021, which may or may not have heralded the current reactivation of the dike.
While it is considered likely that the activity will result in a renewed eruption, when and where is not certain.
The eruption at Fagradalsfjall has halted. No lava has been erupted in the period 18 September to 18 October 2021 (or to the time of writing). The seismic swarm at Kelir has lessened. Gas emissions have decreased. The aviation code has therefore been lowered.
The eruption will not be declared over for some time. It is not possible to tell if this is a temporary lull or the eruption has ended; the eruption may resume at the same location in Fagradalsfjall or at a new fissure. As the authorities have pointed out, this can only be determined in retrospect.
The volcanic hazards are currently: gas, high temperatures both in the area and the lava field, earthquakes and rockfalls.
It’s been a few days since we looked at the latest earthquake swarm at Kelir, which is on-going. Here are the updated plots.
From the plots we see a slow decrease in average depth. This is borne out by the scatter plots. Let’s look at them.
Whether or not the eruption will resume and where, only time will tell.