Southwestern Iceland Prepares for Potential Volcanic Eruption

November 15, 2023

We are a little bit desperate, a little bit paralysed and sad, actually. If you start to think about all the time and energy you have put in building up your home, it’s just sad.

Hans Wierer, a resident of Grindavík, Iceland, who along with his family has evacuated ahead of a potential volcanic eruption in the southwestern peninsula – warning signs include earthquakes, splitting roads and land, as well as air quality issues indicating a potential eruption.

The Big Picture: Iceland has declared a state of emergency as the country prepares for a potential volcanic eruption in its southwestern peninsula, where 3,000+ residents of the the small, coastal town of Grindavík have been asked to evacuate.

There has been an increased level of sulfur dioxide in the air, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), which noted on Sunday that this can be an indication that magma is moving closer to the surface.” In a Tuesday update, the IMO warned that the chance of a volcanic eruption remains high.”

If there is an eruption, scientists say the impact of depends on where the magma comes to the surface – if it erupts beneath the sea it could be more explosive, while a land eruption poses a bigger threat to the city of Grindavík.

Background: Beginning in late October, the southwest area surrounding Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik has been experiencing a series of earthquakes “due to a[n] underground river of magma … about 15km (10 miles) in length moving upwards below the earth’s surface” (BBC News). Since then, there has been “Tens of thousands of small earthquakes … with thousands occurring in just the last few days” (Smithsonian Magazine).

Also to Note: Iceland is used to volcanic activity. In 1973, the unexpected Eldfell eruption destroyed 400 homes and businesses, and in 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull eruption caused the largest European airspace closure since World War II.

Read More:

Iceland volcano: What could the impact be? (BBC News)

As Iceland braces for a potential volcanic eruption, what is likely to happen and what are the risks? (CNN Travel)

A Volcano May Erupt in Iceland. Here’s What to Know for Now. (The New York Times)

by Sarah Pinkerton,