What's Shaking? Recent Earthquakes in Iceland, Eruptions?

03. March 2021Discover Iceland
Shape Visitreykjanes.is
Mount Keilir, Reykjanes Peninsula

How it Began

Wednesday 24th February 2021 started off the same as any other, people travelling to work, taking their kids to school, the usual.

But just after 10:00, planet Iceland decided to switch it up and give the locals something to talk about. A series of earthquakes started to hit the South West of the country, on the Reykjanes peninsula, with the largest measuring around 5.7 at the time. This could be felt in the capital area, with many islanders, including myself, experiencing this for the very first time. With the office windows "bending" and my glass of water resembling the scene from Jurassic Park, it was both exciting and nerve wracking at the same time, as you don't really know how to truly react.

Shape Icelandic Meteorological Office
Map of Southwest Iceland showing movement and deformation. (source: IMO/vedur.is)

How it's Going

With earthquakes normally receding after a day or so, this was originally deemed a one off, as the last earthquake to be felt in the capital was back in October 2020.

This has not been the case, as over the next few days, a continual concentration of earthquakes have been happening around Grindavík and the mountain Keilir; with magnitudes ranging from 3 to 5 at times. Earthquakes have also recently been recorded in the north near Akureyri, following the major fault line of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, that separates the Eurasian and American tectonic plates through Iceland.

Shape US Geological Survey
The Mid Atlantic Ridge fault line running through Iceland

Is it Over Yet?

The short answer is - not exactly. You can never know for sure if the last quake you felt would be the last for a while. Scientists and There has been reports of quakes measuring around 4.0 - 4.6 felt in the early hours of 2nd March, certainly disrupting people's sleeping patterns. This is now the 7th day in a row where earthquakes over 3.0 have been detected in the area, and although the earthquakes have not been too violent, with mount Keilir being right in the middle of all the activity, many are starting to wonder if the tectonic plates are hiding something a bit more volcanic in nature within the Krýsuvik volcanic system.

The only good news is that as the area is not covered in glacial ice, if an eruption were to take place, it would not be as disruptive as the now infamous 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. Fingers crossed it doesn't come to that, but if it does, it adds another story to this land of fire and ice.

information correct as of 11:45 GMT 03 March 2021

Is An Eruption Due?

As of 14:20 on 3 March 2021, it was reported by the Icelandic Met Office that a tremor pulse was detected around the Keilir area, which usually provide early signs of an imminent eruption.

Chief police office for civil defence Víðir Reynisson, who I kindly nickname Captain for Disaster, has reported that with current turbulence on seismometers, an eruption does seem highly likely to happen, possibly in the next few hours. Civil Defense systems may be activated and prepared, with the plan likely closing Keflavík airport if an eruptions starts. Although the eruption predicted would not be on the same scale as Eyjafjallajökull, but more of a fissure vent style eruption, the area has been raised from yellow to orange alert.

Shape Icelandic Meteorological Office
Recent activity in the Reykjanes Peninsula

About the Author

Scott Hillen

Scott is originally from Scotland, previously working for a furniture manufacturers in Glasgow before moving to Iceland in 2017. He joined the IMG team in Summer 2018.

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