Iceland’s Geothermal Dilemma: The Growing Threat from Fagradalsfjall Volcano

The specter of a volcanic eruption looms over Iceland, with scientists warning that the recent seismic activity beneath the coastal town of Grindavik signals the beginning of a prolonged era of volcanic eruptions.

The Fagradalsfjall volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula, dormant for 800 years until a 2021 eruption, now poses an imminent threat, leading to concerns of a potential eruption that could last for centuries.

Build-up of Magma and Ongoing Seismic Activity:

The Icelandic Met Office has raised alarms, stating that the ‘likelihood of a volcanic eruption is high,’ and continuous seismic activity, marked by over 800 earthquakes, intensifies the threat.

Experts, including Cambridge volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, suggest that the 2021 eruption may have initiated a new eruptive phase with far-reaching consequences.

Evacuations and Impact on Grindavik:

The seismic swarm has not only rattled the region but has forced the evacuation of Grindavik, turning it into a ‘ghost town.’ Videos depict the devastation caused by earthquakes, leaving homes in disarray and prompting residents to flee. Thousands of lives have been disrupted, emphasizing the urgency of the situation.

Rising Magma and Potential Eruption:

As magma rises closer to the earth’s surface, fears of an impending volcanic eruption heighten. A massive nine-mile magma intrusion near Grindavik is growing, with estimates suggesting it may be as close as 500 meters from the surface.

The Icelandic Met Office’s detection of increased sulphur dioxide levels further raises concerns about magma nearing the surface.

Sulphur Dioxide as an Indicator:

Increased levels of sulphur dioxide, detected by new meters, serve as a potential indicator of magma approaching the surface.

While the current amount is not high, geophysicist Benedikt Ófeigsson explains that its presence suggests the top kilometer of the earth’s crust, indicating proximity to an eruption.

Preparations and Potential Impact:

Authorities are taking precautions, with plans to build defense walls around the Svartsengi geothermal power plant.

Concerns about lava flows potentially affecting the plant, which supplies water and electricity to the entire country, prompt strategic preparations. Iceland’s Justice Minister emphasizes the importance of protecting critical infrastructure.

Uncertainty and Future Challenges:

The uncertainty surrounding the volcanic activity creates challenges for authorities. Matthew James Roberts from Iceland’s meteorological office expresses the difficulty in predicting the eruption’s impact and duration.

Fears of a repeat of the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption’s chaos emerge, but experts suggest differences in potential ash cloud production.


The article concludes by highlighting the potential hazards, including lava spewing over towns, roads, and infrastructure at risk.

The ongoing volcanic unrest raises questions about the unpredictable nature of Fagradalsfjall and the potential consequences for Iceland’s future.

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