Iceland volcano warning: Will Mt Thorbjorn erupt? ’Unusual’ activity prompts alert

Mt Thorbjorn is a volcanic mountain, located on the Reykjanes peninsula. Ground movement around the volcano has led to the Iceland Met Office speculating as to whether a magma build-up below it could result in an eruption.

Will Mt Thorbjorn erupt?

Since January 21, Severe Weather Europe (SWE) has noted ground inflation or swelling at a daily rate of between 3 to 4cm.

Radars using InSAR imaging and GPS station pictures have both registered the deformation of the ground.

SWE said: “The inflation is most likely a sign of magma accumulation at a depth of around 4 to 5 kilometres.”


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A meeting of the Iceland Met Office’s Scientific Council of the Civil Protection concluded the recent volume estimates suggests the magma intrusion is about 1 to 2 million cubic meters (0,002 km3).

Ground deformation is measured regularly on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland.

The inflation measured earlier in February is unusual because it is the first of its kind in 30 years of data.

The largest earthquakes on the peninsula linked to the magma accumulation were on January 22 and measured 3.7 and 3.6 on the Richter scale.

Although the volcano has shown signs of accumulating magma deep underground, the buildup has been dubbed “very small”.

The Icelandic Met Office estimates around 35 million cubic ft (one million cubic metres) of magma could be bubbling away under the volcano.

The earthquakes swarms, which started earlier this month, are also subsiding.

But the agency said it was concerning the swarms were happening while the ground was lifting.

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SWE reported they were felt along the Reykjanes peninsula, which is about 31 miles away from Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, and even as far as the Borgarnes region, 80 miles away

The earthquake swarm is still ongoing, says SWE, though with less energy

Andrej Flis, from SWE, said: “Earthquake swarms are quite common and in the area, which is tectonically very active.

“But the fact that rapid inflation is occurring alongside the earthquake swarm, is a sign of concern and requires closer monitoring.”

A graphic on the site that dates from January shows the number of earthquakes, their depth and their magnitudes.

The image shows that the majority of the seismic activity is concentrated around Mt Thorbjorn.

Mr Flis said: “Earthquakes are generally common in this region. They are mostly of tectonic origin, but due to the unique geological setup of Iceland, there is a very short step between tectonic and magmatic swarms.

“Magmatic meaning that hot molten magma can rise through the crust, also causing earthquakes as it cracks upwards through the ground.

“The volcanic eruptions in this region of Iceland, are not by default explosive.

“Here there is little to no ash being produced because the erupting lava does not come into contact with ice or water, which is what in most cases causes the explosive ashy eruptions in Iceland.

“Here we see effusive eruptions, similar to the 2014 eruption of Bardarbunga (Holuhraun).

“Though these eruptions do not pose a direct threat to aviation, they can still be dangerous for human and wildlife health.”

More than 1,000 earthquakes were detected in the 10 days prior to February 2.

An official statement from IMO said: “Ongoing earthquake activity is measured around Grindavík but the intensity of the swarm has decreased.”

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