Location: Grindavik, Reykjanes Peninsula, southwest Iceland
Event: The Icelandic Meteorological (Met) Office warned of the high probability of a volcanic eruption in the next few days in or near Grindavik, 26 miles (42 km) due southwest of Reykjavik, on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The National Police Commissioner of Iceland raised the Civil Protection Service Level from “Alert” to “Emergency,” its highest level, in response to increasing seismic activity and ordered the evacuation of Grindavik at 11 p.m. on November 10. The primary road to Grindavik (Rt 43 – Grindavíkurvegur) and Nesvegur, west of Grindavik, is damaged by earthquakes and is closed. All other roads to Grindavik have been closed.
There are no current impacts to flight operations at Keflavik Airport (KEF), though the Aviation Alert Level is Orange. The Met Office also noted a slightly increased probability of an explosive sub-marine eruption that could disrupt flights, though this is not the most likely scenario. The Icelandic government and tourism service providers activated their emergency response plan to coordinate communication with visitors. The Red Cross has opened shelters for evacuated residents.
According to scientific analysis of sensor data, the magma chamber now extends 9 miles (15 km) from Kálfellsheiði, northeast of the Svartsengi power plant and the Blue Lagoon, to the southwest into the sea outside Grindavik. Scientists believe the earthquakes released tension in the area around the magma chamber under the town of Grindavik, and the deformation of the ground may indicate that magma could be closer to the surface than the half-mile (800 meters) previously measured.
If an eruption occurs, follow the instructions of Icelandic authorities. Volcanic hazards may include lava, toxic gases, ash, and heavy smoke from fires ignited by lava. Do not walk on new lava – it may be only a thin crust with molten lava just beneath the surface. Commercially available face masks (e.g., dust masks, N95, or surgical/medical) offer no protection against volcanic gases that may accumulate in low lying areas.
Actions to Take:
- Monitor Iceland Civil Protection information about mass shelters and preparation at: Earthquakes in Reykjanes — Civil Protection (almannavarnir.is)
- Follow recommendations by Icelandic Police, Icelandic Civil Defense (also at https://www.facebook.com/Almannavarnir/), and other authorities.
- Monitor volcanic activity and weather at: https://en.vedur.is/ and https://en.vedur.is/about-imo/news/.
- Monitor local media outlets for updates, including the online National Broadcasting service, RUV, (also at https://www.facebook.com/ruvenglish) and English language news outlets. Live webcams of the area are visible here.
- Follow the latest alerts on https://safetravel.is/ and @safetravel.
- Additional information at https://www.visitreykjanes.is/en and @visitreykjanes.