Earthquake tremors, volcanic activity rock Iceland

REYKJAVIK, June 22, 2020 (AFP) - More than 3,000 tremors have shaken seismographs on the northern coast of Iceland over the past three days, the Icelandic Met Office (IMO) said Monday, as officials also warned of an impending volcanic eruption in the south.

Grimsvotn, the most active volcano on the island, appears to be heading for its first eruption since 2011, authorities have warned since mid-June, as high levels of sulphur dioxide indicated the presence of so-called shallow magma.

While an eruption at the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 caused a huge cloud of smoke and ash that left more than 100,000 flights cancelled and eight million passengers stranded, the effects of this eruption were expected to be less dramatic.

The 2011 Grimsvotn eruption did however lead to the temporary closure of Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport and the cancellation of some 900 flights in Europe, according to aviation organisation Eurocontrol.

As Grimsvotn is located on the northwestern side of the Vatnajokull ice cap, much of the risk during an eruption is actually tied to flooding caused by melting ice.

Meanwhile, on Iceland’s north coast, three quakes that measured over magnitude 5 have been recorded in recent days, one of which was felt in the capital Reykjavik, some 265 kilometres (165 miles) away from the epicenter.

“Compared to previous earthquake swarms in the area it is expected that this swarm will continue during the coming days,” the government institution said.