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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

A volcano may erupt in Iceland. Here’s what to know for now.

By Claire Moses

Iceland is bracing for a possible volcanic eruption.

Since late October, tens of thousands of earthquakes have been reported in the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the southwestern part of the country. At one point there were as many as 1,400 in a single 24-hour period.

As of late Wednesday, the Icelandic Met Office, the country’s weather service, warned that there was a “significant likelihood of a volcanic eruption in the coming days.”

The increased seismic activity and the formation of a 9-mile underground river of magma have led authorities in recent days to declare a state of emergency and to evacuate the small fishing town of Grindavik, where more than 3,000 people live.

Last week, the popular geothermal spa the Blue Lagoon temporarily closed its doors as a precaution for a possible eruption and because of the disruption caused by the many earthquakes. The closing has since been extended to Nov. 30.

When is this volcano going to erupt?

It’s hard to predict, but authorities say it may happen in the next few days.

They said the intensity of the seismic activity had decreased a bit, but they have continued to warn of a possible eruption. The seismic activity along the underground magma continues.

The way things look now, there doesn’t seem to be immediate danger to people outside the direct vicinity, according to Josef Dufek, director of the Center for Volcanology at the University of Oregon.

There is a long history of volcanic activity in Iceland, a country of fewer than 400,000 people and about 130 volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes are active.

The country straddles two tectonic plates, which are themselves divided by an undersea mountain chain that oozes molten hot rock, or magma. Earthquakes occur when the magma pushes through the plates.

An eruption is unlikely to disrupt air travel this time.

In 2010, when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, one of the country’s largest, erupted, a resulting ash cloud grounded much of the air travel in Europe and disrupted aviation for days.

It’s unlikely this eruption will cause quite the same level of disruption, Iceland’s government has said.

“While the possibility of air traffic disturbance cannot be entirely ruled out, scientists consider it an unlikely scenario,” the government said on its website.

For updates, watch what’s going on in the Reykjanes Peninsula at

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