Since October 25th, Iceland’s most populated region has been hit by a series of earthquakes. The area around Mount Thorbjorn on the Reykjanes Peninsula has been experiencing hundreds of little shakes a day. Last week, on November 9th, travellers and residents alike were hit by the strongest earthquake so far since October 25th, with a magnitude of 4.8. As the seismic activity is due to a buildup of volcanic magma about five kilometres underground and could be a sign of a possible volcanic eruption in the near future, the famous Blue Lagoon spa has temporarily been closed to the public.
An Emergency/Distress Phase has been declared on the Reykjanes peninsula, due to seismic activity. The town of Grindavík has been successfully evacuated. In Iceland, we know the forces of nature. We hope for the best but are prepared for all eventualities.https://t.co/HdDrojtQez— President of Iceland (@PresidentISL) November 11, 2023
The Blue Lagoon is without a doubt one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country and is also located in the most populated region of Iceland. In the night of November 9th, around 1:00 AM in the morning, the earthquake with a magnitude of 4.8 hit the spa, urging hotel guests to evacuate the premises. Several rocks had fallen onto the hotel’s parking lot and local taxi driver Bjarni Stefansson, who was there at the time, recollects his experience in an interview with Associated Press.
There was a panic situation. People thought a volcanic eruption was about to happen.Bjarni Stefansson told AP
We have made the proactive decision to temporarily close, until 7 a.m. on November 16. Civil Protection’s level of uncertainty has not been raised. We continue to monitor the situation, prioritizing safety and well-being.— Blue Lagoon Iceland (@BlueLagoonIS) November 9, 2023
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Since the end of October, scientists have been monitoring the situation and have noted that land in the region has risen by 9 centimeters. However, at this moment there is no sign of an eminent eruption, as the seismic activity hasn’t come any closer to the surface.
“Presently, there are no signs that earthquake activity is becoming shallower,” agency Met Office said on its website. “However, the situation could change quickly, and it is not possible to exclude a scenario involving a lava-producing eruption in the area northwest of Thorbjorn.”
So far, the Blue Lagoon Spa has announced it will be closed until November 16th, even though the situation could change at any moment if the seismic activity would change. As Iceland is situated above a volcanic hotspot, the country experiences a volcanic eruption about every four to five years. The Reykjanes Peninsula in particular has a volcanic system which has erupted no less than three times since 2021, after it had been dormant for 800 years. Previous outbursts have been without major consequences as they happened in remote valleys but no one knows exactly what a possible eruption might cause.
“We need to be prepared for the worst,” volcanologist Thorvaldur Thordarson stated. “Magnitude 5 earthquakes, such as the one last night, are known to precede eruptions.”