Airlines on alert over potential volcanic eruption

By Neal Baldwin
02/08/2022
Home » Airlines on alert over potential volcanic eruption

Airlines flying in and out of Iceland have been put on alert over fears of a potential volcanic eruption on the country’s Reykjanes Peninsula.

More than 3,000 earthquakes have been recorded in the region since Saturday lunchtime. The largest tremor measured 5.2 on the Richter Scale and was felt 120km away.

Iceland’s Meteorological Office is monitoring the peninsula and has issued a yellow aviation alert, rekindling fears of a repeat of the devastating Eyjafjallajökull eruptions that took place over six days in 2010. A vast dust and gas cloud from that blast caused chaos across Europe, closing airspace and stranding thousands of travellers.

Seismic activity is concentrated on an area north of Mt. Fagradalsfjall, an active volcano on the country’s southwest corner around 40km from the capital Reykjavik and 30mins from Keflavík airport. The whole area has been a popular draw for hikers and tourists since it began spewing lava from large cracks in the ground back in March 2021.

Experts say the multiple earthquakes, dubbed a rare ’earthquake storm’, are being caused by shifting magma between 3km-7km down. They have declared an ‘uncertainty level’ of civil protection, which warns of a threat to the health and safety of people and the environment.

Writing on Facebook, geologist and former Icelandic MP Ari Trausti Guðmundsson, said: “Specialists are saying that it looks like magma eruption could be causing the earthquakes. Either this will die down or the magma will find a way to the surface. More small earthquakes would suggest that.”

Although the Reykjanes Peninsula has not been cordoned off, visitors have been warned to be wary of shifting ground, mudslides and falling rocks. UK Foreign Office travel advice for Iceland has been updated to warn further volcanic eruptions are possible with the potential for sulphur dioxide and other volcanic gases being emitted, as well as glacial floods.

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