Earthquakes, detailed below, have cracked major roadways and compromised infrastructure, resulting in a mass evacuation. Following a recent spike in seismic activity, local officials in Iceland have issued an emergency evacuation since they fear an imminent volcanic eruption.
Hundreds of earthquakes over the last few days have significantly increased the probability of an eruption or destructive earthquake. Surrounding areas are also evaluating their discharge plans.
The sudden seismicity in the Atlantic Ocean has alerted the US East Coast and Europe. Since Iceland is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, all surrounding coastlines are points of impact that would directly affect both continents. Intense seismic activity and previous volcanic eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula have generated an official warning by the Icelandic Met Office. The East Coast of North America (Canada and the United States) and West Coast of Europe are within the direct pathway of a tsunami.
If seismic activity continues and increases in this region, a powerful earthquake could trigger a tsunami that would drastically impact the coasts of surrounding areas. Before today, researchers considered a Cascadia event along the west coast of the United States. The recent activity in the Atlantic has changed the focus of officials and researchers.
Following Iceland’s most recent seismicity, no tsunami warnings have been issued.
For more than a decade, Iceland’s formerly dormant volcanoes have been spewing lava. Live monitoring of the volcanoes has proven critical in aiding volcanologists to make safety calls and issue evacuation orders. Weather officials in all directions are looking out for volcanic ash clouds and vog – or fog created by volcanic gasses that travel downwind.
Interestingly, a Red or Orange Warning has yet to be issued by USGS, despite the warnings being issued by Iceland’s Meteorological Office. In the last week alone, hundreds of incredibly powerful earthquakes struck along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, south of the seismically active spot in question today.
The region remains on alert due to rock falls on the Reykjanes Peninsula and ongoing seismicity, particularly near Lake Kleifarvatn. Additionally, increased thermal conductivity and seismic velocity have been venting volcanic gasses (vog,) and indicate an eruption in Iceland.
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a divergent plate boundary where the North American and Eurasian Plates move away from each other. This causes molten magma to rise and solidify on the ocean floor. As this regularly happens, seismic activity in the form of weak to moderate earthquakes and volcanic eruptions is expected. Over the last few days, Iceland's most recent seismicity has taken a new, much more concerning turn.
The most recent earthquakes have been documented by USGS, one of the few credible and globally recognized seismic activity monitoring systems. UTC is an abbreviation for Coordinated Universal Time.
Magnitude 5.1 Earthquake Struck 7 km West of Grindavík, Iceland: On 10 November 2023 at 6:00 PM UTC, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck Iceland at a depth of 10 km.
Magnitude 5.0 Earthquake Struck 9 km Southwest of Grindavík, Iceland: On 10 November 2023 at 6:09 PM UTC, a magnitude 5.0 earthquake struck Iceland at a depth of 10 km.
Magnitude 4.9 Earthquake Struck 5 km East Northeast of Garður, Iceland: On 10 November 2023 at 5:30 PM UTC, a magnitude 4.9 earthquake struck Iceland at a depth of 10 km.
Magnitude 4.9 Earthquake Struck 0 km West Northwest of Vogar, Iceland: On 10 November 2023 at 7:12 PM UTC, a magnitude 4.9 earthquake struck Iceland at a depth of 10 km.
Magnitude 4.8 Earthquake Struck 2 km East Southeast of Vogar, Iceland: On 10 November 2023 at 4:56 PM UTC, a magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck Iceland at a depth of 10 km.