Iceland has been hit by 18,000 earthquakes in just over a week, and a major eruption is predicted

Source: The Hill | March 4, 2021 | Austa Somvichian-Clausen

Some scientists believe a volcanic eruption could be imminent.

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There, earthquakes are common due to the country straddling two of the Earth’s tectonic plates, both the North American and Eurasian plates. They remain divided by an undersea mountain chain called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which oozes molten hot rock from deep inside the Earth.

Despite earthquakes being a common occurrence in Iceland, the country wasn’t prepared for the events of the past week, which included a mind boggling 18,000 earthquakes that hit the island in the span of about a week. The earthquake swarm began on Feb. 24 with a 5.7 magnitude earthquake, the largest to date, and was followed by thousands of smaller ones. 

“I have experienced earthquakes before but never so many in a row,” Reykjavik resident Auður Alfa Ólafsdóttir told CNN. “It is very unusual to feel the Earth shake 24 hours a day for a whole week. It makes you feel very small and powerless against nature.”

What scientists have to say

Geophysicists and volcanologists say the seismic activity on the island has been intensifying since December 2019, and though volcanoes in southwestern Iceland have remained quiet for some 800 years, they said that period of rest may finally be coming to an end.

Experts assert that the intense string of earthquakes are the culmination of over a year of intense seismic activity, and that similar tremors have been observed ahead of volcanic eruptions in the past. The Icelandic Meteorological Office told The New York Times that magma movements were a likely cause for the quakes, and the agency warned that an eruption could occur within days or weeks.

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