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Iceland Was Jolted by 40,000 Earthquakes in 20 Days. Is the Major Disaster Yet to Come?

Aerial view taken on February 28, 2021 shows the "Bridge between Continents", a footbridge linking the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, near the town of Grindavik on the Reykjanes peninsula, Iceland, some 50 kilometres west of the capital Reykjavik, atop the Mid- Atlantic Ridge, one of the three most seismically active areas on the planet. (AFP Photo)

Aerial view taken on February 28, 2021 shows the "Bridge between Continents", a footbridge linking the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, near the town of Grindavik on the Reykjanes peninsula, Iceland, some 50 kilometres west of the capital Reykjavik, atop the Mid- Atlantic Ridge, one of the three most seismically active areas on the planet. (AFP Photo)

While earthquakes are common in Iceland because of its topography, the number of earthquakes since February 20 has already surpassed the total number of earthquakes in 2020.

Citizens of Iceland are having sleepless nights as the country has been hit by over 40,000 earthquakes in mere 20 days. No one knows when the next one will hit or how much damage it will cause, leading citizens of the Nordic island to be on constant high-alert. However, their troubles look far from over, as experts believe these intermittent earthquakes could be a precursor to a larger disaster, like a volcanic eruption. While earthquakes are common in Iceland because of the country’s topography, the number of earthquakes since February 20 has already surpassed the total number of earthquakes in 2020.

Scientists have reported that there is a sudden increase in seismic activity in Iceland. According to Pall Einarsson, Professor Emeritus of Geophysics at the University of Iceland, this is the first time such activity is observed around the capital of Reykjavik. The strongest one was recorded at 5.7 magnitude. It is estimated that a river of molten magma or lava is trying to push its way to the surface, resulting in these quakes. The molten rock is estimated to be 1 kilometre sub-surface of the peninsula.

These seismic vibrations could lead to a volatile volcanic eruption. While the earthquakes haven’t caused any damage except fear and unrest, the eruption could have a serious impact.

According to Euro News, authorities are attempting to draft heavy machinery to create “ditches and earth walls to change the course of any molten lava, should an eruption occur.”

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The country lies in the mid-Atlantic ridge where the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates move away from each other. As a result, mild volcanic eruptions are quite common.

In case there is an eruption, experts believe it will be mainly lava. The last major volcanic eruption in Iceland occurred in 2010, at Eyjafjallajokull volcano, where massive plumes of ash covered the sky, disrupting air traffic for weeks in Europe and leaving millions of travellers stranded.

first published:March 18, 2021, 12:43 IST