Scientists revealed on Thursday that a river of magma rushed beneath a fishing community in Iceland at the end of last year at a rate never before seen as the area saw another powerful eruption.
On Thursday, the third volcanic fissure to strike the western Reykjanes peninsula since December caused lava to rupture a major water line, prompting Icelandic authorities to declare a state of emergency.
The fact that there had not been an eruption on the peninsula until 2021 indicates that the region’s volcanic activity may have resumed.
Researchers warn that there are no signs of this activity stopping down after examining how magma erupted from a reservoir located kilometers below the settlement of Grindavik in November through a long, thin “vertical sheet” of earth.
The most recent crack that split the Earth’s surface close to the now-evacuated community appeared to confirm that forecast, occurring just hours before the new study was published in the journal Science.
A powerful, molten river
According to the study, the raging magma on November 10 formed a so-called dyke underground over the course of six hours. It is only a few meters broad and is fifteen kilometers (nine miles) in length and four kilometers (2.5 miles) in height.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office states that prior to Thursday’s explosion, 6.5 million cubic meters of magma had accumulated beneath the area including Grindavik.
According to Sigmundsson, the magma had flowed at a rate of 7,400 cubic meters per second, “a scale we have not measured before” in Iceland or anywhere else.
By contrast, the Seine River in Paris flows at an average of only 560 cubic meters per second. The magma flow resembled that of bigger rivers like the Yukon or Danube.
Aside from causing numerous earthquakes, the rising subsurface pressure has also caused the ground to rise a few millimeters per day, causing massive fissures in the earth and harming the surrounding area’s infrastructure in and around Grindavik.
There will be more magma
The renowned Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, the Svartsengi power station, and the settlement itself have all been evacuated multiple times because to the threat of eruptions.
It is now up for question whether portions of the region situated on such unstable land can remain viable in the long run.
While stressing that such choices belonged to the government, Sigmundsson declared that this was unquestionably “a period of uncertainty for the town of Grindavik”.
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a fissure in the ocean floor that divides the tectonic plates of North America and Europe, is where Iceland is located.
During the course of the last eight centuries, as these plates have gradually shifted apart, “tectonic stress” has built up, which, according to Sigmundsson, was a major factor in the magma’s ability to burst through the subsurface geological fracture.
The investigation, according to the researchers, may help identify factors that contribute to eruptions in different parts of the planet.