The Blue Lagoon Iceland has been closed after Iceland has declared a state of emergency, forcing the evacuation of the coastal town of Grindavik, following a series of powerful earthquakes that rocked the southwest, stoking fears of a volcanic eruption.
Due to the severe earthquake (activity) near Sundhnjukagigar, north of Grindavik, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management declared a state of emergency for civil defence. “Earthquakes can become larger than those that have already occurred, and this series of events could lead to an eruption,” the administration cautioned in a statement.
Between midnight and 2 p.m. on Friday, November 10, Iceland’s Meteorological Office (IMO) recorded over 800 earthquakes, the shallowest at a depth of 3-3.5 kilometres (1.86-2.18 miles).
The Icelandic Civil Protection Agency (CPA) is concerned about a growing magma tube that could reach Grindavik. Authorities were unable to establish whether or not the magma would surface as of Friday evening.
The earthquakes have forced the closure of The Blue Lagoon Iceland, a prominent tourist attraction, for at least a week after a “seismic swarm” of tremors sparked worries of a volcanic explosion.
Blue Lagoon Iceland Shuttered
The Blue Lagoon Iceland closure will extend until 7 a.m. on November 16, affecting the lagoon as well as the company’s Retreat hotel and spa, Silica hotel, and two on-site eateries, Moss and Lava.
There is no indication on whether the closure would extend longer, but Blue Lagoon Iceland is still assessing the issue, according to the statement. Outside of the Reykjanes Peninsula, no other sites in Iceland are currently closed.
According to CNN the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), the country’s main weather service, volcanic activity began on October 24 with a “seismic swarm” of more than 4,000 earthquakes in the first few days.
The activity is due to an accumulation of magma several miles beneath the Earth’s crust and is centred in the town of Grindavik, just south of the Blue Lagoon and about 30 miles southwest of Reykjavik.
Iceland is one of the world’s most active volcanic sites. The Reykjanes Peninsula is dominated by a rift valley with lava fields and cones, rather than a single volcano.
1400 earthquakes in 24 hours
According to the Icelandic Met Office, around 1,400 earthquakes were recorded in the 24 hours preceding midday on Thursday, November 9, with another 800 recorded in the first 14 hours of Friday.
Seven of Thursday’s were of magnitude four or higher, and they were all on the peninsula, between Eldvörp, near the airport, and Slingarfell, a mountain immediately east of the Blue Lagoon.
At little before 1 a.m. on Thursday, a 4.8 magnitude earthquake struck west of orbjörn, a mountain about a mile south of the Blue Lagoon.
“It is the largest earthquake since activity began on October 25th,” the Met Office stated in a Thursday report.
“While the accumulation of magma continues, seismic activity can be expected on the Reykjavík Peninsula because the magma intrusion causes increased tension in the area.”
Tremors can be felt as far away as Reykjavik, according to a spokeswoman for the local tourist board.
In the previous 24 hours, 1,200 earthquakes were recorded, the majority of which occurred in the same area and at the same depth – approximately five kilometres (three miles) below ground level. “It is likely that seismic activity will continue, and be episodic in intensity, while magma accumulation is ongoing,” according to the article published on November 8, stating that “uplift continues in the area.”
Earthquakes of up to 5.5 magnitude
According to a 2 p.m. local time post from the Icelandic Met Office, the area remained still active on Friday, with about 800 quakes already measured since midnight. A “dense swarm” of earthquakes began at 7 a.m. and culminated in a 4.1 magnitude quake in Slingarfell just before 2 p.m.
It was also careful to emphasise that an eruption is not necessarily imminent. “The fact that there are now larger earthquakes in the area than previously does not necessarily imply an increased rate of magma accumulation,” said the Met Office statement on Thursday.
The alert issued on Friday warned that earthquakes of up to 5.5 magnitude “can be expected” as magma building below ground proceeds. On the other hand, they said, “At this stage, there are no indications that magma is forcing its way to the surface.”
For eruption risk, the Reykjanes Peninsula has been coded yellow, one above the rest of the country’s green.
The current activity, according to Visit Reykjanes, the local tourist organisation, is comparable to that preceding last year’s eruption of Fagradalsfjall, which is located about 8.5 miles southwest of the Blue Lagoon Iceland.
Since 2021, Fagradalsfjall has erupted every year. The most recent eruption occurred between July 10 and August 8, 2023. Visitors were urged not to tread on the still “steaming hot” lava when hiking paths reopened in August.