Iceland Braces for Potential Volcanic Eruption

Nov 13, 2023

Iceland's Volcanic System

Iceland has declared a state of emergency. It is evacuating residents of the coastal town of Grindavík. This comes after a series of earthquakes. And they could portend the eruption of a volcano.

On Friday the Iceland Meteorological Office recorded nearly 800 earthquakes. They happened between midnight and 2pm. Officials said they were unsure if the earthquakes will lead to an eruption. But they think it might be likely.

“Earthquakes may become bigger than those that have already occurred,” stated Iceland’s Civil Protection Agency (CPA). The CPA said "this sequence of events could lead to an eruption. (Yet), there are still no signs that the magma is nearing the surface." But the CPA assured the magma's progress is being closely watched.

The Nordic island nation is highly prone to volcanic activity. Why? It sits atop the mid-Atlantic Ocean ridge. This means it's like a volcanic island in the ocean. And it rests atop tectonic plates that shift at times. The island is home to 32 active volcanoes. Since 2021, an eruption has occurred almost every 12 months. The latest one took place in July. It happened south of Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik.

In this case, officials have said they cannot yet pinpoint the precise region of a likely eruption. That’s because it has been a challenge to tell if and where the magma might break through to the surface.

The US Embassy in Iceland issued an alert to US citizens there. It advised them to follow Icelandic officials’ guidance should an eruption occur. The US alert said that “hazards may include lavatoxic gases, and heavy smoke from fires (sparked) by lava.”

Reflect: How do you think living in a place with frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity might affect the daily lives of the people there?

The infographic supports the reader in answering which of the following questions? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. How many active volcanoes are in Iceland?
b. Which tectonic plates does Iceland sit on?
c. When was the last volcanic eruption in Iceland?
d. Which country has the most active volcanoes?
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