UC professor explains possible volcanic eruption in Iceland

Small earthquakes and an increase in volcanic gas continues
Iceland prepares for a large volcanic eruption
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 3:44 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - People in Iceland are fleeing part of the island after a series of small earthquakes may indicate a volcanic eruption is imminent.

“There is a high probability of an eruption in the next few weeks,” says University of Cincinnati Professor and Geologist Thomas Algeo.

Algeo has spent some time in Iceland and says it’s a great place to study volcanic activity.

Iceland sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is a mountain range that is mostly under the Atlantic Ocean. However, in Iceland it rises to the surface and spreads over time, causing these eruptions.

Despite the volcanic possibility, Algeo says tourists don’t need to stay away from Iceland.

“Well, actually, these small eruptions are called tourist eruptions because they are relatively small,” Algeo explains. “It is safe to view, and the hazards are limited. It’s a good opportunity to see eruptions of this kind. There is always some hazard involved with any volcanic eruption.”

Parts of Grindavik, which has a population of 3,600 people, is under evacuation orders.

Right now, the threat is modest, but there are higher levels of volcanic gas in the air, and hundreds of small daily earthquakes continue.

Algeo says the last big eruption in Iceland was in the 1780s when many animals were killed by the volcanic gas in the air, leading to a famine that killed a large part of the population.

“There is clearly potential for more big eruptions, although such big eruptions tend to occur only in intervals of a few hundred years,” Algeo adds.

It’s worth noting these particular eruptions started two years ago in the spring of 2021, but they have increased in frequency, prompting the evacuations and the threat of a much larger eruption.

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