KEY POINTS

  • Over 5,000 earthquakes have been recorded in Iceland
  • The country's most active volcano could erupt soon
  • Grímsvötn volcano has been showing signs of activity since January

A local agency in Iceland has detected over 5,000 earthquakes in certain parts of the country during the last couple of days. The earthquake swarm was recorded as authorities warned about a possible eruption from the country’s most active volcano.

According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), the earthquakes began on June 19. Many of them were recorded in northern Iceland with magnitudes of over 5. The unusual seismic activity triggered landslides in the northern part of the country.

Through a series of tweets, the IMO noted that more earthquakes are expected to occur within the next couple of days.

“The earthquake swarm began on 19th of June,” the agency stated. “More than 5000 earthquakes have been detected, three of which measured greater than magnitude 5. The largest was on Sunday at 19:07 of M5.8 around 30 kilometers [north northeast] of Siglufjörður.”

Reports about the ongoing earthquake swarm were made after the IMO confirmed that Grimsvotn is in danger of erupting. Located on the northwestern side of the Vatnajokull ice cap, Grimsvotn is regarded as Iceland’s most active volcano.

Its last eruption, which occurred in 2011, led to the cancellation of about 900 flights in Europe and the temporary closure of a nearby airport.

According to the IMO, scientists have recently detected high levels of sulfur dioxide coming from the volcano, which indicates the presence of magma beneath Grimsvotn. The scientists noted that the volcano has been showing signs of activity since January of this year.

“This is the first time that we measure so much [sulfur dioxide] at a volcano in Iceland that is not in an eruptive phase and its presence is indicative of magma at shallow level,” Melissa Anne Pfeffer of the IMO said in a statement, according to Newsweek.

It is not yet clear if the earthquake swarm and Grimsvotn’s current status are related to one another. The IMO believes that the volcano’s eruption could be caused by another factor, which is glacial flooding caused by melting ice in the area.

“The possibility of an eruption triggered by a glacial flood, which could occur in the coming weeks or months, has to be considered,” the IMO stated, according to Deutsche Welle.

Mount Merapi is Indonesia's most active volcano Mount Merapi is Indonesia's most active volcano Photo: BNPB / Handout