Iceland eruption postponement

Decision taken after the EU expressed concern

This was of course our April-1 story, aimed to amuse rather than fool, in these dark days. The idea came from Lughduniense and Geolurking, and images were artfully created by Lughduniense. Carl proclaimed it ‘wonderful’ and Manning was happy to ‘help’. And I just did the writing up. This was a team effort. Our thanks go to all the readers who told us it put a smile on their face. What more could we ask for?

And now for the story.

The Iceland Tourist Office announced this morning that the impending eruption at Þorbjörn on the Reykjanes peninsula has been postponed until 2021. The decision was taken after a full-day meeting involving a delegation from the EU headed by EU commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičiusr (Environment, Oceans and Fisheries) and the Iceland Minister of Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir.

Þorbjörn is currently weeks away from erupting. The renewed inflation (see here for the latest IMO curve) is expected to cross the critical level (the top line in the curve) in mid-April, with an eruption following between 16 and 20 April. The eruption is expected to last up to a week, and to be a major tourist attraction. Þorbjörn is conveniently located close to both the capital, Reykjavik, and the major international airport, Keflavik, and the lava will safely run into the ocean. The Iceland Tourist Office has started to prepare safe access and viewing areas. The eruption was expected to give a welcome boost to the Icelandic economy. However, the current travel restrictions means that too few overseas visitors will be able to visit the eruption. In addition, it may be difficult to enforce the social distancing requirement, or to comply with the Minister of Health’s ban on larger gatherings which limits eruption viewings to no more than 100 people at a time.

The European Union has added to the pressure because of concerns on air quality in Western Europe during the eruption. Based on the forecasted wind patterns in mid-April, the eruption would likely violate EU air quality directive 2008/50/EC. The EU promised to provide additional financial assistance in the recovery phase from the current epidemic, if Iceland was willing to reschedule the eruption.

It was therefore decide to stop the on-going inflation. Completely cancelling the eruption was not considered because of the touristic impact. The eruption is instead rescheduled for 2021.

The method used to delay the eruption was not explained by the Iceland Tourist Office press release. However, the Blue Lagoon Company has confirmed that Iceland will use the Blue Lagoon to extract heat from the new magma, thus reducing the pressure. The Blue Lagoon consists of waste water from the geothermal plant. By drilling deeper and greatly increasing the pump pressure the water will be brought closer to new magma and extract heat from it. The circulation speed will be greatly increased. The Blue Lagoon will become too hot for bathing, but the area is currently closed to the public anyway. The Blue Lagoon is scheduled to re-open in August 2020 although this may be postponed if there is a further magma intrusion during the spring or summer.

The newly developed MCC, here shown as a prototype in California.

The method will make use of the newly developed Magma Cooling Cycler (colloquially called the VSE, for volcano suppressor engine), which creates the extreme pressure required to push water deep enough and to keep the superheated water from turning to vapour underground. The cycler is based on a design by Joseph Manning, Professor of Volcanic Suppression at Yale University (currently in Iceland) and was build at the University of California at Santa Barbara. A version of the VSE has already been installed at the Blue Lagoon during the current closure under guidance of Manning.

The superheated water will create a large geyser within the Blue Lagoon. Access will be strictly prohibited, however the geyser will be easily visible from Keflavik, possibly as early as this afternoon.

 

Tour operators have begun to offer eruption tours for 2021. However, care should be taken when booking these as the precise dates of the 2021 eruption are still being discussed with the EU.

April 1, 2020

Ps. Update: The pumps have been turned on this morning. The water pressure caused two M3 earthquakes when the water reached the magma chamber.

34 thoughts on “Iceland eruption postponement

  1. Looks like they started the pumps now. Two stars immediately showed up. Now, where do I book the tour? 😂

  2. You forgot to mention the fact the new geyser will affect flights into Keflavik. It will provide a virus-cleansing steam-heated wash for aircraft on approach.
    Fun article, thanks Albert!

  3. One of the best April fools I have seen in the last 50odd years.
    Interesting how the Icelandic Gods react to it, I hope they are in a good mood.
    I am sure the EU would cancel the odd eruption here and there if it could… What have you started?!!!

    • First they have to form a committee to discuss it. That could take some time.

  4. Seen written in the dirt on the back of a tradesman’s van:
    “No toilet paper is stored in this van overnight”.

    • No sh*t!

      Sorry I had to reply to this comment in this funny way!
      Great story, farmeroz

      • Indeed, made me giggle, a lot. I hope you are now well on the mend. Out of interest did any other members of your family contract it? They may be symptomless or genetically resistant, or women.

  5. OK, assuming that’s a real building somewhere, what the heck is it?
    My guess, the Icelandic Mormon Temple!
    (Just based on the DC Temple.)

  6. In other (real) news, Stromboli has begun a large eruption with lava and rock slides reaching the sea.
    It must not have gotten the EU memo.

  7. That’s funny Albert, but you open yourself up to prosecution (if they can find you), for taking the peas out of the EU.
    Oh and did you know it’s always April the first in the EU commission, there, now I’m in trouble too.
    Love your posts, you and everyone at the cafe keep well.

  8. Your proclamation of postponement has been noted and will be given the serious attention it is due, after the credentials of its authors have been scrutinized and referees contacted.

  9. And news from the other side of the planet

    The OVPF has recorded 92 volcano-tectonic earthquakes at the Piton de la Fournaise volcano on April 2, 2020, from 04:15 to 04:51 UTC (08:15 to 08:51 UTC). Following the seismic crisis in the morning and a four-hour lull, another volcanic tremor was at 08:20 UTC (12:20 LT). The prefect of the Reunion Islands decided to implement Alert level 2 before visual confirmation of an eruption. Soon after, an overflight carried out by SAG and the PGHM confirmed the opening of cracks on the eastern flank of the volcano, about 1.7 km (1 mile) from the summit.

  10. Iceland needs to let it’s volcanoes breathe!
    It needs to take notes from Columbia! Chiles-Cerro Negro is being held back by coronavirus. Hell it might going through another intrusion. (Seriously If admin doesn’t mind I will put my thoughts on that at the bar.)

  11. Really nice one. Can someone come up with a model to guess the eruption date assuming it will erupt some day in 2021?

  12. Question: as I understand it from the past posts on Grimsvötn and its predictions, it seems the volcano is in some sort of correlation to its brother Bardy. Meaning both need to be under a sort of pressure (low or high, I’ll leave that be) for the other to be able to erupt. Now, its seems Bardy has been quite quiet since a while, and it’s activity seems to have shifted mid 2019 from the caldera proper to Hamarinn/Loki-Fögrufjöll (and perhaps even much further on via the Veidivötn fissure into Torfajökull?). So if this is the case, that Hamarinn is the stress factor this time round, couldn’t that influence the upcoming eruption of Grims? Or am I getting all sort of things mixed up?

    • That is a good question. The systems have separate magma feeds but are linked in some ways as activity in one system tends to suppress it elsewhere. And you can only have one rift rifting at the same time. Grimsvotn doesn’t really rift though, at least hasn’t done it since Laki. You should add Askja to the list: it also is becoming more and more active.

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