Iceland Facing Uncertain Future As Volcanic Activity Increases

After a lava stream flooded the village of Grindavik in southwest Iceland on Sunday, the nation—home to 130 volcanoes and two tectonic plates—entered a new seismic phase. Residents of the Reykjanes peninsula are understandably anxious in the wake of this latest eruption, the seventh to strike the area since 2021.

The Fagradalsfjall volcano has erupted twice in a month, disrupting power and water services. On Monday, the Icelandic government will convene to determine how to assist the residents of Grindavík. Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir has warned that the region is very vulnerable and that other cracks might appear at any moment.

Due to the eruption, the 3,800 people living in Grindavík are now uncertain about the town’s future viability. After eight centuries of relative quiet, the Reykjanes Peninsula has become active again. In preparation for a possible eruption, Iceland has constructed protective barriers around a geothermal power station that provides the region with hot water and other neighboring locations that might be at risk.

In November, the 3,600 residents of the fishing town Grindavik were forced to leave due to intense seismic activity on the peninsula. In December, the city was once again evacuated when a stream of lava erupted in a remote valley north of Grindavík for several days, albeit it did not do any visible damage. The 200 individuals who stayed behind were told to evacuate by the authorities just before Sunday’s eruption, and residents were warned not to return to their houses.

The return of Grindavik’s inhabitants is uncertain in light of the scalding orange flow of lava that descended on the town on Sunday from an underground fissure. The prime minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir, said that the authorities must begin considering “long-term solutions” due to the enormous burden of evacuating the population of Grindavík.

Constant volcanic activity on the Fagradalsfjall mountain range, from which the Reykjanes Peninsula first erupted in 2021, has increased tourism in Grindavik. But the town is in danger from the volcanoes, so the people living there will have to return to the island as soon as it’s safe.