Iceland: where is Grindavik amid risk of Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption - and Reykjanes Peninsula location
Grindavik is built over a complex network of fissures and faults
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Civil defence authorities declared a state of emergency, leading to the evacuation of Grindavik; the decision to evacuate comes as recent seismic activity in the region moved southward toward the town, prompting heightened concerns about the potential volcanic threat.
Police initiated the evacuation as monitoring efforts unveiled a subterranean corridor of magma, or semi-molten rock, extending beneath the town.
Grindavik, with a population of 3,400, is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 30 miles southwest of Reykjavik, the capital. The Iceland Meteorological Office emphasised the uncertainty of the situation, noting that it is currently impossible to determine with precision if or where magma might breach the surface.
In response to the escalating situation, authorities have elevated the aviation alert level to orange, indicating a heightened risk of a volcanic eruption.
But where exactly is the Reykjanes Peninsula and the town of Grindavik, and how common is volcanic activity there? Here is everything you need to know about it.
Where is the Reykjanes Peninsula?
The Reykjanes Peninsula is in southwestern Iceland, extending into the North Atlantic Ocean. Remarkably close to Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, the peninsula is approximately 30 miles southwest of the city. This geographic proximity makes it a convenient destination for both locals and tourists seeking a quick escape from the capital.
How common are volcanic eruptions there?
In geological terms, the Reykjanes Peninsula is positioned between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, making it a hotbed of geological activity.
This unique location - atop a complex network of fissures and faults - contributes to the area's distinct landscapes, characterised by rugged coastlines, geothermal and lava fields, but the peninsula is also no stranger to volcanic and seismic activity. The frequency and intensity of such activity in the region can vary over time. The geological dynamics of the Reykjanes Peninsula are closely monitored by scientific institutions such as Iceland's Meteorological Office, which plays a crucial role in providing early warnings and assessing potential hazards.
One of the most recent significant eruptions in the region occurred in 2021, when the Fagradalsfjall volcano came to life after a dormant period of several centuries - thankfully, the eruption posed minimal danger to inhabited areas.
Where is Grindavik?
Grindavik, the settlement at most risk of impact from current seismic and volcanic activity, is on the southern coast of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Like many coastal Icelandic towns, it is a fishing town that has historically been linked to the sea.
Historically, Grindavik has been a hub for fishing and trade, relying on the abundant marine resources of the North Atlantic and shaping the town's identity and economy. The town's historical significance is also tied to its proximity to the Krysuvik geothermal area, which has been a source of hot springs and geothermal activity. This natural wealth has attracted settlers and visitors alike over the centuries.
Within present day Iceland, Grindavik remains a vibrant community with a population of around 3,400. While fishing continues to be a crucial part of its economy, the town has also embraced tourism, drawing visitors with its scenic landscapes and geothermal attractions, such as the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland's most iconic attractions, which is on the Reykjanes Peninsula near Grindavik. The geothermal spa, renowned for its milky-blue waters rich in minerals, attracts tourists from around the world seeking relaxation and the therapeutic benefits of its unique environment.