Iceland experienced 700 earthquakes on Tuesday, according to meteorologists. Another 800 quakes were detected on Wednesday.
The quakes came after scientists detected sulfur dioxide, a highly reactive gas, which means magma is near the surface. If the colorless gas is detected when a volcano has not yet erupted, it could mean that it will soon.
According to the Iceland Meteorological Office, the majority of the earthquakes that happened on Wednesday were at a depth between 2-3 miles, in the middle of a magma dyke. They also found evidence that magma is ‘still flowing and active’, though the dyke seems to be solidifying in the area.
While the strongest earthquake from Tuesday only measured at 3.1, the likelihood of a volcanic eruption in the area remains high.
The Iceland Meteorological Office said in an update that an eruption is most likely to occur on the magma intrusion. There are no other potential eruption sites, according to their most recent hazard assessment.
A subsequent update on Wednesday announced there was no change in the situation – that the risk of an eruption is still high.
The director of the Service and Research Division, Matthew James Roberts, said the situation, which began in late October, took a ‘sudden turn’ on Friday and that it’s ‘concerning.’
The intrusion, a ‘thin sliver of magma’, which began to make its way to the ground surface, is beneath the town of Grindavik and is estimated to be over 9 miles long.
The magma dyke, where the eruption is most likely to take place, is also near a populated area, including a popular tourist destination known as the Blue Lagoon, which is not too far from the country’s international airport.
According to Roberts, the magma building up under the ground is causing it to ‘balloon and deform’, as its volume increases. Massive cracks and gaping holes have already been discovered, separating roads.
The greatest concern is that the magma will go up to the ground and create a lava-producing volcanic eruption, that can cause tremendous fissures and damage to the region.
Currently, Iceland is under a state of emergency, as the volcanic eruption can occur any day. Those who live in the vicinity have already been forced to evacuate.