Iceland’s Blue Lagoon closes

Monday, November 13, 2023


It’s one of the main draws that brings visitors to Iceland, for a float in its milky-blue, comfortingly warm waters.

But the world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal pool has closed for a week. It is because of the current seismic activity around the site.

The site is part of southwest Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula. It is a thick finger of land pointing west into the North Atlantic Ocean from capital Reykjavik.

As well as the Blue Lagoon, the peninsula is also home to Iceland’s main airport, Keflavik International.

Iceland is one of the most active volcanic areas on the planet. Rather than having a central volcano, the Reykjanes Peninsula features a rift valley, with lava fields and cones.

According to the Icelandic, around 1,400 earthquakes were measured in the 24 hours. It leads up to around midday on Thursday November 9, with another 800 in the first 14 hours of Friday.

Seven of Thursday’s were of a magnitude of four or above. All of these were on the peninsula, between Eldvörp near the airport, and Sýlingarfell.

The most severe quake registered 4.8 west of Þorbjörn. It is a mountain roughly a mile south of the Blue Lagoon, at just before 1 a.m. on Thursday.

It is the largest earthquake since the activity began on October 25th. The Met Office wrote in a bulletin on Thursday.

While the accumulation of magma continues, there can be seismic activity on the Reykjavík Peninsula. This is because the magma intrusion causes increased tension in the area.

Magma three miles down

In the previous 24 hours, there were 1,200 earthquakes. They are mostly in the same area and at the same depth – around five kilometers (three miles) below ground level.

It is likely that seismic activity will continue, and be episodic in intensity, while magma accumulation is ongoing, the wrote on November 8, adding that “uplift continues in the area.”

By Friday, the area was still active, with around 800 quakes already measured since midnight.

The report is according to a 2 p.m. local time bulletin from the Icelandic Met Office.

A “dense swarm” of quakes started at 7 a.m., culminating in a 4.1 magnitude quake near Sýlingarfell shortly before 2 p.m.

However it was also at pains to point out that an eruption isn’t necessarily imminent.

The fact that there are now larger earthquakes than before in the area does not necessarily mean an increased rate of magma accumulation, said Thursday’s Met Office bulletin.

Friday’s bulletin warned that earthquakes of up to 5.5 magnitude “can be expected” as magma accumulation continues below ground.

However, they noted, at this stage, there are no indications that magma is forcing its way to the surface.

An explosive recent past

The Reykjanes Peninsula has now been coded yellow – one above the rest of the country’s green – for eruption risk.

According to a statement from Visit Reykjanes, the local tourist board, the current activity is similar to that preceding last year’s eruption of Fagradalsfjall, around 8.5 miles southwest of the Blue Lagoon.

Fagradalsfjall has erupted every year since 2021.

The latest eruption took place from July 10 to August 8, 2023. When hiking trails were reopened in August, visitors were warned not to walk on the still “steaming hot” lava.

There is no way of accurately predicting whether, where, or when this could result in a volcanic eruption or the possible size of such an eruption Þuríður Aradóttir Braun, manager of Visit Reykjanes told a news media.

The Blue Lagoon’s pool, spa, hotels and restaurants closed on November 9 and are scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. on November 16, according to a statement on the website.

Any visitors with bookings will receive a full refund. Guests with reservations through November 15 have already been contacted, they confirmed.

Other tour operators near Mount Þorbjörn have also suspended activities until at least November 16, according to the local tourist board.

One road has been closed, and access to the Elvörp geosite has been halted.

The closures will be reevaluated on November 16, according to a notice from the tourist board.

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