Iceland volcano could erupt imminently - officials

Officials say at eruption of Mount Keilir on the Reykjanes Peninsula could happen within a hours.
Officials say at eruption of Mount Keilir on the Reykjanes Peninsula could happen within a hours. Photo credit: Getty Images

Scientists in Iceland are predicting a volcanic eruption following several days of high seismic activity around Mount Keilir on the Reykjanes Peninsula. 

Swarms of earthquakes have been shaking the peninsula since February 24 with 15,000 quakes detected, the largest a magnitude of 5.7, reports English language news outlet Iceland Review.

Local officials say the unrest along with significant deformation of the land surface - which can be interpreted as magma sitting close to the surface - points towards an imminent eruption.

"That does not mean that we have signs that an eruption has begun," Kristín Jónsdóttir, group leader of nature conservation monitoring at the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), told TV station RUV. 

"But this looks like the turmoil we expect on the eve of an eruption."

Speaking to RUV, Víðir Reynisson from the Icelandic Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management says the eruption is "likely" and could occur within a matter of hours. 

Reynisson insisted there was "no immediate danger" as any lava flow was unlikely to reach populated areas, but asked people to refrain from driving to the peninsula.

Although Iceland's capital city of Reykjavík is relatively close to the volcano it's out of harm's way due to the style of the eruptions that occur on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Eruptions are more likely to be lava flows rather than a forceful explosion of lava and ash shooting into the sky. 

The eruption is expected to be fairly non-disruptive, unlike the chaos that ensued when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano further south threw volcanic ash several kilometres into the air in 2010, closing airspace and affecting 10 million travellers. 

There is a possibility of air traffic being disrupted with the aviation alert for flights in and out of the capital city being raised to orange. An orange alert means a major eruption is expected but poses little risk to planes due to low levels of ash. 

It will be the first major eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula since 1831 and can be watched through a webcam live stream here.