IMO: Deadly gases measured, stay away from caves in Eldvörp area on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

IMO: Deadly gases measured, stay away from caves in Eldvörp area on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

The Icelandic Met Office (IMO) is warning residents and tourists to temporarily stop exploring caves in the Eldvörp area on the Reykjanes Peninsula due to deadly gasses measured in a cave close to a parking lot.

In their warning issued at 10:59 UTC on February 21, 2020, IMO states:

"We warn about cave excursions in the Eldvörp area on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Deadly gases were measured yesterday of CO2 as well as deadly oxygen levels in a cave close to a parking lot, popular for hikers."

Kristín Jónsdóttir, a team leader with the natural disaster watch at the IMO, told RUV that the warning only applies to caves in the area. "Walking in the area should be safe. It’s a beautiful area and it’s fun to explore. But we’re warning travelers to refrain from exploring the caves," Jónsdóttir said.

The warning comes amid still active earthquake swarm near the city of Grindavik and uplift at Mt. Thorbjorn volcano. As a result, IMO is performing weekly gas measurements.

"The most likely explanation of the uplift and earthquake activity is that we have a magmatic intrusion at 3 to 9 km (1.8 - 5.6 miles) depth just west of Thorbjorn," IMO stated state earlier this year.

The fact that inflation is occurring alongside the earthquake swarm is a cause for concern and closer monitoring, IMO said.

"The inflation is unusually rapid, around 3 - 4 mm (0.11 - 0.15 inches) per day and has accumulated to 2 cm (0.78 inches) to date. It has been detected both on continuous GPS stations and in InSAR images," the office said.


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Geological summary

The Reykjanes volcanic system at the SW tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula, where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge rises above sea level, comprises a broad area of postglacial basaltic crater rows and small shield volcanoes.

The submarine Reykjaneshryggur volcanic system is contiguous with and is considered part of the Reykjanes volcanic system, which is the westernmost of a series of four closely-spaced en-echelon fissure systems that extend diagonally across the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Most of the subaerial part of the volcanic system (also known as the Reykjanes/Svartsengi volcanic system) is covered by Holocene lavas.

Subaerial eruptions have occurred in historical time during the 13th century at several locations on the NE-SW-trending fissure system, and numerous submarine eruptions at Reykjaneshryggur dating back to the 12th century have been observed during historical time, some of which have formed ephemeral islands.

Basaltic rocks of probable Holocene age have been recovered during dredging operations, and tephra deposits from earlier Holocene eruptions are preserved on the nearby Reykjanes Peninsula. (GVP)

Featured image credit: Guðjón Ottó Bjarnason

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