The public is being asked to stay away from the site of a newly-started eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, Southwest Iceland. RÚV reports that while the area is not officially closed, Civil Protection authorities have asked the public to stay away from the site while conditions are being assessed.
Icelandic Met Office staff first became aware that an eruption had begun on the Reykjanes peninsula around 1:30 this afternoon. A fissure, around 300 metres long, has opened at the same site where the Fagradalsfjall eruption occurred between March and September of last year.
A flight ban is currently in effect over the area as well, though officials say it is only a temporary measure while conditions are being assessed.
The eruption is relatively small and is located a considerable distance from inhabited areas and infrastructure. Gas pollution emitted by the eruption is currently streaming south, away from inhabited areas. The first pictures of the eruption published by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management can be seen below.
An eruption has begun on the Reykjanes peninsula, Southwest Iceland. Icelandic Met Office staff first became aware of the eruption around 1:30 PM today. Magma is spewing out of a several-hundred-metre-long fissure at the location, and considerable gas is rising from the site. The active fissure is located at Fagradalsfjall, in a lava field created by last year’s eruption in the same location.
Strong earthquakes, including several over M5, had shaken Southwest Iceland in recent days. The activity was reminiscent to that which occurred preceding last year’s eruption. Yesterday, a notice from the Icelandic Met Office stated that an eruption was likely in the coming days or weeks – that estimation has now been proved correct.
The eruption can be watched in a live feed from mbl.is below.
The Civil Protection Department has raised its preparedness phase from the uncertainty phase to emergency phase. This means that immediate measures are being taken to ensure the safety and security of those in the eruption area.
The eruption is currently small and is located a considerable distance from inhabited areas and infrastructure, in Meradalir valley. Volcanology Professor Þorvaldur Þórðarson told RÚV that at the current flow rate, it would take a considerable amount of time for lava to fill the valley and begin flowing out to other areas. It is possible other fissures or craters will open in the eruption.
The eruption poses no danger to flights in and out of Keflavík International Airport at this time.
Crews are now in the process of determining whether the area needs to be evacuated. Anyone at the eruption site is advised to remain upwind of the gas emerging from the site in order to avoid gas poisoning.
UPDATE: The eruption site is currently closed to traffic as the situation is assessed.
Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula could be preparing another eruption less than a year since its last one ended. Magma is collecting in an intrusion only one kilometre below the earth’s surface beneath Fagradalsfjall, the site of last year’s eruption. A notice from the Icelandic Met Office states the chances of an eruption have increased and are now considerable.
Strong earthquakes have been shaking the southwest region for days, leading authorities to declare a state of uncertainty for the area. However, the earthquakes have calmed over the last day or so, which may be a precursor to an eruption, if last year’s is any indication.
“Preliminary deformation modelling results suggest the top depth of the new dike intrusion beneath Fagradalsfjall is very shallow – about 1 km,” the notice from Met Office reads. “The magma inflow rate is rapid, almost double that observed during the first dike intrusion in february-march 2021. There are indications that the deformation and seismicity is declining and this was precursory to the eruption which started on 19th March 2021. Considering all of the above, the likelihood of an eruption at Fagradalsfjall within the coming days is considered to be substantial.”
Could be more powerful eruption than Fagradalsfjall
If the ongoing activity leads to an eruption, Geophysicist Freysteinn Sigmundsson told RÚV it may be more powerful than last year’s Fagradalsfjall eruption, as the rate of inflow into the magma intrusion is much higher than with last year’s.
“Because the flow is greater, there could be more force in this eruption, but the nature of the eruption would most likely be the same,” Freysteinn explained. “An effusive eruption with craters, and that the flow would be limited to certain craters.” If the flow is greater, that could mean more lava on the surface, more gas, and even a little bit of ash, Freysteinn explained. Last year’s eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula did not produce ash or gas in amounts that caused significant safety or travel issues.
The Civil Protection Department held a briefing yesterday for authorities, Met Office staff, and members of the scientific community to review the ongoing activity on Reykjanes. They emphasised that response crews are prepared to respond should an eruption occur.
Glowing red lights on the Fagradalsfjall live feed around 1:00 AM last night led observers to believe an eruption had started – it was, however, only a brush fire.
Considerable rainfall is forecasted for North Iceland today, particularly in the eastern part of the region and on the Tröllaskagi peninsula. Elevated water levels are expected in rivers, and localised flooding may occur. There is also increased risk of rock falls and landslides in the area due to the wet and windy weather. A yellow weather alert has been issued for the region.
Outdoor activities such as hiking are not advised in North Iceland today due to the combination of wet weather, strong wind, and low temperatures. Travellers in the area can monitor weather conditions on the Icelandic Met Office website and road conditions at road.is.
Conditions are expected to improve by 6:00 PM in Northwest Iceland and by 9:00 PM in the northeast region. Mild weather is in the forecast for other regions of the country today.
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