Lava Flow Not Likely to Reach Southern Highway or Sea

As the situation stands now, it is highly unlikely that the southern lava flow of last night’s eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula of southwestern Iceland will reach Suðurstrandarvegur, the road that runs along the south coast of Reykjanes.

As reported, the fissure which erupted between Hagafell and Stóri Skógfell sent lava flowing both westerly and southerly. The westerly lava flow ceased to advance this afternoon, but the southerly lava flow, while diverted away from the town of Grindavík by earthen walls, continued to advance.

This raised cause for concern, for several reasons. If it reached Suðurstrandarvegur that would naturally further impede traffic to and from central Reykjanes; the road Grindavíkurvegur, which connects Grindavík to the Reykjanesbraut highway, has already been overrun with lava.

Roads, however, can be detoured. Of greater concern was the lava reaching an area farm south of that road, and then the sea. Were that to happen, natural hazards specialist Pálmi Erlendsson said, it would release a steam plume containing toxic gases.

At that time, the lava was advancing south at a rate of about 20 metres per hour, and was 400 metres away from Suðurstrandarvegur. The Icelandic Met Office now states that this lava has reduced to some 12 metres an hour, and is still 200 to 300 metres away from Suðurstrandarvegur. Even if that did reach the road, it would need to travel another 350 metres to reach the see.

Given how much the lava has slowed over this period of time, and the distance it has yet to traverse, it is now considered unlikely that the lava will even reach Suðurstrandarvegur, let alone the sea. That said, seismic activity in Reykjanes is likely to continue for a while to come yet.

Lava Flow Nearing Small Farm and Sea

eruption march 2024

Lava flow from the eruption which began last night on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland is beginning to slow down, but newer dangers have arisen.

As reported, the initial fissure, stretching from Hagafell to Stóri Skógfell, was three and a half kilometres long and considerably more powerful than the previous recent eruptions in the area. From this fissure, lava began to flow in two directions: west and south.

The flow to the west has all but stopped, but the lava flowing south is continuing, albeit slowly. However, it presents new dangers if it continues flowing.

This southerly lava flow was diverted away from the town of Grindavík thanks to earthen walls, but the lava is also flowing in the direction of a farm near the south coast of Reykjanes called Hraun (which literally means “lava”).

Hörður Sigurðsson, who lives at Hraun, told reporters that he was very surprised when the eruption began. He and his wife, who is not named, were at the time at Ásabrú, near Keflavík, where they have been for the past few months. They and others had been working on an earthen dam to protect the farm when the eruption occurred, and are now in a state of uncertainty about the future of Hraun, as it is in the lava’s path.

“But you’re so optimistic that everything will be alright,” he said. “You become a little careless this way. You just don’t want to believe anything else; perhaps you’re in some kind of denial.”

Vísir reports that the lava is flowing at a rate of about 20 metres per hour, and is about 400 metres away from Suðurstrandarvegur, the road that runs along the south coast of Reykjanes, at the time of this reporting.

Pálmi Erlendsson, a natural hazards specialist, told reporters that the lava flowing over the road is one thing; it reaching the sea would be a whole other matter. While saying that it is impossible to tell by how much the lava will slow down, if it does reach the sea, it will release large quantities of toxic gases and it would be “unhealthy to live near the area” when, or if, that should happen.

How to Book a Mountain Cabin

A person sitting in the snow outside a mountain hut in Kerlingafjöll.

The Icelandic Highland is the place to go if you’re looking for an escape from reality. With no paved roads or lampposts, serene wilderness that goes on forever, and dramatic scenery that will give you the feel of a movie-worthy adventure, it’s perfect for leaving the outside world behind for a bit. While truly magical, the Highlands are no exception to the typical Icelandic weather conditions, so if you’re spending the night there, you might want to opt for a mountain cabin rather than a tent.

Finding and booking mountain cabins

You can book guided tours in the Highland where cabin accommodations are included, but they’re also fairly easy to book on your own. The highland cabins are run by several companies, each with its own website. On ferdalag.is, you can find a comprehensive list of nearly all available cabins. You can browse through the list or use their map to view them by location. By clicking on each cabin, you’ll get some practical information and images, as well as contact details and a link to the service provider’s official website or Facebook page. 

Some huts have a booking system you can book through, but others require sending an email inquiry or call. In some cases, it’s possible to arrive without a booking, but we strongly recommend avoiding that unless you have a tent with you as a backup. You never know how many people will be in the area. 

What to expect

Much like in a hostel, what you’ll usually get when staying in a mountain cabin is a bed in a shared sleeping space and access to a kitchen and bathroom. However, facilities will be different in each hut. For instance, they don’t all have running water throughout the year, and sometimes, you’ll have to bring your own toilet paper. Details about this will be available on the service provider’s official webpage. The types of sleeping arrangements vary between locations as well. There are cabins with regular single bunk beds or freestanding beds, and there are cabins with large mattresses where you’ll be sleeping beside others. Usually, you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag. 

Avalanche Warning in the Westfjords

The Icelandic Met Office has issued an orange warning, the second highest rating, for the Westfjords due to weather conditions that include the danger of avalanches.

A yellow warning is currently in effect for the entire northwest quadrant of Iceland due to high winds and snowfall. In the Westfjords, winds ranging from 15 to 23 metres per second are expected, along with heavy snowfall. Those winds are expected to intensify over the night.

Heavy snowfall and high winds over an area characterised by tall and steep mountains has the combined effect of all the conditions for an avalanche, and the Met Office has issued an avalanche warning for the northern portion of the Westfjords.

Mercifully, it is not believed that these avalanches will reach near any human settlements, although that may change. Roads may find themselves suddenly cut off due to avalanches, and given the forecast weather conditions, rescuing anyone trapped on the roads in an avalanche would be very challenging.

As with any orange warning, it is strongly advised that any travel plans in the area during this time are cancelled. Conditions are expected to clear come Tuesday but, as is often the case with weather in Iceland, this too may be subject to change.

Bohemian Waxwing Returns to East Iceland At Last

After an absence of at least a decade, the Bohemian waxwing has again been spotted in East Iceland, East Iceland news service Austurfrétt reports.

The news comes from data collected from the annual bird count. As reported, BirdLife Iceland (Fuglavernd) encourages Icelanders each year to go outside and mark how many and of which types of birds they spot in their own backyards, or in public parks.

The last time a Bohemian waxwing was seen in East Iceland was during the 2013 bird count, and even then, only eight were spotted. This year, 35 were spotted all over the country, in addition to 13 in the northeast.

Bohemian waxwings are northern birds, most commonly seen across Canada, Russia and Scandinavia. In the winter, they can get very bold in their search for food and enter human settlements. Austurfrétt advises that “there are few things Bohemian waxwings like better than apples”, for those who want to leave food out for these birds.

This article has been changed to reflect that these birds have returned to East Iceland in particular; not Iceland as a whole.

“Most Powerful Eruption” in Recent Years Slowing, May Stop Later Today

volcano, 16.3.24, Reykjanes eruption, eldgos

The eruption on Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland which began last night is, in the words of volcanologist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, the most powerful of the recent Reykjanes eruptions, telling Vísir:

“This seems to be the most powerful eruption to date. The fissure is about three and a half kilometres long, very active. It reaches from the northern face of Hagafell and northwards to Stóri Skógfell. All of it is very active. … Now it is just a question of how quickly it slows down.” As of this morning, the eruption is now flowing from two fissures, with a combined length of a few hundred metres long.

As reported, the Blue Lagoon and the nearby town of Grindavík have both been evacuated, and electricity to the town has been turned off.

The eruption also does appear to be slowing down, and could even end later today. However, the big uncertainty is how far the lava–which is still flowing–will extend.

There have been two primary lava flows: one flowing roughly west and the other south. The western lava flow has already crossed Grindavíkurvegur, the road which connects Grindavík to Reykjanesbraut, which is the main highway to the greater capital area. The primary concern with this lava flow right now is protecting Njarðvíkuræð, a water line extending from the Svartsengi power plant to the town of Reykjanesbær. Local Suðurnes news reports that efforts are underway to bury this water line in earth to protect it.

The southern lava flow was diverted away from Grindavík thanks to earthen walls constructed for this purpose, and is reaching towards Suðurstrandarvegur, which is the highway that runs along the southern coast of Reykjanes peninsula. At the time of this writing, the lava is only about 450 metres from this road. In the event the lava reaches and covers that road, Bergþóra Kristinsdóttir of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration told reporters they would build a new one, or move it from the affected area.

Víðir Reynisson, the department director of Civil Defense, added that if the lava flow extends even farther south and reaches the sea, there is the very real danger of a steam explosion, which in turn would release a great deal of toxic gases.

Below, you can see a gallery of photos of the eruption posted by Civil Defense (direct link here):