What do we know about the December 2023 eruption near Grindavík, Iceland? Skip to content

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Reykjanes eruption Iceland eruption
Almannavarnir. The Sýlingafell eruption as seen from a Coast Guard flight
Q

What do we know about the December 2023 eruption near Grindavík, Iceland?

A

An eruption began on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula on December 18, 2023 at 10:17 PM. As of the morning of December 21, there was no visible activity at the eruption site, and the eruption has now been declared officially over. The eruption site is near Sýlingafell mountain, some 3km [1.9mi] away from the town of Grindavík. It did not impact air traffic or threaten infrastructure.

The Department of Civil Protection declared an emergency phase due to the eruption. Roads to Grindavík are closed to the public and authorities asked civilians to stay away from the eruption for their own safety and the safety of others.

 

More powerful than recent eruptions in Iceland

The December eruption was the fourth in three years on the Reykjanes peninsula. It began much more powerfully than the previous three eruptions in the same area, however. The eruption produced more lava in its first seven hours than all of the lava produced by the Litli-Hrútur eruption earlier this year.

The Sýlingafell eruption is a fissure eruption, with the southern end of the fissure some 3km [1.9mi] northeast of Grindavík, whose 3,600 residents have been evacuated since November 10. The eruptive fissure is nearly 4km [2.5mi] long, with the northeast end just east of Stóra-Skógfell mountain. Lava did not flow in the direction of Grindavík, and the flow weakened rapidly once the eruption had begun and did not impact any infrastructure. The map below shows the location of the eruption fissure in relation to Grindavík, the Blue Lagoon, and Svartsengi Power Plant.

Reykjanes eruption Iceland eruption
Icelandic Met Office. The approximate location of the eruption fissure in relation to Grindavík, the Blue Lagoon, and Svartsengi Power Station

 

Iceland eruption preceded by earthquake swarm

The eruption was preceded by an earthquake swarm that began around 9:00 PM, just over an hour before lava broke the surface. For more on the seismic events that preceded the eruption, read this article.

 

Resources

In addition to following our news coverage on the earthquakes and eruptions on Reykjanes, readers may find the following resources useful:

The Icelandic Met Office

SafeTravel, for travel warnings and tips for staying safe.

The Icelandic Road Administration and its live map of road closures throughout Iceland.

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

Iceland Review magazine published a photo series on the evacuation of Grindavík.

This article will be updated regularly.

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