Reykjanes Eruption: Alert Level Lowered, Eruption Site Still Hot Skip to content

Reykjanes Eruption: Alert Level Lowered, Eruption Site Still Hot

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

eruption reykjanes geldingadalir
Photo: Golli.

After consulting with the Reykjanes Peninsula Police Commissioner, the National Police Commissioner has decided to lower the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Response’s Readiness level from Alert to Uncertainty.

The Geldingadalir crater activity has been dormant for the past four weeks, and the seismic unrest has been compatible with that. While there has been some seismic activity around Keilir recently, it has died down in the past few days. The area is still being monitored for increased seismic activity, seismic unrest, or land rise. The site is still considered dangerous, and visitors are advised not to step on the fresh lava or approach the crater.

When the eruption began, March 19, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Response raised their alert level to Emergency, the highest level. The day after, March 20, when the extent of the eruption was clear, it was lowered to Alert.

Is it true? Is it over?

“This is one of the hardest questions geologists hear,” Natural Hazards Co-ordinator of the Icelandic Met Office Kristín Jónsdóttir told Fréttablaðið when asked if the eruption had ended. “There are many different factors. We need to consider the dangers in the area, and the considerable amount of liquid lava in the lava field by the crater. The lava has pooled there, covered by a thin shell of hardened lava,” she adds.

It’s been over a month since fresh lava flowed from the crater in Geldingadalir, but Kristín states that it doesn’t necessarily mean the eruption has ended. “Right now, there’s not much activity there, and you ask yourself if the eruption is over. It’s possible, but the activity might still pick up again. We have a plethora of examples of eruptions pausing like this,” Kristín states. She added that such a pause might last for months.

Danger, Danger

Even though there’s no new lava, there’s still flowing lava underneath the black lava field. Both the dormant crater and the fresh lava continue to emit volcanic gasses. Kristín reiterated that it’s dangerous to walk on the new lava, as even though the top layer has cooled and hardened, it’s now acting as insulation for liquid lava underneath. “The top layer is very thin. It’s like a thermos keeping its contents hot. The lava is still red-hot, and at night, you can even see embers. It’s extremely unwise to taka stroll on the lava.” Kristín states.

 

When the eruption began March 19th this year, seven months ago, many geologists called this the beginning of a new volcanic period in the Reykjanes peninsula that could last for years. Kristín told reporters that such a period can last for 2-300 years and that it’s impossible to say what happens next. “Such a period lasts much longer than a human life span. If a new volcanic period has begun, we could expect an eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula every few years.”

Read more on the volcanic eruption at Reykjanes

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