Prudent to Reinforce Barriers for Anticipated Eruption Skip to content

Prudent to Reinforce Barriers for Anticipated Eruption

By Ragnar Tómas

Protective barrriers in Reykjanes
Photo: Golli. Lava from Reykjanes flowing onto a protective barrier.

A volcanologist anticipates a potential summer eruption in Sundhnúksgígar to be similar to past events, reports, although increased lava mounds will likely complicate magma flow predictions. The Icelandic Meteorological Office reports a quicker land uplift rate in the area, suggesting a likely eruption in the coming weeks or months.

Similar to previous eruptions

If another eruption occurs this summer in the Sundhnúkar crater row, volcanologist Haraldur Sigurðsson expects it to be similar to previous ones.

In an interview with published yesterday, Haraldur noted that the lava mound in the Sundhnúksgígar area has increased, making it more challenging to control the flow of magma and predict its direction. For instance, protecting areas near the Blue Lagoon and Grindavík could become more complex.

“However, significant work is being done on these defensive barriers,” Haraldur added. “If the eruption follows the same direction along the fissure, it should be manageable, but I think it’s wise to continue reinforcing the barriers and be prepared for anything, especially around the Blue Lagoon.”

When asked to comment further about the lava mound, Sigurður explained that the lava has built up with each eruption. “Each time lava emerges, that point rises by 5 to 10 metres, or at least several metres repeatedly. It’s the bulge on this ‘turtle’. The turtle’s shell has become quite tall, affecting the flow of lava and making it harder to predict the direction,” he explained.

Quickening land uplift

As noted on the website of the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the rate of land uplift in Sundhnúksgígar is currently proceeding at a quicker speed than before the May 29 eruption and is similar to the rate at the beginning of the year.

“A model based on deformation data shows that the magma inflow into the magma chamber beneath Svartsengi is now 4-6 m3/s. At the start of the magma intrusion and the subsequent May 29 eruption, it is estimated that about 13-19 million m3 of magma exited the chamber. Model calculations indicate that at the current inflow rate, the magma chamber beneath Svartsengi will reach a similar state to before the May 29 eruption within three to six weeks.”

The MET Office noted that, as of yesterday, it is likely that a magma intrusion or eruption will occur in the coming weeks and months.

A brief note on safety

It is important to note that the eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula over the past three years have been highly localised, with minimal effect on air travel and travel in general.

For more information on tourist safety on the Reykjanes peninsula, see our recent In Focus Article.

“With four eruptions in the Sundhnúkagígar crater system during this spell, it’s no wonder that prospective tourists have been asking themselves if it’s still safe to visit Iceland. The short answer is ‘yes, absolutely.’ The long answer is ‘yes, but use common sense!’”

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