There are no signs the ongoing eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula will stop soon, according to experts. Lava flow at the site has increased by around 70% according to the latest data from the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences. Fountaining lava is spewing molten rock up to one kilometre from the active crater, where some is starting brush fires. Authorities are working to make the site more accessible to visitors.
Eruption Now Twice as Powerful
According to data gathered on May 10, the lava flow at the Geldingadalir eruption increased significantly last week, from 8 cubic metres per second to 13. “Increased flow has gone hand in hand with rising lava fountains and a powerful advance of lava into Meradalir valley,” a notice from the Institute states. “The eruption is now twice as powerful as it has been for most of the active period.” The volume of the lava expelled by the eruption, which has so far lasted for nearly eight weeks, has now reached over 30 million cubic metres and covers an area of nearly 1.8 km2. The Geldingadalir eruption is exceptional in that the vast majority of eruptions decrease in strength after they begin. According to the Institute notice, “there is no way to predict how long the eruption will last of whether lava flows will continue to increase.”
The video below was taken on May 5, 2021.
Flying Lava Sparks Brush Fires
The eruption site was closed to visitors yesterday: lava rocks expelled by the active crater were landing as far as one kilometre away and sparking brush fires around the eruption site. Smoke from the fires was wafting over the hiking path to the site, causing danger to potential visitors. Yet the biggest danger at the site seems to be the hiking path itself, which has caused two to three broken ankles per day according to Jón Haukur Steingrímsson, a geotechnical engineer at Efla, who is working on improvements to the eruption site.
Modifications Shorten and Improve Hiking Path
“There are a lot of people there who are just relatively inexperienced hikers, who are going there. As we enter the summer and we start getting tourists it’s only going to increase more,” Jón Haukur told Vísir. Last week the first slope on the path was modified to make it less steep. “It made a big difference right away how everything just went a lot more smoothly there.” Other modifications are forthcoming that should make the trail easier for hikers. A new parking lot, closer than the current temporary lots at the site, will also shorten the hike by 1.2-1.3 kilometres in each direction.