Reykjanes Eruption: Protective Barriers Still Holding Skip to content

Reykjanes Eruption: Protective Barriers Still Holding

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

Lava flowing from the crater in Geldingadalur on the Reykjanes Peninsula
Photo: Golli. Lava flowing from the crater in Geldingadalur on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Barriers intended to protect the Reykjanes Peninsula road from the lava flow are still holding despite a river of red-hot lava pooling about a metre from the top of the wall, RÚV reports. Construction is ongoing and the barriers’ intended height was recently raised from four m to eight m, but the effort has been criticised for being intrusive to nature and not likely to succeed.

Earlier this week, the government greenlit a 20 million ISK expenditure for raising the protective barriers from 4 m to 8m. The purpose is to keep lava from the eruption to flow into Nátthagi where it might reach the road along the south side of the peninsula and cover infrastructure including some fibre optic cables. The lava flow is monitored closely but not much is known about how long the barriers will hold if sudden floods of lava occur. No further extensions to the barriers are planned.

While the protective barriers are meant to keep the lava from flowing over the road and out to sea, their construction had been criticised. The Icelandic Environment Association has called the barriers a needless disruption. “We don’t think this has been thought all the way through, in regard to how useful the barriers are and if the protection they provide is necessary, Director of Icelandic Environment Association Auður Anna Magnúsdóttir told Fréttablaðið. “no people are in danger, the lava would not close evacuation routes, no industry or human settlement is in danger.” She urges authorities to consider the damage they’re doing to nature.

Geophysicist Páll Einarsson has also criticized the construction, believing it to be a wasteful and futile effort. “As it looks today, the construction is absurd. the flowing lava is never going to go the way people want it to,” Páll Einarsson told Vísir. According to Páll, the lava flow from the eruption is currently relatively small and won’t flow far. “the absolute worst that could happen is that the south coast road is ruptured. and a road through lava like this, that’s very easy to repair,” Páll stated. While engineer with the barrier effort Hörn Hrafnsdóttir concedes that the barriers are unlikely to hold against an onslaught of lava, that doesn’t make them useless. She claims that the barriers are only intended to delay the inevitable if the eruption continues and that if scientists’ suspicions of a new eruptive period in the area prove right, the ongoing efforts will provide us with valuable information on how to affect lava flow.

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