Live, Laugh, Lava

reykjanes eruption

For the third year in a row, there’s a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, only a stone’s throw away from the city centre. This eruption marks a pattern, with around 300 days between eruptions, geologists’ predictions of a new eruption phase for the long-dormant volcano system seem to be coming to fruition. For visitors […]

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Litli-Hrútur Produced 30-50% Less Lava

2023 litli-hrútur eruption iceland

Last week, the Litli-Hrútur eruption produced around 30-50% less lava than the previous week. If this trend continues, the end of the eruption could be only one to two weeks away, reports RÚV.

According to vulcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson, the lava flow needs to rest at around three cubic metres per second in order to keep the eruption open. The lava flow has most recently been measured at five to six metres per second, and if the rate should fall further, the end of the eruption may be in sight.

Read More: Eruption Site Closed After 6:00 PM

Such predictions are of course to be taken with some reservation, but according to Þorvaldur, “measured against the recent changes last week, it could be just one or two weeks until the end of the eruption, maybe a bit longer.”

He continued: “These predictions are always somewhat uncertain since we of course don’t know what the future holds.” He also noted that an increase in the flow cannot be ruled out if for instance, a large earthquake should have an effect on the eruption.

The 2023 Litli-Hrútur eruption began with more power than the previous 2021 Geldingadalir and 2022 Meradalir eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula, at around 40 cubic metres per second. However, the volume quickly dropped off, measuring 16 cubic metres by the second day, and 10 cubic metres by the third day. Since then, it has steadily declined to the rate of five to six that we see today.

Þorvaldur stated to RÚV: “This eruption might last four to five weeks in total, which would be two weeks longer than the eruption last year but considerably shorter than the eruption in Geldingadalir 2021, as that eruption was rather exceptional.”

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Largest Moss Fires On Record

reykjanes eruption 2023

Since the beginning of the Litli-Hrútur eruption on July 10, some 250 hectares [617 acres] of moss have burned. The wildfires on the Reykjanes peninsula are the largest-ever since records began, according to a recent report by the Icelandic Institute of Natural History.

Wildfires in the area began shortly after the eruption on Reykjanes, spreading rapidly to the North, East, and South. Efforts to contain the wildfires are still ongoing, with ICE-SAR, local firefighting teams, and the coastguard helicopter all taking part.

Aerial photographs taken by the Icelandic Institute of Natural History on July 11 showed that 15 hectares were burned, but only two days later, on July 13, an additional 95 hectares had burned, and the fire has spread significantly since.

 

reykjanes eruption wildfires
Járngerður Grétarsdóttir – Icelandic Institute of Natural History

Experts from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History state that from an environmental and conservation perspective, it is crucial to curb the spread of wildfires. When moss burns, the damage to vegetation is comparatively greater compared to grassland or wetland fires. According to the report, roots are often left intact after wildfires in grass- and wetlands, meaning that regrowth after such fires is relatively rapid. Moss, however, has no roots, meaning that regrowth takes considerably longer in moss fires.

Overall biodiversity is also affected, including small animals and birds. After a moss fire vegetation can entirely disappear, creating a risk of soil erosion and desertification. Luckily, experts report that due to the low-lying nature of the area, the risk of soil erosion is reduced. However, regrowth may still take decades.

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Litli-Hrútur Eruption Site Reopens

litli hrútur 2023

After closures due to air quality and wildfires, the Reykjanes eruption site at Litli-Hrútur has been reopened by authorities.

Firefighting operations will continue, but the hiking path known as Meradalaleið is considered safe for the general public. Police and ICESAR teams will be present in the area and visitors are instructed to avoid designated hazardous areas.

Windspeed today is expected to range between 5-8 m/s, increasing in the afternoon. Gas is expected to disperse to the south and caution is advised on Suðurstrandarvegur, the road towards the eruption, and hiking paths to the volcanic site.

reykjanes eruption 2023
Met Office Iceland

Although the site has been reopened, it is still an active volcanic eruption. As such, the proper knowledge and gear are essential for visiting safely. See below for more information.

 

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Reykjanes Eruption Site Remains Closed

iceland volcano 2023

The Reykjanes eruption site remains closed today, July 17, following a meeting of The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and local authorities. However, the decision will be reconsidered today at 1:00 PM.

The decision to close the site was made July 13 and it remained closed over the weekend.

Smoke from wildfires obscured the hiking trails to the eruption site, in addition to posing a health risk. Under these circumstances, local authorities could not guarantee the safety of those entering the area.

Read more: Firefighters Fought Wildfires Near Eruption Site Until 2 AM

Efforts are now being made to extinguish the wildfires northeast of Keilir towards the viewpoint at Hraunsels-Vatnsfell. Police also report that the Coast Guard helicopter is on its way to assist in the firefighting operation.

Despite the area being closed, search and rescue teams had to search for two travellers last night. A man in his forties was found on Höskuldarvallavegur at 6:00 A, and a woman was found east of Keilir at 3:00 AM.

reykjanes eruption hiking trail
Suðurnes Police

The above picture was taken by local authorities at 6:30 AM and shows the difficult visibility conditions. Gas plumes can be seen blowing over the hiking trail, in addition to smoke from the wildfires.

Read more about Iceland’s latest eruption on the Reykjanes here.

 

Eruption Begun on Reykjanes Peninsula

reykjanes eruption 2023

A volcanic eruption began on the Reykjanes peninsula today at 4:40 PM.

Smoke is rising from the slopes of Litli Hrútur and magma has breached the surface, according to nature hazard specialist Kristín Elísa Guðmundsdóttir with the Icelandic Met Office.

Due to the current placement of the webcam, the eruption site is not currently visible. People are asked to stay away from the eruption site until response teams have arrived.

This is a developing situation. This article will be updated.

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M5.2 Earthquake Rocks Capital Area

reykjanes peninsula keilir

An M5.2 earthquake was recorded at 10:23 pm last night, July 9. It was the largest earthquake yet since seismic activity increased on the Reykjanes peninsula some six days ago.

The quake could be felt throughout the capital region and beyond, with even Ísafjörður residents reporting to have felt the shock.

reykjanes volcano
Met Office Iceland

As of this morning, an additional 630 earthquakes have been recorded. All of them have been significantly smaller than the large quake felt last night.

Böðvar Sveinsson, scientist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, stated to Vísir: “It’s a bit strange that it hasn’t erupted yet considering its proximity to the surface.” Reports over the weekend indicated that the magma has travelled quickly to the surface, now at a depth of only 500 metres.

“But we still expect an eruption,” stated Böðvar, noting that it is impossible to predict with certainty when the eruption might occur.

Experts currently expect the eruption to occur in the region between Fagradalsfjall and Mt. Keilir on the Reykjanes peninsula, pictured above.

More signs of an eruption

A geothermal borehole on the Reykjanes peninsula also began overflowing over the weekend.

Its owner, Ísleifur Árnason, reported to RÚV that it had behaved similarly before the 2021 and 2022 Reykjanes eruption.

“In the past two eruptions, water started to pour from it, maybe the day before the eruption occurred,” he said.

“Now the same thing is happening again. The temperature in the borehole has risen from about 9°C [48°F] to nearly 40°C [104°F] since the earthquake swarm began on Tuesday. The water surface has also risen since then, and on Thursday, a small amount of water started to overflow from the 800-meter-deep borehole. There are clear signs that an eruption is imminent.”

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Shallower Quakes, Seismic Activity Similar to 2022 Eruption

Meradalir

New data shows that magma has accumulated at less than one kilometre below the surface in the area between the mountains Keilir and Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula. The flow of magma has been deemed “considerable.” These are strong signs that an eruption may be imminent, a natural hazards expert with the Icelandic MET Office told RÚV this morning.

Following a similar pattern to the previous eruption

The seismic activity in the area between the mountains Keilir and Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula continues to decrease. Lovísa Mjöll Guðmundsdóttir, a natural hazards expert at the Icelandic MET Office, told RÚV this morning that the activity was “very similar to the previous eruption last year.”

“The seismic activity continues to diminish, and the magma has accumulated at a depth of one kilometre. If the magma reaches the surface, we can expect it to happen in the next hours or days. We’re on our toes and monitoring all the available data carefully.”

Lovísa observed that the experts of the MET Office – who monitor data in real-time – had not detected further deformation in the landscape. The tremors continue to grow more shallow, despite the reduction in seismic activity.

“Yes, the earthquakes are growing more shallow. This is very similar to last year’s eruption when activity decreased in this manner. The earthquakes were occurring at a similar depth. So we may as well expect that this could happen in the near future.”

“And if an eruption were to happen, it would happen without much notice?” a reporter with RÚV inquired. “Yes, very little notice,” Lovísa replied. “So we’re continuing to monitor events closely to try to determine the location of the eruption.”

As noted by RÚV, about 6,500 earthquakes have been recorded since the earthquake swarm began on the Reykjanes Peninsula on Tuesday, with the largest earthquake measuring 4.8 in magnitude. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared an uncertainty level. The flight colour code over Fagradalsfjall remains orange. Travellers are advised against visiting the area.

Readers can monitor activity near Fagradalsfjall via webcams here.

Fagradalsfjall Update: Quakes Continue, Eruption Likely

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

Note that this is a developing situation. Visitors and residents alike are advised to avoid the active area.

Since significant seismic activity on Reykjanes resumed on July 4, some 4,700 quakes have been recorded. The largest quake so far recorded, M4.8, occurred yesterday morning, July 5. Additionally, 13 earthquakes above M4 have been recorded, with a slight decrease in seismic activity since last night.

Read More: Over 1,200 Earthquakes in Reykjanes

Geologists have indicated that the current earthquake swarm on the Reykjanes peninsula suggests a more aggressive magma intrusion than in 2021 and 2022. Land uplift on the Reykjanes peninsula is currently measured at 3cm. While the total uplift is similar to previous eruptions, it has been measured across a larger area on the peninsula. The previous 2021 and 2022 Fagradalsfjall eruptions saw more localised land uplift.

reykjanes earthquake
Seismic activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula as of July 6 11:10. Green stars indicated M3 and greater. Met Office of Iceland.

Currently, the eruption is expected to take place in the area between the mountains Keilir and Fagradalsfjall.

Experts have also speculated that Reykjanesbraut, the main road connecting Reykjavík and Keflavík International Airport, could be threatened given the right circumstances. In a statement to Vísir, volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson said: “The current seismic activity is located north of the 2022 volcanic fissure, and if the fissure opens to the north, then this will be towards the shield volcano known as Þráinsskjöldur. It is possible that the lava would then run down to the coast, across Reykjanesbraut. If the fissure opens to the north, it has a direct path to the road and down to the coast. However, in order for that to happen, it needs to reach a certain size or a certain output so that it can flow fast enough.”

Notably, even in a worst-case scenario, serviceable roads still connect the capital area to Keflavík International Airport.

Read More: Magma Likely Collecting Under Reykjanes Again

Geologists have also expressed concern for tourists already flocking to the expected eruption site.

Geologist Jóhann Helgason stated to RÚV that it was highly dangerous for tourists to explore the area unrestricted: “Tourists are flocking to the area, and I find it highly dangerous because one doesn’t know where people are, nor do they know where an eruption might occur if it were to happen. Handling such circumstances can be very difficult [… ] The lava flow could easily cut off areas.”

In addition to the obvious dangers posed by volcanic fissures and toxic gases, the area in question is also less accessible than previous eruption sites. So far, no plans have been announced to close the area to foot traffic.

Tourists and residents alike will receive SMS notifications from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management upon arrival in the area, warning them of falling rocks and the possibility of an imminent volcanic eruption.

Live webcams of the area can be accessed here.

 

 

Over 1,200 Earthquakes in Reykjanes, Eruption “a Possibility”

Over 1,200 earthquakes have been recorded at Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula since 10 PM yesterday. Scientists from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the University of Iceland will meet with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management to discuss the situation at 9 AM. A natural hazards expert with the Icelandic MET Office told RÚV this morning that if the activity continued there was “a possibility that an eruption could occur within a few days.”

Increasing uplift since April

As reported yesterday, increasing uplift (land rise) – a sign that magma is collecting below the surface – has been measured on the Reykjanes peninsula since the beginning of April. The peninsula has been the site of Iceland’s two most recent eruptions, in 2021 and 2022.

As of early yesterday, there seemed to be no indication that an eruption was imminent. Since 10 PM yesterday, however, over 1,200 earthquakes have been recorded at Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula. Eight earthquakes have been measured above 3 in magnitude. The largest earthquake is believed to have been at a magnitude between magnitude 3.6 and 3.7.

Scientists from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the University of Iceland will meet with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management to assess the situation at 9 AM.

Monitoring the situation closely

In an interview with Vísir this morning, Elísabet Pálmadóttir, a natural hazards expert at the Icelandic MET Office, stated that the situation was being closely monitored. When asked if scientists had detected any volcanic unrest, she replied that no unrest had been witnessed in the run-up to the last eruption in Fagradalsfjall; experts are mainly monitoring whether the earthquakes are moving closer to the surface, which has not happened since the swarm began yesterday.

As reported by Vísir, it is believed that the earthquakes originated with a magma intrusion at a depth of about 5 kilometres. “This is definitely a lot of activity, and we take it seriously,” Elísabet observed.

As reported by various outlets this morning, the earthquakes have been felt on the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the capital area, and the town of Akranes. Vísir notes that continued seismic activity is to be expected in the coming days. Furthermore, people are advised against travelling in the area near Fagradalsfjall due to, among other things, the possibility of avalanches.

Elísabet concluded her interview with Vísir by stating that the authorities were considering flying an aeroplane over the area today to monitor developments.

Eruption over the coming days “a possibility”

In an interview with RÚV this morning, Magús Freyr Sigurkarlsson, a natural hazards expert at the Icelandic MET Office, iterated Elísabet’s observation that the intrusion activity was taking place at a depth of approximately five kilometres and that magma was accumulating. Magnús noted that the activity was similar to the lead-up to the last eruption when there was intrusion activity for five days before magma was seen on the surface.

“If this continues we think that there is a possibility that an eruption could occur within a few days,” Magnús observed. He also noted that it appeared as if the earthquakes had moved closer to the surface this morning, although it was early to tell.

This article will be updated