2-3 Times More Powerful than 2021 Eruption

iceland volcano 2023

The ongoing eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula is about 2-3 times more powerful than the 2021 eruption at the same site, according to the latest data from the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences. In its first week, the eruption has covered an area of nearly one square kilometre with fresh lava and it shows no signs of stopping. This is the third eruption at the same site in three years, following some 800 years with no eruptions in the area.

Fresh lava over 20 metres thick

The eruption’s lava flow between July 13-17 averaged 13 cubic metres per second, slightly lower than the lava flow of 14.5 cubic metres per second between July 11-13, but due to the margin of error in measurements, researchers say the difference is not significant. The surface area of the new lava was 0.83 square kilometres [0.32 sq mi] as of yesterday, and its volume was 8.4 million cubic metres. The edge of the lava advances 300-400 metres [980-1,300 ft] daily with the distance being highly variable from day to day. The lava is around 10 metres thick on average but over 20 metres at its thickest.

All of these figures are quite similar to last year’s eruption in Meradalir but 2-3 times higher than the figures of the Geldingadalir eruption in 2021. The 2021 Geldingadalir Eruption was significantly smaller, but lasted around six months, while the 2022 Meradalir eruption lasted less than three weeks. So far, the current eruption is not threatening inhabited areas or infrastructure, though pollution from its gases as well as from wildfires set off by the lava are a significant risk for people at the site as well as further off.

Iceland Review has a handy guide on accessing the eruption site.

Meradalir Eruption Site Closed Tomorrow

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

The Meradalir eruption site on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula will be closed tomorrow due to weather. The closure was announced by the Suðurnes Police Department in a press release.

The Icelandic Met Office has issued a yellow weather alert for the Reykjanes peninsula tomorrow, where considerable rainfall and gale-force winds are expected. Wind gusts in the area could reach speeds of 30 metres per second. Milder conditions are expected again on Thursday.

Lava flow decreased

The rate of lava flow at the eruption has decreased significantly since it began on August 3, according to the latest measurements published by the University of Iceland’s Earth Sciences Institute. While the flow rate measured 11 cubic metres per second between August 4-13, the average flow between Saturday and Monday was much lower, 3-4 cubic metres per second.

“It is impossible to say at this stage whether the end of the eruption is near, or whether it is only a temporary low point in the eruption,” a notice from the Institute reads.

Deflection Dams May Be Built to Divert Lava from Roadway

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

The Department of Civil Protection will likely build deflecting dams to prevent lava from flowing onto Rte. 427, RÚV reports. Also called Suðurstrandavegur, this road runs along the south coast of the Reykjanes peninsula between the municipalities of Grindavík and Ölfus.

Lava has yet to start flowing out of the Meradalir valley, but scientists say it’s just a matter of time. At time of writing, the lava around the low-lying mountain pass called Meradalaskarð had reached a height of eight metres [26 ft]. Should it rise a mere metre or so higher, however, it will overflow the valley. On Wednesday, scientists estimated that this could happen over the course of a few hours, but so far, the lava level has been rising slower than anticipated.

See Also: Lava Could Reach Reykjanes Roadway If It Rises Any Higher

“The lava’s been flowing in other directions since we got this tongue, which has actually reached the pass where it can start to flow out of Meradalir,” explained Kristín Jónsdóttir, the Met Office’s team leader for natural disasters. “And, of course, the way the lava flows is random. Tongues are breaking off from the lake of lava and what we saw yesterday was that the lava was mostly flowing in the immediate vicinity of the crater, mostly to the west and the north.”

But currently, it isn’t possible for scientists to say whether the lava will overflow the valley “tomorrow or in a week,” said Kristín.

Plan to divert lava from fibre optic cables, important infrastructure

Diversion dams are only temporary measures, added Björn Oddsson, a geophysicist with Civil Protection. But experiments erecting these barriers in the path of oncoming lava were successful last year and as such, Björn expects that “the engineers and designers who are working on this will make use of [this experience] and will resort to [diversion dams] if the lava starts to flow toward Suðurstrandavegur or fibre optic cable or other things we want to divert it from.”

Protective Barrier to Be Erected Near Volcano

Flowing lava

The construction of a protective barrier near the Geldingadalur volcano began last night, Vísir reports. Local authorities hope to impede the flow of lava into Nátthagi valley, from where it may proceed south toward Suðurstrandarvegur and cause damage to infrastructure.

Suðurstrandarvegur in jeopardy

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Fannar Jónasson, Mayor of Grindavík, expressed his concern regarding the flow of lava from the eruption near Fagradalsfjall toward Suðurstrandarvegur (a coastal road running between Grindavík and Þorlákshöfn, which besides being an important transportation artery has also been widely used by travellers visiting the volcano). If the lava were to flow into Nátthagi valley, it could stream south toward the coastal road, resulting in disruption to traffic and damage to infrastructure (including fibre-optic cables).

According to Fannar, the Grindavík Town Council resolved last week to do everything in its power to impede the flow of lava into Nátthagi, having already drawn up plans for a specially-made barrier. “We’re planning a four-meter high barrier. Within it, there will likely be a kind of cavity, which we hope will steer the lava in a different direction.”

Fannar also emphasized that the barrier was designed, first and foremost, with people’s safety in mind. “There’s been a Herculean effort in this area to ensure the safety of visitors.”

Large bulldozer” on the scene

This morning, Vísir reported that a large bulldozer had begun work on the barrier, and in an interview with Mbl.is, Mayor Fannar Jónasson remarked that construction was progressing nicely.

The project will involve, among other things, the filling of two rifts, with rocks from the area being utilized for this purpose. Construction workers hope to fill the western rift today and the eastern rift over the coming days.

The construction is undertaken by the Department for Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

Neither representatives from the town of Grindavík nor the Department for Civil Protection and Emergency Management could be reached for comment.

Reykjanes Eruption: Lava Flow Increases By 70%

Aerial view of lava flowing from the Geldingadalur crater and the audience gathered to admire it

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.