Where There’s Fire

“There is a whole range of events that might occur before, during, and after an eruption.” Dr. Sara Barsotti is the co-ordinator of Volcanic Hazards and operational geophysical monitoring at the IMO The eruptions on the Reykanes peninsula in 2021 and 2022 once again propelled Iceland’s volcanoes into the global consciousness. The last time this happened […]

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Alert Phase Revoked, Three Weeks after Eruption Ceases

iceland eruption 2022

The National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Suðurnes Police, has decided to revoke the Alert Phase that has been in effect due to the volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula. Three weeks have elapsed since any volcanic activity was detected in the area.

Uncertainty Phase declared

On July 30, an Uncertainty Phase was declared on Reykjanes after a swarm of earthquakes rocked the peninsula. Four days later, on August 3, a volcanic eruption began, as magma began spewing out of several-hundred-metre-long fissures in a lava field near Fagradalsfjall, which had been created by last year’s eruption in the same location. An Emergency Phase was subsequently declared, which was lowered to an Alert Phase in light of the relative smallness of the eruption.

The eruption passed through several phases before all activity ceased on Saturday, August 20. Yesterday, the National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Suðurnes Police, decided to revoke the Alert and Uncertainty Phases that had been in effect in the area, RÚV reports. Authorities will continue to monitor the area closely, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has announced.

“We can expect intrusion activity and earthquakes in Reykjanes over the coming weeks. Residents are encouraged to secure furniture and other household items to prevent injury and/or damages to their homes,” a press release from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management reads.

The press release also states that rangers will be positioned at the eruption site to monitor foot traffic. The presence of police and rescue workers will be gradually diminished in the area, although they will be dispatched if needed. Lastly, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management underscores the hazard of venturing onto the lava, noting that craters and hot lava are protected by nature-preservation laws.

 

 

Trail to the Meradalir Eruption Site Repaired

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

The trail to the eruption site in Meradalir has been repaired, making it more easily passable for hikers, RÚV reports. There has been no volcanic activity in Meradalir since last weekend.

Number of visits declined significantly

According to a new assessment report published by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, the entire trail to the Meradalir eruption site on the Reykjanes peninsula has been repaired.

As noted in the report, visitors to the eruption site have decreased dramatically over the past week: approximately 1,000-1,500 people currently visit the site on a daily basis, compared to 3,000-4,000 previously.

In light of the decrease in foot traffic, the presence of response parties has been reduced. Police officers and paramedics handle patient transport in the area, in the event of accidents, and search-and-rescue works will continue to collaborate with response parties over the weekend to ensure the transfer of responsibilities. The further involvement of search-and-rescue parties in monitoring the area will be assessed next week.

Eruption possibly over

The report also notes that since no volcanic activity has been detected at the eruption site since Sunday morning, the Meradalir eruption has likely come to an end. The Meteorological Office of Iceland, however, is hesitant to make an official statement as of yet. An alert phase is still in effect. The eruption began on August 3.

Meradalir Eruption Likely Over

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

The Icelandic Met Office is not ready to pronounce the Meradalir eruption officially over, but the dwindling volcanic tremor finally came to a stop at the site on Saturday night. There is no longer visible lava flow from the main crater, and while there is still some activity in the main vent, it is likely already closed.

“The activity at the Meradalir vents and the associated tremor has been dwindling gradually over the last three days, to such a degree that at this moment no fountaining is visible at the vents and the tremor is almost non-existent,” the Volcanology and Natural Hazard Group of the University of Iceland wrote on their Facebook page on Saturday afternoon. “However, there is still steady venting of magmatic gases. This trend in the eruptive behavior is very different from that observed at the end of individual eruption episodes in the 2021 eruption, which were terminated very abruptly. Hence, it is likely that this rather slow and gradual decline in activity is signifying the demise [of] the 2022 Meradalir eruption.”

Disappointment for some, relief for others

The Meradalir eruption began on August 3 around 1:18 pm, not far from last year’s Geldingadalir eruption, on Southwest Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula. By August 13, lava flow had decreased significantly around 10 days later to about one third of the original rate. Now all volcanic tremor has ceased, and the main vent appears to be closed. In order to formally declare the eruption over, however, there must be no activity at the site for several days or weeks.

While some who had not had a chance to see the eruption yet may be disappointed, residents of the Reykjanes peninsula are likely relieved the lava flow was contained to Meradalir valley, where it did not threaten nearby roads or energy infrastructure. Search and rescue crews who had been monitoring the site and its tens of thousands of visitors are also likely looking forward to some time off.

Volcanologists and geologists have stated that the Meradalir and Geldingadalir eruptions mark the beginning of a new active volcanic period on the Reykjanes peninsula that could last decades or even centuries.

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.

Two Injured at Eruption Site

björgunarsveitin þorbjörn

Two people were injured while visiting the eruption that began on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula yesterday. One broke an ankle and had to be transported to hospital by a Coast Guard helicopter. Several others visiting the site required assistance due to minor injuries. It’s likely that thousands visited the eruption yesterday, according to RÚV, despite authorities’ warnings that the hike is long and not for those who are inexperienced or unprepared.

Challenging 17-kilometre hike

The eruption is located in Meradalir valley, further inland from the Fagradalsfjall eruption that occurred on the Reykjanes peninsula last year. The hike to the site is around 17 kilometres [10.6 miles] long and includes considerable elevation.

Suðurnes Police Commissioner Úlfar Lúðvíksson reminds the public that the hike is difficult and not for everyone. He told RÚV that many visiting the eruption last night were not carrying flashlights, though it has begun to get dark in the evenings.

Off-road driving is banned at the site, as everywhere else in Iceland. Several individuals were fined for off-road driving near the eruption yesterday.

Not for children

Those who do visit the eruption need to be particularly aware of the risk of gas poisoning. Authorities advise visitors to avoid bringing children, who are more sensitive to toxic gases and more prone to poisoning, as heavy toxic gases collect closer to the ground. The same is true of pets such as dogs.

Calm weather is forecast at the site later today, meaning that gas will likely collect in low-lying areas. Gas measuring equipment will be installed at the eruption site tomorrow.