What do I need to know before visiting the eruption site at Meradalir?

iceland eruption 2022

Update: Eruption Potentially Over

As of August 22, signs seem to indicate that the Meradalir eruption has come to an end, although the Meteorological Office of Iceland is hesitant to make an official statement as of yet. Lava flow at the site has been declining steadily since the initial eruption, and at the time of writing, there is no visible activity at the site. An official statement from the Volcanology and Natural Hazard Group of the University of Iceland was released on August 20, which can be seen below. Even for geologists, precisely predicting the activity of a volcanic system is very difficult, especially over small timespans. Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Meradalir eruption here. 

Before setting out

As always in Iceland, taking the proper gear is key to having a good hike. Sturdy boots, rain- and windproof layers, water, and food are all must-haves when setting out to visit the eruption. Those setting out later in the day will also want to take a flashlight or head lamp.

The eruption can be safely viewed but as always with such phenomena, there are inherent risks. Besides the lava itself, volcanic gas can pose a danger to hikers, especially on calm, windless days. Hikers are asked to not bring small children or animals because of these conditions. Updates on the wind patterns near the eruption site can be found at the Meteorological Office of Iceland’s website.

In addition to the volcanic gas, the weather can also play an important role, and the site may be closed in inclement weather conditions. For the most up to date information, see the Facebook page or website for the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

meradalir eruption 2022
Veðurstofa Íslands, current as of 8. 08, 11:00

Before setting out, it is also important to note that not all are allowed to visit the site. As of August 9, children under the age of 12 are banned from the site, due to the challenging nature of the hike and additional hazards posed by the gases to the young.

Parking

The parking for the Meradalir eruption is the same as last year’s. Those driving from Reykjavík can take Route 41 towards Keflavík, then 43 south towards Grindavík. From there, it is only several kilometers along 427 until the parking lot, shown in the map below. Visitors to the site should note that parking is not free. As of the time of writing, parking is a modest ISK 1,000 through the parking app parka.is, but those who skip the fee can expect higher charges.

The hike to the eruption

The hike is a round trip of 14km, about 2 hours of hiking each way. Notably, the walk is longer and more difficult than the hike to last year’s eruption site, so hikers will want to prepare accordingly.  The trek is over difficult terrain and you may want to take pictures, so we recommend accounting for around 5 hours total walking. The current route begins with Route A from last year’s eruption, but then branches off at Stórhól, where hikers then follow the trail to an overview of the eruption. Search and Rescue teams have been improving the trail, and as of August 4, the signage reflects the path to the new eruption site.

Hikers are asked to keep to the path, both to protect nature, and also because the trail can be hazardous. Several hikers have already been evacuated by Search and Rescue for minor injuries sustained during the hike.

meradalir eruption 2022
Björgunarsveitin Þorbjörn

At the eruption

When at the eruption site, safety is key. As stated, volcanic gases can pose a danger to visitors, so staying high on the slopes can be a good idea. This is also a great vantage point to view the eruption from.

Those wanting a closer view of the eruption can walk down into the valley, but should exercise extra caution around the lava. It is not advisable to touch the lava, even if it looks cool, and under no circumstances should visitors walk on the fresh lava. 

Search and Rescue teams are on site and are happy to answer any questions you may have. Should the situation change, listen to any instructions they may have for visitors.

Live webcams

For those unable to make the hike, or else just looking for the most current conditions at the eruption site, there are several live webcams of the Meradalir eruption. RÚV’s live webcam can be found below:

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.

Lava Flow in Meradalir Drops Significantly

meradalir eruption 2022

The most recent data published by the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland indicates that the flow of lava from the Meradalir eruption has slowed significantly. Where the lava averaged 11 m³/s from August 4 – 13, the most recent information indicates a much lower level of 3 – 4 m³/s from August 13 – 15.

As of August 16, the flow was recorded at 2 m³/s, but geologists say that these figures are relatively uncertain. The report can be seen in a Facebook post from the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences.

Weather over the weekend allowed for information to be collected by aircraft. Imagery from the Pleiades satellites, a European satellite constellation for high-resolution imaging, has also been used to monitor the flow. 

In the recent report, it is also noted that working with such time spans of days and weeks is especially difficult. It is currently impossible to say whether the recent decrease represents a temporary low in a long-term eruption, or if the eruption is already beginning to wind down.

The eruption is currently closed today because of the weather, but those interested can still watch the live webcam feed.

Those planning on visiting the site in the coming days may also want to read our short guide to visiting 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.

Meradalir Eruption: Two Rangers “A Drop in the Ocean” of What is Needed

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

Over 13,000 people visited the ongoing eruption in Iceland’s Meradalir valley over the weekend. A significant number of them were ill-prepared for the challenging 14-kilometre [8.7-mile] hike, according to Search and Rescue crews. The Icelandic government has promised to hire rangers to monitor the site, but they would only be a drop in the ocean of what is needed to manage the constant flow of visitors, says Bogi Adolfsson, head of the ICE-SAR Division Þorbjörn.

Many jobs that need doing

“We’ve ended up doing a lot of different things, managing the parking lot, directing traffic, assisting police, transport this and that [injured visitor], giving them our packed lunch, it’s gone that far,” Bogi told RÚV.

“Rangers help a lot, but two, or two full-time equivalents, I don’t know which it is [that the government has promised], is in my opinion just half of what’s needed. It’s a drop in the ocean.” Bogi stated he wanted to see more police stationed at the site, but that would require strengthening the local police division.

Search and rescue trained for emergency response, not long-term monitoring

Since the Meradalir eruption began on August 3, over 35 search and rescue crews involving some 350 people had taken part in projects connected to the eruption site. The majority of search and rescue crew members are volunteers.

In a lengthy Facebook post, ICE-SAR Director Otti Sigmarsson pointed out that monitoring a tourist site full-time was outside of the typical role of search and rescue teams. Like Bogi, Otti called on strengthening the local police force, more funding to the Civil Protection Department, rangers, and other initiatives to take over the daily monitoring of the site from search and rescue volunteers, who could then focus on their usual role at the eruption site: responding to emergencies.

While authorities have underlined that the hike to the Meradalir eruption is not for the inexperienced or the ill-prepared, that has not stopped some from setting out to see the lava without proper equipment or even food or water. Children under 12 years of age have officially been banned access to the site, however, Iceland Review saw several toddler-age children on the hiking path yesterday.

Read more about what you need to know before hiking to the Meradalir eruption.

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.”

Municipal Authorities Suggest Egilsstaðir for Development as Alternate Airport

Municipal authorities in the eastern district of Fljótsdalshérað want to strengthen the infrastructure of the Egilsstaðir airport due to the ongoing seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula, RÚV reports.

It’s possible that the current eruption in Meradalir and last year’s eruption in Geldingadalur herald the arrival of a long period of volcanic unrest on the Reykjanes peninsula, something that would put the Keflavík airport—and the single roadway leading to it—at significant risk. As such, many political leaders, including Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, agree about the importance of establishing an alternate airport somewhere else in the country.

Egilsstaðir is not the only town angling for airport development, however. Just last week, Halla Signý Kristjánsdóttir, an MP for the Progressive Party and a member of the transportation committee, suggested that an airport could be built in Mýrar in Borgarfjörður, West Iceland. Akureyri in North Iceland has also been put forth as an option.

Vilhjálmur Jónsson, one of the local government chairmen in Fljótsdalshérað, says Egillstaðir is well-suited for the project. “The conditions at Egilsstaðir are in some ways more suitable and I also think that if there are going to be these weekly disruptions that [it would be good to be able to] spread flights to other airports if there was a major incident.”

“The situation is not a new one,” Vilhjálmur concluded, “but these earthquakes on Reykjanes now will maybe finally push it.”

Lava Could Reach Reykjanes Roadway If It Rises Any Higher

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

It’s possible that lava from the ongoing eruption in Meradalir could flow eastward in the next 24 hours, RÚV reports. Professor of Geophysics Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson says that if this were to happen, the lava would have a direct path to Rte. 427. Also called Suðurstrandavegur, this road runs along the south coast of the Reykjanes peninsula between the municipalities of Grindavík and Ölfus.

Magnús Tumi notes that the lava hasn’t yet started flowing out of Meradalir. “However, in the last two days, the lava by the mountain pass, which is the lowest point out of the valley to the east, has risen seven to eight metres [23-26 feet]. And it will only take maybe a metre or so for it to overflow. So if the situation continues like this, the lava will overflow the valley soon.”

It’s difficult to say if the lava would actually reach Suðurstrandavegur, says Magnús Tumi. “But in order to be able to estimate any sort of timeline, it’s vital that we be able to take new measurements of the lava volume and thereby the flow.” Unfortunately, ongoing weather conditions since Thursday have prevented scientists from taking these critical measurements.

Meradalir Update: Eruption Site Reopened to Public

meradalir eruption 2022

The Meradalir eruption site was reopened today to the public following several days of weather-related closures. The announcement came this morning, following a status update meeting with Suðurnes chief of police Gunnar Schram. The announcement can be seen in a Facebook post below from The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

Prior to the announcement, tourists had been turned away from the eruption site. Police had set up checkpoints along the road from Grindavík to determine drivers’ destinations. In a statement to Fréttablaðið, Gunnar stated the need for Icelandic authorities to establish clearer lines of communication with visitors, most of whom are foreign tourists.

Meradalir eruption 2022
Veðurstofa Íslands

Although weather has been uncooperative for visitors, the eruption is seen by geologists as conforming well to their models, with few surprises. The above satellite image provided by the Meteorological Office shows imaging of earthquakes in the Reykjanes peninsula leading up to the eruption.

The deformation northeast of Grindavík, indicated by the black box, is considered to be the source of the M5.5 earthquake that occurred on July 31. Using earthquake and GPS data, geologists have determined that the region’s magma distribution is unchanged, with a steady flow since the beginning of the eruption. The Department of Civil Protection and the Meteorological Office both warn that authorities should prepare for a potentially long-term eruption.

Those planning on visiting the eruption site may want to read our guide to visiting Meradalir.

Children Under 12 Banned Entry to Eruption Site

Meradalir eruption hikers August 4 2022

Icelandic authorities have decided to ban children under 12 years of age from visiting the ongoing eruption in Meradalir, on the Reykjanes peninsula. RÚV reports that the decision was made at the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management meeting with other response teams today. The eruption site is closed to all visitors today for the third day in a row due to weather conditions.

The Meradalir eruption began last Wednesday afternoon, near the site of the Geldingadalir eruption of last year. Search and rescue crews have been stationed at the site ever since to direct visitors and respond in case of emergencies. While most visitors to the eruption follow directions, there have been cases of those who do not respect closures or visit the site with young children, putting themselves in danger.

Children are particularly vulnerable to gas poisoning at eruption sites as they are both more sensitive to the gases and more easily exposed to heavy gases that gather close to the ground. Furthermore, the hike to the Meradalir eruption is long and challenging even for experienced adults.

Exhaustion and hypothermia

Search and rescue crews came to the assistance of a couple with two preschool-aged children at the eruption site last Saturday. The four were on their way back from the eruption, when tour guide Hermann Valsson encountered them in distress, the parents exhausted and the children with hypothermia.

The father initially tried to refuse help due to concerns that he would be fined or charged for the assistance. Hermann stated that it is locals’ responsibility to ensure that foreign visitors are well-informed about the conditions they are setting out into, as well as that the assistance of search and rescue crews is always free.

Hike not for beginners

The hike to the Meradalir eruption is around 14 kilometres [8.7 miles] round trip. The hike includes significant elevation as well as difficult terrain and is not for the inexperienced or those who are unprepared.

Read more about what you need to know when visiting the Meradalir eruption.