45 Years Later, All of Route 1 Paved

45 years after the creation of Route 1, the Icelandic Ring Road, the circle has been fully completed as all of the road is now paved. The last stretch of the ring road to be fully completed was in Berufjörður fjord in East Iceland, which had been a gravel stretch of the road up until now.

The road in Berufjörður is 4,9 kilometres long and shortens the total length of Route 1 by 3,9 kilometres. It has been open for traffic with the new conditions since August 1 but was officially opened by the Icelandic Road Administration on August 14. The project of replacing the gravel with paved roads has been in the works since the early 2000s. This stretch of Route 1 was one of the more controversial as the road could ill handle rain along with heavy traffic. Over a thousand cars use the road stretch every day, so conditions became especially bad on the old gravel road during rain.

The project of converting the gravel road into a paved one, along with a new bridge crossing the Berufjörður fjord, began in August 2017. W

Route 1
Route 1 was created in 1974 with the construction of bridges crossing Skeiðarársandur sands. The 1,322 kilometre long road is popular with travellers, as they can circle the whole of the island. For the first years, the majority of the ring road was gravel. Work began on replacing the gravel with gravel in 1978.
Three separate extensive pushes were made by the Iceland Road Association towards making the whole of Route 1 paved. The first part to be completed was between Reykjavík and Akureyri in 1994, while the next project was from Reykjavík to Höfn í Hornafirði in 2001. The final major undertaking was completed between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir in 2009. Since then, smaller parts of Route 1 have slowly been upgraded from gravel roads to paved.

Head to www.road.is or call 1777 for road information during your travels in Iceland.

No Signs Yet of Imminent Múlakvísl Glacial Outburst Flood

So far, there have been no clear signs of the Múlakvísl jökulhlaup, or glacial outburst flood, which is expected to happen in the coming days or weeks. A GPS monitor has been put up in one of the calderas in Mýrdalsjökull glacier which will give more information on the timing of the flood. Salóme Jórunn Bernharðsdóttir, a natural hazard specialist at the Icelandic Meteorological Institute, states the institute is watching proceedings in Múlakvísl closely. So far, there have been no signs that the glacial outburst flood has started.

The newly installed GPS monitor is hoped to give clues about an imminent flood one to two days before the flood reaches the Múlakvísl river crossing at Route 1. Salóme stated that earthquake measurement devices should also display some disturbances around four to six hours before the flood reaches the bridge. Furthermore, electric conductivity should increase in Múlakvísl river before the flood happens. When water levels have risen at Léréftshöfuð, which is six kilometres north of the Múlakvísl river, the flood will reach the Route 1 crossing in half an hour to an hour.

The geothermal heat under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier causes water to collect in the calderas, causing regular glacial outburst floods in the area. Normally, the floods take place a little later in the summer when the mid-summer thaw at Mýrdalsjökull. The amount of water under Mýrdalsjökull glacier has led scientist to believe a glacial outburst flood is imminent. Last year, 2018, there was no flood so a considerable amount of water has collected under the glacier. The flood is expected to be the largest one in eight years, when the 2011 flood ruptured the Route 1 crossing the Múlakvísl river east of Vík í Mýrdal.

Information for travellers
At this point in time, it is believed that it is not necessary to close roads. That situation could change quickly, however, and authorities will step in if they believe a flood is about to occur.

What can happen, and how should travellers react?
Dangers which accompany a glacial outburst flood in Múlakvísl river:
– Floodwater can block the route from Route 1 towards Kötlujökull glacier west of Hafursey.
– Floodwater can flood over and block, or even rupture, Route 1 at the bridge crossing of Múlakvísl river.
– Floodwater can block the route into Þakgil.
– The gas hydrogen sulphide could be found in copious amounts close to Múlakvísl river. The gas can burn mucous membrane in the eyes and in the respiratory tract

Instructions:
– Respect road closures, as well as evacuations if they should occur.
– Keep away from the Múlakvísl river when a glacial outburst flood is occurring.
– Avoid places affected by gas pollution, such as along the river as well as in depressions nearby by it. Do not stop at the bridge crossing Múlakvísl or Skálm.

For those looking to keep a watchful eye on the proceedings when the flood occurs, this webcam of the Láguhvolar area should provide a view of the flood: http://brunnur.vedur.is/myndir/webcam/2019/07/04/webcam_laguhvolar.html

Travellers passing through the area are instructed to head to the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, www.road.is, for further information on road conditions, or call 1777.

Authorities Look to Raise Fines for Off-Road Driving

The best weapon in the fight against off-road driving is education, according to Minister for the Environment, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson. He says more people are conscious of the damage caused by off-road driving and wants to look into raising fines.
Evidence of off-road driving can take a long time to disappear naturally. Nature lovers have resorted to fixing damage where they can but if the vegetation is damaged, that can be impossible to fix. Off-road driving is a growing problem in Iceland, as travellers disregard laws. Recently, a Russian social media influencer bragged about his off-road driving. He was prosecuted, however, and had to pay a hefty fine.

This summer, damages have been discovered when mountain roads were opened again for the season. Recently, the Environment agency reported off-road driving in the geothermal area by Sogin in the Reykjanes nature reserve to the police but the tracks will be wiped out in the next few days.
Government agencies put a lot of work into stopping off-road driving, according to Guðmundur Ingi. “I believe education is our main weapon when it comes to off-road driving. But there are also rules and the nature conservation law states that off-road driving is subject to fines, and also that vehicles can be impounded and offenders can even face jail time.”

The police consider every individual case. The minimum fine for off-road driving is 350,000 ISK (€2,477, $2,781) and fines higher than that amount are often issued. “I believe that the basis of the rules is good. It may be that we should raise the fines, and that’s something which I’m very ready to inspect,” minister Guðmundur continued.

The task of educating drivers is mostly handled by rangers. 200 million ISK (€1.4m, $1.58m) were added to the budget for land protection this year, and an extra 300 million ISK (€2.11m, $2.37m) of funds will go towards the cause next year.

Authorities charged individuals for 40 instances of off-road driving in 2018. “Truth be told, the overall management of this matter has improved in the last 5 or 10 years. Both the police along with search and rescue squads, which have started to be more prevalent in the highlands. So rangers, search and rescue teams, and the police are collaborating well in this field. It’s an infinite task which we will just have to continue to fight,” Guðmundur said.

Head to the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, www.road.is, for further information on road conditions and what is considered off-road driving.

Glacial Outburst Flood in Múlakvísl Expected

Measurements from Mýrdalsjökull glacier indicate that a glacial outburst flood could occur in Múlakvísl river in the next days or weeks. A relatively large flood is expected, the largest in the last eight years. Authorities do not expect to have to enforce closures on roads at this point in time, but they will follow developments in the area closely. Closure of Route 1 might occur. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management reported this yesterday, and will continue to monitor the situation.

The results from The Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland indicate that enough water has collected below geothermal heat calderas in the eastern part of Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The water flow during the height of the glacial flood could be significantly more than the flood which took place in 2017, but likely less than the severe flood of 2011. The flood in 2011 destroyed the bridge on Route 1 crossing the Múlakvísl river east of Vík í Mýrdal.

Regular flooding of Múlakvísl
Small glacial floods have occurred in Múlakvísl river almost yearly in the last couple of years, close to or right after mid-summer when the thaw in Mýrdalsjökull glacier is at a high point. Those floods have most often been small enough that the river does not flow out of the riverbed, and have therefore not caused any damages. There was no glacial outburst flood in 2018. The flood in 2017 was considered significant although it did not cause any damages. However, the flood in 2017 caused significant air pollution due to the release of hydrogen sulphide. In the last 100 years, there have been at least two severe glacial outburst floods in Múlakvísl, in 1955 and 2011. In both of those floods, the bridge crossing Múlakvísl river was ruptured. For scale, the flood in 2017 is estimated to have been to the tune of 200 cubic metres per second near the Route 1 crossing, which was 20% of the maximum water flow in the 2011 flood in the same site.

“We’ve performed measurements in the same calderas four times since 2017. We can expect that the flood will be the largest flood which has occurred in Múlakvísl in the last eight years. In all likelihood, it will be significantly smaller than the 2011 flood which ruptured the bridge, but nonetheless, it would be the largest flood since then. The main explanation is the fact that there was no outburst from these calderas last summer,” said Eyjólfur Magnússon, a glacial research expert at The Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland in an interview with RÚV. The warmth in Iceland this summer could be causing an earlier flood than usual, according to Eyjólfur. “It could be causing that this flood will happen sooner than usual. These calderas often have outbursts in July or the beginning of August. That has been the main rule. It seems to be so that the summer thaw is starting this flood. So it seems to be often that these calderas empty when the summer thaw is at high-point up on the glacier, or soon after that.

There is considerable geothermal heat under Mýrdalsjökull glacier which creates about 20 calderas on the surface of the glacier. The heat melts the glacial ice and the meltwater collects under the geothermal calderas. In addition to this, thaw water from the surface of the glacier seeps through the glacier and is added to meltwater collecting below the glacier. When enough water has collected, it breaks out from under the glacier and causes the glacial outburst flood.

Members of the travel industry in the nearby area have been informed of the danger. If a flood should occur, they will be informed of further proceedings right away. Scientists believe that the flood will come with some prior warning, and they are now working on putting up a GPS measurement device in one of the sub-glacial calderas to measure proceedings more accurately.

At this point in time, it is believed that it is not necessary to close roads. That situation could change quickly, however, and authorities will step in if they believe a flood is about to occur.

What can happen, and how should travellers react?
Dangers which accompany a glacial outburst flood in Múlakvísl river:
– Floodwater can block the route from Route 1 towards Kötlujökull glacier west of Hafursey.
– Floodwater can flood over and block, or even rupture, Route 1 at the bridge crossing of Múlakvísl river.
– Floodwater can block the route into Þakgil.
– The gas hydrogen sulphide could be found in copious amounts close to Múlakvísl river. The gas can burn mucous membrane in the eyes and in the respiratory tract

Instructions:
– Respect road closures, as well as evacuations if they should occur.
– Keep away from the Múlakvísl river when a glacial outburst flood is occurring.
– Avoid places affected by gas pollution, such as along the river as well as in depressions nearby by it. Do not stop at the bridge crossing Múlakvísl or Skálm.

Travellers passing through the area are instructed to head to the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, www.road.is, for further information on road conditions, or call 1777.

Northern Lights Driving Causes Danger

Travellers seeking northern lights can cause considerable danger on roads, according to Aftenposten. Icelandic police authorities have warned travellers of the danger. Travellers come from all over the world to witness the northern lights in wintertime Iceland.

Northern Lights tourism comes with its fair share of traffic problems. According to the Icelandic police, many travellers lack experience driving in winter conditions. “The weather in Iceland changes every five minutes and road conditions alike,” said Jóhannes Sigfússon, police inspector at Akureyri. “A dry road can become icy and slippery in a matter of minutes.”

Nighttime is the most dangerous, as tired drivers not used to the conditions look upwards in search of the northern lights. Eighteen people lost their lives in traffic accidents last year, and half of those were of foreign origin.

Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten’s coverage states that travellers often seek dangerous mountain roads and that many a northern lights trip ends in disaster. It also states that travellers often drive in the middle of the two-lane ring road when seeking out the northern lights. The road may twist and turn at a moment’s notice, and a driver that’s not fully alert might end up crashing.

Travellers are advised to use www.road.is for information about road conditions and weather. It is the official road information website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration.

 

 

Skaftá Glacial Flood Ends

The glacial outburst flood that has been taking place along the Skaftá river in South Iceland has mostly ended reports the Icelandic Met Office.

According to an announcement on the Met’s website, “Water discharge in Skaftá is back to normal for this time of year. The Skaftá flood is therefore mostly over.” The announcement emphasizes, however, that both discharge and water height in both the Grenlækur and Tungulækur streams are still high. It’s estimated that these will return to normal levels in a little over a week.

The Icelandic Met Office issued a travel warning about the glacial flood a week ago, and since then, part of Route 1, the Ring Road, had to be closed at Kirkjubæjarklaustur due to rising water levels.

Travelers are reminded to check road conditions at road.is before setting out on their trips.

Road to Látrabjarg in Poor Condition

The gravel road which leads to the popular travel destination Látrabjarg is in poor condition after the winter, Bæjarins Besta reports. The 440 metre high Látrabjarg is the westernmost point of Iceland. Home to millions of birds, it is a popular bird watching destination and receives high visitor numbers in the summertime. The cliff was chosen as one of the top 10 ocean viewing spots in the world by National Geographic.

Látrabjarg is situated on the southern part of the Icelandic Westfjords, and the road (road 612 – Örlygshafnarvegur) towards the cliff is plagued by deep holes which can damage vehicles passing through. The photographer Marino Thorlacius shed light on the issue with photos and videos of the road’s condition. “The The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration and Vesturbyggð don’t seem to understand that Látrabjarg and Rauðisandur are the places that attract people to the southern part of the Westfjords. The road access tarnishes the image of the area and is completely unacceptable.”, Marino commented. “Everyone knows that these are rural roads and their condition isn’t a 100% percent, but it’s not acceptable that they’re at 20% condition in the high season when the traffic is at its highest point”, Marino continued. He criticized the The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration for its part in it, and the fact that they have focused on other roads and areas.

Travellers are advised to show caution while driving the road, which is still deemed passable. Further information can be reached by phone (1777) and at www.road.is.