New Eruption Lengthier Than Previous Ones

The latest Reykjanes peninsula eruption has already gone on for longer than the previous three eruptions in this recent spell of volcanic activity in the area. The eruption, which began Saturday, is still being fed by magma pooling under nearby Svartsengi, which is causing crustal uplift in the area, RÚV reports.

Lava may spare road

The fissure between Hagafell and Stóra Skógfell sent lava flowing both west and south and while the flow to the west has stopped, lava still flows to the south, bypassing the town of Grindavík, but heading in the direction of Suðurstrandarvegur.

This raised cause for concern, for several reasons. If it reached Suðurstrandarvegur that would naturally further impede traffic to and from central Reykjanes; the road Grindavíkurvegur, which connects Grindavík to the Reykjanesbraut highway, has already been overrun with lava. However, the lava has not crawled closer to Suðurstrandarvegur road since yesterday, according to local police.

Air pollution decreasing

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution from the eruption has decreased since the beginning of the eruption. Projections show the remaining air pollution spreading to the northeast from the eruption site.

The Suðurnes police commissioner has allowed Grindavík residents and those employed in town to stay there and work, arguing that Grindavík is not under threat from the current lava flow. However, it is recommended that people don’t stay in Grindavík overnight.

Svartsengi Geothermal Power Station Evacuated Due to Air Pollution

grindavík evacuation svartsengi power plant

The Svartsengi geothermal power station was evacuated this morning due to sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution from the ongoing Reykjanes eruption. Five employees were reported to be in the area when the decision to evacuate was made. RÚV reported first.

Svartsengi can operate remotely

The Svartsengi geothermal power station is a major provider of electricity and hot and cold water for the Reykjanes peninsula. After the first Reykjanes eruption in 2021, steps were taken to ensure the continued operation of the station, even during an eruption. It is capable of operating nearly autonomously for shorter periods of time, and during such eruptions, it operates with a skeleton crew. It has been operated almost entirely remotely for the past month.

reykjanes eruption march 19
Meteorological Office of Iceland

Not advisable to remain in area

Birna Lárusdóttir, a spokesperson for HS Orka, the operator of Svartsengi, stated to Morgunblaðið that “SO2 levels had reached a point where it was no longer advisable to be in the area.” She noted that they had prepared for this eventuality and that as wind patterns change later in the day, it may be possible for employees to return today. She emphasised that such decision are made in cooperation with Civil Protection and the Met Office.

Power production not at risk

Birna continued: “However, this is certainly not a completely unmanned power plant. We need to attend to various tools and equipment that are part of the daily operations of the power station. We need to take care of buildings, equipment, and machinery when we deem it necessary, as we did this morning.”

According to Birna, power production at Svartsengi is not currently at risk.

Five Magma Intrusions, Three Eruptions

svartsengi power plant reykjanes

Five magma intrusions have formed near the town of Grindavík, Southwest Iceland, since November but only three of them have broken the surface as eruptions. Magma continues to collect below Svartsengi and uplift (land rise) continues at the site. Recent earthquakes on Reykjanes are more likely a result of magma cooling underground than signs of an impending eruption, according to Salóme Jórunn Bernharðsdóttir, natural hazard specialist at the Icelandic Met Office.

Three brief eruptions occurred on the Reykjanes peninsula near the town of Grindavík in December, January, and February. In late February, as the magma chamber below Svartsengi filled once more, experts predicted a fourth eruption would occur in early March. However, while collecting magma flowed out of the chamber, it never broke the surface and now appears to be cooling underground.

Magma continues to collect below Svartsengi and the amount is now more than it was before the magma intrusion in early March. Salóme told RÚV that if another eruption occurs at the site, it will likely be preceded by the same seismic activity as the last three eruptions in the area.

The eruptions have not impacted flights or travel to and from Iceland.

Read more about the recent eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula.

New Eruption Likely This Weekend

Grindavík volcanic eruption January 2024

A new volcanic eruption could happen this weekend, according to Ármann Höskuldsson, volcanologist with the University of Iceland. The most likely place for it would be Sundhnúkagígar, where eruptions took place in December, January and February, damaging the nearby town of Grindavík.

Last night, the Icelandic Meteorological Office reported some sixty earthquakes over a 24 hour span in the magma corridor that lies under the area. The area with the highest level of activity was to the east of Sýlingarfell, where the first signs of a magma intrusion are expected to come to light.

Eruptions in Eldvörp possible

In an interview with Mbl.is, Ármann said that there’s no reason to think that a new eruption won’t occur in the area in the coming days. “Except if it were to occur in Eldvörp,” Ármann said.

Eldvörp is a row of craters to the northwest of Grindavík, the town of 4,000 inhabitants that was evacuated during the series of seismic activity and eruptions since November. Ármann explained that nearby Svartsengi, home to a geothermal plant and popular tourist destination Blue Lagoon, is something of a trap for magma, which is why it’s become the centre of activity.

Were the magma to reach Eldvörp, the activity around Svartsengi will cool off, as Eldvörp provides an easier route for the magma to reach the surface, due to its location on the boundaries of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Ármann added that persistent seismic activity was the only way for the magma to break through to Eldvörp, with each volcanic eruption making it more likely.

New Water Pipeline Completed, Hot Water Returning to Reykjanes

lava, hraun, eruption, eldgos, hot water pipe

Residents of the Reykjanes peninsula, who have been without hot water since an eruption damaged a pipeline last Thursday, may finally be able to take a hot shower later today, RÚV reports. A new pipeline was completed around 1:00 AM last night and has been successfully transporting water to reserve tanks since around 3:00 AM this morning. Some 30,000 residents on the peninsula have been without hot water and heating since lava flowed across the main hot water pipeline from Svartsengi Power Station.

Using plug-in heaters to heat homes

The vast majority of homes on the Reykjanes peninsula are heated with hot water from Svartsengi, a geothermal power plant. The hot water outage began shortly after noon on Thursday, when the hot water pipeline serving the peninsula was damaged. Residents were urged to lower the temperature in their homes to extend the availability of hot water as long as possible, but by Thursday evening, reserves were depleted. Many rushed to buy electric radiators, gas tanks, and heater fans to keep their homes warm. Several schools in the area were closed as a result of the outage.

Construction completed ahead of schedule

Construction on the new pipeline had begun before the eruption, but when the outage occurred, it was put in full swing. Welders, plumbers, excavation workers, and others worked throughout the weekend to get the new pipeline completed and did so ahead of schedule. Hot water is now filling the tanks, and could reach homes as early as tonight, though it may still take up to a few days. Authorities ask residents to continue limiting their electricity use to 3 KW per home in order to avoid outages, particularly in the evening when strain on the system increases.

Further eruptions expected

The eruption that occurred last Thursday is the third in the area in three months. While it appears to already be over, further eruptions are expected. Geological activity, including land rise at Svartsengi, indicates that magma is once again collecting below the surface of the Reykjanes peninsula.

Read more about the series of eruptions that began on the Reykjanes peninsula in 2021.

Lava Crosses Grindavík Road, Hot Water Supply at Risk

A screenshot from RÚV. Lava flowing over Grindavíkurvegur around 10:00 AM on February 8, 2024

Update 12:23 PM: Lava reached the hot water pipeline just after noon today, cutting off the hot water supply on Reykjanes. Authorities are responding to the situation and more information will be available shortly.

Lava from the eruption that began this morning on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula has flowed across the road to the town of Grindavík. The peninsula’s hot water supply is at risk of being cut off by the advancing lava, and the Civil Protection Department has raised its alert phase for the area to “danger” as a result. The eruption is localised within a small area and flights to and from Iceland are not affected.

Residents and businesses asked to limit hot water use

Lava is now flowing toward the main pipeline that transports hot water from Svartsengi Power Plant to Reykjanesbær. If lava does flow over the pipes, it will cut off hot water supply to the towns of Reykjanesbær, Suðurnesjabær, Grindavík, and Vogar. According to the current rate of flow, this could happen within the next few hours.

As a precaution, civil protection authorities ask residents and business on the Reykjanes peninsula to lower their indoor heating, limit hot water use, and avoid using hot water for showers, baths, or hot tubs. In addition, locals are asked to delay turning on electrical heating systems and devices for as long as possible in order to not overwhelm the system. Locals are also asked to give responders leeway to do their necessary work.

A foreseeable scenario

Icelandic authorities had foreseen this potential scenario and had begun work on laying an underground pipeline in the area where the eruption is now taking place. A 500-metre long section has been laid that could replace the current pipeline if it is destroyed by lava, but it could take several days to put bring the new pipeline into use. Hot water reserves for the area can last around 12-14 hours if used sparingly.

Breaking: Eruption Begins on Reykjanes Peninsula

reykjanes eruption at sundhnúk february 2024

An eruption has begun in Iceland, the third on the Reykjanes peninsula since December. It poses no immediate threat to infrastructure, inhabited areas, or flights through Iceland.

The eruption is reported to have began around 6:00 this morning. After seismic activity around 5:30 this morning, February 8, a fissure opened on the Reykjanes peninsula near Sundhnúk.

Following a Coast Guard surveillance flight, the Icelandic Met Office reports that the fissure opened near the eruption of December 18, approximately one kilometre from Grindavík.

The Met Office also reports that the initial fissure seems to be some 3 km [1.8 mi] in length. Initial reports indicate a slightly lesser lava flow than the December 18 eruption.

Lava jets are estimated to reach 50-80 m [164-262 ft] and can be seen from the capital area.

The Blue Lagoon is reported to have evacuated its guests shortly after the beginning of the eruption.

Initial reports show no immediate threat to the town of Grindavík or the Svartsengi geothermal power plant. The established pattern of such eruptions is that they begin with the most force and die down relatively quickly.

This is breaking news. Stay up to date with our coverage for the latest on the situation, or read about the history of the Reykjanes eruptions here.

Reykjanes Could Erupt Again Next Week

Grindavík volcanic eruption January 2024

The next eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula could occur as soon as next week, RÚV reports. Land uplift at Svartsengi is occurring at a faster rate than prior to the January 2024 eruption in the area. Kristín Jónsdóttir, head of the natural hazards department at the Icelandic Met Office, says an eruption or other volcanic event could occur with little notice.

Magma chamber below Svartsengi

Land by the Svartsengi Power Plant and the Blue Lagoon has risen by up to 8 millimetres per day in recent days, slightly faster than before the January 14 eruption outside of the town of Grindavík. This indicates that the magma chamber beneath Svartsengi is likely expanding and could eventually causing an eruption or form a magma tunnel like the one that formed below the town of Grindavík at the end of last year.

Kristín believes such an event is not far off. “Assuming that this continues at a similar pace as has happened before, it can be expected that there will be another magma outburst in February, around mid-February, or even next week,” Kristín stated.

Eruption could occur with little notice

“The magma could start flowing without there being much seismic activity or us getting a lot of warning long before,” Kristín stated. She pointed out that seismic activity only increased one hour before the December eruption at Sundhnúkagígar.

Read more about the recent eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula.

Explained: An Update on the Geological Activity in Reykjanes

svartsengi power plant reykjanes

Magma accumulation under Svartsengi on the Reykjanes Peninsula since the December 18 eruption has increased the risk of another eruption. The head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management warns that residents and businesses near Grindavík and Svartsengi should be prepared for possible short-notice evacuation.

What’s going on in Reykjanes?

Ever since the brief but powerful eruption in Sundhnúksgígar on the Reykjanes peninsula on December 18, magma has been steadily accumulating in the area once again. 

As noted on the MET Office’s website, there is still relatively low seismic activity in the area, mainly concentrated between Hagafell and Stóra Skógfell, where the centre of the magma dyke is located. Continuous seismic activity in Fagradalsfjall has persisted since December 18.

Land uplift is still ongoing in the Svartsengi area, which has been quite stable since the eruption on December 18. The ground has risen about 5 mm per day recently and is now about 5 cm higher than before the magma intrusion on November 10 and December 18 last year.

Model calculations, derived from deformation data (GPS and satellite imagery), indicate that the volume of magma accumulated in the horizontal magma dyke under Svartsengi since December 18 is now similar to the volume that previously flowed from the same area, forming the magma dyke that triggered the December 18 eruption.

This means there is an increased risk of a magma intrusion in the coming days. The MET Office notes that it is important to emphasise that magma intrusion can lead to a volcanic eruption and that the last eruption began with very short notice.

The MET Office issued an updated hazard map on January 5 and will reassess the map on Friday, January 12. 

Volcanic eruption on Reykjanes peninsula
Golli. The largest eruption in Reykjanes since activity began in 2019.

What’s the latest news from the Department of Civil Protection?

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Víðir Reynisson, Director of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, stated that reports that the volume of magma that had accumulated near the Svartsengi area on the Reykjanes Peninsula had reached a similar volume as before the last eruption had altered the situation from a civil protection point of view. 

“We are always approaching the time when a magma intrusion could begin, possibly leading to an eruption. We have received all the warnings we are going to get. The next thing that happens is that a geological event will start,” Víðir observed yesterday. 

Víðir stated that if the MET Office gets indications that this geological event is beginning, evacuations will be initiated. “The entire area will be evacuated as soon as that happens. Therefore, residents of Grindavík and those working or staying near the Svartsengi area will need to be prepared to evacuate on short notice. Such decisions could be made very quickly,” Víðir explained. “It’s not time to evacuate yet, but that could change rapidly, in the next few days or even sooner.”

Asked about the advisability of resuming business operations in Grindavík, Víðir remarked that if companies are capable of initiating a speedy evacuation, they have been given permission to resume work. 

Is an eruption in Grindavík a possibility?

Yes, although it is not the most likely scenario.

Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, told Vísir yesterday that an eruption near Grindavík, or even in the town itself, could not be ruled out. 

Asked to comment on the likelihood of an eruption in Grindavík, Víðir stated that such a thing would be considered the most serious scenario. “It’s not the most likely scenario, but it’s not impossible. Therefore, we cannot take any chances and will not do so. We will evacuate the area entirely if this gets underway.” 

Víðir’s message to those in Grindavík is to be prepared to leave on short notice.

Rescue workers assist Grindavík residents
Rescue workers assist Grindavík residents during evacuations in November (Golli)

Will this affect travellers coming to Iceland?

No, it is highly unlikely. 

Throughout the previous four eruptions in Reykjanes, the Keflavík International Airport has remained open and so have the roads leading from the airport and into the capital area (with a few rare and very brief exceptions). 

Although there is reason for Grindavík residents and businesses, and those employed near the Svartsengi area, to be prepared for speedy evacuations, travellers visiting Iceland need not be concerned.

The Blue Lagoon remains open. For more information click here.

Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula Likely to Erupt Again Soon

svartsengi power plant reykjanes

Magma is collecting below Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula again and experts say another eruption could happen at any time. The land by Svartsengi has now risen more than it did before last month’s eruption. The speed of uplift has also increased again, after slowing down last week.

Magma chamber refilling

Following two months of earthquakes and land deformation, Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula experienced a short but powerful eruption from December 18 to December 21. According to Benedikt Ófeigsson, Coordinator of Deformation Observation at the Icelandic Met Office, the magma chamber beneath Svartsengi has now replenished 75% of the magma expelled by the December eruption.

These developments indicate that another eruption is on the way, Benedikt told RÚV.  The most likely location is the Sundhnúkur Crater Row, between Stóra-Skógfell and Hagafell mountains. According to Benedikt, the eruption could begin there “at any time.”

Blue Lagoon remains open

An overnight evacuation order remains in effect for the nearby town of Grindavík (pop. 3,600). The town was evacuated on November 10 due to powerful earthquakes that damaged roads, homes, and infrastructure in and around the community.

The nearby Blue Lagoon was reopened to visitors on Saturday. Benedikt says an eruption is not likely to occur in the area around the lagoon. “So even if an eruption begins, there will most likely be plenty of time to evacuate people.”

The Reykjanes peninsula, the location of Keflavík International Airport and a stone’s throw from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, has entered a period of increased volcanic activity that could last hundreds of years. The four eruptions that have occurred on the peninsula since 2021 have not impacted infrastructure or flights. The earthquakes and deformation preceding the December 2023 eruption, which caused damage in and around Grindavík.