Largest Volcanic Eruption in Recent Years

Volcanic eruption on Reykjanes peninsula

The volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula, which began shortly before midnight Monday night, is the largest one since volcanic activity started up in the area in 2019. Its intensity is already decreasing, however, as evident from seismic and GPS measurements, the Icelandic Meteorological Office has announced. “The fact that the activity is decreasing already is not an indication of how long the eruption will last, but rather that the eruption is reaching a state of equilibrium,” read the 3 AM update. “This development has been observed at the beginning of all eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula in recent years.”

The southern end of the fissure is almost 3 km from the edge of the town of Grindavík, whose population of nearly 4,000 people has already been evacuated. The eruptive fissure is about 4 km long, with the northern end just east of Stóra-Skógfell and the southern end just east of Sundhnúk. However, the lava flow is more powerful than in the previous eruption, with more lava already flowing in the first seven hours of this eruption than the entirety of the Litli-Hrútur eruption in the summer of this year.

Lava could spare all man-made structures

The lava is not flowing in the direction of Grindavík, according to scientists who have observed the situation. Volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson told RÚV that the location of the eruption is favourable, as it could spare all man-made structures. “Tonight everyone can be calm,” he told RÚV around 3 AM. “If everything is normal, the intensity will decrease tomorrow afternoon and the fissure will develop into craters. The eruption could last a week to 10 days.”

In an update with RÚV this morning, Ármann said that if the flow remains powerful, the lava could reach the road to Grindavík. He added that the pollution from the eruption is substantial and could affect vulnerable people in nearby towns, depending on wind direction. In that case, people should close all windows in their homes.

Roads to Grindavík closed

Police have closed all roads to and from Grindavík and asks that people do not attempt to get close to it, as gas fumes could prove dangerous. “Scientists will need a few days to assess the situation and its status is in fact updated every hour,” the Reykjanes Peninsula Police warned. “Passersby are asked to respect the closure and show understanding of the situation.”

Cabinet ministers will meet this morning to assess the situation.  The Icelandic Meteorological Office, civil protection and response units in the area continue to monitor the eruption and a meeting of scientists will be held in the morning to evaluate the overnight development of the eruption.

We will continue to update this story as it develops.

Reykjanes Eruption Could End With Earthquake Swarm

volcano eruption Geldingadalir Reykjanes

The ongoing eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula was kicked off by a strong earthquake swarm, and it could take another such swarm to end it. That’s one of Volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson’s hypotheses about how the eruption could eventually come to a close, but it is indeed just a hypothesis. Experts have oft underlined that there is no reliable way to predict when the eruption will end.

“There are no clear signs that the eruption is ending,” Þorvaldur stated on Bylgjan radio station this morning. Before it began more than three months ago, the eruption was preceded by weeks of strong earthquakes, felt across the capital area and South and West Iceland. Þorvaldur believes another such earthquake swarm could be what stops the eruption, which is located along a rift between two tectonic plates. As the plates move apart, they create tension in the earth’s crust which is released in the form of seismic or volcanic activity.

Read More: The Geology of the Reykjanes Peninsula

“Such plate movements appear to have instigated this eruption and I suspect that maybe something similar is required to end it,” Þorvaldur stated. Until such movement happens, the eruption may continue, and experts have already stated that could be years or decades. Until then, the eruption is “like a pipe that’s always open. It’s dripping steadily. And there’s no tap to screw shut. They forgot to buy one,” Þorvaldur joked in the morning interview.

While volcanic activity at the eruption site briefly paused on the night of June 28, it resumed again some hours later. Þorvaldur says there are once more considerable magma jets spewing from the active crater and visible lava flow over a large area, including Meradalir valley.