Rán Flygenring’s Eruption Book Wins Nordic Council Prize

Rán Flygenring Nordic Council Prize pic by Magnus Fröderberg, norden.org.

Icelandic author and illustrator Rán Flygenring has won the 2023 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize for her picture book Eldgos (Volcanic Eruption, not available in English). Flygenring was awarded the prize at a ceremony in Oslo earlier this week. The jury called Eldgos an “explosively visual picture book about how wild and uncontrollable nature affects humans.”

In its rationale, the award jury wrote that Rán “skilfully weave[s] image and text into a playfully humorous story about a motley crowd of tourists that encounters a volcanic eruption. The story bursts with power, both capturing and propelling our fascination with extreme natural phenomena. Yet it also touches on conflicting emotions that arise as the land collapses, lava flows, and new mountains emerge, as well as the emotions connected to more mundane matters such as a lice epidemic or seeing your surroundings being flooded with tourists.” The jury also praised Rán’s illustrations for their “subtle details that will capture the attention of young readers.”

The Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize has been awarded since 2013 in order to promote children’s and youth literature in the Nordic region. A total of 14 Nordic picture books, children’s books, and youth novels received nominations for this year’s prize.

No Changes in Geothermal Activity at Askja Volcano

Michelle Parks / Veðurstofan. Dr Melissa Anne Pfeffer taking gas measurements at Askja.

There are no changes to geothermal activity at Askja volcano, according to preliminary results from a recent research trip conducted by the Icelandic Met Office. The land at Askja has risen 70 cm over the past two years, indicating that some 20 million cubic metres of magma are collecting under the volcano’s surface. An uncertainty phase has been in effect at the site of the remote highland volcano since September 2021.

Eruption on the way?

Volcanologists in Iceland have been predicting that Askja is preparing for an eruption in the near future. While uplift (land rise) has been occurring at the site for around two years, this summer local rangers reported that the temperature of the site’s geothermal lake Víti had risen. A plume of steam was also reportedly sighted at Askja this summer.

Plume of steam was likely dust

A group of scientists from the Icelandic Met Association led by Dr. Melissa Anne Pfeffer and Dr. Michelle Parks made a trip to Askja recently to collect data at the site, including gas and water samples. The preliminary results show no changes in gas or water from previous years, though the samples are being analysed futher at this time. There are no visible changes in the landscape and measurements of temperature and acidity do not indicate chanes in the geothermal activity around Askja and Víti geothermal lake. The report of a plume of steam seen at the site on August 12 has been interpreted as dust from a rock fall on the steep slopes of the caldera.

Askja is a volcano situated in Iceland’s central highland region. Its last eruption occurred in 1961 and gave clear warning in the form of strong earthquakes and a significant rise in geothermal temperatures. No such signs have yet occurred at the site. Tourism operators have nevertheless called for improved telecommunications at the site in case of an eruption.

What do we know about the 2023 Reykjanes eruption at Litli-Hrútur?

reykjanes eruption 2023

Update: The Litli-Hrútur eruption ended on August 5, 2023. For information on the ongoing 2023 eruption near Grindavík, see this article.

An eruption began on the Reykjanes peninsula at 4:40 PM on July 10, 2023. It is the third eruption in three years at the site, and experts say the region has entered a period of increased volcanic activity that could last decades or even centuries. No inhabited areas or infrastructure are currently threatened by lava flow from the eruption, but gas pollution is a significant risk, both at the site and across Southwest Iceland and the Reykjavík capital area. A seprate article provides information on hiking to the eruption.

Uplift, earthquakes, eruption

In June, Iceland Review reported that steady uplift (land rise) had been measured on the Reykjanes peninsula since early April of this year. While the uplift of over 2 centimetres (around one inch) indicated that magma was collecting below the surface of the peninsula, there were still no indications if or when it would breach the surface. In early July, an earthquake swarm began on the peninsula, culminating in an M5.2 earthquake on the evening of July 9. The eruption began the following day, July 10, at 4:40 PM. This pattern – uplift followed by a period of strong earthquakes and then finally an eruption – mirrored the 2021 and 2022 eruptions at the same site.

Rannsóknarstofa í eldfjallafræði og náttúruvá, Háskóli Íslands.

Typical fissure eruption

The eruption is a fissure eruption that opened exactly where experts had predicted it would: between Litli-Hrútur and Mt. Keilir, just north of the 2021 and 2022 eruption sites. As is typical for fissure eruptions, its activity was most intense when it began and has decreased since. The eruption is relatively small but could last a long time. While the 2022 Reykjanes eruption lasted just short of three weeks, the 2021 eruption lasted around six months.

2023 Reykjanes eruption july 17
The Volcanology and Natural Hazard Institute of the University of Iceland. Landsat image from July 17 showing the lava fields created by the 2021, 2022 and 2023 eruptions, as well as burning moss on a 2 km long stretch east of the lava flow.

Figures from the first week

Between July 11-23, the eruption’s lava flow averaged 14.5 cubic metres per second, lowering to 13 cubic metres per second between July 13-17. Due to the margin of error in measurements, researchers say the difference is not significant. By July 17, the surface area of the lava frield created by the eruption was 0.83 square kilometres [0.32 sq mi], and its volume was 8.4 million cubic metres. The edge of the lava advanced 300-400 metres [980-1,300 ft] daily within the first week, with the distance being highly variable from day to day. The lava is around 10 metres thick on average but over 20 metres at its thickest.

All of these figures are quite similar to last year’s eruption in Meradalir but 2-3 times higher than the figures of the Geldingadalir eruption in 2021. So far, the current eruption is not threatening inhabited areas or infrastructure, though pollution from its gases as well as from wildfires set off by the lava are a significant risk for people at the site as well as further off.

Where to find more information

Iceland Review’s most up-to-date coverage of the eruption can all be found in one place.

Those who would like to know more can read about the geology of the Reykjanes peninsula or follow the University of Iceland Volcanology and Natural Hazard Group on Facebook for scientific updates in Icelandic and English.

Several live feeds of the eruption are available online, including here and here.

Information on hiking to the eruption.

This article will be updated regularly.

A Small Eruption That May Last Long

Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra. The eruption on Reykjanes, July 10, 2023

The eruption that began on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula yesterday has already decreased in intensity. This is the third eruption on Reykjanes in three years following a break of some 800 years, and experts say the region has entered a period of increased volcanic activity. Residents of the Reykjanes peninsula and the Reykjavík capital area are encouraged to keep their windows closed today due to gas pollution.

Eruption exactly where expected

An eruption began on the Reykjanes peninsula at 4:40 PM yesterday afternoon following around a week of increased earthquake activity, including an M5.2 earthquake on Sunday night that was felt across the country. The eruption is located between Litli-Hrútur and Mt. Keilir, right where experts had predicted it would break out and just north of the 2021 and 2022 eruption sites.

Civilians asked to stay away

At the moment, the eruption does not threaten roads, infrastructure, or inhabited areas. The risk of gas pollution both at the site and elsewhere in the region is, however, significant. Civilians have been asked to stay away from the eruption site for the time being due to life-threatening conditions. Authorities have also told residents across Southwest Iceland, including the capital area and even as far as the Snæfellsnes peninsula to keep their windows closed due to the pollution.

Activity decreased since yesterday

The eruption is behaving typically for a fissure eruption, according to the Volcano and Natural Hazard Group of South Iceland. Such eruptions tend to be most powerful when they start, due to gas that accumulates high up in the magma intrusion that makes its way to the surface. When the eruption begins, the pressure in the magma tunnel begins to drop and with it the intensity of the eruption. “Now it’s just a question of how long the eruption channel stays open before the eruption ends,” the group wrote.

The eruption can be seen on a live feed below.

Eruption Begun on Reykjanes Peninsula

reykjanes eruption 2023

A volcanic eruption began on the Reykjanes peninsula today at 4:40 PM.

Smoke is rising from the slopes of Litli Hrútur and magma has breached the surface, according to nature hazard specialist Kristín Elísa Guðmundsdóttir with the Icelandic Met Office.

Due to the current placement of the webcam, the eruption site is not currently visible. People are asked to stay away from the eruption site until response teams have arrived.

This is a developing situation. This article will be updated.

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Eruption at Mt. Askja Likely “Sooner Rather than Later”

Lake Askja, Askja, Volcano

Ármann Höskuldsson, a volcanologist and geochemist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences, told Fréttablaðið on Wednesday that the Askja volcano was likely to erupt “sooner rather than later.” Temperature patterns at the surface of Lake Askja suggest that geothermal flux had significantly increased over the past few weeks.

“It’s about to erupt”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the University of Iceland’s Volcanology and Natural Hazard Research Group (i.e. Rannsóknastofa í eldfjallafræði og náttúruvá) revealed that the surface water of Lake Askja (situated in the crater of the volcano Askja in the northeast of the glacier Vatnajökull) had reached a temperature of 2°C and that a thermal analysis of a satellite image showed that the water was heating up steadily.

Ármann Höskuldsson, a volcanologist and geochemist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences, spoke to Fréttablaðið regarding this update: “This means the geothermal fissures have opened up. It is the effect of magma flowing into the mountain. The roof of the mountain gives way and cracks open. This means that the heat reaches the surface faster and that the water heats up and the ice melts.”

Ármann added that under normal conditions there would be ice over the lake. This increased ground temperature in the area was, therefore, abnormal – which could only mean one thing: “It’s about to erupt,” Ármann concluded. The volcanologist was, however, careful to caveat this statement by saying that it was impossible to predict exactly when the eruption would occur.

“But we’ll hopefully be given reasonable notice when the time comes,” Ármann remarked.

Read the full post from the University of Iceland’s Volcanology and Natural Hazard Research Group here.

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.

Magma Intrusions Could Cause Serious Infrastructural Damage in Capital Area

Dike intrusions on the Reykjanes peninsula could potentially damage important infrastructure, both on the peninsula and in the capital area, RÚV reports. This per a Morgunblaðið interview with geoscientist Páll Einarson, who explained that regardless of whether they lead to a volcanic eruption or not, such intrusions could impact the geothermal systems that feed water and heating utilities, as well as geothermal power plants.

A dike (also spelled dyke) is a kind of igneous, or magma intrusion, a “vertical or steeply-dipping sheets of igneous rock” that forms “as magma pushes up towards the surface through cracks in the rock.”

A dike forced its way through a fine-grained, layered volcanic rock that was eroded by wind, snow and rain at the eastern part of Dyngjufjöll in Iceland. Image by Eva P. S. Eibl, CC.

Páll told interviewers that there have been magma intrusions in three or four places on Reykjanes that haven’t caused any serious problems, but one in the wrong place could do permanent infrastructural damage. Currently, there’s no sign that such an event is imminent but Páll explained the recent eruption of Fagradalsfjall in Geldingadalur valley is part of a complex chain of events on the peninsula.

See Also: Odds of Eruption Decrease As New Data Suggests that Magma is Solidifying Underground

A variety of scenarios are possible in the future, Páll continued, including volcanic activity on land or at sea, or intrusion activity around the Krýsuvík and Svartsengi geothermal areas, the Heiðmörk conservation area on the outskirts of Reykjavík, or the Bláfjöll mountains.

Páll noted that eruptions on Reykjanes tend to be small to medium fissure eruptions, and added that the capital may yet experience intense earthquakes as part of this ongoing activity on the peninsula, but there’s no way to say when these might occur.

Reykjanes Eruption: Giant Gas Bubbles Linked to Fluctuating Activity

Eldgos - Geldingadalir - Reykjanes - hraun

A new crater has formed at the ongoing eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula. Professor of Volcanology Þorvaldur Þórðarson told RÚV the new crater appears to be independent from the older active crater. The eruption has been active for nearly five months now and Þorvaldur says it is forming a wide range of lava types, including one he called “toothpaste tube lava.”

Magma chamber at least 15km deep

“Now there seems to be a new crater just outside this crater that has been erupting for the past few months, which we call Crater 5. Whether it is completely connected to this tunnel that feeds the eruption or whether it is a protrusion from the lava pond that is in the crater is not possible to say at this stage. But this seems to be an independent crater that behaves independently, or somewhat independently, of the big one next to it,” Þorvaldur stated.

Experts know little about the magma chamber feeding the eruption, according to Þorvaldur. “We know the magma chamber is there. How wide it is and how long it is, that’s hard to say. But we also know something else, that it reaches all the way down to a depth of 15km [9.3mi], possibly even 17km [10.6mi].”

Cause of fluctuating activity unknown

Lava flowing from the eruption’s craters has reached temperatures of up to 1,240°C [2,264°F], according to a thermometer at the site. Þorvaldur says it has formed all the different types of basalt lava that are known to volcanologists [on land], including smooth pāhoehoe lava as well as rough, jagged ʻaʻā lava (both terms originate in the Hawaiian language), and something he calls “toothpaste tube lava.” Two main factors affect what type of formation results as the lava dries: its viscosity, and the shape of the landscape it flows over.

Since late June, volcanic activity at the eruption site has been fluctuating between active and inactive periods lasting hours or days at a time. Þorvaldur says experts do not know why the eruption is behaving this way but it is connected to the formation of giant gas bubbles. “We get fresh magma coming up. It releases gas into the bubbles and the bubbles expand. We’re talking about bubbles that are 10-20 metres in diameter when they come up. There aren’t just one or two bubbles. There’s a stream of them. That’s what keeps the magma jet activity going in these cycles […] The big question for us is: why is this happening?”

Experts have stated there is no way of knowing how long the eruption will last: it could end at any moment or continue for years or decades.

Read more on the 2021 Reykjanes eruption from Iceland Review Magazine: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Submarine Volcanoes Often Erupt Unnoticed, Says Icelandic Volcanologist

The Icelandic Coast Guard sailed out last Saturday to investigate reports of a dark column of smoke emerging from the ocean, possibly indicating an underwater eruption. While the smoke had disappeared by the time coast guard ship Þór arrived at the site, Icelandic experts told RÚV underwater eruptions are not uncommon though they often go unnoticed. The smoke was spotted off the coast of the Reykjanes peninsula, not far from Iceland’s ongoing eruption on land.

Coast guard ship Þór sailed west from Krýsuvíkurberg cliffs on Saturday evening after a traveller at Selvogsviti lighthouse reported seeing a column of smoke out at sea, RÚV reports. When the ship arrived at the site, sometime after 10:00 PM, there was no smoke to be seen, according to Ásgeir Erlendsson, the Icelandic Coast Guard’s communications officer. Bryndís Ýr Gísladóttir, Natural Hazard Specialist at the Icelandic Met Office, stated IMO equipment had not detected any activity that would indicate a submarine eruption near Krýsuvíkurberg. That does not mean, however, that an eruption did not occur.

“We can’t rule out anything of the sort,” stated Þorvaldur Þórðarson, Professor of Volcanology. “We know that there are often eruptions on the oceanic ridge that we don’t notice until they are over. Or even until we start mapping the area and see a new formation on the seabed. Whether what was seen yesterday is testimony of an eruption or not is difficult to say.” Þorvaldur says data is now being reviewed in the hope of finding an answer.