Sundhnukagigaroð Crater Row Eruption

Rising Magma Suggests Imminent Eruption at Svartsengi

May 9th, 2024 market the end of the March 2023 Sundhnúkagígar Crater Row Eruption. However, magma is still flowing into the magma chamber beneath Svartsengi. Concurrently, there has been an increase in seismic activity, which indicates rising pressure in the magma conduit.

Thus, another eruption can be expected soon. For real-time updates and spectacular photos of Iceland's volcanoes, make sure to follow @perlanmuseumiceland.

Eruption Possibilities from the Magma Chamber

Over time, as the eruptions continued, observations showed that the uplift of the land had significantly slowed and nearly stopped. This suggested a balance between the magma entering the reservoir and the magma being expelled to the surface.

Since early April, the uplift rate has suggested that most of the magma entering the reservoir under Svartsengi has begun to accumulate again. This accumulation has led to increased pressure and ground uplift. Meanwhile, a smaller amount of magma still flows to the surface at the Sundhnúkur crater row, as illustrated in the image below.

Magma chamber under Svartsengi

Image Source: Icelandic Met Office (vedur.is)

Calculations by the Meteorological Office estimate that about 13 million cubic meters of magma have accumulated under Svartsengi since the eruption began, which is considered to be around the capacity limit of the magma chamber.

Seismic activity has also increased in the area, and Minney says that up to 60 earthquakes have occurred on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the last 24 hours, an increase compared to recent days.

New Pattern: Land Uplift in Svartsengi During Sundhnúkur Crater Row Eruption

Since December 2023, a series of unprecedented events has unfolded, marked by repeated diking events and subsequent volcanic eruptions. This sequence was disrupted on March 2nd when a dike intrusion occurred without leading to an eruption, alongside the prolonged nature of the current eruption. It remains to be seen when the magma accumulation under Svartsengi will stop, which would end the cycle of repeated diking events and eruptions in the region.

The ongoing eruption site, which began in October 2023 with magma accumulating beneath Svartsengi, shows no signs of concluding despite its lengthy duration; there is no indication that the rate of magma inflow from deeper sources is decreasing. To put this into context, the volcanic activity in Reykjanes from 2020 to 2022 included four distinct periods of magma accumulation under Svartsengi, each followed by varying pauses. Approximately 17 months later, magma began accumulating again in late October 2023 and continues to do so.

The current condition, characterised by consistent ground uplift in Svartsengi while an eruption is active, is unusual. Monitoring the area closely and responding swiftly to any changes in volcanic activity is crucial to ensure public safety and prevent further damage.

Volcanoes in Reykjanes Since March 2023

Over a month has passed since the fiery drama began at the Sundhnúkur crater row in Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula. This eruption, which erupted into action on the evening of March 16, 2024, marks a significant event as the latest in a series of volcanic activities that have captivated both locals and scientists since late 2023. This spectacle offers a unique window into the powerful forces beneath our feet.

The eruption began with a fissure opening along a 3-km stretch from Stóra-Skógfell to Sundhnúkur. Initially, the lava flowed predominantly southward and southeastward, eventually crossing major roadways like Grindavíkurvegur. Concerns grew that the lava could reach the sea and pose hazards from explosive interactions and toxic gas emissions, specifically hydrochloric acid. However, the lava’s progress halted about 250 meters from Suðurstrandarvegur, preventing any immediate threat to coastal areas.

As the eruption continued, activity decreased and focused on three main sites along the fissure. Over time, this activity further diminished, and by April 5, only one vent remained active. This pattern mirrors previous eruptions at the Sundhnúkur crater row but with some unique deviations in its behaviour and intensity. The current situation is being closely monitored, with the ongoing activity confined to a single vent near Sundhnúkur.

This is now the second-longest eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula since 2021. See the volcanic timeline here.

Similar Volcanic Activity in 1975

The activity at Sundhnúkur crater row can be paralleled with the Krafla events starting in 1975. Over a decade, Krafla witnessed 20 dike intrusions, with nine leading to eruptions. These intrusions, though varying in size, all fed into the same magma chamber during the Krafla unrest. Unlike the recent sequence at Sundhnúkur crater row, where eruptions have been strikingly regular, occurring approximately every month since December 18, 2023, Krafla's eruptions did not follow such consistent intervals. This regularity in eruption frequency at Sundhnúkur is notably unusual.

Reykjanes Volcano Sundhnukar Crater Row

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