Reykjanes Volcanoes Overview
After over 800 years of quiet, the Reykjanes Peninsula reawakened in 2021, with several volcanic eruptions impacting the region. In between eruptions, numerous earthquakes occur to remind the people of Iceland what lies below.
8th February 2024 Sundhnúkagígar Eruption
An eruption began at 6:02 am on 8th February 2024, northeast of Sýlingarfell, preceded by earthquakes half an hour earlier within a magma intrusion north of Grindavík. The Blue Lagoon was evacuated due to the eruption, and Grindavík town had already been evacuated. This echoes the December 18th, 2023 eruption. The location of this eruption mirrors the eruption that occurred on 18th December 2023.
This marks the sixth volcanic event in five years on the Reykjanes Peninsula, the third in quick succession. The previous eruption lasted 60 hours.
The fissure, stretching 3 km, released lava east and west, predominantly eastward. Lava overflowed the Svartsengi geothermal power plant's pipeline to Njarðvíkur, causing supply disruptions in Reykjanes. The volcanic activity has considerably decreased, and there hasn't been any observable activity since 8 a.m. on February 9th.
Unlike the 2010 ash-producing eruption beneath glacial ice, fissure eruptions like these, including all six recent ones on the Reykjanes Peninsula, do not affect flights to or from Iceland.
It is important to note that the general public is not able to visit the eruption site at this time.
January 2024 Reykjanes Eruption
January 14, 2024, marked the 5th volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes Peninsula in the last four years. The eruption was just outside the small town of Grindavík.
A large fissure opened at 7:57 and is around 900 meters away from Grindavík. The lava mainly flowed to the west, not towards the town. This is mainly due to the fortifications that have recently been under construction.
A smaller fissure opened at 12:10, only 200 metres north of the town. From this fissure, Lava has entered the town and taken at least three houses with it. By midday, January 15, lava flow from the second and smaller fissure stopped, and in the early hours of January 16, the eruption had ceased in the first and larger fissure.
December 2023 Sundhnúkagígar Eruption
In December 2023, a volcano erupted in an uninhabited part of the Reykjanes Peninsula after several weeks of intense earthquake activity, the fourth eruption in the region since 2021. On December 18, 2023, at 22:17, a fissure opened up, sending large lava streams into the air and lasting for just three days.
The fissure stretched nearly 4 km, located between Sýlingarfell and Hagafell. The December 2023 eruption at Sundhnúkagígar produced a significantly higher lava flow compared to past events.
July 2023 Litli Hrútur Eruption
On the afternoon of 10 July 2023 to 5 August 2023, an eruption occurred in the Fagradalsfjall volcano system, with a 900-metre-long fissure opening up. Just 11 months after the last eruption, the new crack sparked excitement from locals and tourists alike.
The third eruption in three years, the active fissure followed thousands of earthquakes over a period of several days. Magma broke through the surface, shooting fountains of lava metres into the air. The eruption site was named Litli-Hrútur (Little Ram) after a nearby hyaloclastite hill.
2022 Fagradalsfjall (Meradalir) Eruption
Another eruption began on 3 August 2022 and ended on 21 August 2022, similar to the 2021 eruption. On 3 August 2022, following weeks of earthquakes, another eruption began at Fagradalsfjall. The lava flow decreased around mid-August and stopped on 21 August 2022. Ultimately, roughly 12 million cubic metres of lava had erupted. The eruption site was named Meradalir (Mare Valleys).
2021 Fagradalsfjall (Geldingadalir) Eruption
On 19 March 2021, the volcanism of the Reykjanes Peninsula area awakened when a fissure vent appeared in Geldingadalir to the south of Fagradalsfjall mountain. Reports at the time stated that a 600–700-metre-long fissure vent began ejecting lava, which covered an area of less than 1 square kilometre. The lava flows posed no threat to residents, as the region is primarily uninhabited. Five vents eventually emerged, all spewing lava metres into the air.
By 2 May 2021, only one fissure that opened near the initial eruption site on Geldingadalir, remained active and developed into a towering volcano. There was the occasional explosive eruption within its crater that at times reached heights of hundreds of metres. The volcano's rim had risen to a height of 334 metres above sea level by September 2021. The 2021 eruption emitted fresh lava until 18 September 2021.
What is the Current Situation on the Reykanes Peninsula?
A seismic swarm hit the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland with more than 5,500 small earthquakes in late October 2023, raising the prospect of a volcanic eruption. A new volcanic eruption began on December 18, 2023, and lasted for three days. The eruption site is being called Sundhnúkagígar.
Where Can You Learn About Volcanoes in Iceland?
Perlan's Forces of Nature exhibition allows guests to feel the power of volcanoes, earthquakes, and geothermal energy that powers the island. Guests will learn that volcanoes form when heat and pressure build up beneath the earth's surface. The earth's weak points tend to be along fault lines where tectonic plates converge or diverge, as in Iceland's case.
Perlan's exhibition shows that volcanic activity in Iceland is so diverse that researchers typically speak of "volcanic systems" rather than individual volcanoes. The island has 30 active volcanic systems, each with many types of volcanoes.
Is it safe to visit an eruption site?
There are several factors to consider before visiting an erupting volcano. When a volcano erupts, visibility can be low, and dangerous gas levels can shift quickly and be harmful. Make sure you check safetravel.is for the latest updates on safety conditions. The authorities can always close access to the hiking trail if gas levels reach a dangerous level or if weather conditions are poor.
What would happen if there is an eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula?
The result of an eruption would depend on its size and location. There would likely be earthquakes before the eruption, and warnings would be issued by authorities. Tours to the region would be cancelled, and roads to the area would be closed if warranted. Geologists are constantly monitoring the volcanoes on the island, and procedures are in place to keep people safe in the event of an eruption.
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