iceland volcanolava eruption volcano aerial view drone view from Iceland of Hot lava and magma coming out of the crater, April 2021

Volcanic Iceland, roughly speaking, erupts every five years. Since 2021, however, the frequency has been closer to every 12 months! The area broadly known as Fagradalsfjall, some 35km from the capital Reykjavík, flared to life after a series of earthquakes on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The three eruptions – some consider one single eruption with months-long pauses – marks the beginning of a new geological era on the southwestern peninsula, dormant for the past 800 years.

iceland volcano
lava eruption volcano aerial view
drone view from Iceland of Hot lava and magma coming out of the crater, April 2021

Unlike most volcanic eruptions — occurring on the interior highlands, the lava hidden under ice and/or with lethal volumes of volcanic gases — Fagradalsfjall was the ideal ‘tourist volcano’: Small in relative terms and accessible for all levels of fitness.

The last eruption ended in August 2023, but the site still remains a major attractions. The thick, black crust of lava paves the landscape, with crumbling craters and steam. Welcome to the newest part of Iceland.

 

Iceland has declared a state of emergency, with police officials urging residents to evacuate the coastal town of Grindavík following an intense wave of earthquakes in the southwest of the country linked to a possible volcanic eruption.

Nearly 800 quakes were recorded between midnight and 2 p.m. on Friday, with the shallowest at a depth of 3-3.5 kilometers (1.86-2.18 miles), according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

In statements Friday, Iceland’s Civil Protection Agency said a magma tunnel that is forming could reach Grindavík. But as of Friday evening, the Icelandic authority said it has been impossible to tell if and where the magma might break through to the surface.

“Earthquakes may become bigger than those that have already occurred, and this sequence of events could lead to an eruption. However, there are still no signs that the magma is nearing the surface. Its progress is being closely monitored,” the Civil Protection Agency said.

Magma is a mixture of molten and semi-molten rock found beneath the surface of the Earth that can cause an eruption when it finds its way to the surface, becoming lava.

Authorities urged residents to evacuate calmly and emphasized that there is no imminent danger.

“We want to reiterate that residents MUST evacuate their homes and leave the town. But we also want to reiterate that this is not an emergency evacuation, there is plenty of time to prepare, secure things and drive out of town calmly,” the Civil Protection Agency said.

“It is clear that we are dealing with events that we Icelanders have not experienced before, at least not since the eruption in Vestmannaeyjar. We faced that together, we will face this together and we will not lose heart,”  the Civil Protection Agency added.

The US Embassy in Iceland issued a volcano alert, warning about the increased signs of volcanic activity.

“If an eruption occurs, follow the instructions of Icelandic authorities. Volcanic hazards may include lava, toxic gases, and heavy smoke The world-famous Blue Lagoon thermal pool in the area has already closed due to the ongoing seismic activity.

Since 2021, there has been an eruption almost every 12 months and the latest one took place in July south of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik.

Iceland sits on a tectonic plate boundary that continually splits apart, pushing North America and Eurasia away from each other along the line of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is home to 32 active volcanoes.

Iceland is one of the most geologically active regions in the world, with around 30 active volcanic sites.

Volcanic eruptions occur when magma, which is lighter than the solid rock around it, rises to the earth’s surface from deep below it.

In July, Litli-Hrutur, or Little Ram, erupted in the Fagradalsfjall area, drawing tourists to the site of the “world’s newest baby volcano”.

The site was dormant for eight centuries until eruptions in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

 

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