When a volcano erupts near a populated region, it doesn’t just attract media and scientists to the area. Thousands of onlookers and tourists also do not want to miss such a spectacle, despite pandemic-related restrictions on entry. All this happened last year when a new volcano, at Fagradalsfjall, erupted on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula. Now the volcano has erupted again and one can expect the run to be big again, despite warnings from experts.
After a series of earthquakes yesterday afternoon in the region of Fagradalsfjall near Langhóll, more precisely at Merardalir, the surface broke open for a length of between 200 and 300 meters, releasing a lava flow onto the lava field that had been formed last year. The Icelandic Meteorological Office, which reported the eruption, said on Twitter that the exact location and origin of the lava has yet to be determined. Shortly after the eruption, experts made their way to the site in helicopters. In the meantime, officials have begun to set up gas probes and other measuring devices.
The new outbreak in the Fagradalsfjall area does not come as a complete surprise. Experts had expected things to be bubbling under the surface again after a series of stronger earthquakes in the region. It is not yet clear if the new eruption will be small or if there will be a larger eruption. Opinions on this still differ at the moment. Thorvaldur Thórdarson, the leading volcanologist in Iceland, said in an interview with the state television station RÚV that he expected a stronger and longer-lasting eruption. Currently, smaller eruptions in a longitudinal direction can be seen on the live images, which can also be seen by RÚV via Youtube.
The last eruption in the Fagradalsfjall area was recorded on March 19, 2021, and lasted until mid-September. The Fagradalsfjall area is located between the towns of Keflavik and Gríndavik, about 15 kilometers from the international airport and about 25 kilometers from the capital Reykjavik. Last year’s eruption had occurred near the summit of Geldingadalir. This time the eruption site is at Merardalir, close to Langhóll, the highest elevation in the Fagradalsfjall area. Despite the pandemic at the time and the corresponding travel restrictions, hundreds of thousands of people made a pilgrimage to Iceland over the course of the six-month outbreak to witness the spectacle. In the process, safety warnings from the authorities and experts were repeatedly disregarded. This time, the site is further into the existing lava field and authorities have issued an urgent warning against visiting the new eruption site until the situation is resolved. Nevertheless, numerous onlookers have already ventured close to the edge of the eruption site, as seen on social media. The government estimates the eruption to be “small” and at this time authorities do not expect any restrictions on air traffic due to the eruption.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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