On Friday, a volcano erupted just 40 km (25 miles) from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, with red lava bursting from the ground and a crimson glow illuminating the night sky.
Streams of red lava could be seen flowing from a crack in the ground at Geldingadalur, near Mount Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland, in footage captured by a guard helicopter -cotes.
While Icelandic Keflavik International Airport and the small fishing port of Grindavik are only a few kilometers away, the area is uninhabited and the eruption is not expected to present a danger.
“The eruption started at Fagradalsfjall in Geldingadalur around 8:45 pm GMT tonight. The eruption is considered small, and the eruption fissure is approximately 500 to 700 meters (1,640 to 2,300 feet) long. The lava is less than a square kilometer (0.4 square mile), ”the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), which monitors seismic activity, said in a statement.
“There is little eruptive activity in the area.”
The eruption site is in a valley, about 4.7 km inland from the southern coast of the peninsula.
Police and coast guard officials rushed to the scene, but the public was told to stay away and the main road connecting the capital region to Keflavik airport was temporarily closed on Friday. .
Sleeping for 900 years
There have been no reports of ash fall, although tephra – solidified magmatic rock fragments – and gas emissions are to be expected.
Police have ordered residents living east of the volcano to close their windows and stay indoors due to the risk of wind-blown gas pollution.
Emissions of gases – especially sulfur dioxide – can be high in the immediate vicinity of a volcanic eruption and can pose a health hazard and even be fatal.
Pollution can exceed acceptable limits, even far, depending on the winds.
Friday’s eruption took place in the Krysuvik volcanic system, which does not have a central volcano.
Eruptions in the region are known as effusive eruptions, where lava flows steadily from the ground, as opposed to explosive eruptions which spew clouds of ash high in the sky.
– Icelandic Meteorological Office – IMO (@Vedurstofan) March 19, 2021
The Krysuvik system has been inactive for 900 years, according to IMO, while the last eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula dates back almost 800 years, to 1240.
But the area has been under increased surveillance for several weeks after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake was recorded on February 24 near Mount Keilir, on the outskirts of Reykjavik.
This earthquake was followed by an unusual number of smaller tremors – over 50,000, the highest number since digital recordings began in 1991.
Seismic activity has moved several kilometers southwest since the quake, concentrating around Mount Fagradalsfjall, where magma has been detected just one kilometer below the Earth’s surface in recent days.
Seismic activity had slowed down in recent days, however.
Land of fire and ice
Iceland has 32 volcanic systems currently considered active, the highest number in Europe. The country has erupted every five years on average.
The vast island near the Arctic Circle straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a fissure in the ocean floor separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
The displacement of these plates is partly responsible for the intense volcanic activity of Iceland.
The most recent eruption took place in Holuhraun, starting in August 2014 and ending in February 2015, in the Bardarbunga volcanic system in an uninhabited area in the center of the island.
This eruption did not cause major disturbances outside the immediate vicinity.
But in 2010, an eruption at Eyjafjallajokull volcano sent huge clouds of smoke and ash into the atmosphere, disrupting air traffic for more than a week with the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights worldwide. which left some 10 million passengers stranded.