Reykjanes volcano “has sore throat”

03.05.2021 - 09:38
Mynd: Hólmfríður Dagný Friðjónsd / RUV
The behaviour of the Geldingadalir/Meradalir volcanic eruption has become less stable over the weekend, with activity dying down significantly, followed by the highest lava fountains seen to date. The volcano was clearly visible from the capital city—not only its glow, but also the erupting lava.

A small earthquake of Magnitude 3.2 occurred just after 03.00 this morning and was felt by some people in nearby towns including Reykjavík. Its epicentre was three kilometres east of Kleifarvatn lake on the Reykjanes peninsula. The quake was likely a readjustment of the ground in the eruption area and did not cause alarm at the Icelandic Met Office, which monitors natural hazards. 

The eruption suddenly became more erratic around midnight on Saturday, when it started throwing lava as high as 300 metres into the air, with extended pauses of much-reduced activity. Scientists do not know precisely what has caused the change, but believe it is probably caused by changes to the gas within the craters, or obstructions of harder, more viscous lava. 

“We’re trying to understand the sore throat it appears to have got. I guess not only is there more gas in there, but there are also either bottlenecks or blockages down there and probably more water in the magma,” says volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson. 

The size of the danger zone around the crater is under constant review, and while RÚV was filming there this weekend, 1-3-centimetre lava chunks started raining down onto people, who were naturally frightened. These small balls of lava are not heavy, but were still very hot when they reached the ground. No injuries were reported. 

The stability of the eruption since 19th March has been remarkable compared to other lava eruptions around the world—notably those in Hawaii and Réunion. The new, volatile, behaviour is considered more normal and is not being treated as a sign the eruption is about to end. Scientists still believe it could continue for many more months. 

The above video is in Icelandic, but shows the higher lava fountain, the small chunks of lava raining down on people, and the eruption clearly visible from the capital city.

Sólný Ingibjörg Pálsdóttir lives on the outskirts of Grindavík and was one of the first people interviewed by RÚV when the eruption started, because the volcano is visible from her home. Since then, she has hiked up to visit six times. 

On Saturday evening, Sólný and her family were on another volcano visit when, just after turning home, they stopped and turned around, feeling something had changed. Sólný took the below video, which clearly shows the eruption almost completely stop, before rising to new, impressive heights, and then dying back again.

Mynd: Sólný Ingibjörg Pálsdóttir / RÚV