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"Different eruption than we are used to"

11.05.2021 - 15:32
Mynd: RÚV / RÚV
The erupting volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula continues to surprise earth scientists, nearly two months after it started. According to the latest readings, lava flow is up by 70 percent and the eruption is twice as powerful as it has been for most of the time so far. “For an eruption to be growing in its eighth week is unusual and there are no signs we are about to see that stop. This is a different type of eruption than we are used to seeing,” says geophysicist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson.

Data show that 95 percent of eruptions are most powerful at the beginning and then lose power gradually or quite suddenly. The eruption close to Fagradalsfjall appears to be an exception to that rule. “A significant increase in lava flow has occurred at Fagradalsfjall in recent weeks,” a press release from the University of Iceland earth sciences department confirms.

The increased lava flow appears to go hand-in-hand with the lava fountais that are being regularly throw high into the sky. The volcano’s new lava field now covers 1.8 square kilometres and has an overall mass of some 30 million cubic metres. 

Most eruptions originate from a magma chamber under a central volcano. Pressure and the size of the chamber dictate how long and how big the eruption is. “But this eruption seems to be controlled by the eruption channel and how much it can transport. The channel that opened was particularly narrow and long,” the university report states—adding that the evidence suggests it is widening as time goes on. 

Magnús Tumi says the data confirm what many have instinctively felt: that the eruption is getting bigger. It was not certain before, though, as the formerly stable eruption has become more volatile, so it is harder to compare. 

People across a wide swathe of southwest Iceland have been able to see the high lava fountain in recent days. Magnús Tumi says it is highly unusual for an eruption to be gaining strength two months in. He says there is no sign the current developments will change, and no way of knowing when the eruption will stop, or for how long it will continue growing in strength. 

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