Science

Iceland: volcanic eruption expands with new lava source

The volcanic eruption, which has been ongoing for more than two weeks about 40 kilometers from Reykjavik in Iceland, spread on Monday with a new fault spewing out a narrow stream of lava several hundred meters away, tumbling down to a nearby valley.

The new fissure, about 150 to 200 meters long, is located about 700 meters northeast of the first focus of the eruption located in the Geldingadalir valley, on the edge of Mount Fagradalsfjall, according to the last point of the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO).

It opened around noon (local time and GMT), along with another much smaller fissure, and molten lava is flowing this time to another small nearby valley named Merardalir, the body said in a report. communicated.

New footage from Icelandic Civil Protection showed a long, narrow orange stream of magma tumbling down through the hills from the new eruptive fault, already several hundred meters away.

“Initially (the lava) sped at nearly 10 meters per second”, due in particular to the steep slope, “but it has slowed considerably now,” vulcanologist Thorvaldur Thórdarson told AFP.

This new phase of the eruption proves that the underground magma “was in overpressure because it had the capacity to open new cracks”, he underlined. “It is not a surprise but it is an interesting development”, according to the expert.

Access to the site, where many visitors have flocked since the eruption began on March 19, has been closed and evacuated, authorities said.

It has been almost 800 years since lava flowed in the Reykjanes Peninsula area, southwest of the capital.

Icelandic vulcanologists, who initially predicted a short-lived eruption, now expect several weeks or even much longer.

– More than 36,000 visitors –

“My feeling is that I don’t see any sign of this stopping,” Thórdarson commented. “We’re going to see this for a while,” said the vulcanologist, without daring to give a more precise duration.

A lava flow escapes from a fault near an erupting volcano near Grindavik (Iceland), April 5, 2021 (Icelandic Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management / AFP – Handout)

The last eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula, that region in southwest Iceland where the eruption occurs, dates back almost eight hundred years and spanned three decades with several eruptive episodes from 1210 to 1240.

The site has become the attraction of the moment in Iceland: at the last check-in on Sunday, 36,293 people had visited the foot of two small craters calmly spilling lava – which now covers 30 hectares – since the installation of a counter by the Icelandic Tourist Board on March 24.

Viral videos of the eruption have been around the world in recent weeks, including one showing a handful of Icelanders playing volleyball in front of the volcano as if nothing had happened.

The eruption site is only a few kilometers from the tourist site of the warm, turquoise waters of the “Blue Lagoon”, and about ten kilometers from the nearest town, the small fishing port of Grindavik – but without giving rise to fear of damage.

Volcanic eruption in Iceland (AFP - Alain BOMMENEL)

Volcanic eruption in Iceland (AFP – Alain BOMMENEL)

The lava eruption is much more bucolic than the so-called “explosive” eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, which had paralyzed air traffic in Europe for weeks.

In Iceland, the most active volcanic area in Europe, a volcanic eruption occurs on average every four to five years. The last dated back to 2014-2015 in an uninhabited area in the center of the North Atlantic island.

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