Lava flows have since eased somewhat, spewing from ruptures that are estimated to be about 200 meters (660 feet) long, having reached 900 meters overnight, the Met Office said on Tuesday. The uninhabited area on the Reykjanes Peninsula is near the spot where previous eruptions happened in 2021 and 2022 for the first time in about 800 years in that area.
“We have flown over it two times and we see it is evolving a lot,” according to Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland. “Now we are seeing an eruption that is of similar magnitude as the two previous ones, but last night we were seeing that the beginning hours were considerably more powerful.”
The start of the eruption may have been “ten times bigger than the first eruption at its beginning” in 2021 and “three or four times bigger” than the one in 2022, he said.
The island nation, which calls itself the land of fire and ice, has 30 volcanic systems and more than 600 hot springs. It is one of the most geologically active places on earth due to its position on the mid-Atlantic ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.
One of the most disruptive volcanic eruptions in Iceland’s recent history occurred in 2010, when Eyjafjallajokull in the southern part of the country erupted in an explosion that released a plume of ash so vast that it grounded air traffic across Europe for weeks, resulting in the cancellation of 100,000 flights and affecting over 10 million people.
The eruption that began on Monday around 19 miles (30 kilometers) from the country’s capital is “effusive and will remain that way,” Benedikt Ofeigsson, a geophysicist at the site, said by phone on Monday when surveying the site. “It’s not an explosive ash eruption and it’s very unlikely it will become explosive.”
The main airport, Keflavik, said there are no disruptions to arrivals or departures, according to its website. A spokesman for airport operator Isavia said that no impact is expected on aviation and that a flight ban only covers the eruption zone.
Tourism is one of Iceland’s main industries, and businesses use lava flows to attract travellers. Airlines tend to use captivating images of lava streams and local guides market hikes to active areas. In the past, some have even fried hot dogs and marshmallows on the magma.
Authorities warned against accessing the site due to dangerous concentrations of gas.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.