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expert reaction to the Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Scientists react to news that the Iceland Volcano has erupted in the Reykjanes peninsula. 


Dr Matt Genge, Senior Lecturer in Earth and Planetary Science, Imperial College London, said:

“The footage shows a fissure eruption (lava erupting via a fracture in the rocks) with fire fountains surrounded by a hot lava flows. The eruption rate at these fractures is large, at a hundred cubic metres of lava per second is high. The lava appears to be hot and fluid making the lava flows very mobile and dangerous to approach. Whether the eruption poses a threat to the Blue Lagoon and to Grindavik depends very much on topography. Lava flows down hill until it cools sufficiently to stop, there is little that can be done to divert it. The eruption may continue to expand along the fissure extending the area that the lava can envelope.

“Eruptions like the current event are to be expected in Iceland since the country sits on the mid-Atlantic ridge. At this location the Earth’s plates are pulling apart and magma is generated below them as hot rocks rise. The magma often pools on its way to the surface before finally erupting at the surface. About 10 times as much magma erupts in Iceland as on the rest of the mid-Atlantic ridge, since a hot spot also coincides with the area. Fissure eruptions are common in the central rift that runs through Iceland.

“Unlike some previous eruptions the magma is erupting as lava flows rather than explosive eruptions, and thus produces little ash. The effects of the eruption are likely to be local.”


Prof Matthew Watson, Professor of Volcanoes and Climate at the University of Bristol, said:

“Another eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula began yesterday evening. 

“As is common with this eruptive style it began with a sustained eruption of ballistics that, over time, has lengthened to form a fire curtain – a long fissure out of which lava is being violently ejected. 

“It is unlikely, but not impossible that there may be some impact on air travel, although this type of eruption doesn’t generally produce much ash which is what tends to ground planes. 

“The eruption looks to be larger than those recently seen in South West Iceland and the Icelandic Met Office are monitoring the eruption. 

“This style of eruption is amongst the most spectacular ever seen and there will be a strong pull for tourists, even though the Blue Lagoon complex has again shut. Tourists should strictly follow official advice as there are significant hazards, such as new breakouts, which can quickly put people in harms way.”


Prof Stephen Sparks, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol, said:

“A new eruption has started overnight near the town of Grindavik in Iceland. Several fissures have developed as lines of dramatic fire fountains of 1200C basalt lava.

“The typical progression of such eruptions is that within a day or two the activity focusses in one place with the construction of a cone of ejecta while at the same time lava pours out of the vent. The Icelanders have built barriers around the town and around nearby power facilities to divert the lavas.”


Dr Sam Mitchell, Research Associate in Volcanology at the University of Bristol, said:

“After five weeks of uncertainty of an eruption, lava had begun erupting out of a fissure in SW Iceland, around 3km NE of the town of Grindavik around 10:20pm local time last night. The fissure increased in length dramatically over the first few hours reaching 4km in the early hours of the morning.

“Earthquake activity began in early November along a 15km stretch of land around the area incredibly many earthquakes in the town of Grindavik itself resulting in a full scale evacuation of the town and all its residents. Residents have still not been allowed permanently back into the town. The thousands of small earthquakes that struck the town in early November caused extensive damage (including fractures and cracks) to building, key access roads and utility networks.

“Even though the lava did not erupt into the town of Grindavik or at the nearby power plant and popular tourist destination, the Blue Lagoon, the lava flows are still only a few km away and there is still concern of lavas reaching these key locations. Most roads around the entire area are closed and limited to only those monitoring the activity and some civil authorities. At this time, 12 hours after th eruption began, a lot of 4km fissure has subsided in lava activity, with the rate of magma output significantly decreased. This can be quite common after an intense start to an eruption

“It is very difficult to say how long these eruptions will last; it could be days, it could be months. Larger more intense eruptions tend to last a shorter time, but if the flow rate becomes small it could go on for some time. The activity will remained constantly monitoring by the Icelandic Meteorological Office and other local scientists collecting data on the ground and in the air.

“One of the challenges facing the monitoring is that SW Iceland is at a time of near constant darkness this close to the winter solstice. Even though the glow of lava is more observable during darker hours, it makes assessing larger areas of land and impact a little more challenging.

“There is currently no threat to the airspace from this eruption, especially to flights further than Iceland. Any chnages to air traffic to air traffic may be restrained to Keflavik if there are changes in wind direction or outputs of gas and fine ash. This is a very different eruption to that of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 where a large explosive eruption under a glacier produced a very large cloud and very fine ash in the atmosphere when the wind direction was pointing towards mainland Europe. 

“This eruption is more similar to the past 3 eruptions of the nearby Fagradalsfjall site, which erupted in 2021, 2022 and summer 2023, which also produced lava fountains and flow from a series of fissures. It does appear that this current eruption near Grindavk was more powerful at its beginning.”


Prof David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences at The Open University, said:

“This is what has been anticipated for several weeks near Grindavik, thanks to the use of multiple monitoring techniques. It appears to be a classic fissure eruption. Lava is erupting along at least a 3km length. The seat of eruption will probably localise to a single vent within a few hours or days, and the future course of the eruption (including where most of the lava spreads to) will depend on where that occurs.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


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