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Icelandic volcanic system has erupted again – is this normal?

2024-02-21T04:24:19.278Z

Highlights: Icelandic volcanic system has erupted again – is this normal?. Volcanic rock fragments were blown into the town of Grindavík. Lava from the eruption engulfed a pipe and cut off hot water supplies to about 30,000 people on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The Icelandic Meteorological Office has detected increased seismic activity in the area since October, which may have been a precursor to volcanic activity. Eruptions tend to occur frequently in one zone for centuries, then the activity moves to another zone.



As of: February 21, 2024, 4:49 a.m

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Volcanic eruption on Reykjanes Peninsula.

© SuperStock/Imago

A volcano in Iceland erupts three times within a few months.

What experts say about it.

A volcanic system in southwest Iceland has erupted for the third time since December.

Lava from the eruption engulfed a pipe and cut off hot water supplies to about 30,000 people on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Nearby areas have also been evacuated or closed, although volcanic activity is decreasing.

Repeated rumblings of activity over the past few months suggest that the magma is active underground.

This also means that further volcanic activity cannot be ruled out.

"There is no indication that a major eruption is imminent, but we know that the magma still flows into the crust, is stored for a time and then occasionally erupts in an eruption," wrote David Pyle, a volcanologist at the University of Oxford , in an email.

“We have observed this pattern since late October, and it looks like it will continue into the future.”

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Third volcanic eruption in Iceland within a short period of time

Images from an Icelandic Coast Guard surveillance flight show that this outbreak is occurring in the same area as previous outbreaks, most recently in December and January.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office has detected increased seismic activity in the area since October, which may have been a precursor to volcanic activity.

While volcanic eruptions are common across Iceland, the recent activity occurred in a region that has been quiet for centuries.

Iceland consists of three zones of volcanic activity - north, east and west - according to geologist Thomas Algeo.

Eruptions tend to occur frequently in one zone for centuries, then the activity moves to another zone.

The recent activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula is part of the Western Volcanic Zone, which until recently had not been active since the 1200s.

Eruptions in this zone pose a threat to nearby population centers, in contrast to the eruptions in the eastern and northern volcanic zones, which occurred in relatively remote areas.

According to Algeo, it is not uncommon for active volcanic rift systems to experience a rapid succession of eruptions.

“It is possible (but still uncertain) that magmatic activity has shifted to the [Western Volcanic Zone] and that numerous eruptions will occur there over the next decades or centuries,” wrote Algeo, a professor at the University of Cincinnati, in an email.

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Volcanic rock fragments were blown into the town of Grindavík

On Thursday morning (February 8), seismic activity began northeast of Sýlingarfell, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Service.

Thirty minutes later, a volcanic eruption began in the area.

A crack in the rock, called an eruptive fissure, stretched about two miles and spread north and south.

According to the Met Office, lava fountains rose 160 to 260 feet high and plumes of volcanic smoke rose about two miles above the eruption fissure.

Hikers look at the glowing river of magma from the Fagradalsfjall volcanic eruption near Geldingadalir, Iceland Grindavik Southern Peninsula Iceland.

© Ralph Lee Hopkins/Imago

The airborne volcanic rock fragments, called tephra, were blown two to three miles into the town of Grindavík.

Tephra can be as sharp as glass and affect human activity hundreds of miles away, reducing visibility on roads and for aircraft and even shorting out electrical transformers and power lines.

So far, however, the tephra appears to remain relatively close to the eruption fissure, according to the Met Office.

Restoring hot water supplies disrupted by the eruption could take about a day, according to local news outlets.

The eruption also led to the evacuation and closure of the Blue Lagoon, one of the country's most popular tourist attractions, until at least Friday.

According to police, Grindavík and the surrounding streets are also closed.

Volcanic eruption in Iceland: “Damage to infrastructure will soon be repaired”

“The damage to the infrastructure will soon be repaired, but it shows that even small eruptions can cause significant disruption,” said Pyle, the Oxford volcanologist.

On Thursday afternoon (February 8), the eruption appeared to be losing strength.

This eruption, Pyle said, is very similar to the events in December and January, which emanated from a long fissure and quickly lost intensity after a large amount of magma erupted.

“This eruption and the eruptions in December and January behaved largely as scientists at the Icelandic Meteorological Office had predicted,” Pyle said.

“This is good news for our understanding of what is happening and means that we can better prepare scientifically for future events.”

About the author

Kasha Patel

writes the weekly Hidden Planet column, covering scientific topics surrounding Earth, from our inner core to space storms headed toward our planet.

She also reports on weather, climate and environmental issues.

We are currently testing machine translations.

This article was automatically translated from English into German.

This article was first published in English on February 8, 2024 at the “Washingtonpost.com” - as part of a cooperation, it is now also available in translation to readers of the IPPEN.MEDIA portals.

Source: merkur

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