Update to the Update on Geldingadalir


Image: ruv.is

The eruption at Geldingadalir on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland continues to provide interest. In fact, it may well do so for many years to come.

I have decided to continue to make a record of relevant developments and collect useful resources for a while. Here is the latest information (up to April  23rd, 2021), and I will add any useful further materials of interest to this blog entry, in order to keep things in one place.

 April 10th – a fourth fissure opens up (at 3.00 am) between existing fissures two and three, actually beneath the lava stream. Danger warnings  issued to the public, in case further openings suddenly occur.

1 Fourth Fissure @gislio

Fourth Fissure Opens. Image: @gislio

Time lapse film of this event:

April 10th: The lava stream(which once flowed at 30 kph) is now virtually inactive. Its flow blocked itself off and built a new pathway down into Geldingadalir, eventually filling the valley.

April 13th: Fissures five and six open up.

4 5 fissures @fencingtobba

Image: @fencingtobba

5 Panorama @Benjamin Hennig

Image: Ben Hennig

6 map Ben henniig

Image: Ben Hennig

Some excellent film footage from ‘Reykjavik Grapevine’ here:

April 14th – There are now eight active vents in the system.

7 tweet

8 jon f

Blog from Jon Frimann

9 Artists Impression

Artist’s impression of lava flow from Geldingadalir into Meradalir. Image: @Icevolcanx

Tourists continue to flock to the area, although the eruption site has had to be closed for periods of time due to dangerous gas emissions. Warnings have been regularly issued to nearby residents to stay indoors and keep windows closed.

3 Tourists @brianemfinger

Image: @brianemfinger

2 Tourist Horseshoe @brianemfinger

Image: @brianemfinger

Some other great resources have appeared in recent times:

1. A Google Maps production of all developments to date by Mikael Pikkala:


2. A GIS map of the Geldingadalir location (plus Iceland tectonics) from Lurgan College:


3. Names are being suggested for the newly created lava field in a competition held amongst residents from Grindavik. I hope when they make some decisions on the results, the chosen names are not too difficult to pronounce!


April 14th – Ben Hennig’s twitter feed provides a new map of the fissure of the Geldingadalur eruption with eight active vents. Map via ruv.is:

1 8 vents

April 14th – Ben Hennig’s twitter feed reveals a thermal camera image of cone three:

2 Thermal image

April 18th – Volcano makes national newspapers in an article about its increased popularity as a site for weddings:


Image: Styrmir & Heiddis Photography

Read the full article from the Guardian here:


April 19th – Iceland Air make use of the volcano in their advertising, suggesting ‘book a window seat for a great show’:

3 Air

April 22nd – twitter provides information about changes to the lava flows;

4 lava

Finally (for now), a news update from www.icelandgeology.net

5 news

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Geldingadalir and La Soufriere – Two Contrasting Volcanic Eruptions

19 Tourists mbl.is kristinn Magnusson

Image: mbl.is (Kristinn Magnusson)

It has been a fascinating time over the last week for anyone interested in volcanoes. In the media we have been able to keep an eye on developments in the new eruption in Iceland at Geldingadalir, and now we have also been able to watch details emerge from the eruption at La Soufriere on St Vincent in the Caribbean. The natural world never stops.

These two ongoing eruptions have been happening at roughly the same time, but in very different parts of the world – making a great comparison study for the classroom. However, La Soufriere is a very different volcanic eruption to Geldingadalir, with VERY different eruption styles & hazards.

The main difference is the fact that the two volcanoes are located at very different types of tectonic plate boundary. Iceland is found at a divergent plate boundary, while St Vincent is atop a subduction zone.

The Earth’s crust is made up of slabs of material called plates which move relative to each other. The Eastern Caribbean islands lie on a plate boundary. The North American Plate, which is the denser of the two, sinks beneath the Caribbean Plate creating suitable conditions for magma to be produced. The magma then rises to the surface of the Earth where it may erupt to form a volcano. This process is called subduction and this is how the volcanic islands of the Eastern Caribbean were formed. The diagram below demonstrates the subduction process.


Eastern Caribbean subduction zone Image: University of the West Indies, Seismic Research Centre


Image: ruv.is


Image: ruv.is

The Geldingadalir eruption in Iceland is a fissure eruption, with the development of a number of separate open fissures and several spatter cones. It is a minor eruption with minimal activity in comparison to other recent volcanoes on the island, and has been described as a ‘little soda’ or ‘tourist eruption’. However, it could continue for many years, and result in the creation of a new lava field or even a new shield volcano.

6 Map

La Soufrière is an active stratovolcano on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. It is steep-sided and roughly conical in shape. consisting of alternating layers of lava and fragments of pyroclastic rocks. It is the highest peak in Saint Vincent, and there have been five recorded explosive eruptions since 1718. The volcano was dormant for decades but started to become active in December, 2020.

4 La Souf Ash Cloud

Image; @Weybiss

5 Ash Cloud

The Iceland eruption is described as effusive, and is still producing a few fireworks and lava flows, but very little ash. However, there have been some concerns with gas emissions in recent days. The eruption at St Vincent is very different. The first sign that an eruption was imminent at La Soufriere came on Thursday evening, when a lava dome became visible.  Just before 09:00 on Friday April 9th (13:00 GMT), seismologists from the University of the West Indies confirmed that an “explosive eruption” was under way, with a huge output of ash.

N Tourist crowd @ORGrimmson

Image: ORGrimmson

In Iceland, life has gone on as normal for most people, and islanders have been flocking to the eruption site to enjoy the experience. If the country were to still be open to air travel, it would by now have become an accessible international tourist attraction. The eruption has had a fairly low impact on the country, as the focus of the activity is well away from major areas of settlement or infrastructure, lava flows have not been extensive, and ash fall has been limited. The only issue of concern has been the toxic gas emissions which have been blown towards Reykjavik and other settlements on a few occasions.

7 Ash Over City

1 La Soufriere ash

The human impact in St Vincent has been rather more serious. Following the eruption which began last Friday (April 9th), the island of St Vincent, which has a population of around 110,000, has been blanketed in a layer of white-coloured ash and dust, bringing major disruption, especially to the city of Kingstown. One witness in the town of Rabaka told Reuters news agency the ground was covered with about 12 inches (30cm) of ash and rock fragments. This prompted warnings from officials to stay indoors, while emergency groups advised caution for those suffering with respiratory problems. The volcano was still rumbling and emitting ash thousands of metres into the air on Saturday, and continues to do so. It is unclear how much more ash the volcano will release, but some scientists have warned that eruptions could continue for days or even weeks. The ash has also travelled far beyond St Vincent and on Saturday, more than 100 miles to the east, officials in Barbados urged people to stay indoors.

2 La Souf ash

Global Ash advice @USAID

Image: @USAID

Rather than people clamouring to visit the volcano, as has been the case at Geldingadalir, many St Vincent residents have been forced to evacuate their homes. About 3,000 people spent Friday night in emergency shelters, and some 16,000 were evacuated from ash-covered or vulnerable areas close to the volcano. Some evacuees were taken to cruise ships to move them to safer parts of the island. The water supply to most of the island has been cut off due to ash contamination.

8 Aid

The satellite image below shows the track of Sulphur dioxide gas emissions from Soufriere towards Africa:

10 Gas Wave

Other Caribbean countries, including Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Guyana, have offered to send emergency supplies to St Vincent. They also said they would open their borders to those fleeing the fallout from the eruption.

Local media have also reported increased activity from Mount Pelee on the island of Martinique, north of St Vincent. Most of the Lesser Antilles islands are part of a long volcanic arc in the Eastern Caribbean.

So, the two eruptions have some similarities, but many quite significant differences. They will both be worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks.

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Further Developments At Geldingadalir


Image: ruv.is


Image: ruv.is

The scenery at Geldingadalir has been literally changing before people’s eyes over the first week of April.

On the 2nd April, the Geldingadalir valley was close to being filled with lava from the eruption. Two erupting craters on the fissure line had virtually merged into one, and large sections of the crater sides collapsed and fell into the lava river running into the valley which carried it away.

2 All Thats left Of N Cone @yamlima1 29.3

All That’s left of the Northern Cone – 29th March. Image: @yamlima1

On the 4th April, a M3.0 earthquake was recorded near Keilir, and this was felt in Reykjavik.

On April 5th, two new fissures opened up to the north east of the main eruption site in the Geldingadalir valley. By now, one single eruption site was evident just outside the fissure line.

8 New fissures

10 New fissure @mblfrettir

New Fissure Opens. Image: @mblfrettir

On April 6th, a new lava river began to flow into neighbouring Meradalir valley, below the new fissures. This valley is larger than Geldingadalir, and so will not fill so easily. For a long time, people would talk about the lava field around the Blue Lagoon as being the youngest in the Reykjanes Peninsula – that is now not true!

1 New lava field forming @johannthors 6.4

New Lava Field Is Formed April 6th. Image: @johannthors

9 lava @mbfrettir

New Lava Field (Note Vehicle For Scale). Image: @mbfrettir

11 new lava @mblfrettir

New Lava. Image: @mbfrettir

Here is a drone film link to the new eruption:

This is a link to a newscast from the Reykjavik Grapevine newspaper:

ben hennig

Image: Ben Hennig

In the very early hours of April 7th, a third fissure opened up located between the two existing fissures. The signs are that this eruption may well now continue for a number of years, perhaps decades, and could well create a new lava field or new shield volcano. It is still a case of watch this space.

Excellent film footage continues to be made available on social media and the worldwide web. The best I have come across includes this You Tube channel of drone footage by Bjorn Steinbekk:


This film by Jakob Vegerfoss includes the sounds of new lava, and you can follow links to other top quality film footage from here:

The extent of the growth of the lava field can be studied on this excellent mapping site;


It is also shown in this map image:

laava growth vedur.is

Image: vedur.is

The live web cam continues to broadcast – although you have to put up with quite a lot of waving and tom foolery from local people seeking their few seconds of fame. This web site brings a number of web cams together in one place:


Icelanders continue to flock to the site – who can blame them? Many have enjoyed excellent views of the lava at night:

4 Headlights @bmalmquist 31.3

The night-time headlamp trail. Image: @bmalmquist

This must be the only volcanic eruption in the world to have been given opening hours, as over the Easter weekend, access was restricted for safety reasons between 0600 and 1800 hours.

3 Tourists mbl.is Kristinn Magnusson

Tourists at the eruption site. Image: mbl.is Kristinn Magnusson

Poor weather has affected access at times, as has gas emissions. However, parking at the trail head has become a serious problem. A shuttle bus service has now been offered to the trail head from Grindavik, and people parking their own vehicles have been asked to leave a form in their windows to make sure that no-one gets left behind:

6 Car Window @krjonsdottir

Image: @krjonsdottir

With walking trails now clearly marked by the rescue services, access has been improved to the eruption site. There are some great ‘virtual hikes’ for us to enjoy from afar, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

Firstly, Ben Hennig’s illustrated hike includes a huge collection of great photographs. Follow this link:


Secondly, Syndarferd has photographed the route and posted the results on Google Maps. Follow this link:


This shows ‘path A’, the first to be marked out by the rescue services. By the time I publish this, there should also be a version on Google Maps for ‘path B’.

The few air passengers flying into the country are getting a great view from above if the weather is favourable. I found this image on Twitter from @LeeProud, lucky man!

7 Aeroplane

This image of the eruption was taken from Keflavik (on the ground) by 2goiceland:

View From Keflavik

Image: 2goiceland Instagram

The eruption has even made it as a cartoon:

Cartoon @hugleikur

Image: @hugleikur

Finally, I came across this interesting article from National Geographic which examines ‘Volcano Tourism’, mentioning the new Iceland eruption as well as examples from other locations like Hawaii. Enjoy!


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Yet More Classroom Resources from the Geldingadalir Eruption In Iceland – The Gift That Keeps Giving!

13 Snow Cone 28 3 21

Geldingadalir in snow scene, 28th march. Image; ruv.is

I wasn’t planning to add another update on the Geldingadalir eruption, but there have been so many interesting resources appearing on the internet and social media, that I thought I would add one more collection.

5 View of lava

Image: @EvanKirstel

The lava continues to flow from the growing spatter cones and fill the valley. At its thickest, the lava flow now measures 22 metres (average = 9.5 m), and is flowing at a rate of 5.7 cubic metres per second, making a total volume of 1.8 million cubic metres (data: University of Iceland). Scientists predict that if current flows continue for 12 days or so (5 or 6 more days from 26th march) lava will fill the Geldingadalir Valley and start overflowing into Meravalir Valley (the neighbouring valley to the south west). We might be witnessing the beginning of the creation of a new shield volcano. See map below:

12a Map

10 Lava Photographer Anton Brink VIA Getty Images

Image: Anton Brink / Getty Images

Images below based on Pleiades Satellites that orbit the earth under the auspices of the French Space Agency: 

3 lava flow

Some of the lava has been forming into impressive ‘ponds’:

1 Lava pond ruv.is

Image: ruv.is

Check out this film footage:


There has been a clear development of a second spatter cone, forming a sort of ‘twin peaks’ single cone scene now with the cone that grew quickly from the beginning.

9 Spatter Cone Halldor Kolbeins AFP getty Images

Image: Halldor Kolbeins / Getty Images


2 Twin peaks ruv.is

Image: ruv.is

The eruption has become a real visitor attraction, with hundreds of Icelanders flocking to the site over the past week or so. A waymarked trail has been created by the rescue services guiding people on a safe approach to the live lava show. This can be accessed by logging on to www.waymarkedtrails.org and typing ‘Fagradalsfjall’ into the search.

15 waymarked trails


11 Tourists Jeremie Richard Getty Images

Image: Jeremie Richard / Getty Images

21 night walkers @A_Menshenin

Image: @A_Menshenin

The You Tube link below takes you to a 11 minute long film covering a hike around the new volcano:

Some other resources that may be useful in the classroom, or for the creation of a new case study on the 2021 eruption:

a) Google earth hiking trail ‘street view’ link:


b) Help with the ‘new’ terminology and pronunciation:

22 pronounciation

23 quote

c) Film showing a one week time-lapse: 


d) Interactive digital terrain model:


18 digital terrain model

e) Copernicus satellite image:

20 Sat image

f) Link to academic paper concerning the eruption:

6 Article


g) Slides from a lecture by Doctor Stephen Hicks (@seismo_steve):

7 lecture


h) Drone footage;

More drone footage:


i) www.en.vedur.is (Iceland Met Office) provides weather and earthquake information – but now also a forecast of the sulphur dioxide emissions – look under ‘Specialist Remarks’ and click on gas dispersion forecast

16 gas map

j) A useful article summarising the eruption from ru.is;


That should be enough for now, but I will gather more resources if the eruption continues to provide interest.

17 Sp cone @iceland

Image; @iceland

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More Reykjanes Eruption Resources For the Classroom

B Spatter main vent lands and builds typical effusive fissure eruption of basaltic lava @DJCManns

Main spatter cone. Image: @DJCManns

Following the recent Geldingadalsgos eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland, social media and the internet has been flooded with excellent resources for the geography classroom. Many of these have been featured in the last two blog entries, and here are some more that (like the magma) have recently reached the surface.

Z Satelllite NASA

Before and after satellite image showing the eruption. Image: NASA

As I write this update (on March 23rd), the live web cam is showing the eruption continuing, but under a cover of light snowfall. Seismic activity in the area has decreased – for example, on March 22nd, only 160 earthquakes were recorded, with the largest measuring M2.9. Lava flow is slowly expanding and thickening as the main spatter cone continues to feed the valley floor. however, early outputs of around 5 cubic metres per second are beginning to decrease.

L Lava behance.net

Image: behance.net

H Lava close behance.net

Image: behance.net

The lava produced is a type of basalt classified as ‘olivene tholeite’ – similar to the main type of lava that erupts along the mid-ocean ridges, so is the most abundant magma that erupts on Earth (reference; @subglacial)

There have been some excellent photographs posted on social media of pahoe-hoe cross sections from the new lava flows:

D pahoehoe 1 Dave McGarvie

Image: Dave McGarvie (@subglacial)

E Pahoehoe 2 Dave mcGarvie

Image: Dave McGarvie (@subglacial)

If you are interested in getting into some real detail about the chemistry of the new lava, this excellent short PDF from @Haukoli_Islands explains an initial report on the petrology of the new eruption material:

Click to access characterization_of_the_1st_and_2nd_day_of_volcanic_products_from_geldingadalahraun_2021.pdf

Some of the scientists investigating the new eruption have been having some fun amongst their hard work:

Q Sci Hot dog reuters

Image: Reuters

U hot dogs BBC

Image: BBC

ZB Scientist Lying

Image; @GeirssonHalldor

The eruption site was closed to visitors for a while, due to the potential dangers from lava flows and sulphur dioxide emissions gathering in the valley. The poor weather conditions were also proving a problem for the people making the long hike into the area, and the rescue teams were occupied in a search for a missing person – who was soon recovered. However, during the daylight hours, a large number of Icelanders have now been able to enjoy the ongoing live lava show – its just such a shame that we cant join them!

I Tourists behance.net

Image: behance.net

N Tourist crowd @ORGrimmson

Image: ORGrimmson

O Hike routeThe rescue team from Thorbjorn has created a new marked hiking route to the eruption site, starting from Sudurstrandarvegur. It rises around 300 metres in elevation along the way, and takes around an hour and a half to complete (one way).




P Yellow posts

There is even a bus tour now advertised from reykjavik to take tourists to Geldingadalsgos:


W bus article re.is

Here are some other resources I have come across, which me of use in the classroom, or in the construction of a case study for the Geldingadalsgos eruption:

  1. This interactive image from Alistair Hamill makes a good introduction to the subject. Available from: https://t.co/FpAbJ0ESml
C Labelled diag - Alistair hamill G Docs

Image: Alistair Hamill

2. Link to a useful article in the National Geographic:


3. Article from the Reykjavik Grapevine with some excellent photographs:

Photos: The Geldingadalsgos Eruption, Shot By Art Bicnick

4. Resources from ‘Internet Geography’:

Fagradalsfjall Eruption

5. 3D relief image. Interactive from: http://jardfraedikort.is/ddd/geldingadalir_3D/

R Geology interactive map

Image: ISOR

6. This geology map from @subglacial puts the eruption area into a wider context. Fagradalsfjall is marked with a red star, in the centre of an area dominated by eruptions of basalt into ice. Available from: jardfraedikort.is

S Geology map @subglacial

7. Helpful cross section diagram of the area from @IcelandEditions:

ZA Diagram @IcelandEditions

8. Link to excellent blog by @GeoDebs on ‘Discover the World Education’ site: https://www.discover-the-world.com/study-trips/blog/iceland-erupts-volcanic-activity-on-the-reykjanes-peninsula/

So what happens next? Are we any further forward in answering this question? Probably not. If the lava continues to flow for another decade or so, a low shield volcano will develop – not a hugely significant feature due to its low slope angle, However, the main spatter cone is building nicely, and could continue to grow into a noticeable landscape feature.

The situation is summed up by the words of Þor­vald­ur Þórðar­son, a professor of volcanology and petrology at the University of Iceland, By his estimates, this eruption could end “tomorrow, after a week, or after a month”. There are many examples of this type of fissure eruption in Iceland, the closest one near Fagradalsfjall being Þráinsskjöldur, which erupted about 14,000 years ago. Research has shown that that eruption here lasted a few hundred years. Fagradalsfjall is nowhere near this point yet, and needs the valley to completely fill with lava – up to a depth of some 25 to 30 metres before it will create a similar feature. Þorvaldur believes it likely that this eruption will end after some days. It could then erupt again after a week, a month, or a year, and not necessarily at the exact same place. So, it is likely we are looking at a short-lived eruption that will leave behind a lava field, but we will just have to wait and see.

Finally, some late additions:

A. The town of Hafnarfiordur is only around 15 kilometres away from the ‘new’ volcano and the view of the eruption has been captured from there:

V Reykjavik Sifus Steindorsson

Image: Sifus Steindorsson

B. The Icelandic Met Office has set up a weather station at the eruption site .Observations from the station can be found here:


C. This photograph captures the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ – the new cone with elder cousin Keilir in the background:

A New cone and older cousin keilir @sandrasnaebj

Image: @sandranaebj

D. This wonderful image can be seen on Andy Baugh’s Facebook page:


NL Andy Baugh FB

E. Finally, the cat always sleeps at the warmest spot!

X Cat @GeoRadarJake

Image: GeoRadarJake

Posted in Curriculum, Fieldwork, Iceland, Physical World, School, Students, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thar She Blows! Eruption On The Reykjanes Peninsula

So it’s finally started! After a few weeks of earthquake swarms and the propagation of a dyke field on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland, it wasn’t to be a long wait before a volcanic eruption followed.

Even Bjork expressed her excitement through her Twitter feed:

36 Bjork

35 Google Earth Map

At a quarter to nine on the evening of March 20th, an eruption began from several vents along a 200 metre-long fissure in Geldingadalur (Gelding’s Valley) close to Fagradalsfjall Mountain – just 25 km from the capital city of Reykjavik.


Screengrab from panorama view – Iceland 360 VR

The image above is a screen grab from an excellent 360 panorama of the new volcano. Explore it interactively (in VR if you have that facility) at:


As day ran into evening on March 20th, local residents caught their first views of the eruption, as the dark night sky took on a glow of red.

Images (L to r): @rfjolnisson, ruv.is, & @aslaugarna

The early phase of the eruption comprised dramatic fountain jets of lava thrown 100 metres into the air from the line of the fissure, but by morning, most of these had calmed. However, throughout the next day (March 21st), 3 distinct spatter cones developed, and the splashing and exploding molten rock provided a dramatic sight on the excellent live web cam that had been set up to monitor the scene.


The live web cam can be found at:


It was fascinating to see the spatter cones grow throughout the day after the eruption, and watch a brand new lava field slowly grow from the centre of the eruption – ocean waves of new red-hot rock flowing over the older 800 year old lava floor below. On the first day of eruptive activity, the new lava had covered over 1 square kilometre of ground, and was around 10 metres deep at its thickest covering. At the beginning, the lava flowed from the fissure at a rate of around 30 to 40 cubic metres per second.

39 Lava @trawire

Image: @trawire

40 @trawire

Image: @trawire

38 Fagrad Diagram @BensVolcanology

Image: @BensVolcanology

The Geldingadalur eruption is producing some very dramatic images for us to enjoy from afar:

10 Fagrad Helicopter Coastguard Sevice

Image: Coastguard Service

17 Fagrad @SkogarFarm

Image: @SkogarFarm

26 Fagrad @mblfrettir

Image; @mblfrettir

18 Fagrad ruv.is

Image; ruv.is

23 Fagrad Runar Geirmundsson 9 hr return Grindavik

Image; Fagrad Runar Geirmundsson

There are some interesting links to follow:

This link takes you to a 30 second time lapse of the early part of the eruption:


This link takes you to a You Tube film taken from the web cam:

These link takes you to some excellent drone footage:



Mustn’t leave the BBC out!


This satellite image comes from the NASA JPSS Program VIIRS Day/Night image – which shows a thermal image of the eruption (along with built up areas in the area). From @simoncarn

31 Sat Image

The web cam is still in place, and as long as the weather is kind, it is still possible to witness some dramatic eruptive activity. On Sunday, March 21st, it showed the collapse of one side of the main cone, which resulted in lava exiting from two distinct directions. It has also been possible to observe the shift of direction of the lava flow, moving more to the east as the day went on.

6 Main Cone Collapses @han_volcan

Image: @han_volcan

11 Cone Collapse @sub_glacial

Image: @sub_glacial

In the scheme of things for Iceland, the Geldingadalur eruption remains only a minor eruption with limited activity – a relatively insignificant event when compared to recent Icelandic eruptions like Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 and Holohraun in 2014. It has been described as a typical ‘tourist eruption’ or a ‘tiny soda’ as was reported in one local newspaper. The eruption has been named as ‘Geldingadalsgos’ by Iceland’s media, although the eruption is so small by Icelandic standards, it is perhaps surprising it warrants formal recognition. This eruption will probably be quickly forgotten as just another small piece of geological history unless it develops further as a part of something much bigger.

It could continue for a few days and then slowly peter out as the magma below solidifies. Alternatively, it could rumble on for a number of weeks, or even months, with new vents opening up on the fissure line. A fresh magma dyke might even be formed. It is possible it could sustain for even longer as a period of intermittent volcanic activity, part of a much bigger series of events. This could occur much in the same way that the ‘Reykjanes Fires’ that raged for 200 to 300 years or so in this area back in the thirteenth century, providing 15 eruptions, on average around 20 years apart. The fact of the matter is we just do not know for sure.

What is sure is the present eruption is creating brand new land – the most recent rocks on Planet Earth. The emerging lava field is not expected to travel that far, being confined within a valley like a giant bath tub, but it may become part of a larger area should new vents become active.

47 Lava Flow @gislio

Image: @gislio

21 New Rock @RobAskew2

Image: @RobAskew2

27 New Rock Olivene Univ of I

Image: University of Iceland

Whatever does happen, there will be a ‘new’ feature to visit – currently a small lava field and a number of spatter cones – and to show to students. If the eruption continues to be active for a while, there may even be a fantastic introductory view from the windows of incoming flights – what a great way to start a geography field trip! The tweet below repeats a recent announcement made on an arriving flight to Keflavik:

45 Wizz Air

Quite a lot of early air activity over the eruption – although flights 9and drones) have since been banned:

29 Flights @mildthing99

Image: Flight Radar 24 by @mildthing99

If the Reykjanes eruption continues for any length of time, it could provide a boost for Iceland’s tourist industry – in much the same way that Eyjafjallajokull gave a shot in the arm to the country’s income after the financial collapse of 2008.

19 Tourists mbl.is kristinn Magnusson

Image: mbl.is (Kristinn Magnusson)

The eruption has already attracted a number of locals to the scene, and a number of curious visitors could be clearly seen at the edge of the lava field on the live web cam. However, authorities have discouraged visitors at this early stage due to the inherent dangers of the hot rock, falling volcanic bombs, the possibility of new fissures opening up, and the potential danger of toxic gas.

48 Tourists @DJCManns

Image: @DJCManns

20 Cars Grindavik @mbl.is Sigurdur Bogi

Cars parked near Grindavik. Image; @mbl.is (Sigurdur Bogi)

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management was quick to offer the following instructions to local people:

13 Instructions For public

There is a pretty tough 5 to 6 hour round trip hike required to access the eruption site, and authorities have been concerned about people attempting this trip in the current weather conditions which have brought wind, rain and sleet. There has also been a parking issue around Grindavik (the nearest settlement of any size), so they are trying to persuade people to make use of the web cam as an alternative to trying to get to the site themselves.

The positive consequences of this eruption, bringing a potential boost to the local economy from visitors when Covid restrictions are lifted, are clear – but there has also been a few issues of concern. A fissure eruption of this type has not brought any ash clouds to worry about, and apart from a brief closure at the time of the event, Keflavik airport has remained largely unaffected. Remember, it was the ash cloud from Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 that caused massive disruption to air transport across all of Europe, and even beyond. There has been little effect on infrastructure in the area, although the road from Hafnarfiordur to the airport was closed for a while at the beginning of the eruption.

14 Road Closed Out of Grindavik @DJCManns

Image: @DJCManns

There are few local residents to be affected, although those that do have homes close to Fagradalsfjall were advised to stay at home and keep their windows closed to avoid gas emissions from the eruption. Gas emissions have been closely monitored from the first warning signs of surface activity and although there were early concerns about the wind driving the gas cloud towards Reykjavik, these proved not to be a serious issue in the end.

2 Sampling Volcanic plume @Ellyinskaya

Image: @Ellyinskaya

7 Gas Cloud @Verdurstofan

Image: @Verdurstofan

33 Gas gos.belgingur.is

Image; gos.belgingur.is

What happens next is in the hands of Mother Nature – we will just have to watch carefully, and wait to see. There seems to have been more joy than hardship resulting from the eruption so far, and this couple at least enjoyed the benefit of a volcanic eruption on their doorstep:


I gather the answer to the question was a happy ‘yes’!

There is so much happening at the eruption site right now, it is difficult to know where to stop with this blog entry. I have just seen some tweets informing the public that the area around Fagradalsfjall is currently closed. The weather has closed in, and there is a risk of toxic gas close to the site. People have been struggling with the long hike to to the volcano, and the search and rescue teams have been under severe pressure.

So, I will leave things as they stand right now – and add any other interesting images and resources in a later update. happy volcano watching!

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More News From Reykjanes, Iceland

This is a brief update on the tectonic activity currently taking place on the Reykjanes Peninsula in South West Iceland, and serves as a follow-on from the last blog entry.

The earthquake swarm continues to rumble away, with over a thousand small but frequent ‘quakes measured daily. However, one significant development is the migration of the emerging  dyke system towards Natthagi (where there was a large earthquake early on in the process) and towards the south coastline. The dyke system may even end up extending under the ocean. It is believed that the magma intrusion is now some 100 to 200 metres closer to the surface than last week (Source: ruv.is). Some sort of eruption is still very likely, but it might not happen for a while. In fact, it could be a long wait.

Perhaps the makers of this film secretly want the magma to remain underground, as they have titled it ‘Lullaby to Fagradalsfjall ‘:

The fascinating physical geography of this event has taken the headlines, but the human effects of the current activity also need consideration. An explosive eruption of lava and ash (like Eyjafjallajokull) is unlikely in these circumstances, and the more probable slow-moving effusive eruptions of lava from fissures – with plenty of warning – provide little threat for the people who live in this area. In fact, Icelanders are probably looking forward to witnessing some of nature’s dramas on their doorstep, and welcoming back tourists to share the experience.

However, as the magma pressure continues to build, there are increasing signs of minor disruption to infrastructure. This photo shows road damage at Festarfjall caused by the recent earthquake (Image – mbl.is):

Festarfjall Road

Festarfjall Road. Image: mbl.is

Another image from @mblfrettir:

Road Crack

Image of surface cracks at Sandfell (near Fagridalsfjall). Image: @VTLAB_Joel:


The constant earthquake activity over recent weeks has begun to take its toll on residents of the local area. Citizens in Grindavik, the nearest village to the epicentre of the recent activity, have been suffering sleepless nights, and many have even gone to visit relatives, spent time in summer houses, or even rented a hotel room in Reykjavik, in order to get a break and a good night’s sleep. “I’m not scared, I’m just tired” was one comment I came across in a local newspaper.

The last few nights have seen a reduction in earthquake activity (although the threat of an eruption still remains strong), and residents of Grindavik have hopefully caught up on some sleep!

I took part in an excellent webinar this week organised by ‘Discover the World Education’. It examined the background to the Reykjanes activity as well as how Icelanders are dealing with the consequences as they occur. Highly recommended! There are some good links to webcams within the presentation, that may get some serious use should an eruption begin. 

I particularly liked this photo from the presentation of heavy ceramics that have been placed on the floor – issued by Grindavik Council as they tried to offer advice to local people about how to deal with the earthquake shakes:

Grindavik Ceramics

Image: Grindavik Council

The events on the Reykjanes peninsula has even caught the attention of the BBC!

BBC Follow this link to watch the BBC video:


Reykjanes Grapevine

Finally, there is a nice article about Reykjanes in the local news magazine ‘The Reykjavik Grapevine’ – you can read it here:

No doubt, there will be a need for further updates – meanwhile, I continue to keep an eye on events in Iceland with keen anticipation.

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Iceland Braces Itself For Volcanic Eruption – Recent Resources

View From Aeroplane @astro_graph

Reykjanes from aeroplane arriving into Keflavik. Image – @astro_graph

I would normally be guiding in Iceland at this time of year for Rayburn Tours, but due to the Covid pandemic, I have been stuck at home. This has been particularly frustrating, as there has been a great deal of tectonic activity in the country in recent days, and I have had to follow events from afar.

After gathering relevant reports and resources from the internet and social media, I wanted to put them together in a blog entry – but how long should I wait? With some sort of new eruption a distinct possibility, it would have been neat to match the resources to a spectacular event, if it should happen. This could well be tomorrow, but it might not take place for another hundred years, so here is the information I have gathered about the current situation as it stands today.

Background to Recent Tectonic Activity

Reykjanes wikipedia

Reykjanes Peninsula – Image: wikipedia.org

The current activity is taking place (as we speak) in the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the south west of the country, 17 miles southwest of the capital city of Reykjavik. The centre of concern is quite close to the Keflavik airport, and is passed by virtually all incoming visitors as they travel from the airport to the capital city of Reykjavik on the west coast.

It is well-known that Iceland sits on the northern part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a split in the seafloor that stretches down the length of the world, right to Antarctica. Here, lava erupts and cools to make new oceanic crust on either side of the rift. The North American tectonic plate sits to the west of the rift, with the Eurasian plate to the east, and they are pushed away from each other at roughly the same speed as your fingernails grow. Most of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is underwater, but the Reykjanes Peninsula sits on the northern part of the ridge, so it’s gradually being pulled apart all the time.

DEM-derived-topographic-map-of-the-Reykjanes-Peninsula-ranging-from-0-m-blue-to-500-m GBM pedersen

Reykjanes Peninsula Relief (blue 0m to red 500m) – Image: GDM Pedersen

The last major eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula happened eight centuries ago—not long after people first settled in Iceland. Since then, this picturesque area has been relatively quiet, but molten rock continues to churn below the surface.

There have been 4 periods of volcanic activity on Reykjanes Peninsula since Iceland was inhabited around 800AD. The map below shows these four main periods and the associated lava flows. The last eruption was in 1240 – which marked the end of a 450 year long eruption period.

Reykjanes Activity Gisli Olafson

Reykjavik Activity History. Image from @GisliOlafson

Shake murmurs from the recent activity were first detected in this region over a year ago, but the situation has intensified with more than 20,000 earthquakes being recorded since things began on 24th February. A magnitude 5.7 quake in February shook the region, and this week, the quakes were coming thick and fast. Twitter has been flooded with information about the new earthquake activity, reported literally as it was happening. Headlines like this have been common:

Eq Ben Brockert

Iceland Met Office Tweet 8.3.21

Iceland Met Office Tweet 9.3.21

Some scientists believe that the thousands of quakes occurring in southwestern Iceland in recent days could signal the beginning of a new period of heightened geologic activity that may last 100 years. If this transpires, the Reykjanes Peninsula could be bathed in the glow of volcanic fires that ignite, disappear, and then reappear intermittently for an entire human lifetime.

Earthquakes @sandrasnaebj

Earthquakes 14 Days @Verdurstofan

Earthquakes in last 14 Days. Image – @Verdurstofan

eq en.vedur.is

Eq 1

Experts monitoring underground magma movements in the Reykjanes Peninsula, have recognised the type of activity that would be expected in the run-up to some form of surface activity. They believe the magma is running at a depth of around 2 km, and moving laterally and not yet finding a way to the surface. However, they have warned of a “possible volcanic eruption” taking place here in the very near future. But so far, nothing has happened. Scientists though are very aware that the current situation can change rather quickly if the magma manages to break its way upwards.

Magma X Section @IcelandEditions

Image – @IcelandEditions

An interesting portrayal of the geology of the Reykjanes area can be found at:


Screenshot 2021-03-12 171407

Screenshot from above interactive site

Alternatively, to get an interesting view of the geology of the Reykjanes area, check out the following interactive 3D viewer:


3d brunnur.vedur.is

Screenshot from above web site

Fargardasfjall – Centre of All The Action

Dave mcgarvie Map

On March 3rd, seismometers detected the movement of magma through the crust close to the peninsula’s Fagradalsfjall flat-topped mountain and the Krýsuvík-Trölladyngja volcanic system, a series of fissures streaking through the ground. Volcanologists and civil authorities began to suspect an eruption was on its way.

Earthquake Eg 9.3.21 @Verdustofan

Fagradalsfjall and the surrounding area is considered to be the epicentre of the earthquake swarm that started on the 24th of February 2021. Thousands of earthquakes have been detected in the area during the last weeks, with the biggest measuring magnitude 5,7.

Fagradalsfjall is a tuff mountain (or moberg), the highest on Reykjanes peninsula at 385 metres. The mountain is believed to have been formed during the Ice Age and is a result of a volcanic eruption under a glacier. This small volcanic system hasn’t erupted in 6,000 years. On May 3rd, 1943, an American airplane crashed into Fagradalsfjall, resulting in 14 casualties and 1 survivor. Among the casualties was Frank Maxwell Andrews, a senior officer in the American army. Some sources indicate that he had been selected to be the commander of the invasion of Normandy. There is an interesting video on You Tube that tells this story in detail. 

Reykjanes Activity Iceland met Office

Initial tremors detected in Fagradalsfjall volcano developed into an intensive earthquake swarm that included a number of quakes in excess of magnitude 5.0.  Every day from 2500 to 3000 or more earthquakes are being recorded, and at the time of writing, since February 24th,  over 24000 earthquakes have been recorded here.. There is a massive inflation happening from Fagradalsfjall volcano and that is what is causing the earthquakes west and east of the dyke location between Fagradalsfjall mountain and Keilir mountain. Many of the earthquakes are happening close to the town of Grindavík. There have been heightened concerns about the effects of even larger earthquakes and also of a possible eruption from the nearby Krýsuvík volcanic system.

Panorama View Iceland360vr.com

The Fargardasfjall area is shown in this panoramic view, but the screenshot doesn’t really do the image justice. Check out the fully interactive version at:


The map below offers information about the magnitude, depth, and time of each major earthquake in the area. Click on an icon to open up this data.  Information is updated daily and comes from the Skjálftalísa website of  Veðurstofa Islands (Icelandic MET office).

Screenshot 2021-03-12 172209

At the time of writing, the tremors signifying magma movement have died down. They could reappear, but they may not return. It is always possible that intrusions of magma like that beneath Fargardasfjall will get stuck, cool, solidify, and simply remain underground. The whole event may just slowly decline and then stop – but it could, of course, turn into something rather more dramatic. It is very much a matter of ‘wait and see.’

If you want to follow the unrest in the Reykjanes ridge fault zones, and perhaps watch a ‘live’ eruption, there are a number of ‘live cams’ available on line:


What Type of Volcanic Eruption Are We Talking About?

If magma eventually reaches the surface in this area, it is unlikely to form an explosion of lava and ash like the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull that caused so much disruption across all of Europe. It will more likely take the form of a fissure eruption, where lava emerges more slowly from cracks in the earth’s surface, with little explosive activity.

As explained in a recent tweet by @subglacial:

When seismic tremor indicates magma is moving, concern about an #eruption is understandable. But, eroded #volcanoes in East #Iceland show that over 80% of magma movements do NOT produce eruptions: they form dykes. Pro tip. Most of the spreading in Iceland occurs underground

The molten rock beneath the Reykjanes Peninsula is runny and not-too-gassy, and struggles to build up enough pressure as it rises to the surface to create big, ashy explosions. The relative lack of ice cover here also starves the magma of water, which in small amounts is vaporized so violently by molten rock that it triggers ash-producing blasts. There’s also no sign that an eruption in Reykjanes would involve the same volume of magma as the prolific outpourings of the Laki eruption between 1783 and 1784.

Consequences of a Volcanic Eruption in Reykjanes

Whatever happens, the outcome is not likely to be disastrous for Iceland. Fissure eruptions like this are often referred to as “tourist eruptions” as they are relatively safe and predictable. Unfortunately, due to the current travel situation, few visitors are able to get to Iceland right now to enjoy the experience – and give a welcome boost to the country’s tourist economy. However, this may just be the beginning of something far greater. Research has shown that when a new cycle of volcanism begins in Reykjanes, it doesn’t involve one eruption, but many. It appears that magma has been gathering at not one, but three different spots beneath two of the peninsula’s volcanic systems, and it is possible that recent activity could herald the start of another hundred years of intermittent volcanic fires along the southwestern peninsula of Iceland. If this does end up being a long-term event, tourism could ultimately benefit when travel restrictions are relaxed.

There may be some spectacular fountains of lava, the build up of small cones, and flows of lava from higher areas to lower ground. Although any lava flows near Mount Keilir are unlikely to reach populated areas, they could interrupt air traffic to and from Keflavík international airport, which is about 12 miles from the main area of seismic activity and is currently on orange alert. There are contingency plans in place to divert flights and passengers to the island’s other airports should lava flows disrupt traffic links to Keflavik.

Road Damage Grindavik mbl.is

Road damage this week at Grindavik

It is possible that lava flows might affect infrastructure by  overrunning  roads or knocking over a couple power lines. Magma could rise into an aquifer—or even into the Blue Lagoon tourist attraction, triggering explosive activity, but that is considered a very unlikely scenario.

The only settlement of any size that could experience problems is Grindavík, a town on the peninsula’s southern coast. It has certainly been recently shaken by the barrage of earthquakes, and could be imperiled if lava emerges close by.

There are certainly no internationally concerns about a fissure eruption in south west Iceland. There will be no super-emissions of ash and dust to disrupt air travel in Europe (and beyond) as was experienced in the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull.

How Will The Newsreaders Cope?

When Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, newsreaders across the world struggled badly to get the name right. How will they fare should an eruption result from the present activity? If a new eruption does kick off—which seems pretty likely at this moment—the technical name for it would be Sundhnjúkagígaröð in Þráinsskjaldarhraun. How will they cope with that? Come back, Eyjafjallajökull, all is forgiven!

Correct pronunciation is given here:

How to Pronounce Icelandic Volcano: Þráinsskjaldarhraun

The eruption is likely to be close to Fagradalsfjall, and that’s enough for me! At least some of the name parts are easy to get your head around – Skjöldur is a shield, hraun means lava, and fjall means mountain. Well, it’s a start!

With a bit of luck, when I get chance to visit Iceland again, there will be some evidence of a new eruption to add to itineraries and show to students. Maybe some juicy dykes like the one below in an image from @subglacial (Dave McGarvie):

Dyke @subglacial

I will update things in following blogs depending on how situation develops.

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Earthquake Swarm In South West Iceland

Photo 24-02-2021, 13 11 01The last time I was able to visit Iceland (in pre-Covid times), there was quite a bit of earthquake activity in the south west of the Iceland. There has been similar activity in the same area of the Reykjanes peninsula during the last few days – and it has made for some really interesting map representations. I have included some of them in this blog entry.

210225_1850A strong earthquake shook the capital of Iceland on 24 February. The epicentre of the quake was located about 29 km from Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, and was situated at the Reykjanes Volcanic Belt in the Reykjanes Peninsula. This is where the rift zone between the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate occurs. According to the Iceland Met Office (IMO) there have been earthquake swarms since last week totaling to more than 500 imperceptible quakes. However, at 10:05 am on the 24th, a 5.7 earthquake hit and caused several felt aftershocks within a span of an hour.

Earthquake activity on the Reykjanes peninsula over the last 48 hours. Copyright of this image belongs to Icelandic Met Office.

earthquake-swarm-reykjanes-peninsula-february-24-2021-fSteam has been confirmed close the parking lot close to Keilir mountain on Reykjanes peninsula. This area did not have steam before the Mw5,7 earthquake yesterday (24-February). It is unclear that is going on in that location. There continues to be high risk for a earthquake with magnitude Mw6,0 to Mw6,8 on Reykjanes peninsula because of this earthquake activity.


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Mary Anning Commemorative Coins


Mary Anning – image: Natural History Museum

A lot of people have worked hard recently to raise the profile of Dorset fossil collector, Mary Anning, whose achievements have been long overlooked.  It was nice to see this week that a series of new commemorative 50p coins have been released to celebrate her work.

The Royal Mint has collaborated with the Natural History Museum  for a second in a series of coins called ‘Tales of the Earth’. Last year the subject was dinosaurs, but this year it will feature Jurassic creatures discovered by Mary Anning.


The first coin released features the temnodontosaurus, a type of ichthyosaur. Up to 10 metres long, it had the largest eye of any animal, the size of a football, and would hunt in the ocean that once covered much of southern Britain. Anning, aged about 12, and her brother Joseph made the first discovery of a temnodontosaurus in 1810.

Other coins in the collection will highlight Anning’s discoveries of the plesiosaurus and the dimorphodon.

Photo 25-02-2021, 10 06 00

Image: The i digital newspaper

Mary was on the short list to be the face of the new £50 note coming this year, but missed out to Alan Turing. However, there is now a suite of rooms named after her at the Natural History Museum, and she is the main character in the film ‘Ammonite’, in which she is played by Kate Winslett, that should be on general release in the coming months.

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