Thousands of spectators have been amazed by the breathtaking view near Mount Fagradalsfjall – 40 kilometers from Reykjavik – since March 19, the sixth eruption of Iceland’s volcano in 20 years.
“Six months is a relatively long eruption,” volcanologist Thorvaldur Thordarson told AFP.
Now known as Fagradalshraun (“beautiful valley of lava”), the eruption began with a flow from a fissure in the earth and has so far ejected approximately 143 million cubic meters of lava.
However, this volume is relatively small and contains 11 times less lava than the eruption that occurred between 2014 and 2015 at Holuhraun, in the central eastern part of the island.
Although the eruption between 2014 and 2015 lasted less than six months, it unleashed the largest lava flow in 230 years in Iceland.
The recent eruption “is special because it kept a relatively steady flow, so it was very powerful,” said Haldor Gerson, a geophysicist at the Earth Sciences Institute.
“The usual behavior that we know about volcanoes in Iceland is that they start out very active spewing lava, and then the flow slows down until it stops,” he explained.
The eruption of Surtsey, off the southern coast of Iceland, lasted nearly four years, from November 1963 to June 1967.
After decreasing in intensity for nine days, the lava from Vagradalchrunn re-emerged in early September.
Accompanied by a cloud of smoke from the outgassing, now glowing liquid comes out of the crater occasionally. The fluid also accumulates underground, forming smoldering tunnels under layers of solid lava above the ground.
Then the lava unfolds like a wave hitting the shore, astounding onlookers.
According to the Icelandic Tourist Board, about 300,000 people climbed the rugged hills overlooking the Geldadalir, Meradalir and Natthagi valleys, where lava has poured.
A total of 10 cracks were opened, all in the first month, and seven small craters formed, but only two of them remained visible.
Other lava covered lava spewing from the only still active crater.
This crater is now 334 meters long, according to the Institute of Earth Sciences. The height is several tens of meters lower than the highest peak in the surrounding area.
The volcano shows no signs of weakening any time soon. “It appears that there is enough magma from some of the reservoirs to last a long time,” Gerson said.
“Hardcore alcohol maven. Hipster-friendly analyst. Introvert. Devoted social media advocate.”