Volcanic eruption in Iceland puzzled scientists – is the island under threat?


The last strong volcanic eruption in Iceland, on the Reykjanes Peninsula, occurred 800 years ago. Since then, it seemed that the volcano fell asleep for a long time. However, the situation has changed in 2021. One might think that this is an isolated incident that will not happen again, but less than a year later, namely on August 3, there was a second lava ejection.

This may indicate that the once calm peninsula has awakened from a long sleep, which threatens the future of the peninsula. Fortunately, at present, the eruption does not pose a great danger to the population and tourists. However, to this day it is still unclear how plentiful and how long it will be. Even if nothing extraordinary happens this time, new, more dangerous eruptions may follow in the near future. Already experts are saying

Why did a volcano erupt in Iceland?

The tectonic split that occurred in the bowels of the earth suggests that last year’s eruption was preparing for a long time. In recent years, several layers of magma have risen to the surface, as evidenced by the changing shape of the earth and swarms of earthquakes, scientists say. But for some time, hot magma and gases did not break out to the surface. Perhaps this is due to the loss of the upward momentum, or to the elasticity and density of the crust, which simply holds the incandescent updrafts until it collapses.

The first eruption in the last 800 years occurred in 2021

Studies of ancient volcanic rocks suggest that periods of volcanic calm on the island are regularly replaced by loud awakenings. This has happened several times over the past few thousand years. And it seems that we are currently witnessing another cycle change.

It must be said that the frequency and strength of earthquakes began to increase from the end of 2019. Even then, it became clear to scientists that a volcanic eruption was inevitable. And already on March 19, 2021, the experts’ assumption was confirmed. Then, from the end of July this year, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Service, another wave of earthquakes and significant deformation of the soil began in the region.

The most powerful earthquake occurred on July 31. It had a magnitude of 5.5. These were the so-called trigger earthquakes, which occur because magma stretches the crust until it collapses as a result of a powerful push.

Presumably the current eruption does not pose a danger to the local population and tourists.

Why is a new eruption dangerous?

The current eruption, which began on August 3 at 13:18 local time, sent many scarlet jets of magma from the foot of a small mountain into an uninhabited Meradalir valley, located far from the population. There is no major infrastructure nearby, and there are no bodies of water or ice that can sometimes trigger a series of violent explosions. Therefore, as we have already said, it is regarded as not dangerous.

Many assume that this eruption will occur in the same way as last year. However, according to local media reports, lava is currently flowing with greater force than last year. This can mean either filling the valley quickly or completing the process more quickly.

However, it is extremely difficult to predict how much lava might erupt to the surface. Ground deformation shows the volume of magma available to feed an eruption in the short term, but says nothing about additional releases that may occur in the coming days. Will the lava stay in these valleys or will it move on? Will it be able to reach the sea and lift into the atmosphere a large amount of steam and gases, like the eruption in Tongo , which has become a threat to the climate? There are no answers to these questions yet.

Scientists see potential for new knowledge in current eruption

If we are truly seeing the beginning of a new era of Reykjanes volcanism, scientists cannot predict how dangerous it will be for those who live on the peninsula. The fact is that it is impossible to predict where or when the next eruption will occur. According to experts, subsequent eruptions will not necessarily occur far from settlements. Therefore, according to volcanologist Dave McGarvey, an employee of Lancaster University, surprises should be expected.

In the meantime, tourists have a unique opportunity to observe and admire the geological process without any risk. It looks, of course, not as unusual as the Ijen volcano , but it also fascinates. In addition, scientists have formed opportunities to gain new scientific knowledge. Currently, they are already actively collecting rock samples.

It must be said that in 2021, researchers received a lot of information about the features of the eruptions on the peninsula – from their physical behavior to their chemical composition. The new eruption promises to provide even more data.

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