In Iceland, rare volcanic eruption in an area asleep for eight centuries

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Lava had not flowed in the area since the thirteenth century: a small volcanic eruption continued on Saturday about forty kilometers from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, with no other immediate consequence than to draw pretty flows of glowing red magma.

• Read also: Volcanic eruption lights up the sky near Reykjavik

After intense seismic activity for more than three weeks and an eruption alert, a lava flow finally gushed out on Friday evening around 8:45 p.m. GMT (4:45 p.m. in Quebec) from a crack about 500 meters long in the ground at Geldingadalur, near of Mount Fagradalsfjall, illuminating the night with a red cloud.

New daytime footage taken on Saturday morning from a Coast Guard helicopter showed lava flows and blue gas fumaroles at the eruption site, in a small valley on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwest of Reykjavik and at the southwestern tip of Iceland.

But the eruption is confined to a small space of barely a square kilometer and the lava flow has diminished, according to vulcanologists.

“The rash is small and activity has declined slightly since (Friday) evening. It is limited to a small area in the valley and the lava flows are unlikely to cause damage, ”according to the Icelandic Meteorological Institute’s latest update on Saturday at midday.

“It should stay in this small valley and thicken rather than spread over a larger area,” Björn Oddsson, a civil protection geophysicist, told RUV national television.

Between two showers, water vapor was visible from a distance from the site, access to which was blocked outside scientific teams, noted an AFP correspondent on the spot on Saturday morning.

In Iceland, rare volcanic eruption in an area asleep for eight centuries

The Krysuvik volcanic system, which does not have a main crater, is located south of Mount Fagradalsfjall. The site of the eruption, not far from the famous thermal site of the Blue Lagoon, is located about 5 km inland.

Keflavik International Airport and the small fishing port of Grindavik are only a few kilometers away, but the area is uninhabited and the eruption is unlikely to present a danger, authorities reiterated on Saturday. Airport traffic can also continue.

In Iceland, rare volcanic eruption in an area asleep for eight centuries

Eruptions between 1210 and 1240

One of the unknowns now concerns the duration of the episode and whether it opens a new long period of activity in the sector.

The Krysuvik volcanic system had been inactive for 900 years, according to the Meteorological Institute, while the last eruption in the Reykjanes Peninsula as a whole was almost 800 years old.

This last episode had spaced intermittently over a period of 30 years around the years 1210 to 1240.

After signs of revival for a year, the area had been under increased surveillance for several weeks after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake was recorded on February 24 near Mount Keilir, on the outskirts of Reykjavik.

This quake has since been followed by an unusual number of smaller tremors – over 50,000, the highest number since digital recordings began in 1991. Magma had been detected nearly a kilometer below the earthquake. surface, suggesting that an eruption was near.

In Iceland, rare volcanic eruption in an area asleep for eight centuries

Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates diverge, Iceland is the largest and most active volcanic region in Europe, with 32 volcanoes or volcanic systems considered active.

The country has an eruption on average every five years, the last one occurring between August 2014 and February 2015 in an uninhabited area in the center of the country, in the volcanic system of Bardarbunga.

But the most famous of the modern era is that of the Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, in the south of the island. Its immense plume of smoke had caused the greatest air disruption in peacetime, paralyzing European skies for nearly a month.

A scenario excluded this time with this small eruption of so-called “effusive” lava, unlike the explosive eruptions which spit clouds of ash high in the sky.