Volcano erupts near Iceland’s capital amid jump in seismic activity


A volcano in southwestern Iceland on the Reykjanes Peninsula erupted on Friday, following thousands of small earthquakes in the area in recent weeks, the country’s meteorological office said.

The eruption occurred near Fagradalsfjall, a mountain on the peninsula located around 30 kilometres southwest of the capital Reykjavik. More than 40,000 earthquakes have occurred on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the past four weeks, a huge jump from the 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes registered each year since 2014.

Pictures on local media websites showed a bright red night sky. A picture posted on Twitter by the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) showed smoke rising from brightly glowing lava streams.

The eruption posed no immediate danger to people in Grindavik — a town located eight kilometres away — or to critical infrastructure, the IMO said.

“I think we couldn’t hope for anything better than that,” IMO volcanic hazards co-ordinator Sara Barsotti told Reuters.

Unlike the eruption in 2010 of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which halted approximately 900,000 flights and forced hundreds of Icelanders from their homes, this eruption is not expected to spew much ash or smoke into the atmosphere, the IMO said.

Located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, among the largest on the planet, Iceland is a seismic and volcanic hotspot as the two plates move in opposite directions.

The source of the eruption is a large body of molten rock, known as magma, which has pushed its way to the surface over the past weeks, instigating the earthquakes.

The number of quakes had slowed down in recent days, however, leading geologists to say that an eruption would be less likely.

Reykjavik’s international Keflavik airport was not closed following the eruption, but each airline had to decide if it wanted to fly or not, the IMO said.

A helicopter with scientific personnel aboard had been sent to observe the eruption, the IMO said.

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