There being vulcanism in Iceland is almost not news. But every so often it becomes news.
In 2010, a volcano named Eyjafjallajökull hit the news big time…the eruptions disrupted air travel across western and northern Europe, ruined multiple people’s trips and cost about $1.7 million in lost revenue. It caused permanent changes in how airlines assess risk from volcanic ash and clouds.
The current eruption in Iceland, though, is of a very different type.
Where is the Eruption?
The eruption is happening on the Reykjanes peninsular at Fagradalsfjall near Geldingadalir. This is the first time in several hundred years.
Reykjanes is a peninsula that sticks out from the southwest corner of Iceland and is not far from Reykjavik.
Despite that, Reykjanes is sparsely populated due to the fact that it’s…a giant lava field. The airport is there because when the U.S. wanted to build a base in Iceland, the Icelandic people gave us cheap, useless land that was far enough from Reykjavik to help keep soldiers from doing what soldiers do. This later became Iceland’s main civilian airport (landing there is interesting because the runway was made to hold military transports and even large airliners are dwarfed by it).
Reykjanes is the first part of Iceland visitors see and trust me, it’s…a giant lava field.
That means good news; the Geldingadalir eruption is in an uninhabited area, threatening no homes.
The one concern that has been voiced is risk to the famous Blue Lagoon Spa, one of Iceland’s most lucrative tourist attractions.
Why is this Eruption Not Disrupting Anything?
Again, this is a very different kind of eruption.
There’s no explosion and there’s no ash plume. Instead, the Earth is cracking open and lava pouring out. In fact, we are now up to three fissures. They’re not presenting any danger to anyone, and are producing slow basalt lava.
Well, other than the people who have had to run away because they got too close to the lava flow. It’s moving very slowly, so nobody’s actually gotten lava’d yet.
But they have had to evacuate a few idiots. And a few unlucky hikers who happened to be next to one of the new fissures when it opened.
In other words, the only thing this is doing is making parts of the lava field that had actually turned into land back into lava field again.
How Long Will This Last?
This is the really interesting question, because experts have a range of guesses.
And those guesses range from “days” to…”decades.”
Yes, these fissures could be spouting lava for the rest of our life times, and I include people younger than me.
And if that does happen, then over time it will become more predictable. Even right now the Icelandic authorities have set up a marked trail and are getting hikers to stay on it.
Which means that this could be a tourist attraction for years to come, a place where you can go observe, in relative safety, the dynamic nature of our wonderful planet.