From Iceland — Eruption Could Last A While, Lava May Exit Valley In Matter Of Weeks

Eruption Could Last A While, Lava May Exit Valley In Matter Of Weeks

Published March 24, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Now that the initial fascination with the eruption of Geldingadalsgos has passed, scientists are now assessing what the future of Iceland’s newest volcano could be.

Elísabet Pálmadóttir, a natural disasters specialist at the Icelandic Met Office, told RÚV that the possibility exists that the two craters through which lava is flowing could merge into one due to increased activity in one of the craters. Lava is currently flowing from the eruption at a rate of roughly 5m3 per second.

At this rate, geophysicist Páll Einarsson believes, lava could begin making its way out of the valley in anywhere from eight to 18 days. That is, 18 days at the current rate, or just eight days if the flow increases to 10m3 per second.

From there, it would likely begin flowing into the neighbouring valley of Meradalir, and from there, to Nátthagi to the south of that. If it began to flow from Nátthagi, it would likely make its way south, based on elevation mapping, where it might even reach the south coastal highway of Reykjanes but would not reach populated areas.

Of course, that all depends not only on the rate of lava flow but also on how long the eruption lasts. Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland, told RÚV that there is as yet no signs that the flow is slowing. While scientists initially believed that the eruption would only last a few days, new data has changed that assessment.

Scientists now believe that the magma comes from a depth of 15-20 kilometers. Freysteinn pointed out that what determines the length of an eruption is how much magma has accumulated beneath the surface. As it has not erupted in this area in about 6,000 years, there could be a great deal of magma beneath the surface, and this eruption may be with us for a considerable amount of time.

The situation may change in the coming days; volcanoes are not static phenomena, and these estimates are all based on the current data.

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