An eruption began on the Reykjanes peninsula around 22:17, in the area between Sýlingarfell and Hagafell, just north of the town of Grindavík and east of the Blue Lagoon and Svartsengi Power Plant. The fissure is estimated to be over 3 km long along Sundhnúkagígar crater row.
The start of the eruption was captured on the live webcam of the national broadcaster RÚV:
Byrjunin á eldgosinu á vefmyndavél RÚV yfir Grindavík
— Birkir (@birkirh) December 18, 2023
The live stream can be viewed here:
The glow from the eruption is visible from central Reykjavík.
Worst possible location
The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared an Emergency/Distress Phase in response to the start of the eruption.
Volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson previously told the Grapevine the location along Sundhnúkagígar was the worst possible place for an eruption to begin to the likelihood of infrastructure being affected should lave breach the surface there.
Kristín Jónsdóttir, a volcano specialist with the met office told the national broadcaster shortly after the eruption began that the rate of lava flow is 100 to 200 cubic metres per second, which is significantly larger than the eruptions at Fagradalsfjall in 2021, 2022 and July 2023.
Kristín said it was difficult to predict how long the eruption would last. However, she thought it likely that given its initial size, it would last a few months rather than weeks.
The crater row at Sundhnúkargígar was created by an eruption 2,350 years ago.
Stay away, keep your drones grounded
Reykjanesbraut, the road running along the northern edge of the Reykjanes peninsula toward the international airport in Keflavík is closed in part due to a traffic jam. The area is closed. You will not be able to access the volcano site. Stay home to allow the authorities to monitor the situation and maintain a safe perimeter.
The no-fly zone that was established over a large swath of the area over the Blue Lagoon and GRindavík remains in effect. Isavia has provided the following coordinates within which it is forbidden to fly drones:
The Icelandic Meteorological Office has been monitor the area closely since seismic activity increased in late October. The activity came to a head on Nov. 10, when the met office identified a magma intrusion that had spread approximately 15 km from Sundhnúkagígar and running southwest under Grindavík and out beneath the sea floor. The 3.700 residents were evacuated at that time, but have been permitted in recent weeks to return to town between business hours.
The popular Blue Lagoon tourist attraction just reopened to the public in Dec. 17 after more than a month-long closure due to the alert phase in effect in the region. The local police chief said earlier today that signs were pointing toward residents being permitted to return home to Grindavík as well.
The Blue Lagoon has closed for business once again.
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