After more than 40,000 earthquakes on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland over the past four weeks, lava began to burst through a fissure in Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano on March 19, its glow apparently visible from Reykjavik, 32 kilometres away.
This is the first time the peninsula has seen an eruption from any volcano in 781 years – and the first time Mount Fagradalsfjall has erupted for 6,000 years.
The eruptive fissure is estimated to be about 500 metres long. But unlike the disruptive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, which halted 90,000 flights, this event isn’t predicted to spew much ash or smoke into the atmosphere.
No evacuations were necessary, either, as the volcano is located in the remote Geldinga Valley, 2.5 kilometres from the nearest road.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office say the eruption is considered small and of no real danger – but it’s spectacular. Hundreds have flocked to see it up close, including scientists, for whom this is an unparalleled chance to study the tectonics and volcanism of the area.
Some have collected lava samples and rushed back to the lab to study its chemical composition; others have flown over the site and used radar to estimate lava thickness and volume; and others are analysing the gas compounds emitted from the fissure.
In addition to important studies, scientists are having a sausage sizzle on the lava to make volcano snags.
Travel blogger Bjorn Steinbeck flew a drone above the volcano’s flows and into the crater. In the description, Steinbeck writes “I really thought I would never see my drone again, but man, this was so thrilling to capture!!!”
And most impressively, there’s a livestream set up to watch the glowing ooze from afar.
If you don’t have time to watch a livestream all day, you should probably rearrange your calendar, but there are timelapse videos that speed the eruption up as well:
Or you can even take a 3-D tour.
Click through the gallery below to see our favourite still images.
The Royal Institution of Australia has an Education resource based on this article. You can access it here.
Lauren Fuge is a science journalist at Cosmos. She holds a BSc in physics from the University of Adelaide and a BA in English and creative writing from Flinders University.
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