Iceland’s Erupting Volcano: Rivers of Lava and 30,000 Earthquakes

Natural History
People stand before a river of lava
Grindavík, Iceland, March 20, 2021: Onlookers watch an active lava river flowing from a small volcanic eruption in the Geldingadalir Valley, only about 30 km away from Reykjavík. Photo: Shutterstock

New craters and vents are opening in Iceland’s long-dormant volcano almost every day. And all this is happening just 30km from Reykjavik.

For the first time in 6,000 years, volcanic activity in Geldingadalir, Iceland has suddenly given us an unforgettable display of power, as new land forms before our eyes.

Lava flows from newly formed craters

The Geldingadalir Valley, March 2021 — or is it Mordor? Photo: Shutterstock

Rumblings and signs of activity began in February, with fissures suddenly appearing. In early March, tectonic movement and increased pressures seeking relief from below produced an eight-kilometre magma-filled dyke along the surface.

This was not the end of it. As of now, over 30,000 (!) earthquakes have occurred. This “indicates magma moving 12 to 23km below the earth’s surface, at the boundary of the crust and mantle,” geophysicist and Icelandic Member of Parliament Ari Trausti Gudmundsson told ExplorersWeb.

Iceland has long been known as the Land of Fire and Ice, but this part of the island had long laid dormant. Now, an ever-evolving network of new routes has formed to allow the magma to escape.

New craters almost every day

Three new craters formed on April 4, 5, and 10. On April 13, another four craters appeared. On April 16, five fissures opened up around the dyke, along with several vents. And on April 18, seven more craters and more new vents formed and continuously spewed lava discharge of primitive olivine-tholeiite basalt. As a result, a lava river is flowing southward through the Geldingadalir Valley.

Gudmundsson describes this eruption as quiet, fountain-like, and of no danger to the closest settlements. Vulcanologists say that the eruptions may continue for months, adding to the already high levels of natural airborne pollution. Yet this has not deterred hundreds of visitors from witnessing a new chapter in Iceland’s geological story.

The Reykjanes Peninsula, on which all this action is taking place, serves as a kind of tectonic “bridge between the continents”. Iceland itself formed from the diverging North American and Eurasian Plates and perches atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Amazing drone footage

Some local videographers have captured international attention by flying their drones almost into the raging belly of the beast, giving intimate closeups of the convulsive forces of the earth. Below, one example.

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About the Author

Kristine De Abreu

Kristine De Abreu

Kristine De Abreu is a writer (and occasional photographer) based in sunny Trinidad and Tobago.

Since graduating from the University of Leicester with a BA in English and History, she has pursued a full-time writing career, exploring multiple niches before settling on travel and exploration. While studying for an additional diploma in travel journalism with the British College of Journalism, she began writing for ExWeb.

Currently, she works at a travel magazine in Trinidad as an editorial assistant and is also ExWeb's Weird Wonder Woman, reporting on the world's natural oddities as well as general stories from the world of exploration.

Although she isn't a climber (yet!), she hikes in the bush, has been known to make friends with iguanas and quote the Lord of the Rings trilogy from start to finish.

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