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Updated December 20th, 2023 at 22:42 IST

Iceland's blaze unveiled: Unraveling the mysteries of the recent volcanic eruption

The region had been active for more than two years, and thousands of small earthquakes had rattled the area in recent weeks.

Digital Desk
Iceland volcano
The region had been active for more than two years, and thousands of small earthquakes had rattled the area in recent weeks. | Image:AP
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Scientists had been anticipating the eruption of a volcano in southwestern Iceland for weeks, so when it occurred on Monday night, it was no surprise. The region had been active for more than two years, and thousands of small earthquakes had rattled the area in recent weeks.

Here is a look at what happened and what may be ahead:

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How the eruption unfolded

- The eruption started at about 10:20 p.m. local time on Monday north of Grindavik, a fishing town of 3,400 people on the Reykjanes Peninsula.
- There was a series of small earthquakes, followed by lava pouring out of a fissure about four kilometres (2.5 miles) long.
- The Icelandic Meteorological Office estimated that hundreds of cubic meters of lava per second flowed out in the first two hours of the eruption.
- The activity had significantly subsided by Tuesday afternoon.

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Was it expected?

- The eruption was not unexpected, as scientists had been anticipating it for several weeks.
- In November, authorities evacuated Grindavik after thousands of small earthquakes shook the area for more than two weeks.
- The eruption occurred in Fagradalsfjall volcano, an area known for its volcanic activity.

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Will this eruption affect flights? 

- None of the recent eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula caused damage or disruptions to flights.
- Despite being larger and more powerful than recent eruptions, Monday’s eruption is unlikely to impact air travel.
- The eruption's location and features make it less likely to produce significant ash clouds that could disrupt flights.
- Unlike the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in 2010, which caused widespread disruptions to air travel, the current eruption is not expected to have a similar impact.

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What other impacts could this eruption have? 

- There is no current threat that the lava will reach the town of Grindavik, the Blue Lagoon, or key structures like a nearby power plant.
- Residents in the area were evacuated, and most surrounding roads remain closed.
- Pollution from volcanic gas, including water, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, may be detected in the Reykjavik area on Wednesday.
- The eruption's impact on air quality poses a more immediate threat than the lava flow itself.

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How common are volcanic eruptions in Iceland? 

- It is too early to determine how long the eruption will last or when residents could move back into their homes.
- Some estimates suggest the eruption could last from a week to 10 days, while others believe it could continue for months.
- Authorities have been preparing for the eruption for weeks, erecting defensive barriers in the area.
- Iceland is one of Earth’s most volcanically active areas, with 32 active volcanic sites.
- The country experiences an eruption every four to five years, and the frequency increased in 2021.
- Iceland sits on top of a volcanic hot spot and the mid-Atlantic ridge, leading to frequent volcanic activity.
- Katla, one of Iceland’s largest active volcanoes, is closely monitored due to its location under thick glacial ice.

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Published December 20th, 2023 at 22:42 IST

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