A volcano is erupting in Iceland, and it’s pretty stunning to watch


A volcano that had rumbled for weeks erupted in southwestern Iceland, spewing semi-molten rock into the air in a spectacular show of Earth’s power in the land known for fire and ice.

The eruption that started Monday night occurred about four kilometres from the town of Grindavik, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. The town near Iceland’s main airport was evacuated in November after thousands of earthquakes damaged homes and raised fears of an imminent eruption.

On Tuesday, fountains of orange lava shot into the darkened sky from a fissure in the ground. Iceland, which sits just below the Arctic Circle and above a volcanic hotspot in the North Atlantic, has about 20 hours of darkness a day in December. Icelandic broadcaster RUV showed a live feed of the eruption on its website, as Christmas carols played in the background.

A local resident watches smoke billow late Monday as the lava colours the night sky orange from an volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, just north of Grindavik in western Iceland. (Kristin Elisabet Gunnarsdottir/AFP/Getty Images)

The current eruption is not expected to release ash into the air because it does not lie under water or ice. Iceland’s Foreign Minister Bjarne Benediktsson said on X, formerly Twitter, that there were no disruptions of flights to and from Iceland and international flight corridors remain open.

National air carrier Icelandair said its flights were not affected by the eruption.

A volcanic range on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 50 kilometeres southwest of the capital, Reykjavik, has erupted three times since 2021, after being dormant for 800 years.

A digital map show Iceland a locator that reads, 'Grindavik volcano eruption.'
The eruption appears to have occurred about four kilometres from the town of Grindavik, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. (CBC)

‘This is not a tourist attraction’

The November evacuation of Grindavik meant few people were near the site of eruption when it occurred and authorities have warned others to stay away. The nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal spa — one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions — also closed temporarily that month as a swarm of earthquakes put the island nation on alert for a possible volcanic eruption.

The residents of the evacuated fishing community of 3,400 people had mixed emotions as they watched the orange flames touch the dark skies. One month after the evacuation, many are still living in temporary accommodation and don’t expect to ever be able to return to live in their homes.

Volcanic activity, including cracks in the land and a large cloud of smoke, is shown from the window of an airplane.
An aerial view shows the volcano spewing lava and smoke as it erupts near Grindavik. (Civil Protection of Iceland/Reuters)

“The town involved might end up under the lava,” said Ael Kermarec, a French tour guide living in Iceland. “It’s amazing to see but, there’s kind of a bittersweet feeling at the moment.”

Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, a scientist who flew over the site on Tuesday morning onboard a coast guard research flight, told RUV that he estimates twice as much lava had already spewed than during an entire monthlong eruption on the peninsula this summer.

Gudmundsson said the eruption was expected to continue decreasing in intensity but that scientists have no idea how long it could last.

“It can be over in a week, or it could take quite a bit longer,” he said. “This is not a tourist attraction and you must watch it from a great distance,” Vidir Reynisson, head of Iceland’s Civil Protection and Emergency Management, told RUV. 

Iceland averages an eruption every four to five years. The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and led to widespread airspace closures over Europe.

Previous eruptions occurred in remote valleys without causing damage.

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