Will There be Another Volcanic Eruption in Iceland?
Update (22.3.2021) Thar she blows!!! Click here for an update on the latest volcanic eruption in Iceland
As you may have been reading in the news, there is a possibility of a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in Southwest Iceland. Swarms of earthquakes have rocked the capital city of Reykjavík and the nearby towns as magma is on the move and is slowly approaching the surface, approximately 1 km from the surface at the time of writing this blog. Whilst this does not necessarily mean that a volcanic eruption is imminent, it looks very possible. So, why don’t we take this opportunity to have a little look back at Iceland’s geological history to find out when and where there will be another volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Eyjafjallajökull, Possibly the Most Famous Volcanic Eruption in Iceland
In 2008, Iceland was thrust into the global media due to the financial crash, in an already deeply troubling financial period. For better or worse, Iceland’s name was on many people’s lips, and tourism continued to grow by around 6% every year. However, it wasn’t until March 2010 when tourism in Iceland boomed. Literally. Eyjafjallajökull (ey-ya-fya-tl-a-yoo-k-utl) a volcano in Iceland’s south coast, violently erupted, sending an ash plume 9km high into the air. The ash cloud consisted of ultra-fine particles which are extremely hazardous to aircraft engines, so air traffic across Europe was completely shutdown. In fact, this was the largest air traffic grounding since the Second World War. This lefts millions stranded in airports across Europe, costing well over 2 billion Euros. So, once again, Iceland found itself in the global spotlight, and this was the trigger point for Iceland’s tourism increasing from 6% annually to 20%. For a small island such as Iceland, that is pretty significant. Thousands flocked here to see the eruption site and the still warm and glowing lava, as well as everything else Iceland had to offer (which is tons, by the way!)
Iceland’s Volcanic History
In total, Iceland has around 130 volcanoes, with around 30 of those considered as being active. Before Eyjafjallajökull, there was the 2014-2015 eruption of Bárðarbunga (b-aow-r-thar-b-ung-a) and Holuhraun, and three years before that was the eruption of Grimsvötn. Iceland experiences an eruption once every 5 years or so on average. However, there has not been an eruption since Bárðarbunga, so we are a little overdue. In 2017, almost 100 years exactly from it’s last appearance, we almost saw the eruption of what is considered to be one of the most powerful and dangerous volcanoes in the world – Katla. Katla lies in the south coast, and last erupted in 1918. The frequency of Katla’s eruption is every 60-80 years or so, and seismic activity was detected in the area in 2017, when Katla appeared to be charging up for an eruption that would have made the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull look like a campfire. However, it transpired that Katla appeared to be simply clearing her throat and has since gone back to sleep.
So, Where Will the Next Volcanic Eruption in Iceland Happen?
Well, this is a question that no one can truly answer. All the sophisticated technology at our disposal can only ever tell us what might happen, but we never know for sure. Iceland is a land full of surprises, from the weather to the exploding earth. However, as we learn more and more about volcanoes, we can more accurately predict a number of outcomes and scenarios, meaning that the public can feel advised and prepared. The most recent example of what might happen is on the Reykjanes peninsula, home to five seperate volcano systems. It is here that there has been much unrest, and the whole country is on high alert and preparing for what looks to be Iceland’s next eruption. If you are interested, you can learn more about Iceland’s volcanoes here
Right now, we are holding our collective breath during this uncertain, but no less exciting time, as we might just be about to have yet another reason to visit Iceland. As if you really needed another excuse.
Can I Still Travel to Iceland?
Absolutely!! In fact, there is no better time. We are all very excited about this next volcanic event. Especially, because it is so close to Reykjavík. First and foremost, Reykjavík is not in any danger. This expected eruption is not expected to threaten anyone, because it is not near enough to any populated areas. Instead, what will happen is there will be a brand new lava field, and a new attraction very close to the city and airport. Reykjanes was already an incredible place to visit, and actually a bit of a secret hiding in plain sight. However, we feel that its cover is about to be well and truly blown, quite literally, and there will now be another amazing reason to visit Iceland. As if you really needed another excuse.