A small volcanic eruption began Monday afternoon in an uninhabited area of Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, the country’s weather officials said.
The explosion, which began at 4:40 pm UTC, was described as small and presented “no immediate risks to communities or infrastructure,” the Icelandic Met Office said.
It is in a zone located between Fagradalsfjall and Keilir volcanic mountains, about 20 miles from the country’s coastal capital, Reykjavik, the office said.
Lava emerged as “a series of waterfalls” and flowed south from a fissure in the slope of a hill called Litli Hrútur, officials said. Toxic gas and steam released from the fissure drifted northwest, according to officials.
“There are no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and international flight corridors remain open,” Iceland’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.
The public is warned to stay away from the explosion as officials continue to check its development in the coming days.
Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the sparsely populated island nation, home to 370,000 people, has many volcanic features. Massive eruptions have caused damage far beyond Iceland in the past.
In 2010, ash from a volcanic eruption there covered much of Europe’s skies, causing major air travel disruptions across much of the continent. And in 1783, the eight-month eruption of a volcanic fissure sent smoke all the way to Syria and created famine.
Scientists at the Icelandic Met Office have warned of a potential eruption as the area became the epicenter of seismic activity last week. Officials have reported thousands of earthquakes in the region, with some reaching magnitudes 4 and 5. Iceland has now seen eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula three years in a row.
Seismic activity also precedes eruptions in 2021 and 2022, officials said. Last year, three tourists were injured when they tried to hike near the eruption site to see the lava.
Volcanic activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula “was very quiet for hundreds of years before these eruptions started,” according to Egill Hauksson, a research professor of geophysics at Caltech who studies Icelandic seismic activity.
“So this could be a new cycle of activity that could continue for decades,” he added.
Officials say the fissure in this explosion is estimated to be one kilometer long.
It was unclear Monday if the eruption was expected to grow or how long it would last. It usually goes up after the first few days, said Mr. Hauksson.
Last year’s eruption stopped after about three weeks. But another eruption that began in March 2021 lasted several months, according to the United States Geological Survey.