A volcano erupted near Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital on Monday, the country’s meteorological office said, marking the third time in two years that lava has erupted in the area.
Local media footage showed a large cloud of smoke rising from the ground as well as a large lava flow at the site about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Reykjavik.
“The explosion occurred in a small depression just north of Litli Hrutur (‘Little Ram’ in Icelandic) from which the smoke was coming out in a northwesterly direction,” the meteorological office said.
“There are three fissures with lava running in all directions,” said Thorvaldur Thordarson, professor of volcanology at the University of Iceland.
He added that the fissures are generally about 200 to 300 meters long and “it is a low intensity, effusive eruption”.
It explained that “it does not cause widespread threats due to explosive activity” but “if the eruption continues for a long time it could be a threat to the infrastructure”.
Thousands of small earthquakes were recorded in the area in the week before the eruption, signaling that the magma underground was moving and an eruption was imminent.
Icelandic authorities have advised against going to the site, which is located in difficult terrain with no road connection, before they have assessed the situation.
The magma erupted on the ground at around 16:40 GMT, just a few kilometers from two previous eruptions in the past two years.
The first was on March 19, 2021, in the Geldingadalur valley and lasted for six months, while the second took place on August 3, 2022, in the Meradalir valley, which lasted for three weeks.
Before the 2021 eruption, the region remained dormant for eight centuries, but volcanologists believe that the new cycle of increased activity could last for many years.
The effusive eruptions occurring in this area are currently not very dangerous, nor does it have an impact on air traffic.
The 2021 and 2022 eruptions have attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors hoping to catch a rare glimpse of an active volcano.
Thordarson said the eruption could last anywhere from “a few days” to more than half a year as early as 2021, or longer.
Iceland has 33 volcanic systems that are currently considered active, the highest number in Europe. It has an average eruption every five years.
The North Atlantic island straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a rift in the ocean floor that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
In April 2010, around 100,000 flights were cancelled, leaving more than 10 million travelers stranded, following the massive eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
Other volcanoes, such as Askja in the uninhabited mountains of central Iceland, have recently shown signs of activity.
One of the most dangerous volcanoes in the country is Katla, near the southern coast. It last erupted in 1918, with an unusually long pause suggesting an imminent reawakening.
The 1783 eruption of the Laki volcanic fissure in the south of the island is considered by some experts to be the most destructive in Iceland’s history, causing the greatest environmental and socioeconomic disaster.