Volcanic Iceland: Mountains to Watch and the New Lava at Fagradalsfjall
Since October 24th 2023 there has been increased seismic activity in the Reykjanes area. The National Police Commissioner of Iceland declared a Civil Protection Service Level of Emergency on November 10th in response to increasing seismic activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula. There are strong indications of an imminent volcanic eruption in the area close to Grindavík.
Volcanic Iceland, roughly speaking, erupts every five years. Since 2021, however, the frequency has been closer to every 12 months! The area broadly known as Fagradalsfjall, some 35km from the capital Reykjavík, flared to life after a series of earthquakes on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The three eruptions - some consider one single eruption with months-long pauses - marks the beginning of a new geological era on the southwestern peninsula, dormant for the past 800 years.
Unlike most volcanic eruptions -- occurring on the interior highlands, the lava hidden under ice and/or with lethal volumes of volcanic gases -- Fagradalsfjall was the ideal 'tourist volcano': Small in relative terms and accessible for all levels of fitness.
The last eruption ended in August 2023, but the site still remains a major attractions. The thick, black crust of lava paves the landscape, with crumbling craters and steam. Welcome to the newest part of Iceland.
Of Iceland’s 32 active volcanoes, none is watched more closely than Katla. One of the nation’s largest and most feared, Katla lies under glacial ice hundreds of meters (yards) thick, meaning that any eruption is likely to melt the ice and cause widespread flooding.
Katla last erupted in 1918 but gained revived attention in recent years with the dystopian Netflix series Katla, largely filmed in the area surrounding Vík.
Iceland's most famous - infamous, even - remains Eyjafjallajökull. The Eyjafjallajokull eruption of 2010 stranded millions of tourists worldwide as it grounded more than 100,000 flights over seven days because of concerns that its volcanic ash would damage aircraft engines.
In 2023, the volcano Askja showed signs of possible eruption. For latest alerts, check the officialand see if any of the 32 active volcanic systems in Iceland has a color code RED (a volcano is considered active if it has erupted in the past 10,000 years). If no volcano is erupting, likely, we won't have to wait too long for the next one since
Where fire meets ice
The nature of eruptions in Iceland is diverse, from small effusive eruptions where lava flows quietly from fissures and crater rows to significant explosive eruptions in ice-covered central volcanos that produce large ash plumes—literally where fire meets ice.
The reason for Iceland's intense volcanic activity is the country's geological position, where dynamic geological forces are at work between the spreading plate boundary on the Mid-Atlantic Ocean ridge and a powerful mantle plume creating a hot spot on the surface. Together, they produce large amounts of magma, filling the gaps in the crust made by the spreading plates, resulting in frequent eruptions along the rift zone.
Below you can find links to eruptions in Iceland in the 21st Century and other volcano-related articles.
The Fagradalsfjall 2023 eruption
After an 11-month slumber, the Fagradalsfjall Volcano system awoke again at Litli-Hrútur hill
The Fagradalsfjall 2022 eruption
On 3 August, 2022, the Fagradalsfjall began its latest eruption— just eight months after the la...
The Fagradalsfjall 2021 eruption
After being dormant for six thousand years, the Fagradalsfjall volcano gave a rumble in 2021. T...
The 2014 Holuhraun eruption
The 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption was the largest outbreak in Iceland for over 300 years and las...
The 2011 and 2004 Grímsvötn eruptions
The ice-covered Grímsvötn is Iceland's most active volcano, erupting every 14 years on average....
The 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruptions
The notorious volcano with the impossible name Eyjafjallajökull erupted twice in 2010 and stopp...