The Icelandic volcano Fagradalsfjall, located near the country’s capital Reykjavik and its airport Keflavik, has travelers both worried and in awe as the hotspot spews lava into the surrounding areas.
In the midst of flight cancellations and lost luggage, the last thing you think might threaten your travels is a volcanic eruption sending hot magma to the surface and clouds of gas into the atmosphere. But travelers at Keflavik yesterday were surprised by the news that a volcano named Fagradalsfjall was erupting about 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) away. According to a press release from the government of Iceland, the volcano began erupting at 13:18 GMT (9:18 am ET) yesterday after seismic activity was recorded in the nearby area just days prior.
The government also confirmed that the volcano does not pose a risk to nearby areas or flights in or out of Iceland, but it is advising people not to visit the site as gas is released from the fissure. That warning did not stop tourists, who came by foot and by bike in droves to snap pictures.
“We’ve been expecting an eruption somewhere in this area since the series of earthquakes started last weekend,” said Iceland prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir in the release. “What we know so far is that the eruption does not pose any risk to populated areas or critical infrastructure. We will of course continue to monitor the situation closely, and now we also benefit from the experience gained from last year’s eruption.”
Aviators were rightfully concerned, as volcanic eruptions can have devastating impacts on flights both nearby and far away. A 2010 eruption in Iceland grounded flights in the United Kingdom for days as the plume of volcanic ash reached upwards of 6.8 miles (11 kilometers) into the atmosphere. Since volcanic ash is made up of microscopic particles of rock and minerals, the concern is that the ash will form a glassy material as it comes into contact with the hot jet engine, incapacitating a plane. But this most recent eruption of Fagradalsfjall is what the government of Iceland is calling a “fissure eruption.” These eruptions occur commonly at Iceland’s the long volcanic vents that see lava emerge in more of a leak than an explosion. These eruptions are much less dramatic and tend to produce little to no volcanic ash.