Reykjanes Volcano In Iceland Erupts Near Island’s International Airport

A coast guard photo shows the first image of the volcanic eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula.

After several weeks of heightened seismic activity on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, a volcanic eruption has finally begun, not far from the island nation’s capital city.

“The eruption was first seen on a web camera,” writes the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) in an update Friday. “It was also confirmed on thermal satellite imagery.”

The above photo from the Icelandic Coast Guard showed lava erupting from a fissure and beginning to flow. Video footage also shows fountains of lava bursting forth from the fissure:

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According to early information from IMO, the fissure is about 500 meters long and located within 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) of Suðurstrandarvegur, a road that runs along the peninsula’s southern coast.

“The eruption is considered small at this stage,” IMO tweeted. “The magma area is (approximately one square kilometer). Lava fountains are small.”

The office reported earlier Friday night that the eruption had begun near the small mountain of Fagradalsfjall.

“The eruption site is in a valley, about 4.7 km inland from the southern coast of the peninsula. The coastal town of Grindavík is the (closest) populated region to the eruption site, located approximately 10 km to the southwest.”

The eruption is located in the middle of the peninsula, which connects the capital of Reykjavik to the Keflavik International Airport near its tip. The area is also near the popular Blue Lagoon hot springs resort, although there is no indication yet of any people or property being at any risk.

Earthquake activity in the region had been lower in the days leading up to the eruption and there are no reports of any ash fall yet.

The eruption still spurred local authorities to change the volcanic flight color code to red, which indicates that an eruption is occurring.

“Additional domestic restrictions have been put in place, including the closure of Reykjanesbraut – the main road from the capital region to Reykjanesbær and the international airport at Keflavík,” the IMO writes.

Webcam images shared on social media seem to show a glowing red night sky reflecting the eruption as seen from Keflavik.

Gases emitted by the eruption and the possibility of rock particles explosively ejected from the fissure remain potential dangers.

The Icelandic police are asking people to stay away from the area of the eruption for the time being.

Iceland is among the nations in the world with the highest levels of volcanic activity. Major eruptions were seen on the island in 2014 and in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull shot copious amounts of smoke and ash skyward, causing major disruptions to air traffic.

However, this is thought to be the first time that the Reykjanes volcanic region has erupted in almost 800 years.

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I’ve covered science, technology, the environment and politics for outlets including CNET, PC World, BYTE, Wired, AOL and NPR. I’ve written e-books on Android and Alaska.

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