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Volcano Erupts on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula for 5th Time in 3 Years

Iceland may be entering a new age of volcanic activity.

By Cassidy Ward

When Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) arrived in the fictional town of Dante’s Peak, he discovered two people boiled alive in an overactive hot spring. That tragedy was only a warning of the larger destruction to come, when the seemingly dormant volcano for which the town was named comes violently to life.

Fortunately, the ongoing real-world volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland is proceeding about as smoothly as you could hope. It began on the afternoon of May 29, 2024, at about 1:00 P.M. local time and, at the time of writing, is still ongoing. This is the fifth eruption in the area since December 2023 (video below) and the most powerful eruption since the region became active again in 2021.

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Fissure Volcano Erupting on Iceland Shot Lava 165 Feet in the Air

The latest fissure opened up near Sundhnuksigar, on Reykjanes, and it stretches more than 2 miles (3.5 kilometers) long. Lava burbling out of the crack shot more than 165 feet (50 meters) into the air, threatening the coastal town of Grindavik and triggering a series of associated earthquakes.

Following prior eruptions, local authorities erected emergency alert sirens and barriers to divert flowing lava away from Grindavik. Fortunately, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) received an indication of a looming eruption two hours in advance, spurring a successful evacuation. The sirens sounded and text messages were sent to guests at nearby hotels, alerting them to an evacuation order. At this point, there aren’t many people remaining in the area, most having been evacuated following prior eruptions. All but one road in and out of town has become inaccessible, the BBC reports.

Volcanic activity is becoming a near daily occurrence in the region, but it’s a creeping threat, more than a towering one. In contrast to the peaked volcanoes most of us are familiar with, the eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula is the result of a fissure volcano, which occurs when magma rises up through a crack in the ground. Instead of a central vent and volcanic mountain peak, they create lava-filled crevices which flow great distances in a fiery river. Rather than a single point egress, it’s an oozing geological wound, stretched out across miles.

Despite its relatively small geographical area, Iceland has 33 active volcano systems including the active one at Reykjanes. The recent spate of activity marks the end of an 800-year geological peace. Scientists suggest Iceland may be entering an era of renewed volcanic activity that could remain active for decades or centuries. It’s unclear how long this eruption will continue, but for now you can actually watch it happen live.

If you prefer your volcanoes fictional, catch Dante's Peak, from Universal Pictures.

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