‘The raw power of our planet’ on full display as Iceland volcano spews lava

As a volcano erupted on the land of fire and ice, just about 25 miles from the capital city, residents showed no fear, getting close to take photos and witness the red hot lava spewing into the sky.

Glowing red lava shot nearly 100 feet into the air from a new fissure in the Geldingadalir volcano, only about half of a mile from the site of an eruption that went on for six months in 2021.

A volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland spewed red hot lave and plumes of smoke as it captivated onlookers Wednesday, just eight months after its last eruption officially ended.

According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) the Fagradalsfjall volcano, which is located in an uninhabited valley about 25 miles southwest of the capital, Reykjavik, erupted Wednesday at 1:18 pm local time.

“It’s impressive, it’s a bit unreal. The colors are really flashy,” Marion Roux-Calza, a French tourist told AFP. “It’s unreal for me … It’s very, very beautiful.”

After a series of earthquakes over the past week indicated volcanic activity was close to the crust, scientists from the IMO anticipated an eruption would occur somewhere on the peninsula.

Iceland, with 32 volcanic systems currently active, is known as the land of fire and ice. On average, the country has experienced an eruption every four to five years, according to The Associated Press.

Iceland straddles the mid-Atlantic ridge, which is a crack on the ocean floor, separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. AFP reports that the intense volcanic activity on this vast island near the Arctic Circle is partly due to the shifting of the tectonic plates.

Nearly 12 years ago the Eyjafjallajokull volcano left millions of air passengers stranded and canceled more than 100,000 flights, according to the AP. Concerns that the volcanic dust could damage jet engines interrupted air travel for days between Europe and North America.

With Wednesday’s eruption occurring about 10 miles away from Keflavik International Airport, one of Iceland’s major travel hubs, concerns over potential aviation impacts are high. As of Thursday morning, the international airport remained open and operational.

This recent eruption is expected to become a major tourist attraction after the 2021 eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula brought in more than 430,000 visitors, according to the Icelandic Tourist Board.

Since the news broke Wednesday, shares of Iceland’s flagship airline, Icelandair, have risen 10%.

American tourist Heather Hoff has been waiting for years to see lava up close. She told AFP it was a “life goal” of hers. Wednesday’s eruption during Hoff’s visit to Iceland couldn’t have occurred at a better time for her.

An eruption near the site of the Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano near Reykjavík, Iceland began on August 3, spewing red lava and plumes of smoke.

“We were tracking down here and I had to stop,” Hoff, 42, said. “I had to sit down and I had to have a little cry because it is so beautiful, so emotional and this is like the raw power of our planet.”

No ash plume had been reported as of Thursday, but the IMO warned that the gas released could be harmful to people and the environment.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the most abundant volcanic gas is water vapor, which is harmless. But significant amounts of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide can be emitted from volcanoes. Depending on the concentrations of these gases, they could pose a threat to people, agriculture and animals.

Iceland’s President Gudni Johannesson warned people who were planning to visit to do research and to be careful when visiting.

“I thought I was gonna be able to get a lot closer,” James Dills, an American traveling with Hoff, said, lamenting that the two couldn’t get any closer than about 4 meters from the lava. Dills, 62, also marveled auditory experience the erupting volcano provided in addition to the visual one. “And then the sound of the lava erupting and the dramatic splashing, it is very very exciting.”

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