Reykjanes: the second day

That was quite a day. After the fissure had opened early in the night, and everyone was scrambling for a view that was a bit more than a red reflection off the clouds, in the day time everything became clear. A camera was put up on just the right place, courtesy of RUV. Not even HVO managed to do it this well. The setup team even was on camera themselves, whilst they were working. The highlight was when one of the three went to his knees, it turns out not to pray he got it right, but in order to take a lava-selfie. It is almost the same thing, I guess.

We had (and have) a brilliant view of the eruption, the flowing lava, the intermittent snow, the helicopters and the small plane (presumably sampling the gas emissions), and very quickly the tourists. At one point a large group of people was standing around and doing something right at the edge of the approaching lava. They had to retreat as the lava advanced but kept doing their rituals. It appears this was a group of archeologists trying to rescue a pre-christian burial site. To ‘rescue’ means ‘to document’ to an archeologist. The burial site would have dated from the previous pghase of Reykjnes eruptions, before the year 1000. This valley was never affected but the eruptions. Now, finally, the luck of the buried people has run out. See

There is a nice timelapse made by commenter astrograph99. The archeologists can be seen about 1 minute in.

And here is a lava layout courtesy of commenter chrnesset.

Other things we learned yesterday is Motsfo likes popcorn with her lava, that Alaska is cold and the Faroer is not, and that half of Reykjavik including commenters are planning to go to eruption today. Lava to an Icelander is honey to a bee. This is about as friendly an eruption as you can get, with lava that can’t get anywhere and stays in a valley and ridges provide excellent viewpoints. The only problem is that it involves a long hike. The weather also is not particularly viewing friendly today, bit this is Iceland after all. You have to accept whatever weather is thrown at you.

Posted by Bjarki

From the map above, it seems that the lava as of last night covered some 0.1km2. Assuming an average thickness of 10 meters, gives an average eruption rate of (very roughly) 15 m3/s. This is not particularly high and it adds to the touristic quality of the eruption. A much faster eruption would be much more dangerous. (The eruption rate normally decreases after the first burst, so by now the rate may be quite a bit lower.)

The fluidity of the lava is hard to judge from video frames. At times it flows quite fast, at other times it seems more sluggish. My impression is that the magma was a bit stale, perhaps already a bit cooled during the weeks of storage in the dike. But that impression should be taken with a big grain of salt. Of course the top stuff is erupted first, and that may be the oldest which was deposited first. If this continues for a while (that is an if), the younger and hotter lava may make its way to the surface later. Wait and see.

There were perhaps 6 or 7 vents during the first day of eruption. This is common in rift eruptions. All are building spatter cones (which are prone to collapse. be careful!). Over time, you would expect that one cone will become dominant and starve the other vents of magma. At the moment, three of the vents are active.

The wind is blowing the gas towards Reykjavik: IMO writes that “gas pollution is not expected to cause much discomfort for people except close up to the source of the eruption.” They do have a stern warning: “The area of the eruption is considered very dangerous – the eruption site can change without notice and put people at risk unexpectedly.” We recommend that people follow all advice from the local authorities (which we are not!). If you go viewing, be well prepared (don’t expect a paved path – the only pavement is hot lava), don’t expect water on tap, and stay upwind from the gas clouds. And remember White Island.

A notable change since yesterday is that there are still earthquakes in this location, but they are now deeper, at 4-6 km. The shallow earthquakes have ceased.

How much magma is there? The dike was reported to be 10 km long, 5 km deep and 1 meter wide. That makes it about 0.05 km3 (and not 0.5 as was here initially..). Much of that is not accessible to this location: magma at the tip will not easily flow back to the centre. If there is no magma re-supply, it is unlikely more than a fraction of this will erupt. However, if the entire dike erupts, at the estimated rate, that could keep the eruption going for a month. (This has been updated to fix a catastrophic math error, pointed out in the comments. )

So it is back to wait-and-see! But the seeing is mesmerising. Or even magmarising.


416 thoughts on “Reykjanes: the second day

  1. Had the ruv cam on last night before bed, it’s so calming. Beautiful.
    Wonder if that steam crack will turn into another vent?

  2. The vent next to the main one has almost constant flames coming out of it. I wonder what type of gas is burning there.

    • We made the same observation. So I’m not hallucinating. Or I’m hallucinating and it still true. … Or we both …

      • Yes Albert!! I haves a question

        If you heat a arera of clear air anywhere to 1200 C woud that air glow in the dark?

        • One more element from the set of Alberts and Carls would suffice here. I guess that 1. air wouldn’t glow with these temperatures and 2. it could be hydrogen(?).

          One thing we didn’t think of so far: Are these actual flames or do they just like like it. Could be steam in the airflow (buoyancy)?

        • quinauberon

          Heat a local arera of Air to 5700 C and then its certain to glow! : ) Becomes a plasma very much like the suns surface

          Our star is souch a strange place.. the photosphere is No place for an astronaut 😂
          Is it possible to design a spacesuit that can endure suns surface? Perhaps cooled with liquid hydrogen tubing?

    • I would think H2S (Hydrogen Sulfide) it is highly flammable….

  3. There is actual fire in the middle cone. I’m not joking. I don’t mean magma/lava, but actual flames. E.g. from 20:09:20 to 20:09:30 (look carefully). Anything that could burn, anything carboniferous? Is this typical?

    • Looks like it is ejected in high speed. Would love the whizzing sound of it…

      • Yes, but those are blue .. Here the colour is identical to that of the rest of the eruption, so I think it is reflection. The fact that it is moving flame-like shows that it blows with the air, i.e. very small particles. I can’t exclude something catches fire, from the oxygen in the air. That would still be most likely some carbon particles

    • Fantastic footage!
      Also the “flames” caught on vid. Could be gas vapour / smoke underlighted by the lava….

      • Not clear what the flames are, but most likely microparticles illuminated by the lava. That could come from some carbon carried up. Perhaps there is peat under the cone.

        • We saw flames at Kilauea this year too. I assume that vents that are less active allow more time for gases (even the USGS don’t know which gases) to accumulate.

    • I guess he lost that drone in the flyover of the cone? Fantastic work!

  4. What a show! Thanks RUV!
    A six years wait after Holuhraun. After checking thousands times the drumplots over again in these years, I couldn’t believe this would be more than just a blob. In Reykjanes. But it is a larger blob for sure. 😎

      • Is that the bloke in blue that turned up in the dark? He left the camera smeared. Little s*d.

  5. The cameria is focusing on a red light in the distance – another fissure opened?

    • The wind is picking up right now. I’m guessing these guys were trying to fasten the camera better, let’s hope it can withstand the shitty weather expected tonight.

    • very interesting that the gas jumps and comes back down or is it that the gas trail continues to elevate?
      i guess i’m asking if these gass readings are on the ground or aloft.

  6. Looks like the eruption coud be slowing down .. the lava channel looks more clotty now

  7. looks like it’s finally hitting the ridge that people were standing on this morning….

  8. From RUV (giggle translated)

    “The webcam is not being vandalized

    The nation is clearly paying close attention. Fréttastofa received a tip that the webcam had moved. There are reasonable explanations for this. RÚV technicians are filling the batteries on Fagradalsfjall. The machine will be in place soon. We still thank those who have called in and looked after the interests of our webcam who has shown us the eruption live =)”

  9. Sod’s law that we weren’t able to see what was going on when the latest river flowed out of the central cone…grr…

  10. i hope the next times the techs fix the cam the least they could do is to hold up a note “It’s OK, We are here to fix the cams.” just wishing….

  11. Big lava fountains! For me what’s going on is more lava reaching the fissure…

  12. Hello from a deep and pre VC lurker.
    It seems Iceland has patented a gas powered Volcano.

  13. i wonder is these types of eruptions are limited to how high the cones can grow due to the strength of the side walls

      • is there a chance that this could become as large as Mauna Loa?

        • Mauna is a shield type volcano. Shields are present on Reykjanes, the largest isn’t much higher than few hundreds of meters though I think. Mauna is worlds largest giant.
          The current eruption may build a shield volcano perhaps, but the eruption must continue a very long time…

    • Cinder cones.10s to 100s of meter (USGS) tall. One of the vids Luis linked above shows a nice top down view where you can see the magma coming up in the cone is drained into a lava river underneath the cone through some kind of tunnel. It happens sometimes that the cinder wall is lifted by the magma. And giving way by breaching also ofcourse.

    • Was he alright? I do hope so. The clip doesnt show him getting up after he fell.

    • The lava pile looks to be getting quite high. The higher it gets, the more this will happen. People need to be very careful!

    • Shortly afterwards there was another Homo smartphonicus, getting even closer (selfie: me getting atomized by 15 tons of liquid rock). I don’t know, perhaps, facing this spitting cone, this fire emitting message from hell, I would as well do stupid things…

  14. I think the weather may be obscuring the small quakes now (or the Earthquake page has stopped updating). Many of the drumplots are showing thick lines, which is probably the wind. Interestingly though, there are some signals on ISS that aren’t showing anywhere else. It could be gusts, although it seems less wind affected, but it looks more like quake signals to my inexperienced eye and perhaps some tremor (that could be wind though).

  15. The video display on the RUV Website is 6 minutes behind real time, while the same feed is displayed at real time on the Mila Website. I wonder why.

    • They are the same time here, I suspect you are seeing the RUV video delayed after perhaps clicking a bit around, click the blue “beint” button in the right corner and it should be live again.

    • It’s real time for me, but I have accidentally paused it a few times. The Youtube feed linked earlier is a few minutes behind though. Try refreshing the page.

    • Check to see if your have accidentally moved the slider backwards. It seems to me it’s not much behind real time, maybe 30 seconds tops.

    • Thanks for all of the responses. It must be a local problem. I had to reboot my computer because the mouse stopped working, and now the RUV display is only 2 minutes behind real time. I don’t see a blue button anywhere, and I have adjusted the slider many times. Hopefully, the delay will eventually disappear.

  16. I went there today along with most of Reykjavik haha. It was indescribable, just the most amazing thing I have ever seen. We saw the crater collapse too, just incredible. Hope it keeps going to get a few more trips in! Next one in the dark hopefully.

    Weather was bad but it was fairly sheltered once away from the coast. Quite a comfortable walk from outskirts of Grindavík, took only 2 hours.

    • I think we are all very envious. And wondering whether you were on camera while watching the collapse.

      • Sadly did not get it on camera, but was sitting on the other side of the valley and saw it happen and the new channel break out. Amazing.

        How to I póst pictures? Total n00b haha.

        • upload them to a page like then copy the image link(right click the image if unsure where to find the link), make sure it ends in .jpg or .png then post that link.

  17. The culprit has been found!

    And here you can see the culprit that viewers have seen acting tonight, Bragi Reynisson, security director of Ríkisútvarp, who was on Fagradalsfjall charging the batteries of the webcam with a power station.

  18. No earthquakes for the last 4 hours. That hasn’t happened for a long time.

  19. Looks like Etna is running a bit late with its next paroxysm. Nothing in sight right now accoring to the tremor charts. Maybe it just handed over to Fagradalsfjall with a big yawn: “Now its your turn with the entertainment of the volcano junkies!” – – –
    Would be a nice coincidence. But wait and see.

  20. Are there any reports on the chemical composition of the lava yet?

    • Yeah there was a news report on gas and lava stuff

      “Is there anything special or different about this eruption compared to other eruptions we have been looking at?

      No, this is actually chemically similar to what was in Holuhraun and very chemically similar to what has erupted before on the Reykjanes peninsula. It is perhaps a little more gas-poor magma if anything than it was in Holuhraun. This is so typical, what we call Icelandic basalt, “

  21. Right down from the main vent it takes a 90 degree turn. That turn is evolving and there is a small steady glow right next to it. Maybe it will split up the flow…?

    Amazing view!

  22. Regarding the ‘flames’ that are visible at the lower craters. Some of it may be steam condensing from superheated water vapour and being illuminated from the incandescence below. When water vapour at 800 – 1000oC spills into the outer atmosphere tiny water droplets (visible as steam) will result.

  23. Does anyone know how accurate the FIRMS satellite page is? It is showing multiple signals around Fagaradalsfjall if changed to today’s date, including towards Keilir, close to the other swarm that restarted. I keep wondering if another fissure will open up and the Keilr cam is focussed purely on the Geldingadalir eruption, so would miss anything else that might open up, Any other cams wouldn’t necessarily show that it is separate or miss it entirely.;d:2021-03-20..2021-03-21;@-22.3,63.9,14z

    • I also think a cam looking closer at Kelir area would be interesting. Very shallow quakes there recently.

      • One of the signals is pretty much on top of that area. It could be coincidence, but it is a big coincidence and it’s gone quietish again, just like two nights ago.

      • neah…in my humble opinion kelir si a feed for the actual eruption site…first you have deep unrest in south part of peninsula, maybe the atlantic ridge, then is travel upward toward keilir…midle parqour…then voila! the unzipped eruption site, maybe later hidg…valey. my icelandic is poor

        • There’s probably more than one feed. Close to Keilir, they are mostly deeper, but there are quite a few shallow ones close to Litli Hrutur, but also in Nathagi again, although there are also some deeper ones there.

          • Nathagi…i should known not hidg whatever escuse my icelandic..that’s the spot….i suppose that is the dyke spike toward daylight…this eruption site is just another collateal damage

    • The FIRMS data is usually pretty accurate. What is interesting is the signal level showing now is quite high and comparable to that of the main eruption site. If this data is accurate, then surface magma should be present. The west most outlier is far enough removed that pixel smearing/mis registering should not be a cause of a bogus signal.

    • It is useful at lower latitudes but the projection they use (square) is not appropriate for Iceland. The map is badly stretched out east-west compared to reality. NS is ok, EW is poor. As the hot spots are all spread out EW, we can safely assume it is all one spot.

    • i always wonder about bio meals….do the neandarthals use this? this is how it stars? ham and eggs on fire?

    • Guess the eggs would not need to be too fresh, Saw some discussion on lava cooking and the consensus was that the sulpher would overwhelm everything.
      Of course my association was with the Tiki stuff back in the 1960 where old Lava stone placed over a charcole hibachi (brazer) was liberally douced with lighterfluid then set alight. So that is what my mind smells.

  24. it seems everybody wants to go! Impressive and close up Pacaya plume and lightning.

    • Thanks a lot for the nice pictures. Very envious here and too far away to visit (not to mention about that quarantine thing…).

    • Looking at this it is most definitely a lighting effect that makes pahoehoe in Hawaii look shiny, up close the lava looks identical both here and on the coastal plain of Kilauea, a steel grey colour.

    • Amazing pictures, I sooooo would like to be there right now.

  25. Some pictures! It was just a once in a lifetime experience. Not a difficult walk at all from Grindavík. Nice to have a strong wind as it got rid of most of the gases. I’m gonna try and go back again in the dark soon! That will be amazing!!

    It was amazing to see how the lava field expanded and thickened just in the time we were there, it really started filling up the valley and inflating very quickly.

    Also a good job they stopped people from going right up to the crater, it was super dangerous!!! The lava outflow from the collapse went onto the area that people were standing just a short time before. Eeeekk!!!

    • him…we should never compete with mother nature, she’ll allways beat us with her experince…

    • Thank you Lisabet for being our VC representative! I noticed people had stopped walking on the hill close to the vent.

    • Thanks for sharing. In the US you would be arrested for being to close.


      • I loved the authorities approach here. They want people to see it and get close. When we turned up in the morning the Rescue Team were telling people they might die if they stood under the crater, but they weren’t stopping people hahaha. Thankfully it did get closed off later.

  26. I saw someone lurking about the camera earlier in the dark (in a blue jacket). Since his visit, the protective lens glass seems to be smeared? It’s a right old mess. Any volunteers to go and give it a polish?

    • Also, the smaller cone to the left seems to have weird flames coming out of it. I noticed some of you mention this. Might it be the effect of strong wind on the gases?

      • Yeah. I was watching daylight videos on the net, with higher resolution, showing that the middle cone produces an apparently very strong blow of gas. Englightened from the lava below that should account for our ‘flames’.

        • Looking at it longer, I notice the main top cone chucks slag into the lower cone, effectively blocking the vent for a few moments. Perhaps the gas vents through the debris until the lava can re-erupt.

    • i volunteer You, Clive….. i’ll sit here next to the heater and the live feed. 😉

        • Haven’t noticed any camera smear Clive but it appears to be raining quite hard there!

  27. First there were people photobombing the camera during the evening. Then early in the night shining a laser pointer at it. And now it seems to be peering out at the eruption from inside a glittering, facet-flashing disco ball!

    Closer view than any of the webcams during Holuhraun. Farther than many of the lava river live cams during Leilani.

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐✰ 4/5 Would watch this eruption again.

  28. Oh no! Say it ain’t so!

    It’s can’t be the rain, but it looks like the eruption is petering out right now…

    • There are moments when the cones are quiet, but the flow field is still all lit up. So far, they’re still coming back, but the eruption intensity is clearly dropping…

      • Dont worry the dike is still being fed so if this one ends it will erupt again probably almost immediately, though maybe not anywhere close to this vent.

        • Yeah, we may still have a couple of hundred years on and off activity to look forward to.

          For now the worst of the weather seems to have passed and the activity is more stable as well. Even some visitors have returned (as indicated by their flashlights).

    • From RUV:
      URGENT…….. Very bad weather is at the eruption site right now and we ask everyone traveling towards the eruption now to turn around immediately and hold onto cars.
      According to the forecast, the weather will deteriorate over the next few hours. This is a very important message and the situation in the area is deteriorating in terms of weather.
      the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 didn’t hurt anyone – but three people trying to see the eruption died in bad weather

    • Looks like the nightshift is a bit understaffed right now…

      Activity is pulsing in and out, but sometimes the visibility is too low to tell. Clearly the weather doesn’t allow any visitors this night.

      Let’s hope the webcam will survive and we’ll see if there’s still an eruption tomorrow…

      • It gets pretty quiet here at this time of night. Camera was serviced today to hopefully withstand the expected wind.

  29. Wow all 3 vents really hot and smallest one throwing lava too now at 4:38 UTC 22-March-2021 as it looks like lava is hotter

  30. All fears for this to be a very short episode with almost no output seem to have been greatly exaggerated

  31. Wow! Definitely hotter and it seems volume has increased at 4:56 UTC

  32. Someone needs to measure the lava temps as it seems they went up around 04:45 UTC but the flow vol increased definitely

  33. 5:09 something collapsed near 3rd vent and bright spots are appearing near main vent where it has been dark down near the bottom something happening as 3rd vent throwing lava now

    • Yes, seems like a significant uptick in activity for an hour – 3 primary vents spattering like champs, more evident flow from main vent, denser smoke emissions. MIssed the 5:09 collapse on my first rewind but there was a lot happening, right? Agree volume has increased markedly.

      Higher lava temps are possible and perhaps even likely, but that’s hard to ascertain visually via webcam at night just after fog/rain has cleared. It could make some sense, though if older/colder melt is becoming a smaller fraction of the flow.

      But is it reasonable to expect there was older melt pushed out ahead of magma that filled this dyke over the past couple weeks? 800 years . . .

      • You would expect the first magma to come out to have been sitting there longest. Perhaps not quite 800 years though.

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