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. The flow channel has definitely been eroding toward the 3rd vent but 3 glowing spots at the base of the main vent not near anything else and up the side a bit make me wonder what is happening?

  2. 05:44:35 main vent cut thruvbright bright lava MAJOR FLOW!!!

    • It looks like it was another partial collapse, that was where is collapsed yesterday, just after everyone was moved off the ridge. I don’t think it fully sealed after the collapse.

    • It is morning for me now, it was not what I thought it was last night, lave leaking from under the base of major vent, but it was a break out as someone else said. It was very bright in the camera when it happened.

  3. Lava is so hot it cut thru base of main vent!!! Really hot!!

  4. I knew itcwas going to come out at the base as those glowing spots got hotter and hotter!!

  5. No sign the flow is slowing this morning…. Unlike our main drain from house to sewer..I blame that quake activity at Reykjanes for breaking the pipes. Nearly 24 hours now and no toilet or drain facility…Next door kindly left gate open so we can use their outside loo. (Sis in Law lives there.) Hopefully today we can get back to normal. Whatever that is in our house. The only positive in the situation is that I have had practice using our camping equipment in preparation for those longed for weekends by the sea after Lockdown.

  6. Ok i wasn’t paying attention in class…. which direction is the camera facing?

    • There’s a spot on the plain between Keilir and Fagradalsfjall where all the shallow quakes coalesce. Depth one or two km’s. Something to keep an eye on perhaps.

  7. The weather in Iceland…. The fog just made the entire eruption disapperar. Can’t see a thing!

  8. Vision is back.

    Seems we have a nice volcanic winter wonderland scene right now.
    Everything seems to be as before.

    • I doubt that will stop people unless they actually have the police turning people away. I’m assuming it’s still safe to view from the hills around though.

    • Strange that gasses would accumulate with such strong winds.

      Soutwest gale or severe gale, 15-23 m/s, strongest on Reykjanes peninsula in the afternoon. Gusty showers of sleet or snow with poor visibility, gusts up to 30 m/s.

      • Obviously there are some more reasons to discourage folks from visiting the eruption site. Rescue teams are probably exhausted by rescuing exhausted tourists. See thread by:

        Weather conditions around the #Fagradalsfjall #eruption area have deteriorated quickly & @Landsbjorg rescue teams are assisting a large number of lost, exhausted, and cold people who are trying to get back to their cars (8km walk). Additional units being called out. #icerupt
        Police are asking people to return back to their cars & not visit the area overnight as weather conditions are expected to get worse as the night progresses. There are still a few hundred people in the area attempting to return to their cars. Busy night ahead for rescue teams.
        Due to the remoteness of the area & the lay of the land (hills & valleys), mobile communication in the area is difficult, making it hard for people to call for assistance. Thankfully VHF communication used by rescue teams was improved by installing a VHF repeater earlier today.
        Over 140 @Landsbjorg
        rescuers have saved 40+ people overnight from the #eruption area. Many were lost in the dark and had gotten exhausted and very cold as weather continues to deteriorate. #Fagradalsfjall #Iceland
        Police has now closed the #eruption area due to significant increase in SO2 gas emission and worse weather forecast.

  9. Rough night… some needed rescueing. Not all have been accounted for.

    • Lava haves a very low heat conductivity… basicaly transmitt heat very poorly

      Soo surface crust forms.. that gets cold .. But under its extremely hot and insulated

      I seen Some large spatter cones covered in snow.. yet erupting on Etna as well as in Holuhraun.
      The cone coud be white soon

      Rock insulates very well and Thats why flowing in water does not cool lava alot

      The white on camera .. is over exposure and not snow
      But soon snow will settle on the thicker crusts

    • Looks about the same to me, the cone is now very tall so theres probably a lava pond inside it, so now instead of fountaining the lava has to bubble through that. You can see where the overflow is, that is how high above the original vent the lava surface now is.

      If this vent does persist a bit longer I expect we will see the side of the cone collapse, sending all the lava inside it rushing out and a resumption of higher fountains again (well, higher in a relative sense). Of course if there is other areas on the dike that are getting shallow those areas will very likely erupt soon, and that might rob this vent, or it might not and they both get bigger… 🙂

      This is day 3 of a years long event, the volcanic history of Krysuvik is not one of week long mini volcanoes, eruptions here tend to mean business just it takes a long time. The peak though will be impressive, you need only look at the area on google earth to see there are some rather large scale flows here, eruptions of a similar intensity to Holuhraun, just not lasting nearly so long.

  10. But then melts quickly. The surfa e cannot be extremely hot

  11. Why does this eruption remind me of laying a self-levelling concrete floor ?

    • You just need to go over there and move around a little so the surface get smoother😁

    • The tamping board might prove a little unwieldy 😀

      It’s almost as if someone said “We need more out-of-town car parking”… The MAR says “Hold my beer…. brb !”

  12. The camera scene is looking like I feel at 3:00AM most mornings, burned out and wondering if my bladder is finally empty.

  13. Quakes since yesterday morning. The rate is low, some shallow quakes can be seen, mostly from the red group (towards Keilir).

  14. I’m looking at the distribution of quakes since the eruption started and trying to figure out what is happening. There are two segments of the dyke intrusion where quakes happen: One is between Keilir and the spot where the intrusion initially started. The other is between the eruption site and the southern tip of the dyke at Nátthaga. In between there is a quiet area.

    [Speculation alert]
    Could it be that the northern part of the silent area, the spot where everything started, is the place where magma is fed from below? In the area between this spot and the eruption site magma is flowing freely, everything is warm and cozy and pressure is kept at equilibrium with the flow. In the two parts of the dyke where quakes still happen, the magma is just sitting around and starts to become stale. As the magma cools down it contracts and the quakes we see are simply from the contraction?
    [End speculation alert]

    • The cone has grown tall and fewer spatters make it over the rim. It’s daylight and light is reflecting off the lava surface, making the glow look dull. Could be slowing down, but I think it still looks quite healthy.

      • True. The sun is opposite from the camera right now so there is a lot of reflection from the lava that drowns out the glow. There does not seem to be any spattering except in the main vent though.

      • Two frames of the live cam. First just before the right cone wall collapsed. Second today at noon. For comparing height best look at the green slope above the rim. It indeed grew taller compared to before the collapse.

        • Is it just cone growth or has the ground pushed up a bit too? Of course the camera angle could have changed a bit.

          If you watch the time-lapse, the lava flow changes so it looks as though the cone self-seals for a while.

          For the time lapse, go to full screen and click on the “>’ on the left hand side of the screen. Then select which day you want. Great feature 😀

  15. The light is quite ‘tricksy’ (for you Jesper) today with the showers coming and going and the sun hitting the lava at different angles. I think the flow has decreased a bit, but not dramatically, it’s just hard to see.

  16. Eruptive rates have increased
    Very healthy magma flow pouring out from the spatter cones channel from the right top side.. looking rather like Piton in 2015 october.

    Probaly is a roiling lava pond inside with dome fountains roiling around now

    • yes, it looks quite active to me, the sun overpowers the red shine of the glowing lava so visible during twilight. The gas plume gives a textbook example of scattering of light, blueish in front of a dark background, orangeish in front of a light background.

      • There is still some spatter. The main flow out to the right is building up a nice levee. We’ll have a raised lava river if this continues. And of course some tourist will want to approach this from below..

    • now some clouds are moving in and the extent of glowing lava on the fresh lava plain becomes visible. That steaming crack in the ground to the right is still doing its thing!

  17. Results are expected later today from geochemist chemical analysis at the University of Iceland. They will presumably shed light on the nature of the volcanic eruption in Geldingadalur.

    This is what Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, professor of geophysics, gathered samples over the weekend.

    ‘It seems like an interesting whole thing, as expected. It has been 800 years since the last time there was a gas,” said Magnús Tumi, adding that it will be interesting to see the comparison with other eruptions.

    The inquiry says the eruption is pretty stable and that so far nothing has diminated it. Everything’s the same. ‘It’s not to see that it has reduced anything from the beginning, which is most common. It’s a different eruption. This is not the main volcanic eruption coming from a shallow dynamic chamber where the activity is by far the first and then falls down. It’s not behaving that way,” he explains.

    • I think that is to be expected. In the Holuhraun and Leilani eruptions, the source came from an elevated magma chamber. Then the eruption is a bit like pulling the plug from a filled bathtub. It drains at a high rate initially and as the tub loses water, the rate slows down. The current eruption is like filling the bathtub. The rate from the tap is slow and constant and the tub spills over with the same rate as the inflow. As long as the well doesn’t dry out, it just keeps going.

      The estimated rate of the intrusion was around 20m3/s if I remember correctly. Isn’t this close to the eruption rate that Albert estimated?

  18. Scientists are saying the effusion rates are pretty steady and could go on for a while

    • Anyway, we shouldn’t judge the strength of the eruption by the apparent intensity shown on the video images. The lighting changes all the time even if we do not notice. The cam adapts to the changes and modifies its aperture. We just can’t estimate the actual activity rate and have to rely on what the experts say.

  19. I guess this livestream is hosted on a PC and the person sitting in front of the PC startet to watch a livestream of icelandic TV, first the TV image was overlayed, that is gone, but the audio is still being broadcast, including polish translation. 😂

  20. The lava seems to be fairly tipping out of the righthand side of the vent at the moment 12:14

  21. TAAL VOLCANO IS GETTING RESTLESS, stage 2 now, needs translation

      • today’s updates from various sources have the lake receding, a lot now, you can’t miss it, amongst other things

        • Over the past 2 weeks i have noticed longer and more numerous tremors but I have no idea what the video says, as all I speak is English and some limited Japanese and Spanish. We can’t get distracted by this cool, pretty harmless in Iceland(as long as the right precautions are made) Taal is up there on any list for most dangerous.

    • The only place it could spill out, is behind the middle and left cones frm the camera angle, but it’s got to get pretty high. That is in the SE corner of the valley, once out, it will then probably flow north until it hits another barrier. It would have to go one for a considerable time to escape from there.

  22. The new stream of lava through the lateral vent does not appear to have lowered the level of magma in the apex of the cone. Yet the lateral flow rate appears to be greater than the rate of loss of apical material, mainly as scoria and bombs So…what sets the level of magma in the cone, and how does it remain constant ? Conventionally the driving force for upward flow is degassing. But this looks to me more like a constant level in operation. Is that reflecting a magma level in ca 10km of the intrusion ??

    • wouldn’t You love to know the interior piping of this thing…. i know i would

      • what puzzled me as I watched the side-vent open, maybe 5metres below the apical pond was how little effect it had upon the fountaining and how fast the side flow looked to be compared with the flux of apical ejecta.

  23. From yesterdays fire festival: Timelapse from 0940 to 2400. Each second is one minute.
    Apart from a slight gap around 17:00 due to people fooling around in front of the webcam and some gaps around maintenance (2100-2130) it’s uninterrupted.

    Because I always forget it myself, you can change the speed with the youtube settings.

    • That’s a very nice time-lapse video, thanks a lot!

  24. Lots of lava still gushing out. Lots going to the SW in front of the small hill and then spilling-over into the lava plain in the foreground. Small flow still coming round the back of the cone and heading North it seems. Cone 2 appears inactive now (just gas) but cone 3 is still spattering and I think lava is coming out of there but impossible to see from the camera angle.

  25. we just lost the backside rim…. and it would snow when i show up… 🙂

  26. Looks like there was another small collapse on the S side of the cone: big chunks floated out in the lava stream, which is now going great guns.

  27. Milestone reached! Thank you! Thanks to all of you! All the Lava Lurkers, all the Hraun Runners, the Phreato-Frolickers, Lahar Locos, Tephraphiles, Fumarolistas, Cryptodomatic Monomaniacs, Plinian Partisans, A’a Amantes, Mafic Maniacs, Dacite Diehards, Basalt Absorbed, Seismo-Eccentrics, Pyroclast Pornists, Pahoehoe-prones, Fissure Frenzied, Rift Zone Ramblers, Pit Crater Rebels, Tuff Buffs, Intrusion Inamorati, Spatter Cone Spotters, the Bob-o-holics, and all of you Volcanoholics:

    We just reached FOUR MILLION VIEWS at our cozy little Volcano Café!! Let’s go have a drink in the VC Bar to celebrate this!!

  28. Pretty fun wall collapse/overflow at the timestamp 15.46.30 if anyone wants to go back and take a look 🙂

  29. Whoa. There’s a serious whiteout of a blizzard going on. Can’t even see anything on the cam!

  30. Lets hope people followed the closure warning from the police.

    • I’ve only seen one helicopter flying this afternoon, and a few people were wandering at lower right early morning.

  31. The live stream is mesmerizing, and while the eruption continues unabated and the shape of the cone subtly changes over time, the thought of witnessing a cone collapse adds to the desire to keep watching. When they do occur, its kind of amazing how fast the walls build back up.

    How deep are the “roots” of the fissure vents? the 3 that still have activity are fairly close together, and it seems that you can sometimes watch as activity pulses through them in sequence.

  32. I’m really glad the camera view has been ajusted to show beyond the lava edges again. It’s not that entertaining to watch the lava filling aa rubble holes all day…

    • The weather forecast for the next few days is not looking good for sight-seeing though. Calm wind (usually a good thing) so there might be accumulation of toxic fumes around the eruption, especially down in the “bathtub”.

    • Better parking facilities are in def in the works, so who knows if there will be a hotdog stand or something as well.

      • Don’t hammer a post in near the fault line. Remember the squirrel in the Ice-age movie.

      • I’d buy hotdogs and a long stick and have a volcano grilled supper

  33. Gosh, 4 million views! Meanwhile, on the camera I’m quite taken by the way the heat rolling up the hillside from the lava appears to make the whole lava field jig up and down. It’s a bit disorientating after a while. 🙂

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