The Meradalir eruption is over – for now. At 6 am on Sunday morning, a dense bluish grey plume rose from the crater. At the same time, the seismic tremors stopped. It died as it had lived, belching foul vapours.
Some degassing is still ongoing from the lava field and the main crater.
The activity could resume at any time and scientists continue to monitor the situation closely. Earlier this morning (Wednesday 24th), some activity was detected. Smoke was observed rising from the crater, and tremors were again detected, though there were no earthquakes. It appears that there is magma on the move at a depth of just 5 km, but there’s not enough pressure to force it to the surface. Despite this, the volcano remains downgraded to from orange to yellow, officially ‘exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background activity’. And while no one knows what will happen, it is pretty certain that there will be more activity on the peninsula and that this year’s eruption and last year are seen as part of the same event, with a pause in between. We may be in another pause. Only time will tell.
The eruption lasted 18 days and added 11 million cubic meters to Iceland’s mass compared to last year’s eruption which lasted 181 days and produced 143 million cubic meters of Lava. Though these new landscapes appear vast on a human scale, they are minor compared with historic eruptions (the uber devastating Laki produced 14 billion cubic meters in 1783).
Even without an active eruption the valleys or Meradalir and Fagradalsfjall are well worth a visit. The geology is so strange. If you’ve not visited a fresh, or super fresh lava field before (lava is technically fresh for 500 years) it is something outside of normal experience.
Floor is Lava
If you visit, don’t walk on the fresh lava, it’s super fragile, like a giant burnt meringue that’s been dropped from a height. Around the edges of the lava field the lava has been recently shattered by the thousands of earthquakes that preceded this year’s eruption. Some sections appear solid and hard, but right next to them are fragments, which even at an inch’s thickness, easily break in your bare hands. We know there are pockets of molten rock beneath the surface, you will likely see smoke still rising from last years field. For months after last year’s eruption ended, there were cases where hikers that had boldly ventured out onto the lava became stranded and called emergencies to lift them to safety, which must have been, like existentially terrifying. We don’t expect the ground we’re standing on to collapse and to fall into a pit of molten rock. That is the stuff gameshows are made of.