A volcano in southwest Iceland began erupting on Wednesday – just eight months after its last eruption officially ended, the country’s meteorological authorities said.
The Icelandic meteorological office has urged people not to approach the Vagradalsvilla volcano, which is located about 32 kilometers southwest of the capital, Reykjavik.
The eruption is in an uninhabited valley not far from Keflavik Airport, the hub for international air traffic in Iceland. The airport remained open and flights were not disrupted.
A live video feed from the site showed magma spewing from a narrow fissure 100-200 meters long over a lava field from last year’s eruption, the first on the Reykjanes Peninsula in nearly 800 years.
Scientists expected a volcanic eruption somewhere in the peninsula after a series of earthquakes over the past week indicated volcanic activity near the Earth’s crust.
Volcanologist Magnus Tommy Gudmundsson said the eruption looked small.
“But we don’t know where things are in the process,” he said, as he boarded a helicopter for a first look.
A 2021 eruption in the same area produced spectacular lava flows for several months. Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to witness the splendid spectacle.
Iceland, located atop a volcanic hotspot in the North Atlantic, averages eruptions every four to five years.
The most recent eruption was the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010, which sent clouds of ash and dust into the atmosphere, disrupting air travel for days between Europe and North America over concerns that the ash could damage jet engines. More than 100,000 flights have been grounded, causing millions of passengers to be stranded.
Shares in the main Icelandic airline, Iceland, rose 6% when news of the eruption broke on Wednesday. Investors and residents alike were horrified by the prospect of a much larger volcanic eruption in a populated area of the peninsula.