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The eight eruption since 2021 started 29th of May. Photo: Ben Hardman

On May 29th 2024 at 12:46 (GMT), the fifth volcanic eruption near the town of Grindavik began. This eruption has been monitored very closely and everybody from the Blue Lagoon and Svartsengi power plant were safely evacuated beforehand. All but three residents from Grindavik were also safely evacuated. The primary rift for the eruption started between Hagafell and Stóra-Skógfell at a length of about 1 km. Lava fountains rose to a height of 50 meters and it quickly lengthened to 2.5 km. Shortly after it began, a state of emergency was declared due to the high level of lava being produced from the fissure. Lava was being pumped out at a rate of around 1,000 cubic meters a second, the equivalent to Laugardalslaug, Iceland’s largest swimming pool.

Concerns began to arise about whether or not power and hot water would be shut down as the lava continued to progress. While electricity was shut off as a safety precaution, hot water remains working and should for the foreseeable future. Worries about gas from the eruption continued to arise as westerly winds pushed it towards Reykjavik, Selfoss, and other westward towns. At this time the fissure had grown to around 3.5 km in length.

Defensive walls to the North and West of Grindavik are tested as this lava moves much faster than previous eruptions in much larger volumes. This eruption is the largest eruption in this series and continues to output massive amounts of lava and gas into the air. At this point, magma collides with underground water and begins producing large dark explosions due to the rapid heating of the water. This raises concerns about air travel in and out of Keflavik.

In only four hours, this eruption has covered all the main roads leading to and from Grindavik with lava, threatens to overwhelm the defensive barriers surrounding Grindavik and Svartsengi, and threatens to hit a communications tower owned by the US Navy. Despite being prepared for this eruption in advance, the sheer power and intensity has taken first responders aback as tons of lava continues to spill from the Earth. Hopefully the defensive walls around Grindavik will be able to withstand the lava and continue to protect the town that has suffered so much in the last six months.