Report on Fagradalsfjall (Iceland) — 17 March-23 March 2021
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
17 March-23 March 2021
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2021. Report on Fagradalsfjall (Iceland). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 17 March-23 March 2021. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
63.895°N, 22.258°W; summit elev. 250 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
IMO reported that a small eruption in the western part of the Krýsuvík-Trölladyngja volcanic system, close to Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula, began at around 2045 on 19 March. The eruption was first visible in webcam images and confirmed by satellite data, and an orange glow in clouds on the horizon was seen from Reykjanesbaer and Grindavík (10 km SW). The Aviation Color Code was raised to Red. Reykjanesbraut, the main road from the capital region to Reykjanesbaer and the international airport at Keflavík, was closed.
A fissure, 500-700 m long, had opened on a slope in the Geldingadalur valley about 4.7 km N of the coast and just off the SE flank of Fagradalsfjall mountain. Small lava fountains rose as high as 100 m above the fissure, and by 1110 on 20 March, the lava had covered an area less than 1 square kilometer and was approximately 500 m across. The extrusion rate was an estimated 5 cubic meters per second. The Aviation Color Code was lowered to Orange because there was little to no ash production that would affect aircraft. Reykjanesbraut reopened, but Sudurstrandarvegur, the road along the S coastline, was closed between Grindavík and Thorlakshofn.
The eruption continued during 21-23 March with a consistent extrusion rate. About three cones had formed along the fissure; the tallest and widest was situated at the higher part of the fissure. Lava flows, mainly from the largest cone, fanned out to the NW, W, and SW, and also flowed S and fanned out to the E. Spatter was ejected above the cones. Video captured by visitors showed parts of the largest cone collapsing and rebuilding. The IMO periodically issued warnings about weather conditions that would cause high concentrations of volcanic gases to settle near the eruption site, causing hazardous conditions for visitors. IMO noted that through the night of 22-23 March night sulfur dioxide levels in Reykjavík had increased, though not to unsafe levels.
Geological Summary. Although the Fagradalsfjall fissure swarm has previously been considered a split or secondary swarm of the Krýsuvík–Trölladyngja volcanic system (https://volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=371030), as of September 2022 Icelandic volcanologists managing the Catalogue of Icelandic Volcanoes (https://icelandicvolcanoes.is/) made the decision to identify Fagradalsfjall as a distinct separate system. The recent eruptions and related reports have been reassigned here, and other content will be prepared and adjusted as appropriate in the next few months.