Report on Fagradalsfjall (Iceland) — 5 July-11 July 2023
Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 5 July-11 July 2023
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2023. Report on Fagradalsfjall (Iceland) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 5 July-11 July 2023. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
63.895°N, 22.258°W; summit elev. 250 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) reported that a new fissure eruption in the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system began on 10 July after intensifying seismicity over the previous month and inflation that was first noted in April. At 1055 on 5 July IMO raised the Aviation Color Code to Orange (the third level on a four-color scale). By 1330 on 7 July there had been more than 7,000 earthquakes detected in the swarm that began on 3 July. Epicenters were aligned NE-SW between Fagradalsfjall and the Keilir cone, NNE from the 2021 and 2022 eruptions, and mostly concentrated just N of the Litli Hrútur hill. Deformation data (GPS and radar interferometry) showed uplift in the same area, suggesting a magmatic dike intrusion that reached to 1 km depth by early on 6 July. Seismicity decreased during 6-7 July and the rate of deformation slowed, with analysis showing that by 9-10 July the dike had propagated 1 km further NE.
Tremor was detected at 1425 on 10 July and continued to intensify, leading to an eruption at 1640 just NW of Litli-Hrútur. Webcam images showed visible gas emissions and incandescence, but no major ash emissions. IMO raised the Aviation Color Code to Red (the highest level on a four-color scale) at 1707. Flowing lava from a NE-SW fissure that was about 200 m long was confirmed by people present in the area and webcam images; at 1724 the Aviation Color Code was lowered back to Orange. The fissure was mainly located in a depression and bisected the E and NE flanks of Litli Hrútur. Based on observations from drone video the fissure quickly reached about 900 m long according to estimates from Institute of Earth Sciences. Lava fountaining occurred along the fissure, sending lava flows S. Gas-and-steam emissions drifted NW. According to Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra, the police closed the area around the eruption to tourists due to the high concentrations of volcanic gases and particulates from burning vegetation.
Tremor levels peaked between 2100 on 10 July and 0000 on 11 July, then steadily declined through 1100. By 1250 on 11 July the intensity of the eruption had noticeably decreased, with fewer active lava fountains. Only one vent with an elongated crater and multiple lava fountains was active by 1635. Gas plumes rose as high as 4 km above the vent. Lava flows mostly traveled SE and flowed into a shallow valley S of Litli-Hrútur. IMO noted that if lava continued to flow S it may come into contact with the 2022 Merardalir lava flow. A 10-km-long trail from the road up to the eruption site was opened to the public.
Geological Summary. Although the Fagradalsfjall fissure swarm has previously been considered a split or secondary swarm of the Krýsuvík–Trölladyngja volcanic system, as of September 2022 Icelandic volcanologists managing the Catalogue of Icelandic Volcanoes made the decision to identify it 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.
Sources: Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra (National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police and Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management), Institute of Earth Sciences