Lava erupts near Grindavik, Iceland on February 8.

Iceland Civil Defense/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

The flow of magma in a 15km-long fissure before a recent volcanic eruption in Iceland occurred at the highest rate for such an event seen anywhere in the world.

“We might have a higher rate in very large bursts,” he says. Frestein Sigmundsson at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. “But I’m not aware of high estimates of magma flowing into fissures in the surface.”

Sigmundsson is part of a team that is using ground sensors and satellites to monitor recent volcanic activity under the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland. It began with magma that accumulated several kilometers beneath the Swartsengi region, Site of geothermal power plant which provides hot water to the tourist attraction Blue Lagoon Spa.

On 10 November 2023 A huge fissure several kilometers deep and 15 kilometers long formed nearby.. As it opened, some of the accumulated magma flowed into it at 7,400 cubic meters per second, the team calculated.

This is about a hundred times faster than the magma flow during the 2021, 2022 eruptions. And 2023 In the nearby Fagradalsfjall area, says Sigmundsson.

He says the magma in the fissure can be seen as a piece of paper, as it is at most 8 meters wide. This crack was created because it is located on Iceland. A boundary where tectonic plates are moving apart..

On December 18, a so-called fissure began erupting along part of the feature, which continued for three days. The second, lasting two days, began on January 14, with some lava reaching the evacuated town of Grindavik.

Sigmundsson says that while the lava flow has consumed only a few buildings, cracks in the ground have caused widespread damage to roads and pipes, and created underground cavities.

On February 8, another eruption began a short distance from Grindavik. Lava from this has flowed into pipes carrying hot water from the Suratsengi geothermal plant. This means that heating is cut off in some nearby areas – most buildings in Iceland rely on geothermal water for heating.