Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano begins new eruption; nearby airport unaffected

Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano began a new eruption Wednesday, eight months after its last eruption. The prior eruption was the first on the country’s Reykjanes peninsula in 800 years.

The eruption is taking place in an uninhabited valley, but it isn’t far from Iceland’s international air traffic hub, Keflavik Airport. The airport remained open without any disruption to flights.

Early Wednesday morning, a magnitude 4.3 earthquake rumbled through the eastern part of the volcano, heralding the possibility of an eruption.

“We are still not seeing eruption signs on our meters. But there is activity in the magma conduits which shows that there is magma moving,” said Hulda Rós Helgadóttir, a specialist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the Iceland Monitor reported.

At 1:44 p.m. local time, the Icelandic Meteorological Office confirmed the start of the eruption.

At first, Icelandic officials urged spectators to stay away for safety reasons, including Iceland’s President Guðni Jóhannesson, who was driving on the peninsula at the time of the eruption.

By Thursday, travel to the volcano had been approved. American tourist Heather Hoff, who made the 90-minute hike from the nearest car park, told Agence France-Presse, “I had to sit down and have a little cry because it is so beautiful, so emotional — this is the raw power of our planet.”

Iceland has a volcanic eruption every four or five years on average. Although the current eruption has thus far spared travelers any further disruptions, this is not always the case.

In 2010, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano blackened the sky with plumes of dust and ash, preventing air travel due to fears that the particles could damage jet engines. As a result, more than 100,000 flights were grounded, paralyzing travel between Europe and North America for days, The Associated Press reported.  

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