Iceland Volcano Fed by Magma Flowing at Unprecedented, ‘Extremely-Fast’ Speeds

An enormous river of underground magma chargeable for the latest eruptions at Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula flowed a lot sooner than scientists initially thought.

The 9-mile-long magma dike, because the underground reservoirs of magma are recognized, reached a circulate charge of seven,400 cubic meters per second, or about 261,328 cubic toes per second.

That is an unprecedented subsurface magma circulate charge, in keeping with a brand new paper within the journal Science.

Lava flowing in the direction of the southwestern Icelandic city of Grindavik after a volcanic eruption on January 14, 2024. The magma dike that induced the eruption was discovered to circulate a lot sooner than scientists thought.

HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP through Getty Photos

“Our inferred peak magma circulate charge of 7400 m3/s is 2 to a few orders of magnitude bigger than within the 2021, 2022, and 2023 eruptions within the close by Fagradalsfjall space,” the authors wrote within the paper. “The circulate charge can also be bigger than within the 2014 to 2015 Bárðarbunga occasions, when a complete of [about] 2 km3 of magma had been emplaced partly in a 48-km-long dike that fashioned over two weeks and partly erupted with an preliminary inferred magma circulate charge of ~240 m3/s”

“The height circulate charge within the Grindavík dike is corresponding to inferred common eruption charge within the first 12 days of the large 1783 to 1784 Laki eruption when 14.7 km3 erupted in whole, throughout a nine-month interval”

Magma dikes can transport molten rock to the Earth’s floor, permitting it to interrupt via the crust and grow to be a volcanic eruption. This magma dike is the driving force of the December 2023 and January 2024 eruptions throughout the Reykjanes peninsula, the latter of which occurred proper on the outskirts of the fishing city of Grindavík. Rivers of lava poured into the evacuated city, setting hearth to a number of of the homes.

“In November 2023, a 15km lengthy magma dike propagated beneath the city of Grindavík, Iceland, inflicting widespread injury and evacuation. The dike formation was adopted by fissure eruptions on 18 December 2023 and 14 January 2024, with lava flowing into Grindavík,” Sigrún Hreinsdóttir, a geodetic scientist at GNS Science, a New Zealand-based geology, geophysics, and nuclear science analysis institute, mentioned in an announcement.

“Utilizing satellite-based geodetic observations and seismic measurements researchers present that the dike reached an ultra-rapid subsurface magma circulate charge of 7400 cubic meters per second. The research demonstrates that fracturing and tectonic stress are essential elements in dike formation and indicate a excessive hazard potential for intrusions that propagate to the floor, resulting in eruptions.”

lava on road iceland
Lava flowing over the street close to the doorway to the “Blue Lagoon” in the course of the third eruption in as many months. These eruptions are triggered by an underground river of magma often called a dike.


This means that stress is not the one main driver behind volcanic eruptions, with tectonic stress and the tendency of the bottom to crack and fracture being essential elements in how a lot magma flows right into a dike, and thus how seemingly a volcano is to erupt.

“Such excessive circulate charges present perception into the formation of main dikes,” the authors wrote within the paper.

In addition they say that the excessive circulate charge of the dike is probably going influenced by the density of the lava being low beneath Iceland, making it extra buoyant and more proficient at flowing shortly via cracks within the floor.

“The buoyancy of magma, influenced by its density and the density of the encircling rocks, together with its viscosity, can have an effect on how and the place it strikes. Much less viscous magma can extra simply migrate via cracks and fissures within the crust,” David Kitchen, an affiliate professor of geology on the College of Richmond who was not related to the analysis, informed Newsweek.

The researchers additionally notice that this discovery implies that top circulate charges into dikes at different volcanoes all over the world might imply they’re vulnerable to main eruptions.

“Our findings have implications for magmatic exercise in different elements of the world the place extensional processes progressively decrease the minimal compressional stress within the crust, resembling alongside the mid-oceanic ridges of the world, and Afar (East Africa),” the authors wrote.

The identical magma dike seemingly additionally induced the third eruption close to Grindavík in as many months, with lava starting to spew from a brand new fissure early on February 8, 2024. In response to the Icelandic Meteorological Workplace, the brand new eruption despatched spurts of lava taking pictures a number of hundred toes into the air.

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