Iceland volcano: Situation in Grindavík has 'become very bleak' following new eruption

An aerial view shows lava after volcano eruption located close to Sundhnukagigar, about 4 kilometers northeast of Grindavik town of Reykjanes peninsula, Iceland on January 14, 2024.
Aerial footage shows lava spilling out of the erupted volcano. (Image credit: Iceland Public Defence / Handout/Anadolu/Getty Images)

A volcano on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula has resumed erupting after a four-week hiatus, with new fissures opening near the town of Grindavík, the Icelandic Met Office (IMO) announced Sunday (Jan. 14).

The eruption followed an intense series of earthquakes that began around 3:00 a.m. local time in the Sundhnúksgígar area and migrated southwest toward Grindavík. The seismic swarm caused a lava-spewing fissure to open around 8 a.m. to the southeast of the Hagafell mountain, spreading to within just 3,000 feet (900 meters) of the town.

Around midday, a new eruptive fissure opened just north of Grindavík. "Lava flows extruded from this fissure have now entered the town," IMO representatives wrote in a statement

Seismicity and ground deformation data indicate a magma dike running down the Reykjanes Peninsula has reached beneath Grindavík. Magma flowing into the dike may have "reactivated" existing faults and fractures in Earth's crust, and likely opened brand new fissures, the statement said.

Related: 'No signals were seen:' Iceland volcano could erupt again without warning as magma still moving beneath Grindavík

More fissures could open in the coming days as magma continues to feed the dike, experts told the Iceland Monitor.

On Jan. 14, another eruption happened in the north of Grindavik in the Reykjanes Peninsula. (Image credit: HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Þorvaldur Þórðarson, a professor of volcanology and petrology at the Icelandic University, told the Iceland Monitor that eruptive activity has shifted from the upper fissure to creep closer to Grindavík, foreshadowing two possible scenarios. 

"One [scenario] is that if the shift is made, then the activity will continue in the lower fissure," he said. If this is the case, and the eruption continues, lava "will continue to flow towards the town. "The other scenario, which is even worse, is that this is an addition to what is happening in the upper fissure," he said. "This increases the eruption."

It's looking likely that magma will push into the dike and extend it further down the peninsula, Þórðarson said. "It seems to me that the fissure is always getting longer," he said. "The situation has unfortunately become very bleak for Grindavík."

Below are images of the eruption so far, showing lava flows creeping towards evacuated houses in Grindavík.

Lava is seen edging closer to the outskirts of Grindavík on Jan. 14.  (Image credit: HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Explosions of hot lava erupted from a fissure that appeared close to the town of Grindavík. (Image credit: HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images)

The latest eruptions are part of an uptick in volcanic activity in the region that began in 2021.  (Image credit: HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Lava flows from the fissures has slowed significantly since the eruption began.  (Image credit: Iceland Public Defence / Handout/Anadolu/Getty Images)

Aerial footage shows lava spilling out of the erupted volcano. (Image credit: Iceland Public Defence / Handout/Anadolu/Getty Images)

Seismic activity on the morning of Jan. 14 forced residents to evacuate. (Image credit: Micah Garen/Getty Images)
Sascha Pare
Trainee staff writer

Sascha is a U.K.-based trainee staff writer at Live Science. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Southampton in England and a master’s degree in science communication from Imperial College London. Her work has appeared in The Guardian and the health website Zoe. Besides writing, she enjoys playing tennis, bread-making and browsing second-hand shops for hidden gems.