State of emergency declared, Iceland's Blue Lagoon evacuated after largest volcanic eruption in 3 years

A state of emergency has been declared in Iceland after the largest volcanic eruption in three years forced the evacuation of the tourist destination Blue Lagoon and sent lava flowing toward the evacuated seaside town of Grindavík.

According to the Iceland Meteorological Office (IMO), the volcano began to erupt for the fourth time in three months on Saturday just before 8:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m. EST), with little warning time, along a nearly 2-mile-long fissure near the location of the February eruption.

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Coverage from the volcanic fissure eruption on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula. (Icelandic Coast Guard)

Scientists had been warning for weeks that another eruption was likely and feared that there would be little time to alert people in the area if and when the eruption was to occur.

The IMO said the first warning to the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management was at 7:43 p.m. on Saturday, and the onset of the eruption was confirmed via web cameras just 40 minutes later.

The Blue Lagoon, which is a geothermal spa and one of Iceland’s most popular tourist destinations, was closed and evacuated after the eruption began.

Blue Lagoon was expected to remain closed through at least Sunday.

"We will continue to closely follow the guidelines and recommendations of the authorities, working collaboratively with them to monitor the progression of events," the Blue Lagoon said in a statement on its website. "This commitment aligns with our unwavering dedication to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our valued guests and staff."

The volcano has erupted several times since 2021, with four eruptions being reported since the end of last year. The first occurred on Dec. 18, 2023, the second was reported on Jan. 14, and the third eruption was on Feb. 8.

Officials say Saturday’s eruption is probably the largest that has occurred since 2021.


Lava flows toward Grindavík defense barriers


This graphic from the Iceland Meteorological Office shows where the new volcanic eruption fissure opened (red dotted line) and protective barriers surrounding Grindavik and Blue Lagoon (orange lines) (Iceland Meteorological Office)

The small seaside town of Grindavík had been largely evacuated after a swarm of thousands of earthquakes shook the region toward the end of last year when fears of a volcanic eruption began.

Defensive barriers had been built near the town, as well as around Blue Lagoon, in hopes that they would protect homes and infrastructure from lava flows.

According to the IMO, some lava was reported to have been flowing toward those protective barriers near Grindavík.

As of Saturday night, lava was estimated to be about 600 feet from the protective barriers and about a half-mile from Grindavík road.

Scientists with the IMO said that if the eruption continues at the same rate, "the scenario of lava reaching the ocean needs to be considered."



The expected flow of gasses. (Icelandic Met Office / FOX Weather)

Due to the prevailing wind flow, clouds and gasses from the most recent event were expected to be pushed westward, according to computer forecast models.

Volcanologists have not been able to say when the latest episode will end, but previous eruptions have only lasted a few hours to days.

Flights into and out of the Keflavik International Airport were said to be operating normally, and the eruption did not appear to have a significant impact on aviation traffic.

Some information translated via Google Translate

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