Iceland Volcano Eruptions

Iceland has experienced several eruptions in the past few months.

When you hear about a volcano erupting, what do you imagine? You might think of a mountain top exploding, or a slow, steady flow of lava oozing out. These aren’t the only ways a volcano can erupt, though!  

In the last months of 2023, people in Iceland felt earthquakes. Iceland is on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. This is a fault line in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. A fault line is where the Earth’s tectonic plates (different rocky sections of the Earth’s crust) are spreading apart. Earthquakes are common on fault lines, but so are volcanoes. The earthquakes warned Iceland that a volcanic eruption could happen soon. Instead of the lava coming from the top of the mountains, the ground cracked open and the lava came from the cracks! This is called a fissure eruption. Fissure eruptions don’t cause as many problems as a normal volcanic eruption. They don’t spread ash into the air, so planes can safely fly in the area. 

The first eruption happened in December in southern Iceland. A fissure opened in a valley with nothing in it, so the damage wasn’t very bad. In early 2024, another fissure opened next to the town of Grindavík. The town had to be evacuated because fissure was less than a mile away! The lava spread into parts of the town and burned buildings down. Other fissures opened near a power station. Emergency crews did everything they could to protect the power station, but one of the pipes melted. This cut the hot water supply to about 20,000 people! 

The town of Grindavík also suffered from earthquakes. The roads split apart, houses crumbled, some parts of the ground were on totally different heights! The people who live in Grindavík can’t go back for long. The town is still at risk of more earthquakes and eruptions. People are only allowed to check on their houses or take their belongings. Some people have given up on the town and look to live somewhere else. Other people eagerly wait for the time they can go home and rebuild their lives. Since they can’t return home for a long time, the government of Iceland is working on a bill to pay insurance money for all the homes in Grindavík, even the ones that aren’t destroyed. 

What Do You Think? Eruptions have happened frequently in Iceland. Scientists are asking the government to be prepared for more. What are disasters that can happen in your community? How can you be prepared? 

Photo Credits: J. Helgason/Shutterstock