Iceland’s volcanic activity commands strict safety precautions from anyone thinking of visiting the dramatic display of nature. The current news are that part of Iceland is currently experiencing the effects of a volcanic eruption for the second consecutive year. The current volcanic activity peaked last week north of Mount Stori-Hrutur, which is in southwest Iceland close to the town of Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula, according to the Icelandic government. The Keflavik Airport (KEF), a major airport that many tourists utilize when visiting the nation, is around 9 miles from the volcanic activity.
The six-month-long eruption that occurred here last spring wasn’t too far away. Fortunately, as of last week, the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs reported that the risk from the volcano to densely inhabited areas and essential infrastructure was low, and it was not anticipated that this would impede international aviation traffic.
For instance, according to statistics from FlightAware as of noon on Sunday, the airport was not among those in the world experiencing significant flight disruptions. However, the presence of volcanic activity in a well-known tourist site does raise serious concerns regarding the safety of those who are visiting the area by chance or those who have chosen to travel there because of the activity. Follow on to read about the five things to know regarding Iceland’s volcanic activity before venturing too close.
Iceland’s Volcanic Activity can Escalate if you get too Close
There’s a good possibility that you have these two thoughts in mind when you see pictures of the lava and fissures in Iceland: First off, the pictures are breathtaking to look at. No. 2, stepping too close is obviously risky. Here are some things you should be aware of if you want to try to observe an active volcano up close (or closer, at least), or if you find yourself in a position similar to the one in Iceland, or one that has previously occurred in Hawaii or Indonesia.
Things Change Quickly During Volcanic Activity
Volcanoes’ unpredictable behaviour makes them one of the most dangerous natural phenomena. The National Park Service issues a warning on its safety page for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that “volcanic eruptions can be hazardous and alter at any time.” The U.S. Geological Survey adds that there “will be some signal that a volcano may erupt,” noting that the interval between the first signs of “unrest” and an eruption might vary greatly. Between the early warning indicators and a more serious volcanic event, it could take days, weeks, or even months.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to closely monitor projections if you’re planning a trip to a region close to a volcano. The Icelandic Meteorological Office has installed a meteorological station near the volcanic activity in southwest Iceland, and it is currently recording data every hour.
Make sure you are familiar with the area (Including all the Entrances and Exits)
We advise familiarising yourself with evacuation routes if you’ll be near a volcano. This is crucial in case the situation changes due to an eruption, an escalation of an existing eruption, or a change in the wind direction that alters the flow of hazardous ash and gases. In fact, thinking of multiple exits is probably a good idea.
Additionally, keep to the designated pathways and tread carefully. This is a generally sound generalization for any kind of hike, but visiting a volcano site undoubtedly carries a few extra risks. In addition to volcanic issues, we advise visitors to volcanic areas to avoid cliffs, fractures, and steam vents since they can be unstable, slippery, and have the potential to collapse. Since the terrain can get very hot while trekking, we advise bringing extra water.
Related: Iceland Weather by Month
Being both downstream and downslope is a concern
The danger here is the lava flow. Pollution can accumulate in river valleys and streams. Icelandic officials have advised that, if your pets have travelled with you, you should consider them in these circumstances as well. Dogs are more vulnerable to pollution (including gas pollution) than humans since they are closer to the ground, according to Iceland’s Meteorological Office. We also advise that persons who have heart or respiratory issues, newborns, young children, and pregnant women may be especially sensitive to the vapours.
Perhaps a ridge would be preferable to a valley for you. You need to consider this when there is little to no wind or when the wind is calm. Iceland’s Meteorological Office claims that in these circumstances, gases may build up in valleys. This could endanger the valley region. The advice of professionals is to relocate to a peak or ridge (though not just above the eruption, either, of course).
How close should you therefore get to a Volcanic site?
Even though the images of an erupting volcano may be magnificent, it practically goes without saying that getting too close to one can be quite dangerous. The gas pollution at the eruption site can “at any time exceed danger levels,” according to Iceland’s Meteorological Office. Obviously, particular advice on how close you can get without harming yourself will heavily rely on the parameters mentioned above, including the wind’s direction and other variables like the present volcanic activity. The safest distance from an active volcano is typically five kilometres (3.1 miles) or more, according to researchers in New Zealand, although it’s always a good idea to check for the most recent changes.
Given the quickly shifting nature of any such circumstance, there is no set rule for what distance is safe to observe volcanic activity. However, if you do venture near a situation like the one in Iceland, you’ll undoubtedly want to pay close attention to the most recent weather forecast, listen to government safety warnings, the instructions of your tour guides especially with regard to the direction of the wind, and have a plan to leave if the situation changes, which it frequently does.