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Informasjon om Sundhnukagigar Volcano

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Vulkaner, Lavafelter
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VHMV+MX Grindavik, Iceland
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15.2 km

An aerial view of the May 2024 eruption by Sundhnukagigar.Sundhnukagigar is a row of craters just outside the town of Grindavik on the Reykjanes peninsula that erupted in December 2023, February, March, and May 2024. They previously erupted over 2,500 years ago.

The Sundhnukagigar crater row is the site of the second 2023 volcanic eruption in Iceland that took place between the 18th and 21st of December. It was followed by a volcanic fissure opening by Mt. Hagafell in January 2024, and both of these have been referred to as the Grindavik eruption because of the closeness to the town and the effects they've had on its infrastructure.

Sundhnukagigar erupted again from February 8th to 10th, 2024, followed by two more eruptions the same year, on March 16th and, most recently, on May 29th.

The May 2024 eruption is the eighth eruption in four consecutive years in the vicinity. The previous ones were the Litli-Hrutur eruption in the summer of 2023 and the Fagradalsfjall eruptions of 2021 and 2022.

Currently, the area is closed off to the public and can not be visited until authorities consider it safe to do so. Please respect the closure and check the SafeTravel website for updates. Also, check out our complete guide to the 2023 Sundhnukagigar eruption by Grindavik to learn more about the first eruption, and our guide to the 2024 Sundhnukagigar eruptions for information about the most recent events.

Currently, the only way to see the dramatic aftermath of the previous eruptions and get a glimpse of the Sundhnukagigar eruption site is with this once-in-a-lifetime helicopter tour of the active volcano area. It's a convinient addition to your itinerary if you're staying in accommodation in Reykjavik, as it departs from the Reykjavik Domestic Airport.

The 2024 Eruptions by Sundhnukagigar

The second Sundhnukagigar eruption in 2024 was very sudden

The start of the 2024 February eruption of Sundhnukagigar craters.

In February 2024, Sundhnukagigar was the site of the sixth eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in just four years. Just after 6 AM on February 8th, a fissure opened north of Sylingarfell mountain, close to the site of the most recent eruption by Hagafell, lasting about two days before being declared over on February 10th.

The eruption was slightly less powerful than the last eruption, with a fissure of about 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) in length. The eruption did not pose an immediate danger to the town of Grindavik and did not affect the Blue Lagoon or Svartsengi Power Station. However, the lava flow caused damage to roads and hot water pipes in the area.

The March 2024 Sundhnukagigar eruption was the most poweful one yet

The lava of the 2024 March eruption flowed toward the Grindavik barriers and the Grindavikurvegur road.

A month later, on the evening of March 16th, another eruption began. A 1.8-mile (3-kilometer) fissure opened with very short notice, and the area was quickly evacuated. It was the most powerful eruption so far on the Reykjanes peninsula, and the lava flowed in two directions: to the west towards the Grindavikurvegur road and to the south towards the protective barriers of Grindavik.

Flowing at a speed of 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per hour, the lava crossed the main Grindavik road and followed the protective barriers. Concerns emerged that the barriers might redirect the lava toward a nearby farmhouse and the ocean, potentially causing toxic fumes and small explosions. Actions were promptly taken to safeguard the house. Fortunately, the lava flow slowed down, eventually coming to a halt along its path to the ocean.

The March eruption was officially declared over on May 8th, making it the longest one so far in the recent Sundhnukagigar eruption series.

The Sundhnukagigar fissue on May 29th reached almost a mile in lengthJust 20 days later, it started up again. Around 20 million cubic meters of lava had collected in the ground between the two eruptions, and on May 29th, 2024, a new fissure opened up. It was around 2.1 miles in length (3.4 kilometers), and lava spewed around 164 feet in the air (50 meters).

It is expected that it will soon shrink in size, and lava flow will slow down, as has been characteristic of previous eruptions in the area. However, the May eruption is still ongoing, and it's impossible to say how long it will last or how it will fully develop.

Currently, no infrastructure or people are in direct danger, and the eruption does not affect flight or travel to Iceland. Please respect the safety closures and do not attempt to enter the eruption area.

2023 Seismic Activity and Closeness to Grindavik

The Sundhnukagigar crater row eruption on the night of December 18th

The Sundhnukagigar fissure on the night of December 18th, 2023.

Before the lava broke to the surface by Sundhnukagigar on December 18th, Icelanders had been expecting an eruption for almost two months. The preceding period had strong seismic activity, starting on October 25th, with earthquakes having destructive effects on infrastructure in the nearby town of Grindavik.

It was clear that the impending eruption was going to be larger than the previous ones in the vicinity, and for a while, it seemed likely that the lava would erupt in the middle of the town. Because of this, Grindavik was evacuated on November 10th, with residents being able to rescue animals and salvage their belongings in the weeks afterward.

This meant that on the evening of December 18th, Grindavik was mostly empty when the eruption started, with only rescue services and police close by. Nobody was harmed in this eruption, and thankfully, the lava flowed away from the nearby Grindavik, Svartsengi powerplant, and the Blue Lagoon.

The 2023 Eruption of the Sundhnukagigar Crater Row

The Sundhnukagigar eruption is beautiful when seen from above

The 2023 Sundhnukagigar fissure seen from a helicopter on the first night of the eruption.

While Sundhnukagigar may be referred to as a volcano, it's actually an example of a fissure eruption when lava erupts through cracks in the earth's surface rather than a single volcanic vent.

The 2023 volcanic fissure opened at around 10 PM on December 18th and initially spanned a length of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). Remarkably, the lava reached a height of over 328 feet (100 meters). Within just the first seven hours, the volume of lava flow had already surpassed the total output of the month-long Litli-Hrutur eruption that occurred in the summer of 2023.

The original fissure by the Sundhnukagigar craters was impossibly long

The 2023 Sundhnukagigar eruption by Grindavik.

Over the first two days, the surrounding lava field from Sundhnukagigar had reached a size of 4 square miles (3.7 square kilometers). For context, the total size of the whole lava field from the 2021 Fagradalsfjall eruption, which lasted 6 months, is around 5.4 square miles (5 square kilometers). The eruption slowly calmed down before coming to a stop on the morning of December 21st, 2023.

The lava flow of Sundhnukagigar reached roads and destroyed a hot water pipe

Lava flow from the February 2024 Sundhnukagigar eruption reached the Grindavik road and the main Reykjanes hot water pipe.

The Sundhnukagigar eruptions were much larger than the three previous visitor-friendly eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula. It's likely that the short timespan of the eruptions is due to how powerful they were initially.

The volcanic eruption by Mt. Hagafell on January 14th, 2024, was smaller but much closer to Grindavik. There is still a risk of even more fissures opening in the vicinity, and there is also a great deal of dangerous gas pollution around the eruption area.

Right now, it's only possible to see the aftermath of the eruption area with helicopter tours. You can also watch a live stream of the Sundhnukagigar eruption site.

History of the Sundhnukagigar Craters

The Sundhnukagigar crater row in 2022, before the eruption of 2023

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by TommyBee. The area in 2022. The Capital Area and lava from the Fagradallsfjall eruptions are in the top right, and Grindavik to the bottom left. Sundhnukagigar craters are the dark crack in the middle of the peninsula, above the right edge of Grindavik.

This was not the first time that the Sundhnukagigar crater row has erupted, as it was formed over 2,500 years ago during another fissure eruption. It's a common occurrence in Iceland due to its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates diverge. There's even a bridge between the continents, just a 20-minute drive from the Sundhnukagigar crater row!

The name of the eruption site is derived from "Sundhnúkur," the tallest crater in the row, with "gígar" translating to "craters" in Icelandic. The "sund" component of the name is an old word marking a boat-accessible path, as the craters have historically served as navigational landmarks for sailors along the rough Reykjanes coastline.

In recent years, the area has been popular for short hiking excursions, featuring trails weaving through the crater row and adjacent lava fields. There are also historic travel routes marked by cairns around the crates, which locals have used for centuries to navigate the Reykjanes peninsula.

With the 2023 and 2024 Sundhnukagigar eruptions and the seemingly ongoing volcanic activity in the region, this landscape is steadily transforming, with vast new lava fields and craters.

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