- Will such an eruption create an ash cloud that disrupts aviation?
Answer: that depends on several factors – whether the magma/lava interacts with water or ice, the level of pressure build up, the exact lava chemistry and so on. It could be an effusive lava fountain (Hawaiian style), much like the eruption on the same peninsula two years ago, or it could be more explosive and that is difficult to tell at present. If it erupts below the sea it would likely be explosive, similar to the creation of the island of Surtsey. If there is a large release of ash and the wind direction takes it towards Europe, that will indeed disrupt flights.
- How long will the eruption last?
Answer: Not possible to know that at present. The eruption in 2021 lasted for six months but it was a smaller volume of magma. The Reykjanes peninsula was dormant for 800 years up to that point but we seem to be in a period of increased activity now.
- Why is this eruption happening in this location?
Answer: The Reykjanes peninsula is actually where the mid Atlantic ridge comes ashore and has always been a zone of intense volcanic activity, on the 100's of years scale.
- Will this become a tourist attraction?
Answer: it is never recommended for tourists to travel to or approach areas of volcanic activity. Volcanic risk is very unpredictable, and while a lava fountain can be seemingly viewed from a safe distance, sudden explosive eruptions and gas release is always a possibility.
- What hazards could be associated with this eruption and over how wide an area can they have an effect?
Answer: volcanic gas is a hazard with all volcanic activity, e.g. sulphur dioxide. Wind direction determines the hazard spread, and the same is the case for ash, if ash is present. Lava flows would likely be produced directly at the open fissure, and can flow large distances depending on the slope. Lava flows both bury and burn all obstacles in their path, but their speed can vary depending on their chemistry.
- How well can we predict volcanic eruptions?
Answer: still not very well, however with modern seismology we are getting better at warning of higher risk levels, as is the case now. Close to the eruption itself, shallow earthquake swarms can point to the movement of magma and alert us that the eruption is imminent. We still cannot pinpoint the exact time it will happen however, mostly just the build up to it.