Updated: Icelandic volcanic eruption forces Blue Lagoon to shut a day after reopening

A volcanic eruption has forced Iceland’s Blue Lagoon to shut just 24 hours after reopening following a six week closure.

Air travellers to and from Europe via Iceland were urged to monitor developments ahead of the busy Christmas period.

The volcano erupted on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland last night after increased seismic activity in the area since October.

The eruption took place just north of the evacuated town of Grindavik and was preceded by an earthquake “swarm”, according to the Icelandic Met Office.

However, the IMO said in a 3am update that the eruption was decreasing.

The country’s Met Office “continues to monitor the activity and is in direct contact with civil protection and response units in the area”. 

A meeting of scientists will be held this morning to evaluate the overnight development of the eruption.

A statement from the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa said: “A volcanic eruption commenced in Sundhnúkagígar on the evening of December 18. 

“As a result, we have temporarily closed our facilities in Svartsengi. All guests with confirmed bookings in the upcoming days will be contacted.

“We will continue to monitor the progress and maintain close communication with the authorities, prioritising safety and well-being.

“Sundhnúkagígar is a known volcanic area east of Blue Lagoon and north of Grindavík.”

Flights in and out of Keflavik airport were operating this morning with an alert about the eruption posted on its website and delays affecting flights by budget carrier Play.

Icelandair said: “At this time, the eruption does have a very minimal effect the operations of Icelandair or Keflavik airport. Our flight schedule remains unchanged. No flights have been delayed or cancelled due to the eruption.

“The safety of our passengers and staff is always our number one priority and at the heart of every decision we make.

“We’re monitoring the situation closely and will inform our passengers of any new developments.”

Play said: “Due to a volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland on December 18, 2023, the roads to the town of Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon have been closed while the situation is being evaluated.

“We do not expect any disruptions to our flight schedule but safety is always our top priority and the situation is being monitored closely by the relevant authorities.

“We ask all passengers booked on upcoming flights to keep a close eye on messages from us regarding a possible disruption to our flight schedule.”

Meteorologists at Accuweather stressed that this eruption appeared far different in location and characteristics from the ash cloud chaos to flights due to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010.

“The eruption of the current volcano near Grindavík is not expected to produce the severe impact to air travel seen at that time. That volcano produced a large plume of volcanic ash lofted high into the atmosphere, dispersing over a significant part of the of the European continent and causing travel chaos for weeks on end,” Accuweather said.

AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jon Porter said: “Although it does not appear that this volcano, given preliminary information, is likely to have a major impact on air travel as of now, any volcanic ash cloud sent into the atmosphere can cause portions of air space to be reconfigured or even closed, resulting in flight cancellations or delays.

“If little to no volcanic ash is lofted into the atmosphere, there may be no impact to aviation, which would certainly be a gift to holiday travellers.

“People who are travelling to and from Europe over the coming days, especially around the busy Christmas holiday, should monitor ongoing developments related to the Iceland volcano closely.”

Iceland’s Civil Protection Department said: “While the possibility of air traffic disturbance cannot be entirely ruled out, scientists consider it an unlikely scenario.

“The potential disruption to flight traffic would depend on factors such as the location and size of the eruption. Typically, the impact of volcanic eruptions is confined to specific, localised areas. 

“Notably, previous eruptions in the area did not impact flights to and from the country.” 

The Foreign Office updated its trek advice to say: “All roads to Grindavík are closed and you should stay away from the area.

“Keflavik International airport is operating as normal, but you are advised to check for latest updates.

“The capital city Reykjavik, and the rest of Iceland has not been impacted by this eruption. You should monitor local media for updates and follow the authorities advice on travel to the area.”

Picture credit: Icelandic Met Office. 

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