Dormant No More, Fagradalsfjall Erupts in Iceland

Fagradalsfjall volcanic
Fagradalsfjall volcanic eruption in 2021, view to northwest. (Government of Iceland, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Jim Brace-Thompson

Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula enjoyed a centuries-long respite from fire and ash, but that came rumbling to an end the night of March 19, 2021. That’s when the Fagradalsfjall volcano let loose with an eruption that began spewing lava across the landscape from a fissure approximately 1,600 feet long.

The last time the volcano erupted was some 800 years ago. But it was by no means dormant these many centuries as magma built up beneath the land and finally let loose. Located in the southwest corner of Iceland, a glare from the red-hot lava flow was visible from the capital city of Reykjavík a full 20 miles away!

Earth sent ample warning signals. The region experienced as many as 40,000 earthquakes over the course of several months. Some 20,000 of those occurred in the weeks immediately preceding the eruption.

Fortunately, the area around the erupting fissure is largely uninhabited, so no damage to property or injuries to people have been reported, and lookie-loos are being asked to refrain from coming to the peninsula on an adventure jaunt so as to keep them out of harm’s way—and out of the way of first responders. In addition, air traffic was temporarily suspended pending measurements of ash danger, an especially necessary precaution given that Iceland’s main Keflavik International Airport is located just five to six miles from the Reykjanes Peninsula. A “code red” aviation warning was soon lowered to “orange” when minimal ash fall was detected.

Apparently, reykjanes means “smoking peninsula.” It most certainly is living up to its name at present!

Author: Jim Brace-Thompson

JimBraceThompson Jim began and oversees the AFMS Badge Program for kids, has been inducted into the National Rockhound & Lapidary Hall of Fame within their Education Category, and is the president-elect for the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies.
Contact him at


Magazine subscription

If you enjoyed what you’ve read here we invite you to consider signing up for the FREE Rock & Gem weekly newsletter. Learn more>>>

In addition, we invite you to consider subscribing to Rock & Gem magazine. The cost for a one-year U.S. subscription (12 issues) is $29.95. Learn more >>>


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here