Experts say this is not a big surprise and it was to be expected: an eruption has just started around 7 PM in Grímsvötn, located in the northwest of the Vatnajökull glacier, in southeast Iceland. The plume from the eruption has already reached 18,000ft in height.
Eruptions are common in Grímsvötn, occurring once every 10 years, and they are usually short and localized. Anyhow, in the past, volcanic events in this area have been connected to devastating eruptions located in the same fissure; during the dreadful Laki eruption in 1783 an eruption was ongoing also at Grímsvötn.
The Grímsvötn area consists of a series of sub-glacial lakes that are never completely frozen due to the volcanic activity below them. Thus, the main risk arising from eruptions in the area is a phenomenon known as jökulhlaup – glacial outburst floods. In layman terms, the water trapped under the ice in the lakes bursts out due to the eruption with extreme violence, causing a powerful and extremely dangerous outburst of water. The 1996 eruption in the area caused a peak flow of 50,000 m³/s and lasted for several days.
Stay tuned for more updates about the eruption. Meanwhile, you can check our short guide about Icelandic Volcanoes.