A volcanic spectacle unlike any other is currently taking place on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland. The recently born volcano, dubbed Litli-Hrutur or “Little Sheep,” is making itself known with a series of explosive eruptions of methane gas and the formation of tornadoes. This fiery spectacle, accompanied by ribbons of flowing lava, has attracted the attention of scientists and spectators alike.
Loud explosions coming from the eruption site on July 27 attracted the attention of the Icelandic Meteorological Office. These sounds indicate that clusters of methane gas are exploding in the lava flow. When lava flows through vegetation, methane gas can be released if the vegetation is not completely burned. This gas then accumulates in crevices and cavities in the lava, creating a potentially dangerous situation.
The mixture of methane and oxygen forms a flammable mixture. When coal or flames from a campfire come in contact with this mixture, an explosion occurs. Authorities are warning against getting too close to the lava flow because of the risk of a methane explosion.
In addition to the methane explosions, a tornado has formed over Litley-Hrutur. This unique phenomenon is the result of a combination of meteorological and geological factors. The intense heat radiated by the molten rock erupting from the volcano heats the air directly above it, causing it to rise. Under certain wind conditions, this column of hot air can twist into a tornado.
It is not yet clear whether the tornado is formed from superheated volcanic debris floating above the vent or from the heat of the lava flow itself. David Smart, a tornado and storm researcher at the Hazard Center at University College London, explains that tornadoes of this type are usually observed when there is a strong heat source on the ground and unstable atmospheric conditions near the surface.
Volcanic activity shows no signs of calming down anytime soon. Recent observations have revealed shifts in vent activity resulting in crater collapse and lava flow in the north and west directions. However, lava flow in the southern direction has so far been halted. The ongoing eruption continues to attract the attention of scientists and researchers, who are closely monitoring its development.