Litli-Hrútur: Earth’s newest volcano has appeared in Iceland

A mesmerizing display of the power of nature has captured the world’s attention: a new volcano has appeared in Iceland. On July 10, 2023, cracks appeared at the base of a mountain in the volcanic region of Fagradalsfjall, from which lava and gas rushed into the air. Most of the cracks closed overnight, but one remained, becoming a crater that is now more than 30 m (98 ft) high. This newborn volcano, named Litli-Hrutur, became a sensation, with stunning images and live broadcasts attracting viewers around the world.

The birth of Litli-Hrutur is not a complete surprise, as volcanic activity in this part of Iceland is a common phenomenon. The Fagradalsfjall volcanic region was dormant for 800 years until it erupted again in March 2021 and again in August 2022. Before the last eruption, the region experienced thousands of earthquakes. Finally, on July 10, the earth opened up, releasing molten lava and marking the birth of Litli-Hrutur.

Once the cracks appeared, breathtaking images of the lava flow spread across social media like wildfire. Iceland’s national broadcaster RÚV also provided live streaming on its YouTube channel, allowing viewers to watch the volcanic spectacle in real time. Thanks to this accessibility, people from all over the world were able to witness the awesome power of nature.

Litli-Hrutur is located just 30.6 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Initially, the eruption led to restricted access due to toxic gases and fast-flowing lava causing fires in the dry landscape. However, firefighters quickly brought the situation under control. Since July 17, tourists have been allowed to visit the site, subject to daily assessment of safety conditions. Adventurous hikers who make the 9-kilometer (5.6-mile) hike or bicycle trek to the lookout will be rewarded with an up close and personal encounter with this mesmerizing geological spectacle.

Although Litley-Hrutur continues to mesmerize viewers, experts remain vigilant. In 2021, a few weeks after the first eruption, new fissures formed in the same area. Iceland’s meteorological service warns visitors of the danger and unpredictable nature of the lava flow. Laura Wainman, a graduate student who studies volcanoes, explains that there is a limit to which a crater can grow before becoming unstable. If activity remains high, sections of the crater wall could collapse, leading to further events.

Thanks to live streaming and social media, people from all corners of the globe can watch the development of Litli-Hrutur, Earth’s newest volcanic wonder. Scientists and experts are keeping a close eye on what is happening, and we can all watch this spectacular display of the power of nature in the front row.

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