Lava flow

Mysteries lurk below Iceland's restless volcanoes

The unusual chemistry of the lava burbling to the island’s surface has raised many questions about what's churning deep below.

Lava bursts through the surface on Iceland's Reykjanes peninsula, traveling from a magmatic reservoir much deeper underground than most volcanoes around the world.

Last week, Eniko Bali was settling down to eat lunch within one of Iceland’s many ancient volcanic craters, as geologists do, when she got a text. The Reykjanes peninsula was erupting, again.

The geologist at the University of Iceland and her team were planning to sample rock from some of the island's many historic eruptions. But with fresh fiery fury underway, Bali and her colleagues went to see the geologic show. When they arrived, just a couple of hours after the eruption began, a long line of fountains were shooting incandescent lava into the sky, and radiant rivers of molten rock were snaking through Meradalir valley.

The volcanoes of the Reykjanes peninsula had slumbered for nearly 800 years. But in 2021 the geologic giants stirred, spewing lava for six months. Now the ruckus has started again.

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