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So Much Lava Is Oozing Out of Iceland That You Can See It From Space

Volcano

So much lava is spewing forth from an erupting volcano in Iceland that it can be spotted from space.

A breathtaking image taken by the European Space Agency's Copernicus' SENTINEL-2 satellite last week, shows massive rivers of glowing-red lava emanating from deep below the snow-covered surface.

It's the aftermath of the third eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano since December — an escalation of epic proportions that sets the tone for uncertain geological times ahead.

Credit: ESA
Credit: ESA

Magma Vision

So much lava has poured forth that the Blue Lagoon spa, one of Iceland's biggest tourist attractions, had to be evacuated last week.

Fortunately, the town of Grindavik, which is roughly 2.5 miles southwest of the eruption site, was evacuated back when the town's residents were forced to leave their homes during the first major eruption on December 18.

The ongoing eruptions are leaving a visible mark on the surrounding landscape. Previous satellite imagery taken by the SENTINEL-2 before the latest outbreak showed massive regions of solidified lava, dark patches showing up perfectly against the freshly fallen snow.

Volcanic Era

Iceland is no stronger to volcanic activity. The island nation, which sits on the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, is home to more than 100 volcanoes, 30 of which are currently active.

However, the last time the affected Reykjanes peninsula saw lava rise to the surface was roughly 800 years ago.

"Over geological time, the tectonic plates are pulling apart at about the speed that your fingernails grow, so a few centimeters a year," University of Oxford Earth scientist Tamsin Mather told the BBC. "But they don't seem to smoothly pull apart — they go through these pulses of higher activity."

Scientists are now expecting the area to be rocked by more "relatively small, relatively short-lived eruptions over the coming years and decades," he added.

That's not exactly good news, considering the region is the most densely populated part of the country, and features an international airport, massive geothermal power plants, and important tourist infrastructure.

In short, Iceland is entering a new volcanic era — and nobody's entirely sure what that'll entail.

More on Iceland: Watch Workers Desperately Try to Stop Oncoming Lava