The fire fountains of Surtsey

SurtseyNow nearly five months old, the volcanic island of Surtsey, still erupting and building up from the seafloor off the southern coast of Iceland, transitions to a new phase of its eruption. The explosive eruptions, caused by hot magma coming into direct contact with seawater, subside as the volcanic vents are now permanently above sea level. Almost a mile in diameter, Surtsey’s eruptions transition to lava fountains and lava flows, which harden as they are cooled by the coastal water. This harder material helps to protect Surtsey from being eroded away, and eruptions will continue to add more land area to Surtsey through 1965. Surtsey is almost ready for brief visits from human researchers, who will find life taking root on the island much sooner than expected.