Volcanoes

Iceland contains some fascinating volcanoes. The volcanism in Iceland is attributed to the combination of Mid-Atlantic Ridge activity and hot spot, mantle plume, activity. Eruptions occur about every 5-10 years. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is visible on land in Iceland and gives an indication of volcanic activity not normally observed.

Iceland is a scientist’s dream. Researchers from around the world come to the “Land of Fire and Ice” to study volcano-ice interactions through time, ancient lava flows and the movement of continental plates. Iceland’s landscapes provide insights into land-based geological processes not visible anywhere else on earth. Environments forged by the processes of volcanism are diverse and immensely captivating. Rhyolitic structures, steep-sided layers of tephra girded by ice walls, columnar basalt formations, ice vaults, lava fields and lunar-like craters elicit wonder and create a sense of adventure.

Fire and Ice
Almost 60% of the world's regional fissure eruptions have been in Iceland. Fissure volcanism is mostly associated with ridges, and Iceland’s location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge means that Iceland is the best place to see fissure volcanoes. Many other types of volcanoes can be found in Iceland, including subglacial volcanoes, also referred to as glaciovolcanoes; stratovolcanoes, calderas and shield volcanoes. Volcano-ice interactions are of special interest to scientists, since the rock fragments that remain long after subglacial eruptions can provide unique insights into our planet’s geological past, as well as climate cycles.

Iceland is one of the most active volcanic regions on Earth. It is estimated that 1/3 of the lava erupted since 1500 A.D. was produced in Iceland. Iceland has 35 volcanoes that have erupted in the last 10,000 years. Eleven volcanoes have erupted between 1900 and 1998: Krafla, Askja, Grímsvötn (Grimsvotn), Laki-Fögrufjöll (Laki-Fogrufjoll), Bárðarbunga (Bardarbunga), Kverkfjöll (Kverkfjoll), Esjufjöll (Esjufjoll), Hekla, Katla, Surtsey, and Heimaey. Most of the eruptions were from fissures or shield volcanoes and involve the effusion of basaltic lava.

Laki and Eldgjá
The 1783 eruption at Laki was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in historic times. It produced 14-15 cubic km of basaltic lava. Laki or Lakagígar (Craters of Laki) is a volcanic fissure, part of the Grimsvotn volcanic system. The eruption started on June 8, when the torrent of lava surged down the river bed of Skaftá (Skafta) river, filling the Skaftá gorge. Over an eight-month period, from June 1783 to February the following year, the basaltic lava that flowed out of the Laki volcanic craters covered an area around 600 km2 (230 sq. miles). It is thought that the lava flow was as much as 6000 m3 per second, that the fire fountains were between 800-1400 metres (2500-4500 ft.) tall, and the column of ash is estimated to have risen to a height of 15 km (9 miles).

In 934 AD, an even larger basaltic eruption occurred – the Eldgjá eruption that produced nearly 20 cubic km of lava. The Eldgjá eruption is the largest flood basalt in historic times, covering an area of approximately 800 sq. km. Eldgjá means "Fire canyon" in Icelandic.

Recent eruptions include the 1974-1984 eruption at Krafla, a brief eruption at Hekla in 1991 and again on 26 February 2000; four eruptions at Grimsvotn: in 1996, 1998, 2004, 2011 and the eruption at Eyjafjallajökull (Eyjafjallajokull) in 2010.
 

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