Reykjavik Excursions Blog
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Volcanos in Iceland

30 active volcanos

1/6/2017 Blog

All volcanos in Iceland were active at some point, but due to the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates pulling the country apart by about 2cm a year, the volcano‘s connection to magma rifts.

One of the most iconic glaciers in Iceland, Snæfellsjökull, is an old volcano and is considered active, having erupted a few times in the last 10.000 years, even though the last time was about 2200 years ago. Öræfajökull glacier is also an old volcano and considered Iceland‘s largest active volcano. It last erupted in 1727.

The oldest volcanos in Iceland are in the East and West fjords and are about 14-16 million years old, but they have been inactive for quite some time. The average lifespan is about a million years.

There have been six eruptions since the year 2000;

2000 in Hekla in South Iceland.

2004 in Grímsvötn in Vatnajökull glacier.

2010 in Fimmvörðuháls in Eyjafjallajökull glacier.

2010 in Eyjafjallajökull glacier.

2011 again in Grímsvötn.

2014-2015 in Bárðabunga, north of Vatnajökull glacier.

 In the 20th century, there were 45 eruptions, most often in Krafla and Grímsvötn.

Eyjafjallajokull-2010-05-13Eyjafjallajökull's eruption in 2010 .

As many know, the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 was quite large and disrupted air traffic for a few weeks. The volcano Katla is the one geologists and others are looking towards now and are monitoring closely. The volcano is under a glacier, like the volcano under Eyjafjallajökull ice cap, but Katla is known for massive and devastating eruptions. It usually erupts every 40-80 years, but it is about 100 years since it erupted last. However, geologists aren‘t too worried because they think the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 dissipated the magma pressure of Katla somewhat. They also believe there might have been three small eruptions in the years 1955, 1999 and 2011 that didn‘t break the ice cover.

The Katla eruption in 1918.

The 1918 eruption saw the smoke cloud reach 14.3km height (it reached 6km in the Eyjafjallajökull eruption), while 1755 eruption saw a flood which had water discharge comparable to the combined average discharge of the Amazon, Mississippi, Nile and Yangtze rivers. The eruption also extended the southern coast of Iceland by 5km due to laharic flood deposits.

Other notable Icelandic eruptions are for example the Skaftáreldar eruption in Lakagígar in June 1783 and lasted until February 1784. The eruption spewed toxic ashes and gases which devastated Iceland.

It is estimated the eruption killed 20-25% of the Icelandic population and over six million people globally which makes it the deadliest eruption in historical times.  The lava fountains were estimated to have reached heights of 800 – 1.400m, the craters poured out an estimated 14 km³ of basalt lava and covers around 600km².

Apart from almost 25% of the Icelandic population having died during the eruption, around 80% of sheep, 50% of cattle and 50% of horses died due to dental and skeletal fluorosis from the 8 million tonnes of hydrogen fluoride that was released.

Eyjafjallajokull_first_crater_20100329The Fimmvörðuháls eruption in 2010.

Not nearly all eruptions are this deadly or have as adverse effects as the Eyjafjallajökull‘s eruption in 2010 – a few weeks before Eyjafjallajökull erupted, Fimmvörðuháls had a so called „tourist eruption“. It was a beautiful eruption which saw people from all over (and quite a few not dressed for the occasion) go up to the mountain to see the eruption. Hekla also generally has these kinds of eruptions, although being a popular mountain to hike and it not generally giving a long warning before erupting, everyone hiking there should be aware.

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