Iceland and its volcanoes have been in the news a lot lately. The Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland has been very active in March and April of 2010. The ash spewing forth from this volcano has resulted in the grounding of flights as far away as England, due to the danger it presents to airplanes. Prior to this tantrum, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano had not erupted for nearly 200 years. All of this attention serves to remind us that Iceland is a land of many volcanoes, some of which can have global consequences, should they erupt. With that in mind, here are a few facts about Iceland’s volcanoes that can give us an idea of what goes on there in the “land of fire and ice.”
Hawaii gets a lot of attention for its volcanoes. This is because it was formed by volcanoes. Evidence of their activity is present everywhere there. Nonetheless, there are only two active volcanoes in the State of Hawaii. Iceland has between 20 and 30 active volcanoes. That is more active volcanoes than any other place on Earth.
The most active volcano in Iceland is Hekla. Hekla has an elevation of 4,892 feet. It is a stratovolcano that is located in southern Iceland. Hekla has erupted roughly once every ten years for the past fifty years. A Hekla eruption can come on with little to no warning and can last for weeks or months. Hekla was less active in before the past fifty years. However, for some time, there was hardly a century that passed without at least one eruption from Hekla.
Iceland was formed from volcanic activity, like Hawaii. The American and Eurasian tectonic plate boundary goes through Iceland. The two plates pull apart, making it easy for lava to push through the gap. This is how Iceland was formed and why it has so many active volcanoes today.
In the past 500 years, nearly one-third of the Earth’s lava output has spewed forth in Iceland. Furthermore, 83% of the world’s sub glacial eruptions have occurred in Iceland. To put that into perspective, the area of Iceland has 39,707 square miles of land area. The entire Earth has roughly 57,393,000 square miles of land area. Iceland is sure pumping out a lot of lava, for such a small portion of the Earth.
From the above, you can clearly see why Iceland is called the “land of ice and fire.” Of course, given its position on this Earth, there is a lot of ice in Iceland. However, residents can warm up by taking a dip in the large number of the geothermal spas there. Despite the scary number of active volcanoes there, Iceland is easily one of the most beautiful and interesting places on Earth.
Volcanology Highlights, retrieved 4/16/10, volcano.si.edu/world/region.cfm?rnum=17&rpage=highlights
Volcanoes in Iceland, retrieved 4/16/10, kwintessential.co.uk/articles/article/Iceland?Volcanoes-in-Iceland/538
Seach, John, Hekla Volcano, retrieved 4/16/10, volcanolive.com.hekla.html