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Top 5 Volcanic Eruptions In Iceland's History

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Iceland is commonly known as "The Land Of Fire & Ice" due to its volcanic and glacial terrain that continues to shape Iceland's landscape and heavily influences its culture.

Iceland is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a tectonic plate boundary where the North American and Eurasian plates meet. This unique geological setting results in high levels of volcanic activity. Iceland has experienced numerous volcanic eruptions throughout its history and is home to some of the most feared volcanoes on the planet. It has 32 known active volcanoes which are constantly monitored, But none is monitored as closely as Katla Volcano.

One of the nation's largest and most feared, Katla lies under glacial ice hundreds of meters thick, meaning that any eruption will likely melt the ice and cause widespread flooding. Here is a map of all active volcanoes in Iceland.

There is a Netflix series named Katla, which imagines a dystopian scenario of the eruption of a sub-glacial volcano and what mysteries unravel from it. Make sure to check it out!

Iceland has experienced many volcanic eruptions throughout its time, since it was first discovered by the first Viking settlers!

At the time of writing this article on 1st December 2023, Iceland is preparing for another volcanic eruption as the town of Grindavik has been evacuated due to massive cracks in earth and constant earthquakes which have shaken the town.

Now, while Iceland prepares for another volcanic eruption, here are some of the most catastrophic eruptions in Iceland's history:- (Top 5 Iceland volcanic eruptions)

1. Laki Eruption (1783-1784): The Laki eruption is considered one of the most significant volcanic events in Icelandic history. It began in June 1783 and continued until February 1784. The eruption occurred in the Lakagígar crater row, releasing large amounts of lava and poisonous gases. The resulting impact on climate and agriculture led to widespread crop failure and livestock deaths, contributing to a famine that had devastating effects on the population. It's effect reached france and caused famines so terrible that it's considered one of the driving catalyst for french revolution by some of the historians.

2. Askja Eruption (1875-1876): The Askja eruption is another notable event in Icelandic history. It took place in the central highlands of Iceland, in the Askja caldera. The eruption caused the formation of a new crater named Víti, meaning "hell" in Icelandic. This event had significant geological and environmental consequences.

3. Heimaey Westman Islands (1973): The 1973 eruption in Heimaey, part of the Westman Islands archipelago in Iceland, was a significant volcanic event that had both immediate and long-term impacts on the island and its residents. The eruption occurred at Eldfell, a volcanic cone on Heimaey, which had been dormant for about 7,000 years before the eruption.

On the night of January 23-24, a series of earthquakes began, signaling the impending eruption. A volcanic fissure opened on the eastern side of the island, with lava fountains reaching heights of up to 150 meters. Residents and emergency services worked tirelessly to divert the lava flow, using seawater to cool and solidify the advancing lava.

The eruption led to the creation of a new mountain, Eldfell, which rose to a height of about 220 meters (720 feet).

The entire population of Heimaey, around 5,300 people, was evacuated during the eruption.

Fortunately, no lives were lost directly due to the eruption, but there was significant property damage.

4. Eyjafjallajökull Eruption (2010): The Eyjafjallajökull eruption garnered international attention due to its impact on air travel. The eruption began in March 2010 and caused the closure of airspace over much of Europe in April 2010. The volcanic ash cloud disrupted air travel for several days, affecting millions of passengers and highlighting the vulnerability of modern air transportation to volcanic activity.

5. Holuhraun (2014-2015): The Holuhraun eruption in Iceland occurred in 2014 and continued into early 2015, and it was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in Iceland in recent decades.

The eruption took place in the Holuhraun lava field, a relatively uninhabited area north of the Vatnajökull Glacier in the Highlands of Iceland. The eruption emitted large quantities of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other gases, impacting air quality in parts of Iceland.

The eruption significantly altered the landscape, creating a vast expanse of new lava fields.

It's important to note that Iceland has a dynamic volcanic landscape, and eruptions continue to occur periodically. While the eruptions mentioned above are among the most notable, there have been numerous other volcanic events shaping Iceland's geology and impacting its environment over the centuries.

So what are you thinking!? Plan your trip to this unique geological wonder and experience the Icelandic landscape, But make sure to prepare well for Icelandic journey as the weather conditions can be really dynamic in Iceland. Make sure to check for weather alerts, warnings and keep track of transportation. Watch this 👇 Ultimate Iceland travel guide before you embark on your next Icelandic adventure, It's really helpful!

Bárður The Protector Of Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Bárður The Protector Of Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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