They’re one of the country’s main characteristics, a phenomenon that evokes historical fear, respect from the inhabitants and most recently a lot of annoyance from air travel passengers. They are our numerous active volcanoes or “fire mountains as we call them.
It might come as a surprise that impending volcanic eruptions don’t so much evoke fear in Icelanders but awe and interest. They pose no immediate threat to the majority of the population but make no mistake about it, they are a force to be reckoned with.
For those living in the slopes of these mountains, they can of course be dangerous, especially the ones that melt huge icecaps and might thus cause flooding.
Here’s a little introduction to a few of our most active volcanoes.
This is one notorious bad volcano, responsible for major worldwide air travel disruption for six days after it erupted in 2010 due to the amount of ash emitted into the atmosphere. Eyjafjallajökull is also notorious for being completely unpronounceable to anyone but Icelanders as became painfully obvious when world media tried to report on the eruption in 2010.
Eyjafjallajökull’s close neighbour and one of our most active volcanoes is one to watch out for in 2017. It has erupted 20 times since 930, with no more than 95 years passing between eruptions. The last one was in 1918 so you do the math. Some unusual seismic activity has been recorded there in the past few months but have no fear, it’s closely monitored and those living close by are well aware of the situation, and besides, you would never go hiking on a glacier without a guide, would you?
When I was little I used to think of Hekla as Katla’s friendlier and nicer younger sibling. I don’t know why. It’s as active as Katla with 20 eruptions recorded since settlement and during the middle ages it had the lovely nickname “the Gateway to Hell”. I think maybe I liked Hekla better because it’s an extremely picturesque mountain in my favourite part of the country. It last erupted in 2000.
And underneath it all…
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 emitted approximately 0,15 million tonnes of CO2 but because of the six-day disruption of flights all over Europe, the eruption saved the world an estimated 2 million tonnes of CO2.
For more information on volcanoes and the current seismic activity in Iceland, check out the Icelandic Met Office’s website: en.vedur.is (in English). You’ll be surprised by how much is going on underneath our feet.
Visit www.safetravel.is for general warnings and travel plans.