Active Volcanoes Iceland
Iceland has a total of 35 active volcanoes, both on and around the whole island. The three biggest and most dangerous Hekla, Katla and Grimsvotn, lie along the boundary of the Mid-Atlantic ridge which is where the North American and the Eurasian continental tectonic plates meet.
Tourists flock to Iceland for a glimpse of the spectacular scenery caused by an erupting volcano - whether that be palls of smoke rising into the sky or the incredible site of lava flow as it trundles down the steep mountain sides.
Such is the volcanic activity in Iceland, that a permanent smell of sulphur lingers in the air no matter where you go, and the visitor to Iceland will find that smell clinging to his clothes when he unpacks his suitcase on arrival home, no matter how well his clothes were laundered.
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge runs form North to South right through the middle of Iceland, and it is around this plate boundary most volcanic activity takes place.
The active volcanoes on Iceland account for an incredible one third of the total lava output globally, and those are as follows:
- Theistareykjarbunga - one of the youngest volcanoes on Iceland, believed to date back 2,700 years.
- Krafla - 3,800 years old and one of the most spectacular volcanoes, frequently sending out plumes of fiery lava fountains.
- Fremrinamurv - 3,800 years old.
- Askja - 10,000 years old. Last major eruption 1875, but still puts on smaller displays today.
- Lysuhóll - Iceland's smallest volcano.
- Tungnafellsjökull - currently dormant.
- Kverkfjöll - currently dormant - last erupted in 1968.
- Kerlingarfjöll - currently dormant (but not extinct).
- Bárdarbunga - last major eruption in 1477 when it produced the largest ever lava flow on Earth. Has erupted as recently as 1902.
- Loki-Fögrufjöll volcano - dormant at the moment. Last erupted in 1961.
- Grímsvötn - most of it is hidden beneath Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier. Erupts frequently. Killed a fifth of Iceland's population when it erupted in 1793. Is erupting now, May 2011.
- Esjufjöll - last erupted in 1927, but currently dormant.
- Öraefajökull - the highest peak in Iceland, and is arguably it's most violent volcano. It's last eruption in 1727-28 caused widespread damage and fatalities.
- Hekla - One of Iceland's most active volcanoes with frequent eruptions, the most recent being in 2000.
- Torfajökull - most recent eruption 1477.
- Krísuvík - last known eruption in the 14th century, but in 2009 the whole area was uplifted by 3cms, indicating subterranean activity.
- Brennisteinsfjöll - last known eruption in the 14th century.
- Katla - one of iceland's most dangerous volcanies, erupting every 50 - 100 years causing widespread damage. Hidden beneath the Myrdalsjökull icecap, it's erupting causes devastating glacial floods. Scientists are watching it closely and believe an eruption is imminent.
- Eyafjallajökull - erupted in 2010 for the first time in 200 years, causing widespread and caused the greatest closure of European airspace since World War II.
- Vestmannaeyjar (Heimaey + Surtsey) - a mostly underwater volcano. the island of Surstey only appeared in 1963.
Iceland was first settled by the Vikings in the 9th century, and it's first parliament was formed in the year 930 AD.
The people have a great history of documenting volcanic activity. Intelligent and educated, Icelandic people today have an amazing 100% literacy rate, which is a world record breaker.
Today, 260,000 people live in Iceland, but in their chequered past they lost a devastating one third of their population to smallpox during the years 1707 - 1709.
Later that same century they lost a fifth of their population when Grímsvötn erupted in 1793. The plumes of volcanic ash settled on the ground and prevented crops from growing, as well as killing wildlife and livestock. Many of the people people perished from starvation.
Iceland became completely independent of Denmark in 1944.
Video of Iceland volcano eruption, giant ash clouds from Grimsvotn, 2011
Grimsvotn Eruption May 2011
May 2011 sees Iceland's most active volcano,Grimsvotn, erupting again, with a giant plume of smoke rising up 12 miles into the atmosphere.
All of Iceland's airports are closed as a temporary measure until scientists can determine whether the type of ash exuded from Grimsvotn is a danger to aircraft.
On this occasion, the ash seems to be heavier and coarser, and is mostly falling to the ground, resulting in large tracts of South east Iceland suffering from reduced visibility and almost total darkness as the the sun's light is being blocked out.
There is some fear that low lying ash could be carried on the winds to Northern Europe over the course of the next few days, although transatlantic flights are unlikely to be affected.