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Top 3 most active volcanoes in Iceland at the moment

Iceland is one of the few places in the world where you have volcanic activity and glaciers at the same place. There are about 10 to 11% of Iceland covered with glaciers and at the same time we have over 30 active volcanoes here and many of them are located underneath the glaciers.

If we have a volcanic eruption underneath a glacier there will be a lot of ice melting in a very short period of time. Meaning a lot of water accumulate where the eruption is taking place inside the glacier and at some point, it will break out in a flash flood or Jökulhlaup (Glacier outburst) like we call it.

These Glacier outbursts are the main danger for people living nearby, so we have escape plans to follow if something like that happens. But more or less people are not living in these dangerous areas anymore, we have learned from experience where to live and where not to live.

Katla volcano

In the South part of Iceland, we have the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, the fourth largest glacier in Iceland, laying over the second biggest caldera in Iceland. The caldera of the volcano Katla covering about 110 km2. The volcano Katla has in the past been one of the most active volcanoes in Iceland, with a volcanic eruption about every 50 to 60 years on average. These volcanic eruptions have been melting a lot of ice each time causing big glacial outbursts down to Mýrdalssandur black sand area east of the village Vík, as well down to Sólheimasandur black sand area by the Sólheimajökull glacier.

The last big volcanic eruption in Katla was in 1918, it brought a lot of dirt (volcanic tephra) and icebergs to Mýrdalssandur black sand area and moved the coastline there forward about 2 kilometres. Since then Katla has been shaking every now and then. During the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in 2010, Katla was shaking a lot. With a lot of earthquakes underneath the Katla caldera and the land was rising around the volcano at the same time meaning magma was trying to push through.

So in the year 2011, we got what geologists believed to have been a small subglacial volcanic eruption in Katla. There was a lot of glacier ice that melted and we go a small glacier outburst from underneath the Kötlujökull outlet glacier east of Vík. The outburst was not very big but it managed to destroy the bridge across the Múlakvísl river east of Vík.

A similar event occurred in July 1999 when there was a small glacier outburst that came from underneath Sólheimajökull glacier, which can be attributed to volcanic activity in the volcano Katla.

This year (2018), in October will be the 100 years anniversary of the last big volcanic eruption in Katla, we hope Katla will not celebrate with a volcanic eruption, but who knows. For the last weeks, Katla has been quite calm. You can follow up with the earthquakes activities in Mýrdalsjökull and volcano Katla here.


But this is not the only thing that is going on here in Iceland these days. The volcano Öræfajökull has woken up after a long sleep. The Öræfajökull volcano is like the volcano Katla an ice-covered volcano and one of the biggest volcano in Iceland. Öræfajökull volcano is located in the Öræfajökull glacier, on the south part of the Vatnajökull ice cap, by Hvannadalshnjúkur mountain 2109 meters high.

Öræfajökull has in the past been one of the most devastating volcanoes in Iceland. Erupting twice since the settlement time of Iceland. First in the year 1362 with the biggest volcanic eruption in Iceland since the settlement time, destroying the region Hérað south of the volcano, killing people and livestock and destroying farms. After that volcanic eruption, the area south of Öræfajökull got the name Öræfi or Wasteland in English. Meaning no one was able to live there for a long time. Again in the year 1722, when the region had finally recovered from the eruption, in the year 1362, there was another eruption in Öræfajökull, also destroying farms and killing people and livestock.

Since that time Öræfajökull has been quiet, until September last year (2017) scientists began to see increasing seismicity activity in the volcano and late last year (2017), the scientist could see a big depression forming inside the caldera, because of warm coming through the volcano and melting the ice cover from underneath.

No one knows what will happen next we can maybe expect a volcanic eruption there in the nearest future, but also it could cool down again. The only way to know is to monitor the Öræfajökull behaviour and see what will happen.

You can follow up with the seismicity in Öræfajökull volcano here.

Bárðarbunga volcano and Vatnajökull glacier

Volcano Bárðarbugna located in the northwest part of the Vatnajökull glacier is also on alert. And scientists are following up with the seismicity activity there as well. There was a volcanic eruption in the Bárðarbunga volcanic system in the year 2014 with a big lava fissure eruption forming the biggest lava field in Iceland since Skaftáreldar (1783), covering about 85 km2.

What will happen next?

Therefore we can say that there are many things going on in the volcanic activity in Iceland these days. But who will it be, what volcano will be the next to erupt. Will it be Katla or Öræfajökull or will we have another volcanic eruption in Bárðarbunga?

You can follow up with the seismicity in Bárðarbunga volcano here.

Or what about volcano Hekla and volcano Grímsvötn will they be next?

Let's wait and see

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