There are 130 volcanoes in Iceland of which over 30 have erupted in the last 1000 years. One eruption, at Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 caused widespread disruption across Western Europe, much more so than would be expected for an eruption of this size. Here we look at the volcanic eruption in detail to study the causes and the effects of the eruption and examine how the disruption could be mitigated next time. 

Iceland volcano name - Eyjafjallajökull

There are lots of volcanoes in Iceland, not just this one, but this one is perhaps internationally, the most well known, due to its recent eruption in 2010. 

Eyjafjallajökull means the glacier of the Eyjafjoll and Eyjafjoll means the 'mountains of the islands'  so altogether it translates as the glacier of the mountains of the islands. But can you pronounce it? listen to the short video and see if you can pronounce it.

What does the name

Eyjafjallajökull

mean?

How do you

pronounce 

Eyjafjallajökull?

aye -ya fyah dla jow kudl

Where is Eyjafjallajökull?

Eyjafjallajökull map

Eyjafjallajökull is situated on the southern tip of the main island of Iceland. It is a volcano that sits underneath a glacier, so when it erupts, there is thousands of tonnes of snow and ice to melt first creating massive steam and ash clouds. 

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Eyjafjallajökull volcano type 

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Eyjafjallajökull is a stratovolcano. 

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The 2010 eruption sent an ash cloud 10,000 meters in the air making it a Strombolian eruption.

Eyjafjallajökull facts

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From space

  • Eyjafjallajökull has erupted in the years 920, 1612, 1821 and 2010.

  • Its summit is 1,651 meters above sea level.

  • The crater at the top is 4 km across. 

  • The 2010 eruption caused the most widespread air travel disruption for 65 years.

  • The top of the volcano is covered with Ice, 100 square kilometers of it.

Why does Iceland have volcanoes?

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The tallest volcano in Iceland is also very broad. It is a shield volcano.

Iceland has a high concentration of active volcanoes due to its location on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary, and also due to its location over a hot spot. The island has 30 active volcanic systems, of which 13 have erupted since thesettlement of Iceland in AD 874.  

Why did

Eyjafjallajökull erupt?

Iceland sits on a boundary between two tectonic plates. It lies where the Eurasian plate meets the North American plate. The plate boundary is pulling apart at a rate of 2 cm a year. On the boundary can be found numerous volcanoes and these erupt fairly frequently. 

why did Eyjafjallajökull erupt?

Eyjafjallajökull eruption - before the eruption

Before the eruption,

over 3,000 small earthquakes were detected all eminating from the same location as can be seen on this diagram on the right. 

Before the eruption,

the high number of earthquakes and the swelling of the ground as measured by the meteorological Institute of Iceland lead geophysicists (scientists that study rocks underground) to believe that an eruption was eminent.

 

Before the eruption,

the geophysicists assumed that magma was pouring into the magma chamber from deep beneath the crust. 

before the Eyjafjallajökull eruption

Eyjafjallajökull eruption - during the eruption

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Fissure volcano

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Ash cloud

During the eruption,

The volcano first erupted on  the 20th March 2010. A fissure vent volcano opened that was not under the glacier and was not as large as expected. 

 

During the eruption,

On the 14th April, after a brief pause, a new eruption occured directly underneath the glacier. The heat of the volcano melted the glacier causing a huge rush of meltwater to flow down the mountain creating floods. 800 people had to be evacuated

 

During the eruption,

The meltwater was able to get into the vent of the volcano creating an explosive eruption sending an ash cloud many kilometers into the air. This disrupted air travel across a wide are leading to cancelled flights and millions of displaced travellers

The Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud

  • Most of European airspace closed for 6 days from April 15-21. 

  • 100,000 flights cancelled.

  • Over 10 million people left stranded.

  • Airports lost $1.7 billion.

  • 30% of world airline capacity cut. 

  • The OECD says the ash cloud cost the European economy $5 billion. 

  • Some hotels lost money due to missing tourists, whilst others made money from stranded tourists.

  • The Azores in the Atlantic did really well from flight diversions. 

  • Airline kerosene usage went down by 1.2 million barrels a day. 

  • Currencies in emerging market economies that are reliant on tourism weakened.

ash cloud

The ash cloud at its peak.

Eyjafjallajökull eruption - after the eruption

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The eruption quietened down and seismologists labelled the volcano as dormant on 10th August 2010. 

What remains is snow, snow and snow. No signs of an eruption remain as the lava flow and flood damage are buried under the snow. 

Volcanoes in Iceland

Name

Öræfajökull

Bárðarbunga

Kverkfjöll

Hofsjökull

Esjufjöll

Grímsvötn

Laki

Herðubreið

Eyjafjallajökull

Loki-Fögrufjöll

Tungnafellsjökull

Askja

Katla

Hekla

Kerlingarfjöll

Tindfjallajökull

Snæfellsjökull

Prestahnúkur

Hveravellir

Torfajökull

Vatnafjöll

Kollóttadyngja

volcanoes facts | volcano for kids
Elevation (m)

2119

2005

1920

1782

1760

1725

1725

1682

1666

1570

1535

1516

1512

1491

1488

1463

1448

1386

1360

1259

1235

1177

 

Coordinates

64.00°N 16.65°W

64.64°N 17.56°W

64.65°N 16.72°W

64.85°N 19.53°W

64.27°N 16.65°W

64.42°N 17.33°W

64.06°N 18.22°W

65.18°N 16.34°W

63.63°N 19.62°W

64.48°N 17.80°W

64.73°N 17.92°W

65.03°N 16.75°W

63.63°N 19.05°W

63.98°N 19.70°W

64.63°N 19.32°W

63.78°N 19.57°W

64.80°N 23.78°W

64.60°N 20.60°W

64.75°N 19.98°W

63.92°N 19.17°W

63.92°N 19.67°W

65.22°N 16.55°W

 

Last eruption

1727

2015

1968

dormant

1927

2011

1783-84

dormant

2010

1910

dormant

1961

1918

2000

dormant

dormant

200 AD (± 150 years)

7550 BC (± 500 years)

950 AD ± 50 years

1477

750 AD (± 1000 years)

unknown

 

The volcanoes in Iceland can be found in long lines which stretch across the plate boundaries and the fault lines within the crust.  

 

On a map of Iceland, can you plot these volcanoes and then use these plots to locate the plate boundaries in Iceland?

Map showing location 

of Iceland's volcanoes.

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EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL ERUPTION 2010