Iceland, A Land Of Fire And Ice

Apr 16, 2010 By Deepa
Deepa Gopal's picture

Chunks of ice started falling from the sky after a volcano next to the Eyjafjallajokull (pronounced "AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl-uh") glacier in Iceland erupted for a second time in mid-April.

This second eruption was much larger and sent a plume of smoke about 18,000 feet high, with ash clouds rising to 35,000 feet. The drifting ash clouds moved towards Europe and Russia and stalled many flights across the region. 

The hot lava also caused the glacial river to swell up and overflow its banks. Many people were evacuated from the area and residents were advised to wear masks to prevent respiratory problems. There is fear that this volcano could trigger the larger Katla volcano nearby.

Aviation Hazard

Volcanic ash clouds are a hazard to aviation as they not only reduce visibility, but also damage the engine and flight control systems (as seen in the video). Not much was known about the impact of volcanic ash, until two flights over an Indonesian volcano in the 1980's almost suffered engine failure. Both aircrafts recovered and landed safely following emergency landing procedures.

After a few days of complete ban on flights, the airspace was reopened. The aviation industry, along with others such as automobile, manufacturing and food imports/exports were impacted by this ban.

Iceland's Geology

Iceland is a country in the North Atlantic Ocean that is aptly known as the "Land of Fire and Ice". It is an island born out of volcanic eruptions over millions of years. Up until 8000 years ago, the entire island was buried under ice. Slowly, as the glaciers melted, they carved the island's spectacular valleys and fjords (deep glacial valleys that are flooded by the sea). 

Iceland sits at the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, known as the mid-Atlantic ridge. Movement of these plates over the last 180 million years has resulted in the continent of Europe separating from North America and the continent of Africa from South America. The island of Iceland is under two opposing forces - the separating plates that are ripping the island apart and the volcanoes that are building up the island.

Of Iceland’s 100 most active volcanoes, 25 have erupted in recent history, and 35 volcanoes have erupted in the last 10,000 years. Iceland is also home to some of the greatest geysers in the world. As a matter of fact, the word geyser originated from a large geyser in Iceland known as "Great Geysir".

The island was briefly settled by Irish monks in the 8th century, but the first permanent settlers were the Norwegian Vikings in the 9th century AD. The present day people are primarily of Norwegian, Irish and Scottish origin. About 60% of the country's population lives in the capital, Reykjavik