Eyjafjallajökull: The Difficult to Pronounce Volcano

Eyjafjallajökull comes under the list of one of the smaller ice caps in the country and is situated north of Skogar and west of Myrdalsjokull. The ice cap covers the caldera of a volcano with an elevation of 5,417 ft. The volcano has been erupting frequently and the last one in 2010 has been the most dramatic.

The Eyjafjallajökull consists of a volcano covered by an ice cap. The cap covers an area of around 100 sq kms and feeds many glacial outlets. The main outlet glaciers are Gígjökull to the north which flows into the Lonið and Steinholtsjökull which flows into Steinhóltslón. The mountain is a stratovolcano and the crater rim has three main peaks: Guðnasteinn (approx 4,900 ft), Hamundur (approx 5,417 ft) and Goðasteinn (approx 4,911 ft). An interesting fact is that, the south face of the mountain was once part of Icelands’ Atlantic coastline, from which, over millennia, the sea has retreated nearly 5 kms. The former coastline now consists of cliffs, waterfalls of which the most famous is Skógafoss. During strong winds, water from the smaller falls can get blown up over the mountains. The area between the mountain and the present coastline is a flat stretch of nearly 5 km called Eyjafjöll.

The volcano is fed by the magma chamber under the mountain, which is derived from the tectonic divergence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This volcano is part of the series of volcanoes stretching all across Iceland. The active volcanoes close by are, Katla to the northeast and Eldfell on Heimaey to the southwest. Scientists theorise that this volcano is connected to the Katla volcano and the presumption is that the eruptions at Eyjafjallajökull are generally followed by eruptions of Katla.

Eyjafjallajökull volcano had three big eruptions in 2010, in the months of March, April and June. There were minor eruptions in May. The eruption in March was followed by a evacuation of nearly 500 locals. But the eruption on 14th April was many times that of March.

The April eruption spewed volcanic ash up several kilometers which led to air travel disruption in northwest Europe for nearly 6 days. Many air spaces were closed over Europe. The eruptions also created electrical storms. Nearly 10,000 flights over Europe were cancelled. Massive ash clouds could be seen across television sets throughout the world, with telecasters finding it difficult to pronounce this 16-syllable, now infamous, glacier. For those who wish to delve deeper into volcanoes, especially the 2010 eruption there is a visitor centre on Thorvaldseyri (Þorvaldseyri) a few kilometers before one reaches Skógar right on Highway No. 1.

Iceland is fighting a battle with climate change. It is losing its ice to greenhouse gases, pollution and environmental damage. The sad case is that of Okjökull glacier. This glacier has lost its title as a glacier and is now simply called Ok. In order to fit the criteria to be called a glacier, the glacier needs to be thick enough to have a certain mass and move under their own weight.