When we think of active volcanoes, our minds often drift to the dramatic landscapes of the Pacific’s Ring of Fire. But there’s a twist in the tale – Europe, perceived as a calm, old continent, is not as dormant as we like to believe.
The most active volcano in Europe? If you guessed Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, you’re spot on. With around 200 eruptions, this fiery giant last awakened in August 2023.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Iceland’s Fiery Surprise
In the land of fire and ice, Iceland, a much younger volcano, made headlines on July 10, 2023. Three fissures opened up on a southwest peninsula at the base of a mountain quaintly named ‘Little Ram.’
This eruption, spewing molten lava and gas plumes, wasn’t a shock to the scientific community.
The area, nestled between Reykjavik and Keflavik, had been dormant for eight centuries but erupted in the two summers preceding 2023. Seismologists had recorded over 12,000 tremors leading up to this spectacular event.
The Lure of Volcano Tourism
Iceland’s newest volcanic addition has become a hotspot for a unique form of tourism. Visitors from around the globe flock to witness these natural wonders. But is it safe?
Thanks to Iceland’s rigorous research and monitoring of its over 130 volcanoes, including about 30 active ones, the answer is a reassuring yes.
The country’s emergency services are well-versed in managing such events, ensuring that tourists can experience the awe of volcanoes without compromising safety.
The 2010 Airspace Crisis
The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, a tongue-twistingly named volcano in southern Iceland, was a relatively small event with colossal consequences. It sent a volcanic ash plume over nine kilometers high, leading to a month-long air travel disruption across Europe.
This incident caused an estimated £130 million daily loss for airlines and left millions of passengers stranded. The National Centre for Atmospheric Science’s intervention was crucial in mapping the ash plume, using specialized aircraft and computer models.
Witnessing the Birth of a New Landscape
The eruption’s aftermath is a spectacle in itself. The lava, categorized as ‘Aa type‘ – a term from Hawaii describing rough, brittle lava – forms a slow-moving, majestic river of fire.
This natural phenomenon is not just a visual treat but also an auditory one, with the lava producing a sound akin to shattering glass. The eruption has reshaped the landscape, with a new crater growing almost 100 feet tall in its first week.
The Story of Iceland’s Formation
Iceland’s volcanic activity is a window into the island’s creation. Sitting atop the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, Iceland is a living example of geological forces at work.
The island, formed over 60 million years ago, continues to evolve, with its oldest parts being only 16 million years old. This constant reshaping by volcanic activity makes Iceland a fascinating case study for scientists and a mesmerizing destination for tourists.
The Future of Volcanic Activity In Europe
As we look ahead, volcanologists predict an era of increased volcanic activity in Europe, particularly Iceland.
The recent eruptions are a prelude to more frequent and possibly more intense volcanic events.
This natural phenomenon, while awe-inspiring, is a testament to our planet’s dynamic and ever-changing nature.
Martha A. Lavallie
Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.