Eyjafjallajökull is an active stratovolcano that is located in Iceland and is covered by an icecap. It reaches an elevation of 5,417 feet and the ice cap covers an area of thirty-nine square miles. This volcano sits on a magma chamber that is powered by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and is comprised of andesite and basaltic lavas. The long name of this volcano is a combination of Icelandic words that mean “islands,” “mountains,” and “icecaps.” Although most of its eruptions are explosive, some activity occurs from fissures primarily on the west slope.

Eyjafjallajökull has erupted many times throughout recorded history including during the years of 920 and 1612. Between 1821 and 1823, eruptions caused a large jökulhlaup or glacial lake burst flood. The ash from these explosive eruptions contained a large amount of fluoride, which affected the bones of sheep, horses, cattle, and people. Some glacial flooding also occurred and heavy ash fall accumulated around the volcano, primarily to the west and south.

A nearby volcano known as Katla displayed activity and eruptions after all of Eyjafjallajökull’s past eruptions, and although Katla’s eruptions are larger, this evidence has shown that the two volcanoes could be related geographically. Despite this, the 2010 eruption was not closely followed by an eruption from Katla. This most recent eruption began in April of 2010, producing seismic activity in the form of mostly small earthquakes. Thousands of earthquakes were detected during the months of March and April and it is thought the eruption properly began at the end of March. The first sign of eruption, a fissure vent that opened on the eastern side of the volcano, was smaller than some geologists predicted.

After a short period of quiet, Eyjafjallajökull’s 2010 eruption continued, this time originating from the center of the crater. This caused a jökulhlaup and the evacuation of eight hundred people. The eruption caused air travel problems and electrical storms. Although the volcano is now considered dormant, it is still being monitored due to its production of daily earthquakes.

Image Caption: Gígjökull covered in ash after the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. Credit: Boaworm/Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0)