Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Geology

40 years today, since one of the largest volcanic eruption of modern history in Iceland took place

By Staff

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the eruptions in Krafla in North East Iceland, one of the largest volcanic eruption in modern Icelandic history. The eruption, which came from the magma chamber of the Krafla volcanic system, lasted with several pauses for almost nine years, during which time the system erupted nine times.

The eruption, which is known as “The Fires of Krafla” produced a 36 sq. km (13.9 sq. m) lava field. To put this into context, the lava field produced by the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption North of Vatnajökull glacier is 85 square km (32 sq. m).

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Nine years of volcanic activity
The Fires of Krafla had begun with increased seismic activity in the second half of 1975, which allowed scientists and engineers who were working on the geothermal power plant by the mountain Krafla, Kröfluvirkjun, just north of the popular geothermal area Leirhnjúkar, to anticipate and predict the eruption. The first eruption, which began shortly before noon on December 20 1975, lasted only a few hours.

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In the coming years periods of calm were broken up by activity as magna was pushed from shallow magma chambers into the fissure swarm, accompanied by earthquakes, increased geothermal activity and volcanic eruptions. A total of 17 separate volcano-tectonic events, including 9 eruptions with lava flowing above ground, took place until the activity ceased on September 18 1984.

Compared to the recent activity in Bárðarbunga
The recent volcanic activity in the Bárðarbunga caldera in Vatnajökull glacier has been compared to the Fires of Krafla. According to this theory the 2014-2015 Holuraun eruption north of Vatnajökull glacier, was part of a larger series of events which could still be underway. The Bárðarbunga volcano is one of the largest in Iceland, and scientists have warned that an eruption from Bárðarbunga could dwarf recent eruptions, including the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which paralyzed air-traffic in Europe.

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