Iceland has not seen any volcano erupt during the past 800 years. It suddenly discovers a change in the scenario with the resumption of volcanic activity heralded by umpteen earthquakes. This is an example of how little we know about this world of ours. The volcanoes are in the Reykjanes peninsula located near Reykjavik, the capital. There have been thousands of quakes since 21 January with corresponding land uplift to the extent of about 4 inches (10cm). The Guardian quotes a volcanologist at Lancaster University saying - “It seems that after being relatively inactive for many centuries, this region is waking up.” Scientists caution that the region would continue to feel the effects for centuries to come.

Some areas of the world are prone to volcanoes and those who live in such areas seek out safe shelters during the eruptions. However, the volcanoes in the Reykjanes peninsula of Iceland are in a unique category.

The Guardian describes the area. The recent quakes happened near the town of Grindavík. This is the place known as the Blue Lagoon, which is a popular tourist destination. Iceland’s international airport is not too far away. The region witnessed volcanic eruptions about 800 years ago. There have been a few recent eruptions but they were in the interior. There are five volcanic systems in the area and these become active every 1,000 years. This is a freak of nature and the people of Iceland have to live with it.

History of volcanic activity in Iceland

The nature of volcanic activity on the peninsula is different from typical Icelandic volcanoes. The former began in the 10th century and continued until the 13th. It seems the eruptions between 1210 and 1240 covered about 19.3 square miles (50 sq km) of land in lava. Winds carried volcanic rock fragments and particles to distant places and endangered the local livestock.

However, typical Icelandic volcanoes remain active for a few years and subsequently die down. In the opinion of the Iceland GeoSurvey, similar eruptions today could damage the runways at Keflavík airport with a thick deposit of ash. That would affect flights.

The Guardian also cautions about possible damages to other infrastructure.

It quotes an official of the Icelandic Meteorological Office saying - “The worst-case scenario is if lava flows towards the town of Grindavík.” It could damage the geothermal power plant that provides hot and cold water. In short, residents of the Reykjanes peninsula would have to be on guard against the volcanic activity that could spread over generations.

Volcanoes in Iceland disrupt travel to Europe

According to Daily Mail UK, Iceland has witnessed the results of the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. The clouds of ash-covered extensive areas of Europe and led to a major upset in global Travel. The international airport Keflavík is not too far away from the volcanic hotspot and the eruptions could give ruse to large-scale disruption in the international travel of the country.

The majority of incoming and outgoing flights use the Keflavik route. Moreover, it is the airport used by many flights between Europe and the U.S. as either a halt or a changeover.

The Guardian quotes, Dave McGarvie, a volcanologist at Lancaster University as saying: “Wind direction during times of ash production is critical – anything with a slight northerly aspect is going to cause problems for the international airport and the metropolitan area of Reykjavík.” The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 lasted for about three months. In case the Reykjanes peninsula comes alive again, the extent of miseries would be unpredictable.

Tourism in Iceland

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and a popular tourist destination.

The Blue Lagoon some distance from the capital is a paradise for those who want to let down their hair. Incidentally, Global warming is giving rise to a state of instability in the ice-bound regions like the Arctic. The rise in temperatures from greenhouse gases is melting the glaciers and raising the sea levels. Iceland lost the Okjökull Glacier due to this factor. It is an example of things to come if global warming is not arrested.