Wrapping around the entire world, Earth’s most in depth mountain variety stretches for far more than 40,000 miles.

Pretty much fully submerged beneath the sea, it truly is acknowledged as the Mid-Ocean Ridge. It is, in essence, a giant seam bordered by mountains where by tectonic plates are pulling aside. New oceanic crust sorts listed here by way of volcanic activity.

Iceland is one of the several destinations where by the ridge rises over the floor, building it probable to see the stunning effect of geologic processes that typically manifest at the bottom of the sea.

Found along the Mid-Altantic Ridge portion of the world-girdling mountain variety, Iceland sits on the boundary concerning the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Below, the plates are pulling aside in an east-west path at a rate akin to how rapidly your fingernails mature. Molten rock wells up and fills in the hole, triggering the development of new crust — and also ensuing in one of the most volcanically lively areas on Earth.

As my colleague at Explore, Erik Klemetti, writes in a current publish at his Rocky Planet blog site, a new eruption may possibly be in the offing in Southern Iceland, while that’s a bit unsure appropriate now.

I was blessed adequate to pay a visit to Iceland previous summer season. When there, I took the photo over of Hverfjall, a tephra cone volcano in the north that erupted about 2,five hundred decades back. The crater has steep, round partitions in part for the reason that the volcano erupted in close proximity to a shallow lake.


The Landsat 8 satellite captured this graphic of Iceland’s Northern Volcanic Zone on July 26, 2017. Hverfjall is visible to the appropriate of Mývatn, a lovely shallow lake that hosts a fantastic variety of existence. (Resource: NASA Earth Observatory)

You can see that lake, as effectively as Hverfjall, in the see over from space, not too long ago published by NASA’s Earth Observatory. For a substantial-resolution variation demonstrating a broader see of this northern portion of Iceland, simply click listed here. Click once more to discover close-up sights.

Mývatn, the lake in concern, gets it name from huge figures of midges that breed there. The Mývatn space also hosts “one of the world’s richest populations of breeding aquatic birds,” in accordance UNESCO. “In all, one hundred fifteen species of birds have been recorded in the space, like 28 species of ducks.”

View of Mývatn

A mountaineering trail by way of volcanic formations on west aspect of the Mývatn. (Resource: © Tom Yulsman)

The beautiful waters of Mývatn are visible in the distance in this photo shot from a mountaineering trail that wends its way by way of volcanic formations on east aspect of the lake.

Mývatn and Hverfjall are located in Icelabnd’s Northern Volcanic Zone. Below, the total rate of spreading concerning the North American and Eurasian plates is taking place, ensuing in recurring episodes of rifting and volcanic eruptions.

In the southern part of Iceland, the Laki eruption of 1783 poured out far more than twelve cubic kilometers of lava — “adequate to pave the entire U.S. interstate freeway program to a depth of ten meters,” in accordance to NOAA.

An believed eighty million tons of sulfuric acid aerosol was unveiled by the eruption — eighty situations far more than Mount St. Helens. Haze from the eruption ruined crops and killed most of the island’s livestock, triggering the death of far more than ten,000 Icelanders, a quarter of the inhabitants at that time.

By blocking sunlight, the haze brought on winter common temperature in the jap United States to plunge just about 5 levels C down below the lengthy-time period common. For the Northern Hemisphere as a complete, the drop amounted to about 1 diploma C. To put that in perspective, human activities have brought on Earth’s common temperature to rise by about the same amount of money.

Some thing like that could undoubtedly materialize once more. But most of the time, eruptions are far more benign.