Iceland – a volcanic island
Nowhere else can you find such a remarkable, contrasted and unique landscape as in Iceland. The volcanic island is located in Northern Europe between the Greenland Sea and the Northern Atlantic Ocean, barley below the Arctic Circle. Its special location above a mantle plume, between the middle Atlantic ridge that is formed by the north American plate moving to the west and the Eurasian plate moving towards the east (diverging plates) causing volcanic activity that is responsible for its unique landscapes and even its creation.
Volcanoes form when magma reaches the Earth’s surface, causing eruptions of lava (molten rock) and ash.
There are many types of volcanoes that erupt in different ways and effecting the landscape (BBC Bitesize).
Fissure Vents are cracks where lava comes out. They often occur when to continental plates diverge.
Shield volcanoes form over hotspots where magma in the earth’s mantle becomes hot and flows upward to the crust. Usually the lava flows out slowly. However, these volcanoes can erupt as well, sending gas and lava into the air (Kidspress).
Stratovolcanoes are volcanic mountains, built up by different rock layers. They are often fount at subduction zones where one continental plate moves on top of the other one. So, many melted rock layers mix forming an explosive build-up of steam leading to a powerful eruption, releasing lava flows, ash and large flying rocks (BBC).
The types of volcanoes are significant because they can create new land such as Iceland.
In general, you can say that there are different types of volcanoes that change the landscape.
The creation of Iceland
Iceland is one of the most incredible islands in the world. Responsible for that the volcanic plume situated just 12 miles beneath Iceland, accountable for its creation, holding Iceland on the surface and providing heat (National Geographic).
A volcanic plume was formed under Iceland about 100 million years ago because of the diverging plates. The volcanic plume, which is the most powerful hot
spot on earth also is responsible for the forming of the Atlantic mid ocean ridge and the formation of the ocean.
70 to 60 million years ago, Greenland was situated where Iceland is now. However, Greenland slowly moved north west drifting away. Greenland was not affected by the plume because it was thick and old. After 55 million years a massive volcanic activity took place and endless basalt lava was released. The lava turned into basalt. As a result a land-bridge formed where Iceland is situated today, between Europe and America. The basalt lava escaping from the mantle plume can be found in Greenland, in the Faroe Islands, north Ireland and west Scotland proving that the mantle plum has moved for millions of years creating Iceland and the land-bridge. This land-bridge which animals used to cross the Northern Atlantic Ocean does not exist today because the continents were drifting, forming new ocean floor increasing the distance between Greenland and Scotland. The distance grew approximately 300 kilometers in ten million years. This process took place 20 to 30 million years ago. Later, the sea managed to cut off the land-bridge between Iceland and Scotland and Iceland and Greenland. At this point of time Iceland was born, leaving some animals trapped that settled there. Then, after 12 million years of Tertier, endless eruptions by fissure vents, shield volcanoes and startovolcanoes build up Iceland more and more. So, the volcanic landscape dominated Iceland. Later, the Ica age started. This had an effect on the volcanic activity as well. The Ice that has been covering mountains more than 3 million years was melted by magma in some parts. As a result, holes full of water in the ice appeared. When the magma came in contact with water an explosion took place. Then, glassy sand and gravel were released. These materials glued together in a period of time of ten tears creating the so-called volcanic tuff or palagonite.
Table mountains also developed when an eruption managed up to ice, so water did not,
resulting in lavas running on top of a glacier. During the rest of time more volcanoes erupted fields and craters. Now, having about 100 volcanoes, a third of them active still volcanic eruptions are forming Iceland (Extreme Iceland).
To conclude you can say that the volcanic activity formed by the hot spot that was created by drifting plates was responsible for the creation of Iceland, is and will be responsible for changes in Iceland’s unique landscape in the future.
Iceland’s history has contributed to its unique and beautiful landscape. Especially many geographic processes that involve volcanic activity. So, volcanic calderas, lava domes, lava fields and basalt cliffs have been formed attracting millions of tourists each year.
Calderas, such as the “Askja” form when a large magma chamber is emptied by a volcanic eruption. The unsupported rock forming the roof of the magma chamber that hasn’t got the pressure of the magma anymore, then collapses to calderas (ScienceDaily). Calderas can be formed by shield volcanoes.
In contrast to craters that are the smaller depressions created around the vent opening the volcano, calderas are much wider across and caused by the collapse when its magma chamber is emptied by eruption. “Kerið” is an example for a crater in Iceland. Both, calderas and craters are filled with water sometimes due to rain or melted snow, the so-called Crater-Lake Calderas or Maars (National Geographic).
As the name already indicates, lave fields are big fields of lava covering most of the area (World Landforms). They are formed in flat areas by vents that eject very fluid form of lava such as basalt (Reykjavik Sightseeing). In the south of Iceland lava fields such as “Eldhraun” the are covered with moss entirely. In the north of Iceland lava fields plain lava fields are located (Guide to Iceland).
Lava domes are formed by magma being erupted explosively onto the surface and then piling up around vent, giving lava domes a typical look (The Science Site). They haven’t got enough pressure to erupt explosively. Nevertheless, they are followed by explosive activity sometimes (Oregon State University) Lava domes can be identified by the tip of the volcano missing. The volcano “Katla” is an example for a lava dome.
Basalt cliffs are cliffs made from lava. When lava flows down it cools. As it cools a geometric pattern emerges naturally: hexagonal columns. When this happens nearby the sea basalt cliffs develop (From The Grapevine). For instance, the “Reynishverfi Rocks” are famous.
These unrivaled landscapes and structures created by volcanic activity, making the Icelanders proud have been attracting millions of tourists each year, increasing the wealth of Iceland. According to the Icelandic Tourist Board, a total of 2.195.300 tourists visited Iceland in 2017, which is six times the total population. In the previous year only 1.792.700 tourists visited Iceland (The Reykjavik Grapevine). The tourism is growing rapidly. This is very important for Iceland since it is isolated and relies on imports.
With that in mind, you can say that the unique landscapes created by volcanic activity results in millions of tourists. The tourist rate increases Iceland’s wealth and makes it more independent instead of relying on imports of different countries.