Eyjafjallajokull

You know the one! The towering glacier-capped strato volcano Eyjafjallajokull is probably the most famous volcano in the world today.

Eyjafjallajokull is one of the smaller ice caps of Iceland. The volcano has erupted relatively frequently since the last glacial period, most recently in 2010. Eyjafjallajokull consists of a volcano completely covered by an ice cap. The ice cap covers an area of about 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi), feeding many outlet glaciers. The main outlet glaciers are to the north: Gigjokull, flowing into Lonid, and Steinholtsjokull, flowing into Steinholtslon. The mountain itself, a stratovolcano, stands 1,651 metres (5,417 ft) at its highest point, and has a crater 3–4 kilometres (1.9–2.5 mi) in diameter, open to the north.

On March 20, 2010, after being dormant for more than 180 years, Eyjafjallajokull began spewing molten lava in an uninhabited area in south-west Iceland. On April 14, 2010, after a brief intermission, the volcano resumed erupting from the top crater in the centre of the glacier causing flooding which required an evacuation of 800 people. This second eruption threw volcanic ash several kilometres up in the atmosphere, which led to air travel disruption in north-west Europe for six days from 15 April to 21 April 2010 and again, in May 2010, including the closure of airspace over many parts of Europe. The eruptions also created electrical storms. On 23 May 2010, the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Commission declared the eruption to have stopped. The volcano continued to have several earthquakes daily, with volcanologists watching the volcano closely. As of August 2010, Eyjafjallajökull was considered dormant.

Today the aftermath of the volcanic eruption can be seen in Thorsmork Glacier Valley, the natural oasis that lies just behind the volcano.

Eyjafjallajokul has erupted a few times since settlement, in 920, 1612, 1821 and 1823.

What type of volcano is Eyjafjallajökull?

Eyjafjallajokull is a strato volcano. It is a conical volcano built by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and volcanic ash. Strata volcanoes are amongst the most common volcanoes. Due to the glacier on top of Eyjafjallajokull eruptions are explosive and contain much ash. 

A large magma chamber under the mountain feeds Eyjafjallajökull. The chamber derives magma from the tectonic divergence of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Eyjafjallajökull is a part of the chain of volcanoes that stretch across Iceland, including volcanoes like Hekla, Katla and Grimsvotn. Eyjafjallajokull and Katla, neighbouring volcanoes, are believed to be related, in that eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull have usually been followed by eruptions of Katla, which is a far larger and more powerful volcanoe than Eyjafjallajokull.

How to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull? What's Eyjafjallajokull's meaning?

There are many words in Icelandic that sound strange and alien to native english speakers. This name, Eyjafjallajökull, didn't exactly roll off news reporters tounge when the volcano erupted in 2010. The word is a compound of three different words. First, Eyja which means island, but that refers to the Westman Islands just off Iceland's coast. Then, fjalla which means mountains, and last jökull, which means glacier. So the compound itself means the Glacier on Island Mountains.

 

How to get there?

Driving along the South Shore brings you close to Eyjafjallajokull. The Eyjafjöll Mountain Range is visible as soon as you drive east following road 1 from Reykjavik and you pass Hellisheidi heath, where you can find Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant. There are many volcanoes that tower over the southern part of Iceland, among them mt. Hekla and mt. Katla, both active and powerful volcanoes. Eyjafjallajokull is between the two, standing high not far from the village Hvolsvollur, where you can visit the beautiful Saga center

If you follow Road 1 eastwards along the South Shore you will eventually pass a great exhibition, where you can learn a great deal about the 2010 eruption. The Exhibition is at Þorvaldseyri visitor center, which is a family run exhibition about this massive and intersting volcano. Make sure you don't miss it.