The extinct volcanoes of Iceland

I am going to post some information when I have the time about volcanoes that you never hear about in the news. The volcanoes in Iceland that have finished there work and have now gone extinct and no longer make ash clouds or lava. Iceland is full of those volcanoes and they are part of Iceland. What they do is tell us the history of Icelandic volcanism and how the volcanoes them self evolved over time and what they did do in that time.

I don’t have any good pictures or maps of extinct volcanoes in Iceland at the moment. But lucky for me I currently live on top of one at the moment. Both where I am in school and at home. Here is a view to the top of the volcano at my home. Picture is taken in summer 2008.

For me this history is important, as we can learn from it about today volcanoes and how they might behave when erupting.

29 Replies to “The extinct volcanoes of Iceland”

  1. Jón: Would it be wrong to think about Iceland as a great big volcano with many different vents, active and extinct? Because that’s the impression I get, when I look at this whole landmass rising from the pressure of magma beneath.

    1. No more wrong than to think of all of North America as one giant caldera.

      Iceland is rising due to isostatic rebound. Take a large several kilometer tall slab of ice off of a landmass, and it’s going to rise due to the loss in mass. Iceland happens to sit on the Mid Atlantic ridge. There is evidence that it is a chunk of continental crust sitting on top of a section of oceanic crust… how it got there is anybodies guess. But the Jan Mayen is another chunk of continental crust that wound up welded to the Eurasian plate and all of it, save the island, is below water. So that’s weird too.

      It really depends on how wide you want to cast your volcano definition. If you define “volcano” as a structure bounded by a ring fault system that has operated as one unit, then no, Iceland is far from being a volcano. If you define it as a series of fissure vents that operate on long geologic scales, then yes it is… but you have to include the whole of the Mid Atlantic Ridge system… and the connected rifts that sprout off and head into other ocean basins, like the Indian Ocean.

  2. i’d love to hear about the extinct volcanoes…. i expect a lot of information is derived from them.

    1. Hi, Motsfo. Have you felt any of the quakes that have been up there lately? I am talking about the one that was a 5+. It may have been too far away. And is there any other activity?

      1. Yes, i have, Diane. A good friend who lives close by happens to be on a different ‘bench’ and we enjoy seeing how the earthquakes affect us differently . It depends on the depth wether one or the other feels it…. and yet we are only 3 blocks away. Verrrrrry Interesting. And for other activity…. let me check Redoubt….bbs

  3. This sounds interesting, Jon. I like your picture, too. I had no idea there were exticnt volcanoes on Iceland and I am looking forward to seeing what you have to say about them and what they tell us about the active ones. Will you be able to get out and take some pictures of them? I know winter is coming on so that may not be the best idea, but maybe you will be able to get a couple of them in spite of the weather.

  4. Hi Jon, I forgot to say that I came to Iceland to make a music video in about 1994. We shot some of it up on the Myrdalsjokull glacier, near to Skogafoss. I presume we were very close to Eyafjallajokull at that point. Stunning scenery there and around Vik….a place which I presume could be in some peril.

  5. thanks for taking the time to produce this splendid, informative blog, Jon

    Best Regards;
    Robert Somerville

  6. ANd those in Iceland:
    Friday 08.10.2010 03:36:34 64.275 -20.841 31.4 km 1.1 41.34 8.5 km NW of Laugarvatn
    Friday 08.10.2010 02:47:07 63.642 -19.330 1.1 km 1.8 90.01 4.0 km W of Goðabunga
    Friday 08.10.2010 00:04:01 63.959 -20.145 8.5 km 0.4 68.88 10.5 km SSE of Árnes

  7. Have a look over at ‘Eruptions’ for reference to a good piece by ‘suw’ which includes a vimeo video of flight patterns during and after the flight ban parts of the Ejafjallajökull eruption.

    1. @Erik,

      I know the avatars are randomly selected, but it is funny that you of all people should get such an angry looking one….

      I don’t think Jón and his new blog would deserve such wrath.

  8. @ Erik – No need to worry. Jons blog just broadens the perspective on volcanoes. 🙂 Still have both “Eruptions” and this one in my bookmarks and I am a very frequent visitor on both. 🙂

      1. Jeebous. That is one vicious avatar. Looks a bit like one of the “Crites” from the movie Critters.

  9. I know volcanoes are considered extinct until they have been quiet for some considerable time so Laki does not really fall into this group! (being a mere 220 years since the eruption). It is near some of the other volcanoes people are talking about. It produced a lot of toxic chemicals and gasses. What is about that time of eruption that was so dangerous .? is it the area or the depth or what? Are others in that area at risk of doing the same?

    1. @Lady Bunion: While we wait for the answer from Jón or other more knowledgeable people over this blog, I have to say that, from what I have learned so far, a Laki kind event (flood basalts) happen very seldom in history, so we have no reason to think that current activity would lead to anything different from periodic events like Grimsvötn 2004, or other small sized ones under Vatna glacier, which were no more than small fissures causing glacial melting (dangerous, indeed, but not in a large scale).

    2. @Lady Bunion, Laki is a fissure. It origins is in Grímsfjall volcano. The thing about Icelandic volcanoes is that they sometimes do this. Making a big fissure eruptions. It might have been awhile since it last happened in Iceland. But it is only a question of time until it happens again.

      When is always a question. But technology is going to give us a better preparedness then in the 18th century when a last big fissure eruption happened.

      Last fissure eruption in Iceland was in 1984 when Krafla erupted. But those where small series of eruptions that did little damage.

  10. @renaterio, thanks for this – so, simplistaically, it is the type of eruption rather than the place… phew!
    I was going to read geology and chem at Uni but somehow changed my mind at the last minute and read medicine. Still, find this and astronomy fascinating and a great diversion from the day job.
    Blog and all the comments are fascinating

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