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Eyjafjallajökull facts for kids

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Eyjafjallajokull Gigjokull in ash.jpg
Gígjökull, Eyjafjallajökull's largest outlet glacier, covered in volcanic ash
Highest point
Elevation Mountain: 1,651 m (5,417 ft)
Glacier: 1,666 m (5,466 ft)
Eyjafjallajökull is located in Iceland
Location in Iceland
Location Suðurland, Iceland
Parent range N/A
Mountain type Stratovolcano
Volcanic arc/belt East Volcanic Zone
Last eruption March to June 2010
Iceland volcano april 4 2010
North view of (from left to right) Mýrdalsjökull, Fimmvörðuháls and Eyjafjallajökull on 4 April 2010, taken from an altitude of 10,000 metres (32,800 ft)

Eyjafjallajökull ( lit. glacier of the mountains of the islands), sometimes referred to by the numeronym E15, is one of the smaller ice caps of Iceland, north of Skógar and west of Mýrdalsjökull. The ice cap covers the caldera of a volcano with a summit elevation of 1,651 metres (5,417 ft). The volcano has erupted relatively frequently since the Last Glacial Period, most recently in 2010, when, although relatively small for a volcanic eruption, it caused enormous disruption to air travel across northern and western Europe for a week.


Eyjafjallajökull consists of a volcano completely covered by an ice cap. The ice cap covers an area of about 80 square kilometres (30 square miles), feeding many outlet glaciers. The main outlet glaciers are to the north: Gígjökull flowing into Lónið and Steinholtsjökull flowing into Steinholtslón. In 1967, there was a massive landslide on the Steinholtsjökull glacial tongue. On 16 January 1967 at 13:47:55 there was an explosion on the glacier. It can be timed because the seismometers at Kirkjubæjarklaustur monitored the movement. When about 15,000,000 cubic metres (530,000,000 cubic feet) of material hit the glacier a massive amount of air, ice, and water began to move out from under the glacier into the lagoon at the foot of the glacier.

The mountain itself, a stratovolcano, stands 1,651 metres (5,417 ft) at its highest point, and has a crater three to four kilometres (2 to 2+12 miles) in diameter, open to the north. The crater rim has three main peaks (clockwise from the north-east): Guðnasteinn 1,500 m (4,900 ft); Hámundur 1,651 m (5,417 ft); and Goðasteinn 1,497 m (4,911 ft). The south face of the mountain was once part of Iceland's coastline, from which, over thousands of years, the sea has retreated some 5 km (3 mi). The former coastline now consists of sheer cliffs with many waterfalls, of which the best known is Skógafoss. In strong winds, the water of the smaller falls can even be blown up the mountain. The area between the mountain and the present coast is a relatively flat strand, 2–5 km (1–3 mi) wide, called Eyjafjöll.


L'Eyjafjallajökull sous les aurores boréales
Eyjafjallajökull and the aurora.

The name means "glacier of Eyjafjöll" (or more properly here "ice cap"). 'Eyjafjöll' is the name of the southern side of the volcanic massif together with the small mountains which form the foot of the volcano. The word 'jökull' means 'glacier' or 'ice cap'.


Volcanic system of Iceland-Map-en
Active volcanic areas and systems in Iceland

The stratovolcano, whose vents follow an east–west trend, is composed of basalt to andesite lavas. Most of its historical eruptions have been explosive. However, fissure vents occur on both (mainly the west) sides of the volcano.

The volcano is fed by a magma chamber under the mountain, which in turn derives from the tectonic divergence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is part of a chain of volcanoes stretching across Iceland. Its nearest active neighbours are Katla, to the northeast, and Eldfell, on Heimaey, to the southwest. The volcano is thought to be related to Katla geologically, in that eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull have generally been followed by eruptions of Katla.

Iceland Eyjafjallajökull from Sólheimajökull
Eyjafjallajökull in March 2006, viewed from a recreation area on the Sólheimajökull, a glacier on the Katla volcano

Eyjafjallajökull erupted in the years 920, 1612, 1821, and 2010. The eruption in 920 was a radial fissure eruption while the subsequent 1612 and 1821 eruptions were small summit eruptions. In the case of the 1821 eruption, a short explosive phase in December of 1821 was followed by a year of intermittent explosive to effusive activity.

1821 to 1823 eruptions

Some damage was caused by a minor eruption in 1821. Notably, the ash released from the eruption contained a large fraction of fluoride, which in high doses may damage the bone structure of cattle, horses, sheep and humans. The eruption also caused some small and medium glacier runs and flooding in nearby rivers Markarfljót and Holtsá. The eruptive phase started on 19 and 20 December 1821 by a series of explosive eruptions and continued over the next several days. The sources describe heavy ash fall in the area around the volcano, especially to the south and west.

After that event the sequence of eruptions continued on a more subdued level until June 1822.

From the end of June until the beginning of August 1822, another sequence of explosive eruptions followed. The eruption columns were shot to considerable heights, with ashfall in both the far north of the country, in Eyjafjörður, and in the southwest, on the peninsula of Seltjarnarnes near Reykjavík.

The period from August to December 1822 seemed quieter, but farmers attributed the death of cattle and sheep in the Eyjafjörður area to poisoning from this eruption, which modern analysis identifies as fluoride poisoning. Some small glacier runs occurred in the river Holtsá. A bigger one flooded the plains near the river Markarfljót. (The sources do not indicate the exact date.).

In 1823, some men went hiking up on Eyjafjallajökull to inspect the craters. They discovered a fissure vent near the summit caldera a bit to the west of Guðnasteinn.

In early 1823, the nearby volcano Katla under the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap erupted and at the same time steam columns were seen on the summit of Eyjafjallajökull.

The ash of Eyjafjallajökull's 1821 eruptions is to be found all over the south of Iceland. It is dark grey in colour, small-grained and intermediate rock containing about 28–40% silicon dioxide.

2010 eruptions

Eyjafjallajökull Glacier - 29.8.09
A photo of Eyjafjallajökull taken from Route 1 in August 2009

On 26 February 2010, unusual seismic activity along with rapid expansion of the Earth's crust was registered by the Icelandic Meteorological Office. This gave geophysicists evidence that magma was pouring from underneath the crust into the magma chamber of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and that pressure stemming from the process caused the huge crustal displacement at Þorvaldseyri farm. In March 2010, almost three thousand small earthquakes were detected near the volcano, all having a depth of 7–10 kilometres (4+12–6 miles). The seismic activity continued to increase and from 3–5 March, close to 3,000 earthquakes were measured at the epicenter of the volcano.

The eruption is thought to have begun on 20 March 2010, about 8 km (5 mi) east of the top crater of the volcano, on Fimmvörðuháls, the high neck between Eyjafjallajökull and the neighbouring icecap, Mýrdalsjökull. This first eruption, in the form of a 300-meter-long radial fissure vent, did not occur under the glacier and was smaller in scale than had been expected by some geologists. The eruption consisted of 15 lava fountains reaching heights of up to 185 meters. The fissure opened on the north side of Fimmvörðuháls, directly across the popular hiking trail between Skógar, south of the pass, and Þórsmörk, immediately to the north.

Fimmvorduhals 2010 03 27 dawn
The eruption on 27 March 2010
Eyjafjallajökull crater 2013
The crater three years post eruption in March 2013
Eyjafjallajökull, Suðurland, Islandia, 2014-08-17, DD 111
Eyjafjallajökull seen from the sea in summer 2014.

On 14 April 2010 Eyjafjallajökull resumed erupting after a brief pause, this time from the top crater in the centre of the glacier, causing jökulhlaup (meltwater floods) to rush down the nearby rivers, and requiring 800 people to be evacuated. This eruption was explosive, due to meltwater getting into the volcanic vent. It was estimated to be ten to twenty times larger than the previous one in Fimmvörðuháls. This second eruption threw volcanic ash several kilometres up in the atmosphere, which led to air travel disruption in northwest Europe for six days from 15 to 21 April 2010. This disruption affected over 20 countries and as many as 10 million air travelers. The volcano erupted again in May 2010, causing the closure of airspace over many parts of Europe. The eruptions also created electrical storms. On 23 May 2010, the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre declared the eruption to have stopped, but stated that they were continuing to monitor the volcano. The volcano continued to have several earthquakes daily, with volcanologists watching the volcano closely. As of August 2010, Eyjafjallajökull was considered dormant. Infrasound sensors have been installed around Eyjafjallajökull to monitor for future eruptions.

In total, the 2010 eruptions generated about 0.27 cubic km (270,000,000 cubic metres) of tephra, causing ash fallout over central southern Iceland and parts of continental Europe. Nearby areas saw an ash layer of up to several centimeters, and surrounding glaciers saw a significant albedo reduction due to the ash.

Relationship to Katla

Eyjafjallajökull en Katla
Cross section through Eyjafjöll and Katla

Eyjafjallajökull lies 25 km (15+12 mi) west of another subglacial volcano, Katla, under the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap, which is much more active and known for its powerful subglacial eruptions and its large magma chamber. Each of the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in 920, 1612, and 1821–1823 has preceded an eruption of Katla. Katla did not display any unusual activity (such as expansion of the crust or seismic activity) during the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, though geologists have been concerned about the general instability of Katla since 1999. Some geophysicists in Iceland believe that the Eyjafjallajökull eruption may trigger an eruption of Katla, which would cause major flooding due to melting of glacial ice and send up massive plumes of ash. On 20 April 2010, Icelandic President Ólafur Grímsson said "the time for Katla to erupt is coming close...we [Iceland] have is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption".

Volcanologists continue to monitor Katla, aware that any eruption from Katla following an eruption from Eyjafjallajökull has historically occurred within months of an Eyjafjallajökull eruption. The Icelandic Meteorological Office updates its website with reports of quakes at both Eyjafjallajökull and Katla. On 8 July 2011 there was a jökulhlaup that destroyed a bridge on the Ring Road and caused cracks to appear on Katla's glacier.

Postage stamp

Icelandic Post issued three special stamps in 2010 for the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. All stamps contain real volcanic ash which fell on 17 April 2010.

Related pages

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Eyjafjallajökull (glaciar) para niños

  • List of glaciers of Iceland
  • List of waterfalls of Iceland
  • Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson, who photographed the 2010 eruption
  • Volcanism of Iceland
    • List of volcanic eruptions in Iceland
    • List of volcanoes in Iceland
  • 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull
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