Iceland volcanoes are some of the most active volcanoes on our planet. they erupt often and can have devastating results. The volcanoes have brought famine and death to the population when ash killed food crops and livestock. The frequent eruptions have also brought flash floods.
Flash floods on volcanoes
The volcanoes erupt beneath glaciers and the water level builds up until the ice dam floats upward. This allows glacier water to suddenly turn into a major flash flood in the valleys below the volcano.
Grimsvotn volcano erupting, USGS
Northern section Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Iceland sits on the northern section of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The ridge separates the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. As the plates separate rift valleys have formed.
Cracks develop in the valleys allowing magma (molten rock) from the mantle to erupt on the Earth's surface sealing the cracks until the next eruption. This is occurring all along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Persistent hot spot
Iceland rises above the surface of the Atlantic Ocean because it also sits atop a persistent hot spot. Hot spots are places where plumes of hot rock melt the Earth's crust and magma flows out of the volcanoes vent. The lava piles up around the vent and forms a seamount.
When a seamount reaches the ocean surface it forms an island. The combination of sitting on the middle of two tectonic plates that are separating and over a hot spot has allowed Iceland to grow into the medium size island about half the size of Great Britain.
The newest member of the Iceland volcanoes to become an island is Surtsey. Surtsey was a seamount prior to November 8, 1963 when an eruption created enough volcanic material to become an island. Fishermen witnesses the birth of the island.
Today scientists monitor and no other visitors are allowed there. They are studying both the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and hot spot volcanism on the island. They are also studying plant and animal life on the island.
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