10 Largest volcanic eruptions in Iceland


Below is a list of the 10 largest volcanic eruptions since the settlement of Iceland and an interactive map that shows the location of each volcanic eruption. The place names in the following list are linked to 360 degree photos of each location. (This article is written by guest writer & volcanologist Lovísa Mjöll Gudmundsdottir)

10 Largest Volcanic Eruptions since the Settlement of Iceland

1. Eldgjá and Katla (934)

Volume of material (lava,ash – km3): 19.6

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 5

2. Lakagígar (1783-1785)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 14.7

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 4

3. Öræfajökull (1362)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 10

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 6

4. Veiðivötn (1480)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 3.9

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 5-6

5. Vatnaöldur (870)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 3.3

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 5

6. Hekla-H1 (1104)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 2.5

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 5

7. Askja (1875)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 1.8

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 5

8. Hekla (1766)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 1.54

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 4

9. Holuhraun (2014-2015)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 1.5

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 5

10. Surtsey (1963-1967)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 1.5

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 4

Famous Volcanic Eruptions in modern times

Eyjafjallajökull & Fimmvörðuháls (2010)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 0.293

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 4

See 360 degree photo of Eyjafjallajökull here: https://www.iceland360vr.com/panorama/thorvaldseyri/

Grímsvötn (2011)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 0.2-0.3

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 3

Eldfell-Vestmannaeyjar (1973)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 0.25

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 3

Grímsvötn (2004)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 0.02

Volcanic Explosivity Index: 2

Kröflueldar (1975-1984)

Volume of material (lava,ash)(km3): 0.25

Volcanic Explosivity Index: <1

Geldingadalir (2021)

Ongoing eruption, started 19th March  2021

We have been to the eruption a few times since I started to produce material for this website and we have already published a 3d model of Geldingadalir eruption and a 360 degree photo of Geldingadalir eruption.

Links to other websites with information about the Geldingadalir volcano eruption:

You can see a live webcam feed from the eruption here: www.ruv.is

You can see the latest updates about the Geldingadalir eruption here: www.weather.is

10 largest volcanic eruptions since settlement of Iceland

Why do volcanic eruptions in Iceland happen?

Iceland is located on a divergent tectonic plate boundary and a volcanic hot spot sits underneath it. This interaction drives volcanic activity in Iceland. The hot spot and seperating plates allow lava to find its way through the weakest spots in the bedrock up to the surface.

illustration of the tectonic plates of earth earthquakes in iceland

Where do volcanic eruptions in Iceland happen?

Iceland has about 32 active volcanic systems and erutions occur every 3-4 years on average. These volcanic systems are located close to or on the divergent plate boundaries with an exception of the Snæfellsnes system.

earthquakes in iceland volcanic system of iceland earthquakes in iceland and tectonic plates

Famous volcanic eruptions in Iceland

One of the most famous eruption in Iceland is Laki/Skaftáreldar in 1783 where the eruption had an impact not only on Iceland, but the whole world due to its poisonous gases. A more recent one is the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption which made a huge impact on air traffic as the eruption produced a lot of ash causing many flights to be cancelled across Europe.

Different categories of volcanic eruptions

Volcanic eruptions are split into 2 major categories, effusive eruptions and explosive eruptions. The 10 largest volcanic eruptions Iceland have examples of both of these categories of eruptions. An effusive eruption is when magma is steadily ejected to the surface (often called red volcanoes). An explosive eruption is when magma is violently fragmented and exits the volcano with speed (often called grey volcanoes). An eruption can be a mix of the two. For instance, it can start off explosive, then be both effusive and explosive and ultimately finish off effusive. The Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) is a scale which presents the eruptive strength of volcanoes. It takes into account the height of the eruption column, how long the eruption lasted and the volume of the erupted material. The VEI scale goes from 0-8 where Hawaiian eruptions are 0-1 and the supervolcanic Yellowstone eruption is 8 on the VEI scale.



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