Our readers already know that Iceland is a country with impressive natural beauty. It should be noted, however, that brutal forces of nature shaped the island nation’s stunning landscapes. Although today the island is pretty much formed (with the exception of the occasional underwater volcano), it’s not exempt from Mother Nature’s fury. Let’s look at some of Iceland’s most spectacular natural disasters.

Tectonic plates in Iceland's Thingvellir National Park

Located in the North Atlantic and resting on the fault between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, Iceland is a country that is constantly changing, at least geologically speaking. One of the more interesting changes is the fact that Iceland is literally splitting in two. The aforementioned tectonic plates are separating every year at a rate of about 2.5 cm. In fact, in Thingvellir National Park you can see where the earth is splitting.

Laying atop tectonic plates in constant movement means that the area becomes a zone with a high seismic risk. If we also add in the fact that the area is extremely active volcanically speaking, it is only a matter of time before another geological event happens. Geological events on the volcanic island have not had serious consequences (yet!) in part because they have not been particularly devastating. Here are some of Iceland’s most famous natural disasters.

Iceland’s Most Spectacular Natural Disasters – The 2000 Earthquake

This quake happened on June 17th, Iceland’s National Day, and had aftershocks for several days afterward. It measured 6.6 on the Richter scale but luckily there were no casualties. There were, however, injuries and considerable damage to infrastructure and buildings.

Seismic graph measuring earthquake activity in Iceand

Iceland’s Most Spectacular Natural Disasters – The 2008 Earthquake

Like the earthquake in the year 2000, this one also occurred in Southwestern Iceland. There were actually two seismic events that took place. The first earthquake was registered on May 29th with a magnitude of 5.9 on the Richter scale and the second had a magnitude of 5.8 on the same scale. As with the 2000 earthquake, this one also luckily had no fatalities. There were more than 30 injuries and additionally, several herds of animals were recorded as lost. The earthquake had its epicenter about 45 km (28 mi) outside of Reykjavik, between Hveragerði and Selfoss waterfall.

Iceland’s Most Spectacular Natural Disasters – The Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 

The eruption of this now infamous volcano not only affected Iceland but also the rest of Europe. The ashes and smoke cloud spewed out by this giant blocked airspace for almost a week.

In March 2010, the volcano began to spout molten lava throughout southern Iceland in areas that were uninhabited. After having been asleep for nearly 180 years, the colossus began to gradually awaken from its long slumber. It was not until April 14th that it would release all of its fury. This eruption caused the surrounding glacier to melt, which in turn caused major floods. Around 800 people had to be evacuated from neighboring towns.

Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption, Iceland 2010

The volcano would begin making its mark on a larger scale with its second eruption. Huge amounts of ash were shot into the atmosphere at a high altitude, where the jet stream would be responsible for distributing it across almost the entire European continent. This resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights and paralyzed Europe and its airspace for 6 intense days.

Iceland’s Most Spectacular Natural Disasters – The Eruption of Grímsvötn in 2011

It seems like Icelandic volcanoes really have a thing for causing chaos, disruption and blocking airspace. This is certainly the case of Grímsvötn volcano located in the Highlands of Iceland. It’s one of the most active volcanic mountains on the island. The astonishing eruption was accompanied by legendary earthquakes. In addition to lava, the volcano ejected large amounts of ash. Due to this, about 900 flights had to be canceled between May 22-25th, 2011.

Given the conditions and location where Iceland is located, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we woke up to news of some other sleeping giant waking up. In Iceland there are approximately 180 volcanoes, 32 of which are active. With this many active volcanoes in Iceland, another eruption is simply a question of when rather than if. They don’t call it the Land of Fire and Ice for nothing.

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