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Vatnajökull & Grimsvötn Volcano
Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland
Iceland
Earth's Natural Wonders in Europe & Middle East
 
 
 
Area of ice sheet: 3,127 square miles (8,100 sq. km)
Thickness of ice sheet: 3,800 feet (1,000 m)
 
 
Vatnajökull Glacier [1]
Largest glacier in Europe---this is just a sliver of it spilling out into a valley

As fall marches toward winter in the Northern Hemisphere, Iceland’s rugged terrain casts long shadows back on itself, exaggerating the topography of the island's snow-covered mountains, particularly along the eastern coast. On the northeastern portion of the island’s largest ice cap—Vatnajokull—what appears to be another of the season’s long shadows is actually a layer of ash from the recent eruption of the sub-glacial volcano that lies beneath the thick ice.
Grimsvotn Volcano on Iceland's Vatnajokull
The Grimsvötn Volcano and Vatnajökull engage in a cycle of creation and destruction, build-up and release. Beneath a sheet of ice 200 meters thick in places, Grimsvötn simmers, its crater filled with a lake of meltwater dammed by ice blockages. The immense mass of water and ice presses down on the volcano, holding explosive eruptions in check. As the bottom of the glacier continues to melt, the lake eventually overruns the level of the ice dams, releasing a glacial outburst flood. The draining of the lake temporarily releases the pressure on the volcano, which may make explosive eruptions more likely.
Ash from Grimsvotn Volcano on Iceland's Vatnajokull[2]  
   
In mid-October, the lake spilled over the caldera’s ice dams, and on November 2, 2004, Grimsv?tn spewed a large plume of ash and steam high into the atmosphere. The plume forced air traffic to be re-routed and left a dark blanket across the northern part of the scalloped glacier. This Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image captured by the sensor on the Terra satellite shows the sooty remains of the eruption spread across the glacier. Soon, the evidence of the eruption will be frozen in time, as the layer of ash is buried by the advancing winter’s snows. [2]

 

Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Iceland. It is located in the south-east of the island, covering more than 8% of the country. With a size of 8,100 km², it is the largest glacier in Europe in volume (3,100 km³) and the second largest (after Austfonna on Nordaustlandet, Svalbard) in area (not counting the still larger ice cap of Severny Island of Novaya Zemlya, Russia, which is located in the extreme northeast of Europe).
Vatnajökul glacier
 
Vatnajökull Glacier[3]

The average thickness of the ice is 400 m, with a maximum thickness of 1,000 m. Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur (2,110 m), is located in the southern periphery of Vatnajökull, near Skaftafell National Park. It is classified as an ice cap glacier.

Under the glacier, as under many of the glaciers of Iceland, there are several volcanoes. The volcanic lakes, Grímsvötn for example, were the sources of a large glacial lake outburst flood in 1996. The volcano under these lakes also caused a considerable but short-time eruption in the beginning of November 2004. During the last ice age, numerous volcanic eruptions occurred under Vatnajökull, creating many subglacial eruptions. These eruptions formed tuyas, such as Herðubreið which originally sat beneath Vatnajökull during the last ice age.[4]

 

28th of April 2006. Elli, the only licenced commercial pilot in Team Moby, took Baldur and Einar flying over Europe's largest glacier on a sunny day (anything to kill time...).
The big hole you see at about 0.50 into the video is where the surface has plummited down after a small volcanic eruption underneath the glacier. The hole is big enough to swallow a small village.

...Oh, and the Mayday thing at the end is just a joke. by undarlegt

 

Vatnajökull has been shrinking for some years now, possibly because of climatic changes and recent volcanic activity. Until 1930 it was growing. The phenomenon of Jökulhlaup is at present time confined to Vatnajökull.

According to Guinness World Records Vatnajökull is the object of the world's longest sight line, 550 km from Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands. GWR state that "owing to the light bending effects of atmospheric refraction, Vatnajökull (2119m), Iceland, can sometimes be seen from the Faroe Islands, 340 miles (550km) away". This may be based on a claimed sighting by a British sailor in 1939. The validity of this record is analysed/undermined in mathematical and atmospheric detail by J.C. Ferranti.[4]

Grímsvötn


The Grímsvötn lakes (Icelandic: vötn, singular: vatn) are lakes in Iceland. They lie in the highlands of Iceland at the northwestern side of the Vatnajökull glacier and are covered by its ice cap. Beneath them is a large magma chamber of a powerful volcano. The location of the lakes is 64°25'N 17°20'W? / ?64.417°N 17.333°W? / 64.417; -17.333, at an elevation of 1,725 m (5,659 ft).

Grímsvötn has a southwest-northeast-trending fissure system, and the massive climate-impacting Laki fissure eruption of 1783-1784 was a part of the same fissure system. Grímsvötn was erupting at the same time as Laki during 1783, but continued to erupt until 1785. Because most of the volcano lies underneath Vatnajökull, most of its eruptions have been subglacial.[5]


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References
 
1. Flickr-Vatnajökull-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 6/24/2009
2. NASA-Vatnajökull & Grimsvotn Volcano, Iceland-retrieved 6/24/2009
3. Flickr-Vatnajökull-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 6/24/2009
4. Wikipedia-Vatnajökull -retrieved 6/24/2009
5. Wikipedia-Grímsvötn-retrieved 6/24/2009
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