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Presentation on theme: "LIVING ON THE EDGE FIRE, ICE AND CLIMATE CHANGE IN ICELAND."— Presentation transcript:


2 A modern country on the Arctic Circle Iceland has 900 volcanoes; 22 are active There are four large volcanic centers There are four main areas of glaciation The country’s area is larger than Indiana but smaller than Kentucky Population ~ 320,000 Farming, fishing, banking, data storage, some industry, tourism Brushed by the Arctic Circle but warmed by the Gulf Stream Iceland has no military. (Does it depend on “us”? U.S.) The last war was over cod fishing rights in 1970s. There are just over 100 prisoners in the entire country. City police force does not carry guns. Education through college is free

3 August, 2009 Eyjafjallajokull Volcano The volcano appears dormant but small earthquakes increased at this time signaling the possible movement of magma up towards the surface.

4 2010 Eruption of Eyjafjallajokull better known as E 15 February 26: unusual seismic activity and rapid expansion of earth’s crust as magma moves up into chamber March 20 – 26: Fissure eruptions begins, 5 miles from crater

5 March 27, 2010

6 April 14 – May 23, 2010 Crater erupts beneath glacier Meltwater floods rivers, roads Evacuation of 800 Explosive lavas Volcanic ash column extends 5 miles into atmosphere

7 April 14 – May 23, 2010 Glacial meltwater floods and lahars Evacuation of 800 residents.

8 The flood caused by the E-15 eruption Consisted of melted glacial ice (water) – Mixed with erupted volcanic rock, glass and ash Causes a density flow that travels down grade rapidly Flows into rivers, across fields and highways Destructive powerful flow (think wet cement) Can clog rivers with debris or dislodged ice Can cause ice damming which may result in a flash flood when the ice dam is melted or broken For video: copy and paste this link

9 April 14 – May 23, 2010 Volcanic ash column extends 5 miles into atmosphere Volcanic ash is composed of fine particles of sharp-edged glass which can be ingested by jet engines. The glass melts and fuses to metal parts. This can cause catastrophic engine failure.

10 April 15 Ash plume reaches northern Europe in 24 hours Air traffic disrupted in mainland Europe – 100,000 flights canceled; 10 million affected

11 Volcano Explosivity Index of 4 – moderate Volcanic lightning when ejected rock, water and ice collide Eruption stops by May 23, 2010

12 LIVING ON THE EDGE IN ICELAND? So…what is it like to be

13 Climate change near the Arctic Circle changes in climate may have dramatic consequences Fire active volcanic centers Ice glaciers up to 3000 feet thick 11.5% of Iceland’s surface

14 Iceland lies on an active plate boundary: The Mid Atlantic Ridge The following map indicates the current model of plate boundaries; some have been seen and some have never been seen. Plate boundaries follow the pattern of earthquakes and some volcanoes on earth. Volcanoes only occur at mid-ocean ridges, convergent boundaries (subduction zones) and hot spots.



17 Iceland is one of the few places on earth where the Mid Ocean Ridge lies above sea level Iceland is a place where geologists can view and study an actual divergent plate boundary In the following map and inset, note the large mass of extruded lava (rock) that surrounds Iceland. The gray area is the part of the Island that is above sea level; but actually, Iceland’s volcanic deposits extend out into the ocean for hundreds of miles. Is this excessive volcanic activity along the Mid Ocean Ridge due to “hyper” volcanism on the ridge? Or is there another source of lava such as a Hawaiian-type hot spot right along the ridge? Some geologists still argue both sides and look at trace elements for evidence of multiple distinct sources of lava from the mantle. Most are convinced that there is a deep mantle source of magma/lava that contributes to the large volume of erupted material that makes up Iceland.

18 Mid Atlantic Ridge


20 Rift Valley Area of low elevation Bounded by normal faulting Lava extrudes where crust is thin

21 What does the Rift Valley of the Mid Atlantic Ridge look like? Area of low elevation Normal faulting at Thingvellir Lava rocks Note: low areas fill with fresh water eventually marine waters and an ocean will form between the plates

22 Walking through the normal fault breaks along the Mid Atlantic Ridge Thingvellir National Park

23 European Plate N. American Plate

24 View from above: Young rift valley at Thingvellir. Water occupies low lying areas. rift widens marine waters intrude ocean basin is formed Separating the North American and Pacific plates

25 Life on the Mid Ocean Ridge The Capital city of Reykjavik lies on the plate boundary

26 Top FIVE Advantages Living on the Edge of a volcanic rift zone # 1 Hot magma flows closely beneath the surface – Geothermal energy source In 1960s, Iceland cut oil imports and switched to geothermal energy and hydrogen fuel for cars Use of crude oil is about 20 barrels of oil per day for 300,000 (.00007 barrels per person per day) U.S. uses 400 million barrels per day for 307,000,000 (over a barrel per person per day)

27 Geothermal plants located in low valleys close to the magma source within the rift European Plate

28 Iceland is committed to clean, green, less costly fuels. Cars and fishing boats remain the principal users of fossil fuels. A drive to convert to hydrogen fuel is underway.

29 # 2 Unlimited hot water and low cost electricity is generated by geothermal heat – Beneath the city streets of Reykjavik, local wells transport steam and hot water directly to homes Homes and hotels are heated by radiators – 98% of space heating is from geothermal – Water beneath the spreading ridge is 250 degrees C at depth of 2 km

30 # 3 The volcanic landscape provides rich soils for farming during the long days of the short growing season in northern latitudes. Sheep graze on the grassy plains.

31 # 4 Addition of real estate at no apparent cost Surtsey Island appeared suddenly above the surface of the waters off the coast of Iceland It has been preserved as an open and living laboratory for the study of volcanic processes, vegetation, migratory animals and high latitude environments.

32 November, 1963 Eyewitness to eruption Eruption column 4 miles First human 3 weeks later Plants and birds arrive in a short time. Studies show new minerals never before found on Iceland and one new to the world. Access is now limited.

33 # 5 Leisure and Recreation Hot springs, sulfur-rich, silica rich waters The Blue Lagoon is a man-made outdoor spa heated by mineral waters released from a geothermal plant. The blue color is a result of dissolved silica from rocks and algae. It is one of Iceland’s most famous tourist attractions.

34 World Class Snorkeling and Diving in the faults and rift valley

35 World class scuba site: Copy and paste link below for video of diver in crystal clear waters among the rocks of the plate boundary

36 Disadvantages of Living on the Edge of a volcanic rift zone #1 Volcanic eruptions may be catastrohpic or darned inconvenient #2 Eruptions can come without warning #3 Disruption of travel plans: historic eruptions in Iceland have continued for two YEARS! #4 The water in the shower has a strong odor of sulfur #5 High levels of volcanic gases and particulate can enter the atmosphere, soils, water and food supply. Fluoride compounds lethal to livestock Air quality can be poor for extended time.

37 Living on the Edge: Iceland’s Glaciers and Europe’s largest ice cap Glaciers are in the southeast – More precipitation More elevation due to volcanic areas Glacers are dependent on winter snowfall that exceeds summer melt Ice covers many volcanic peaks (glaciers in white) Ice depth can be over 800 meters or up to 3,000 feet Note geologic ages of lava flows: pink youngest green older purple oldest This pattern matches what one Would expect along a spreading ridge

38 Top five advantages to living on the edge with Iceland’s glaciers #1Abundant source of fresh, clean water Glaciers store water and release during summer dry spells Iceland’s pure high pH own brand of bottled water pH 8.8 is more basic (not acidic) ** this is corrected #2 Resource for hydroelectric power #3 Streams form habitats for fish and wildlife #4 Open geology laboratory for accessible ice caps and outlet glaciers #5 Recreation opportunities abound


40 Egilsstaoir Hydro Power Plant Iceland Clean, green, fossil-fuel-free

41 Glaciers provide sources of recreation

42 Spring Melt of Glaciers provides wilderness recreation

43 Top five disadvantages to living on the edge near Iceland’s glaciers #1 They move. They break off. They melt. #2 They tend to cover active volcanoes and can cause destructive flash floods or jokulhlaups (Icelandic for short-lived flooding) #3 Because they provide abundant fresh water, industry can move in #4 Cheap green hydroelectric power attracts industry that is not so green. #5 A disadvantage if you don’t like the cold.

44 Catastrophic glacial melt filing 1996 eruption caused sub glacial melting. --1000 tons of ice melted filling Lake Grimsvotn from beneath. The lake filled 3 times and overflowed. Water rushed to the shore for 3 days At the outlet glacier (coast), water and 50 ft. ice blocks destroyed roads and swept away bridges

45 1996 Flood when glacier melted destroying highway and bridge

46 Melting glaciers brings Iceland to the cutting edge of Climate Change Iceland lies at latitude 63 – 67 degrees N Two dominating climate factors Gulf Stream warming factor NAO – North Atlantic Oscillation



49 The melting of glacial ice is a true threat to Iceland Initially, melting ice will destroy farmlands and wildlife habitats but encourage others (forests). Climate may seem temporary more favorable as when the Nordic people visited Iceland in the Medievil warm period. Much of iceland’s infrastructure for geothermal heat transport is above ground. Floods and warmed muddy earth could undermine these structures. Melting increases river discharge and flooding of coastal transitional areas – change in salinity and water temperature of limited and fragile coastal areas

50 Other dramatic changes Introduction of large quantities of cold, fresh water in an area of critical importance in the ocean conveyor. Loss of reflectivity could lead to positive feedback and regional warming, accelerating melting of glacial ice This, along with effects of Greenland melts, could displace the warm gulf stream and disrupt downwelling of cold, dense salty water. This would disrupt the transport of warm water towards the higher latitudes; and cold waters toward the lower latitudes of the Atlantic. This exchange mixes ocean waters and controls moderation of temperatures over the hemisphere. This is a critical climate control which, if disrupted, could result in extreme temperatures and significant changes especially in the higher latitudes.

51 Increased volcanic activity and positive feedback of glacial ice loss would disrupt the lives and economies in European countries. BUT Models show that Iceland is not likely to remain warm. – Once the Gulf Stream is displaced or interrupted, Iceland could experience cooling and severe Polar winter. Affecting quality of living, ranching, farming, tourism

52 Meanwhile…… Iceland is a world leader in clean energy oil free in several decades greenhouse gas emissions lower than regulations allowed Iceland can increase its emissions But Iceland cannot export its cheap electricity…. The solution?

53 Exporting energy means … importing industry: aluminum smelters Alcoa has negotiated to build smelters requiring large volumes of fresh water and hydroelectric power. Iceland will build extensive dams and new geothermal wells. Smelters are known to increase greenhouse gas emissions and the release of toxic metal discharge. Alcoa promotes Its new Iceland Smelters as “eco-friendly green industry” but at Iceland’s environmental expense

54 “Saving Iceland” on Facebook environmental groups fight back HELP! NATURE UNDER ATTACK! STOP THEM KILLING ICELAND! “Stop the Icelandic government and arms manufacturers Alcoa.” “ A whole world is being drowned right now in the eastern Icelandic highlands. But the Kárahnjúkar dam project is only...”

55 Iceland is at the crossroads of the North American and European Plates, the North Atlantic, and the global community Will the unique Island continue to sustain its natural resources and quality of life? Will Iceland remain a global leader in clean, green energy practices? Or will Iceland be transformed into a developed industrial nation for the sake of Temporary monetary gain? It may not be long before the fate is sealed for this Island on the edge.


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