GPS coordinates: 64°25'12'' N, 17°19'48'' W
Max. elevation: 1725 m.a.s.l.
Grimsvötn volcano, situated near the center of the Vatnajökull ice cap in central Iceland, is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes. It has a complex of calderas (Gudmundsson and Milsom, 1997), and a subglacial caldera lake sustained by geothermal heat. Small eruptions have occurred at the volcano in 1983 and 1998 (around 0.1 km3). In 1996, the Gjálp subglacial eruption occurred north of the volcano (Gudmundsson et al., 1997).
The Vatnajökull glacier is a temperate glacier covering about 8300 km2 in the SE part of Iceland. Volcanic fissure systems of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge plate boundary are partly covered by the western part of the ice sheet. Two major volcanic centers lie beneath the ice, the Bardarbunga volcanic centre and the Grimsvötn volcanic centre, both with large subglacial caldera depressions. The Bardarbunga centre is a part of a fissure system extending over 100 km to the south and some 50 km to the north of the glacier. The last eruption within the Bardarbunga centre occurred in 1910, but eruptions on the fissure system have occurred in 871 AD, 1477 AD and 1862 AD, all producing substantial amounts of lava.
The Grimsvötn centre is the more active of the two with an eruption frequency during past centuries close to one eruption per decade. The last eruption occurred in 2011. As Bardarbunga, the Grimsvötn centre is a part of a a fissure system which includes the Laki fissure, which in 1783 produced about 12-14 km3 of basaltic lava. Within the ice filled Grimsvötn caldera intense geothermal activity continuously melts the ice to form a subglacial lake, which at intervals of 5 to 10 years is emptied along subglacial channels to create large floods (jökulhlaup) on the sandur plain, Skeidararsandur, on the Icelandic south coast.