Háskóli Íslands

Theme background

Scope: A multidisciplinary research programme in volcanology includes the study of the origin of magma, storage, chemical evolution and transport within the crust, as well as studies of volcano structures, volcano deformation and volcano behaviour, volcanic hazards, volcanic eruptions and their environmental impacts.

The Iceland laboratory: Being the largest subaerial part of the mid-ocean rift system, Iceland provides a unique setting for research in volcanology. Extensive volcanism within the Iceland region is reflected in structurally more complicated plate boundary and more variability in the type of volcanism than along the oceanic ridge system. Moreover, volcanic eruptions in Iceland occur under diverse environmental conditions, being subaerial, subaqueous and subglacial. Modern-day monitoring and surveying techniques draw on experience gained during repeated seismic and volcanic crises during the last four decades. These events have greatly advanced our understanding of how volcanoes work and how to prepare for future hazards, such as lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars, jökulhlaups and airborne volcanic gases.

Past achievements: Important contributions to volcanology by Icelandic researchers include the pioneering tephrochronology, studies of magma-water interaction during the Surtsey and Heimaey eruptions, monitoring of rifting episodes and volcano-ice interaction, Krafla, Katla, Hekla, Bárðarbunga, Gjálp, Grímsvötn. Igneous geochemistry has revealed details of magma formation and evolution whereas knowledge of the internal structure of volcanoes has been improved by surface studies of lava sequences and eroded Tertiary volcanic systems. Recent bathymetric mapping has provided a new perspective of the plate boundary offshore. Seismological and geodetic techniques have greatly enhanced our understanding of crustal structure and dynamics of volcanic systems. Hydro-geochemistry has been used to study magma-hydrosphere interaction. Pre-eruptive processes have been monitored, and warnings have been issued prior to a number of recent eruptions. Studies of environmental effects of eruptions have demonstrated the significance of monitoring pollution from volcanic aerosols and eruptive columns.

 

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