#glacier

Increased indications of volcanic activity in Öræfajökull outlet glacier in Vatnajökull on the south shore has moved the alert state to a higher level.  According to the Icelandic Med Office increased earthquakes, changes in volcanic related chemicals in glacial rivers floating from the glacier, and a new ice-cauldron taking shape on the top of the glacier are all unusual developments.  Not the least when all occur simultaneously.

Öræfajökull glacier on right side seen from Lómagnúpur mountain on the South Shore in Iceland

In recent months earthquake activity has increased in Öræfajökull the southernmost outlet glacier in Vatnajökull icecap. Just like the increased activity in Bárðarbunga outlet glacier on the northern part of Vatnajökull this development is quite intimidating.  Both outlet glaciers are also huge volcanos, and both have a humongous amount of ice on top.

Öræfajökull glcier/volcano

 

Bárðarbunga is the second highest mountain in Iceland next to Öræfajökull standing a bit over 2000 meters tall. Like many mountains in Iceland Bárðarbunga has many different faces.  In addition to being a mountain, it is also an outlet glacier placed on the north-west side of the large ice cap Vatnajökull. On top of the mountain is an 800 meters thick layer of ice covering the mountain and its surrounding valleys and canyons.  Picturing the white sight of ice on top of Bárðarbunga is, of course, fascinating and the glacier can be seen in all its greatness from the center of the Icelandic highland. But what lies beneath is probably more interesting and possibly frightening.  Not so deep under the mountain Bárðarbunga waiting patiently is a huge magma chamber with glowing magma eager to surface. So in addition to being a mountain and a glacier, Bárðarbunga is also a volcano. Ad in addition to being the second highest mountain is also the second largest volcano in Iceland with a volcanic system that is 200 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide. The mountain is a humongous natural force that everyone hopes will never be released.  So when earthquakes begin in Bárðarbunga, everyone should be intimidated.

The scary magma beneath

One of the primary indicators predicting eruption are the earthquakes occurring when the magma is moving around near the surface.  The magma is like a giant red monster of thousand degrees trying to find its way to the surface and simultaneously moving the earth's crust causing collapses and movements. Moving its many arms from the chamber into all the cracks, fissures and crevasses it can find with the intention to surface with its tail extended deep into the earth's core. It is a frightening beast and not without success. The last time Bárðarbunga erupted was only three years ago, in 2014. Fortunately for everyone, the eruption occurred on the sand only a few kilometers north of the Bárðarbunga glacier.  And even though it was just another eruption in Iceland, it was one of the largest one in modern history measured by the volume of lava. If the monster had found its way under the glacier, only a few kilometers south, the story would have been entirely different and more like the Eyjafjallajökull eruption with more massive floods.

Eruptions in Bárðarbunga and nearby places

Although scientists predict devastating floods and even a natural disaster if the beast surfaces under the glacier the effect could be less. In 1996 a short but powerful eruptions occurred near Bárðarbunga in Grímsvötn. The eruption lasted for two weeks and melted a tremendous amount of ice producing a massive flood that found its way to the south shore instead of flooding to the north over the highland. For Icelanders, the flood was a natural disaster with devastating effects for the landscape and roads and bridges were the main victims.  Fortunately, no life was lost.  In addition to this eruption and the 2014 eruption, it is believed that a small eruption occurred in 1797. So we are yet to see a large eruption in Bárðarbunga with devastating effects for the northeast part of the country.

Bárðarbunga is the second highest mountain in Iceland

Most dangerous eruptions in Iceland occur under ice, under a thick ice cap.  The reason is the massive flood that forces its way to the shore as the magma melts the thick ice on the volcano's top.

Scientists are constantly monitoring Bárðarbunga and nearby places

The glacier Mýrdalsjökull is a very strange beast in the flora of natural wonders in Iceland. As the fourth largest ice cap in Iceland, approximately 600 square kilometers in size, it puts its mark on all its neighbors in all directions.  It is the ever- percent beauty seen from the south shore at Sólheimasandur. It is a dominating part of the landscape from at the east side at Mýrdalssandur. On the north side in the Highland, it is on your south side when driving on the Fjallabaksleið Syðri at Mælifellssandur.  On the west site, it contributes to the magnificent landscape in the oasis Þórsmörk.  It displays the stunning background of snowy white mountains for enjoyment and beauty of the landscape. But despite all the beauty and peace, the glacier throws at us from all directions it has a very dark side, it is the home of one of the most destructive forces in the Icelandic nature, the dangerous volcano Katla.

The beauty hiding the beast

With its 200-meter thick ice cap, the glacier has often, throughout the centuries and through Iceland’s geological history, transformed into a great force when Katla has erupted. When the glowing magma contacts the ice all hell breaks loose when the layer of ice starts to melt and glacial water loaded with ash, sand, rocks and lava goes out of control.  This odd unity of contrasting forces has often transformed and changed the landscape on all sides of the glacier again and again.  Sometimes forming vast canyons like Markarfljótsgljúfur on the west side or totally destroying the whole landscape for thousands of square kilometers on the east.  The most horrible thing is the fact that this could occur at any time and is not necessarily part of a long gone accent history.  Currently, it is even predicted by our leading geologists that Katla is about to erupt; it is actually overdue.

There are many interesting places around Mýrdalsjökull

Notwithstanding the danger, there are many captivating places to visit around the glacier Mýrdalsjökull.  Sólheimajökull outlet glacier being one. It is even an interesting place to visit to take a tour on a snowmobile. Mind you that today the glacier and the terrifying volcano Katla are monitored by some of the most capable geologists on the plant with state of the art technology.  Whatever the outcome might be when Katla starts to melt Mýrdalsjökull with its surfacing magma, we will know in time enough to run away under the supervision of Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Iceland.

The glacier Mýrdalsjökull is a very strange beast in the flora of natural wonders in Iceland.

Glaciers are a fascinating part of the Icelandic landscape.  Glaciers and Glacier tongues are often in such proximity to inhabited areas that they are an inseparable part of daily life.

​The interesting thing about glaciers

 

From the massive ice cap Vatnajökull, there are many glacier tongues. On the south side, they form a fascinating landscape when you are driving the Ring Road in Iceland. Falling hundreds of meters in between cliffs and mountains at such a slow speed that it is impossible for the human eye to capture the movement. Giving the view a clean white top and, at least during summer, a beautiful green and yellow foreground.  In between, the increasing cliffs as the ice continue to melt and decrease. All of the tongues have names.  On the southern side, the most famous and most accessible are Skaftafellsjokull and Svínafellsjökull glacier tongues.

Svínafellsjökull is a great place to get close to a glacier tongue

There are many reasons why you want to see a glacier tongue up close. First is the ice breaking apart and forming hundreds of cracks and stacks of an endless formation. It is always a mild attack on your imagination as you just can't avoid strange thoughts when in proximity with this demolishing part of nature.  Secondly, the beauty of this amazing landscape, so bright and clean but yet so powerful. Thirdly is the weirdness when you can hear the movement and all the spooky sounds although you can't see the movement.  And then, the many motives you can find to photograph. We could probably go on and on. Svínafellsjökull glacier has also gained fame as an attraction after this fascinating site was selected as a location for Game of Thrones season seven to represent "north of the wall."

Glacier tongues and lagoons

At the end of many glacier tongues, you will find a lake or at least a small pound.  Some are larger glacier tongues, like the famous Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón, where the icebergs float on a relatively large lake, and some are small with icebergs that have broken from the tongues. The lagoon by Svínafellsjökull is small but enough to give the glacier a fascinating and compelling look. The glacier tongue is simply a fascinating phenomenon in nature, and there are not many places you can visit such a natural wonder with such proximity as you can by visiting Svínafellsjökull.

For those interested in seeing Svínafellsjökull you only need to drive a few kilometers east from Skaftafell on the Ring Road and turn left to drive the short distance to Svínafellsjökull.

Below is the location of Svínafellsjökull on the map of Iceland

There are many reasons why you want to see a glacier tongue up close

I started my four and a half hour drive early as the weather forecast was great. I was on my way to visit Ice Caves for my information web page Hit Iceland.

Crystal Cave in Vatnajökull Glacier

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