Eyjafjallajökull is one of the few stratovolcanoes found in Iceland. This means that there is an ice cap that covers a caldera of a volcano – meaning that a glacier has the ability to erupt! Most of us know the name Eyjafjallajökull for exactly this reason. In 2010 Eyjafjallajökull famously erupted causing quite the scene, with ash clouds reaching all the way to Europe and its smoke grounding all air travel for five days!
The eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 was extraordinary and one would have to search quite far back to find a comparison. The eruption has been compared to the eruptions of the great Katla Volcano which last went off in the year 1918, so as you can see you have to go back almost a century to find a comparison to the one you will read about here.
What type of volcano is Eyjafjallajokull?
Eyjafjallajökull is a stratovolcano and it’s veins follow an East-West direction. It is made up of basalt and andesite lavas.
Most of Eyjafjallajökull’s historical eruptions have been known to be quite explosive as the volcano is fed by a magma chamber that rests under the mountain. The magma chamber is derived from the continental plate meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Eyjafjallajökull is, therefore, a part of a volcano chain that stretches across Iceland. Its nearest and best-known volcano neighbor is Katla which Eyjafjallajökull is thought to be somehow more connected to than other volcanoes as it’s eruptions have generally been followed by eruptions of Katla.
Eyjafjallajökull erupted in the years 920 and 1612.
Eyjafjallajökull 2010 eruption
A lot of activity occurred in Eyjafjallajökull at the beginning of the year 2010. In the wake of heavy landslides, and earthquake activity, there was a small effusive in the northern part of Fimmvörðuháls. That eruption started on the 20th of March and lasted 23 days. Then the eruption took a break for two and a half days before starting again on the 14th of April on summit top of Eyjafjallajökull stratovolcano itself. Within the first days, the glacier had melted substantially and a few glaciers runs had occurred. Along with it came clouds of ash which reached all the way to central Europe.
Photo by Signý Ásta Guðmundsdóttir
The eruption in Eyjafjallajökull can be split into four sections:
From the 14th to the 18th of April:
Rich eruptions and quite a lot of explosion activity where water was able to reach the magma and shred it even more. This part characterized by a lot of ash plumes with finer chemicals the highest ash fall in settlement occurred on the 17th of April and ash was spreading well into South-Europe.
From the 18th of April to the 4th of May:
Now a combination of an explosive eruption and flowing lava went on. The explosiveness was little compared to the days before and the effect of water was limited. Earthquakes were frequent and less magma was reaching the surface.
From the 5th of May to the 17th of May:
The eruption has started to cool down, eruptions were happening less frequently and no new lava was flowing.
From the 18th of May to the 22nd of May:
Decreased upstream of magma and the smoke coming from the eruption was getting a lot smaller. The eruption ended in night time on the 22nd of May.
During the eruption, almost all air traffic was canceled for the next 5 days, more than 100,000 flights. The second eruption, the real Eyjafjallajökull eruption lasted 39 days. It started up again a few weeks later in June but the activity was very limited.
What does the Eyjafjallajökull name mean? Have is the pronunciation
Eyja means Islands
Fjalla means Mountains
Jökull means Glacier
Put together you will have island-mountain-glacier.
The land going from Eyjafjallajökull to the sea is often named Landeyjar (that is where the ferry dock Landeyjarhöfn comes from f.ex.) and the reason for that name is that after one of these stratovolcano eruptions occurred glacier runs covered land leaving nothing but water and only islands of land came up. People would sail in between the island placed farms and this is where the location’s descriptive name originates.
Eyjafjallajökull is, therefore, the mountain glacier above the islands. Located in the Eyjafjöll e. the mountains of the islands.
Pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull
Now, that’s a tricky one! The name Eyjafjallajökull didn’t really seem difficult to pronounce until we, Icelanders, started to have to talk about it to other non-Icelandic speaking humans. Then things really started to get complicated!
Here are videos on how NOT:
and HOW TO pronounce Eyjafjallajökull:
GPS 63°37′12″N 19°36′48″W
Eyjafjallajökull is located in the middle of the South of Iceland in between Skógafoss and Mýrdalsjökull in the Eyjafjöll mountains. It is surrounded by mountains like Stóra-Dímona and Þríhyrningur.
The main outlet glaciers from Eyjafjallajökull are Gígjökull and Steinholtsjökull. Gígjökull plunges down the hills near Þórsmörk Valley but Steinholtjökull sits higher in the highlands and is lesser known to the general public.
There are two options to hike the Eyjafjallajökull eruption site of 2010.
First and the most popular is the Fimmvörðuháls trail.
This trail can be done in one day or two days depending mainly on if you wish to stay the night. The day tour is often nicknamed The Þórsmörk Volcano hike and starts in Reykjavík going from Þórsmörk Valley up to the Fimmvörðuháls, to visit the newly formed craters Magni and Móði and back down, it is about 14 km.
The 2-day version of the Fimmvörðuháls hike starts in Reykjavík but takes you from Skógar the famous home to Skógafoss waterfall and through the highlands, over Fimmvörðuháls and into Þórsmörk valley where you stay the night and get to enjoy it’s hiking trails in the morning.
Second is hiking the actual Eyjafjallajökull glacier. This was a pretty popular trail before the eruption but since the glacier shrunk quite a bit during the eruption the trail has gotten less attention. This trek is considered challenging and should only be done by experienced hikers with a guide.
- Eyjafjallajökull consists of a volcano completely covered by an ice cap.
- Icelanders were quite surprised when it Eyjafjallajökull started to erupt since they were waiting for other volcanoes to go off!
- The elevation is 1,651 meters or 5,417 feet.
- No people died in the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions.
- When the eruption started on the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail it formed two new volcanic craters which were named Magmi and Móði.
- Eyjafjallajökull feeds Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
Other Volcanoes Close to Eyjafjallajökull
Iceland is often nicknamed as the land of ice and fire, the fire being from the volcanic activity found across the country. Many don’t know this but when Eyjafjallajokull volcano started erupting in 2010 Icelanders were just as surprised as the rest of the world as we were actually waiting for other volcanoes to go off, others that are due.
The closest volcanoes you can find near Eyjafjallajökull volcano are Katla Stratovolcano and Hekla Mountain Volcano.
The robust Katla is a stratovolcano, which basically means it is a glacier volcano or a volcano found under a glacier. The last eruption was in the year 1918 causing colossal flooding which increased the land by two kilometers (1,2 mi) to the sea but the sea has since then worn much of the increase away. Katla is located in an outlet glacier from the amazing Mýrdalsjökull glacier named Kötlujökull after the massive volcano. In recent years the area around Katla has been used to film Hollywood movies such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as the area has an incredibly stellar look to it, often described as moon-like.
Many believe Katla will be the next volcano to go off but that might cause flooding down the south shore as the meltwater from a glacier most commonly increases at an alarming rate when a volcano starts to erupt right under the thick ice. The volcano is being monitored daily and the eruption will not catch anyone off guard so there is no need to be afraid. The areas in danger will be evacuated keeping visitor out of harm’s way.
The powerful and active Hekla volcano, which used to be nicknamed “the gateway to hell” was once the most famous volcano in Iceland. It still remains one of the best-known volcanoes in the world but was outshined by Eyjafjallajokull after its eruption in 2010. The volcano has been active for thousands of years, the first recorded volcanic eruption in the year 1104 and the latest one in 2000. Hekla sits on a ridge with a four kilometers (2,4 mi) long crack along the top which is folklore tales made people believe that was a place to for lost souls to enter hell!
The potent volcano can be seen from afar as it rises tall 1,491 meters (4891,7 ft) up from the flat terrain surrounding it. There is a good chance you will spot it when exploring the South Coast.
Movies & TV Shows Filmed at Eyjafjallajökull
Some of the more famous shows and movies to be filmed at Eyajfjallajökull include
- Top Gear (2010) – James May drove a Toyota Hilux up the volcano in a 2010 episode of the Top Gear. He reached the top mere hours before the eruption happened, although May and the camera crew had left the volcano by the time the eruption started.
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Accommodation or Hotels near Eyjafjallajokull
- Skálakot Hotel Restaurant
- Hotel Anna
- Hotel Skogar
- Hotel Skogafoss
- Hotel Edda Skogar
- Hotel Selja
- Nicehostel Seljaland
- Holt Guesthouse
- Skógar Guesthouse
- South Iceland Guesthouse
- Guesthouse Rauðafell
- Guesthouse Drangshlid
- Kvíahólmi Apartments
- Dalsel Guesthouse
Cabins and Cottages
- Volcano Huts inside Þórsmörk Valley
- Ásólfsskáli Cottage
- The Garage
- Stóra-Mörk III
Camping near Eyjafjallajökull
Þórsmörk Slyppugil a fantastic and tranquil campsite open from June till September with great facilities. A start and end to many of Thorsmork’s best hiking trails.
Price: 1300 ISK per adult per night + 500 ISK for a shower.
Hamragarðar camping ground is located only about 2 km off the Ring Road 1. It is open all year round and with an easy walk to Gljúfrabúi and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls.
Price: 1500 ISK per adult per night + 300 ISK for a shower.
Electricity is 1000 ISK per 24 hours and washing machine and tumble dryer is 500 ISK.
Skógar the camping site of waterfall Skógarfoss and the historical Skógar. The facilities are open all year round.
Price: 1500 ISK per adult per night + 300 ISK for a shower.
Interesting places near Eyjafjallajökull
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Gljúfrabúi Waterfall
- Markarfljót River
- Gluggafoss Waterfall
- Fimmvörðuháls trail
- Magni and Móði volcanic craters
- Dyrhólaey Cape
- Hjörleifshofdi Cape and Yoda Cave
- Gígjökull Glacier
- Mýrdalsjökull Glacier
- The Ice Cave under the Katla Volcano
- Vík Village
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Eyjafjallajokull a composite volcano?
Yes. A composite volcano is just another word for stratovolcano. This means that the volcano is made up of layers of ash, lava, and solid stone.
Was the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull silent or explosive?
As far as eruptions go, the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption was relatively explosive! Most volcanoes don’t fall neatly into one category but instead lie somewhere along the spectrum. In silent eruptions, only a thin stream of lava spills out of the volcano. In more explosive eruptions, the blast is greater and produces more lava and ash.
Why did Eyjafjallajokull produce so much ash?
The enormous ash cloud was produced by the meeting of upwelling magma with cold glacial waters. The dramatic contrast between cold and hot created more ash.
Is Eyjafjallajokull dormant, active, or extinct?
Eyjafjallajokull is a somewhat active volcano. That means that although it erupts, those eruptions only happen every few centuries. In comparison, nearby Katla Volcano at least once a century!
Will Eyjafjallajökull erupt again?
Eyjafjallajokull is an active volcano, meaning it’s still geothermally active and can erupt again in the future. However, this eruption is not likely to occur for a long time.
What caused Eyjafjallajokull to erupt in 2010?
Scientists aren’t completely sure. However, they mostly believe that the violent eruption was caused when two different types of magma met under the volcano’s surface. Read more about the science here.
How many times has Eyjafjallajokull erupted?
Eyjafjallajokull has erupted three times in recorded history: in 920, 1610, and 2010. Much smaller eruptions occurred in the interim, but they had essentially no impact.
How did the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull affect Iceland?
The eruption most famously brought a stop to air traffic over Iceland and Northern Europe. You can still see the effects of the eruption in the surrounding area, including layers of ash and newly-formed craters. The Eyjafjallajokull eruption did not harm life in Iceland.