Nature’s PMS


Volcanoes are nature’s PMS. Over a period of time pressure builds underneath the surface hidden from the eye of the superficial viewer. Majestic, powerful and seemingly calm the mountain stands nestled in front of us ripe with the delectable black and green nature that surrounds it.

But all is not as it seems, oh no, these enticing peaks will fool you with extended periods of tranquility and when you least expect it releases upon the world tons of seething hot magma destroying all it comes in contact with.

It seems Iceland is overdue for a blowout as the volcanoes Hekla and Grímsvötn are likely to erupt shortly, according to geophysicist Páll Einarsson.

Katla, which lies underneath the icecap of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, has been quiet ever since a period of six years of unrest ended in 2005, but Askja should be paid close attention to, he said in an interview on the radio program Morgunvaktin on Rás 2 on Tuesday.

“Volcanic eruptions happen every two or three years in Iceland in general. There are many volcanoes where one should be prepared for everything. Some of them are preparing their next eruptions, including Hekla and Grímsvötn,” Einarsson said.

But the volcano is an unpredictable mistress and you can’t really expect a volcano to do what you expect it to do. Katla erupted quite regularly in the 300 years before 1960 but zip, nothing, nada. Katla is holding out on us but the prediction is Katla’s volcano sisters, Hekla and Grímsvötn, which lie on the same plate boundary, are getting ready to hit the roof.

The word on the geology scene is that we don’t need to worry about the explosions. Civilians aren’t likely to be affected by the eruptions but, then again, Icelanders learned (the hard way) not to build houses underneath lava-spewing volcanoes.

In June 1783, the Laki volcano began a series of eruptions, regarded as the largest at high-latitude in the last 1,000 years. The eruptions produced three cubic miles of lava and more than 100 million tons of sulfur dioxide and toxic gases, killing vegetation and livestock.

The eruption was so vast it blotted out the sun’s light for several years, eradicating 9,000 Icelanders. In fact, the winter of 1783 was said to be the coldest in 500 years and it has even been theorized by scientists that the effects of the eruption reached the other side of the world and caused a drought in Egypt.

I’m not even joking! In Egypt! Laki's remote consequences were chronicled by the French scholar Constantin Volney and his friend Benjamin Franklin (Yeah, the one on the 100 dollar bill).

"The [annual Nile] inundation of 1783 was not sufficient, great part of the lands therefore could not be sown for want of being watered, and another part was in the same predicament for want of seed. In 1784, the Nile again did not rise to the favorable height, and the dearth immediately became excessive. Soon after the end of November, the famine carried off, at Cairo, nearly as many as the plague," wrote Volney as reported by Oman and his colleagues.

So, inadvertently Icelandic nature starved a bunch of Egyptians to death too.

Now, as for the eruptions coming up, if scientists are to be believed we are safe.

Like I said, Icelanders don’t live around these dangerous PMS-ing peaks anymore but I can’t say how a double eruption will affect the rest of the planet’s daily life, the Nile, the Ozone or otherwise, but I have my fingers crossed for you at any rate.

Nanna Árnadóttir – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.