Iceland: The Thing To Fear In 2013

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Published January 2, 2013

Two different television shows from the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) have recently depicted Iceland as a time bomb waiting to go off this year.
As many are no doubt aware, Iceland is a volcanic island which rests atop the meeting of two tectonic plates. Two eruptions in 2010 – one at Fimmvörðuháls which was mostly a lava affair, and the other, better known ash cloud eruption at Eyjafjallajökull – prompted even the Icelandic president to speculate that nearby Katla might be the next to erupt, with serious consequences for the rest of the world.
The television section of the New York Times now reports that PBS has aired two different shows which depict Iceland as a geological time bomb set to explode this year.

In consecutive hours on Wednesday night, an installment of “Nova” and then the premiere episode of a six-part series called “Life on Fire” make clear that Iceland is a seething caldron on the verge of going kablooey, and that Icelanders aren’t the only people who should be worried about this.
The programs cover a lot of the same material, and watching one or the other is probably sufficient to put Iceland on your personal anxiety barometer. The gist of it: The country has the misfortune of being on top of a spot where two tectonic plates aren’t getting along, and a result is that it is full of volcanoes of various types (yes, there are different types of volcanoes) that erupt with disturbing frequency.

The article correctly points out that geologists are divided on the subject, with the more reasonable voices emphasising that making geological predictions within the span of a few years is very difficult at best.
“To understand how a volcano works, you need to make measurements for as long as possible,” says Hazel Rymer, a volcanologist for The Open University. “A human lifetime is nothing to the life span of a volcano.”



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