From Iceland — Iceland's Top 5 Volcanoes: Hot Or Not?

Iceland’s Top 5 Volcanoes: Hot Or Not?

Published September 8, 2016

Iceland’s Top 5 Volcanoes: Hot Or Not?
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Axel Sigurðarson

With the recent news that seismic activity was recorded around the volcano Katla, international media sources were quick to declare that a massive eruption was set to go off in Iceland any day now. While the truth is more complicated than that (short version: there aren’t any signs yet that Katla is ready to pop, but it is long overdue for a major eruption), we thought it might be a good idea to re-acquaint our readers with our major volcanoes, and rate them by various criteria. So without further ado, here are Iceland’s better known volcanoes.

5. Snæfellsjökull
Location: Snæfellsnes, West Iceland.
Last erupted: Around 200 CE, give or take
Pros: Reportedly the gateway to The Centre of the Earth; looks pretty cool even close up; is said to be a major “power centre” of ley-line energy, if you believe that sort of thing.
Cons: Hasn’t erupted since way before the Settlement; makes the area all around it a lot colder on account of the glacier; does not actually lead to the centre of the earth.
HOT OR NOT: No eruption in over a millennium = ice cold.

Copyright © 2014 Matthew Eisman. All Rights Reserved
4. Askja
Location: Central Highlands
Last erupted: 1961
Pros: Continues to quake and tremble in a threatening manner; the last eruption made some beautiful explosion craters, including a geothermal lake that is literally called Hell (“Víti”).
Cons: Doesn’t look like a volcano so much as a meteorite impact site; entirely too inaccessible to curious human explorers; geothermal lake does not actually lead to Hell.
HOT OR NOT: Gets points for style, but there’s not much backing it up.

3. Hekla
Location: South Iceland
Last erupted: 2000
Pros: Erupts about as often as you change socks; easily accessible to curious human explorers; actually resembles a volcano in appearance.
Cons: Bit sexist giving a volcano a woman’s name, isn’t it?; keeps taunting us with the possibility of a new eruption; destroyed the forest that was once around the area.
HOT OR NOT: With eruptions this frequent, it’s decidedly more than a little bit hot.

2. Eyjafjallajökull
Location: Southeast Iceland
Last erupted: 2010
Pros: Caused an international media shitstorm when it erupted last; inspired an Icelandic Eurovision contender that should have made the cut; nearly impossible for foreigners to pronounce.
Cons: Gave former president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson a reason to talk to the press; caused numerous hotel reservation and flight cancellations; inspired the “I Hate Iceland Guy” meme.
HOT OR NOT: Flash-in-the-pan flavour of the week but still commands star power. Very hot.

1. Katla
Location: South Iceland
Last erupted: 1918, although it may have contributed to glacial flooding in 2011.
Pros: One of the most spectacularly powerful volcanoes in the country; has sent ash to Europe on many occasions; has gained mythic proportions as a symbol of complete destruction.
Cons: Again, what’s with volcanoes being given women’s names?; could actually be very destructive when it erupts; continues to be guaranteed clickbait for alarmist reporting.
HOT OR NOT: You just can’t compete with a legend. Hottest of them all.

Additional photo credits (in descending order): Art Bicnick, Matthew Eisman, Oxonhutch/Wikimedia Commons, NASA Goddard Space Center, RicHard-59/Wikimedia Commons.

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