Land of fire and ice
Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland is a fascinating mix of ancient volcanoes, glaciers, and geothermal pools. Iceland is in fact one of the most dynamic volcanic regions in the world, straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the activity of divergent tectonic plates brings heat and magma closer to the earth´s surface. Because of this, Iceland holds enormous geothermal resources.
During the course of the 20th century, Iceland went from what was one of Europe’s poorest countries, dependent upon peat and imported coal for its energy, to a country with a high standard of living where practically all stationary energy is derived from renewable resources. Roughly 85% of Iceland’s energy use comes from indigenous renewable resources, and 100% of its electricity comes from renewable power (a mix of geothermal and hydro). So where does the non-renewable energy use fit in? Mainly in transportation such as cars, airplanes, and fishing boats.
From our campsite tonight we can see a glacier off in the distance, along with rising steam from a geothermal pool. We will pass by the glacier tomorrow, and reach an accessible geothermal pools in several day’s time.
The glaciers here in Iceland are receding at unprecedented rates. A leading glaciologist in Iceland, Oddur Sigurðsson, fears all Icelandic glaciers will have disappeared completely within the next two centuries.
Serious concerns triggered by the melting glacial ice include not only rising seas around the island, but also an increase in volcanic activity. The increased volcanic activity is caused by melting that is occurring underground. This increased volcanic activity in combination with the receding glaciers is making the island of Iceland itself rise, about 1.4 inches per year, according to geophysicists on the island who are keeping track. Though 1.4 inches may not sound like much, Iceland is getting higher faster than anywhere else in the world.
The effects of more volcanic eruptions in Iceland could also have international impact. For example, in 2010 the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull shut down air space across northern Europe for weeks.