Iceland Geography Case Study

Eyjafjallajökull erupted from March to May 2010.

Causes: Iceland lies on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, a constructive plate margin (The Eurasian plate moving away from the North American plate). As the plate moves apart magma rises to the surface through the gap to form several active volcanoes as layers build up. Eyjafjallajökull is located beneath an ice cap in southern Iceland, 125km south of the capital city Reykjavik.

Exam question (higher tier): Explain how volcanoes form at constructive plate margins. 4m

Answer: There should be reference to two (continental) plates moving apart. This is the result of convection currents in the Earth’s crust that determine the direction of movement. As they pull apart, a ‘gap’ is created between the plates. This is filled by magma rising up out of the mantle to plug the gap and make the crust complete. As this occurs again and again, layers of lava solidify and build up to create volcanoes. This often happens under the oceans.

Eruptions in March were mostly lava eruptions; they were spectacular and fiery but presented little threat.

On April 14th a new phase began which was much more explosive. Violent eruptions belched huge quantities of ash into the atmosphere.

Primary effects: Day turned to night due to the ash blocking out the sun., rescuers wore face masks to prevent them choking on the clouds of ash. Homes and roads damaged and services disrupted, crops damaged by ash, roads washed away. 100,000 flights cancelled over 8 days. Total loses of £80million.

Secondary effects: Sporting events were cancelled or affected due to cancelled flights. Fresh food imports stopped and industries were affected by a lack of imported raw materials. Local water supplies were contaminated with fluoride. Flooding was caused as the lacier melted and torrents of water flowed out from beneath the ice.

International Impacts: The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull became an international event in mid April 2010 as the cloud of ash spread eastwards towards Europe. Large sections of European airspace closed down. The knock on effects were felt globally. Business people and tourists were stranded, industrial production was affected as raw materials could not be flown in.

Positive impacts: Eyjafjallajökull has become a new Icelandic tourist attraction with its own visitors centre. The eruption gave the country a tourism boost (we travelled there in July 2013 and we are returning in February 2015). For those who went on the trip we did stop at a view point of Eyjafjallajökull but it was unfortunately too cloudy to see the top of the volcano.

Lava and ash are rich in nutrients making the soils in volcanic areas very fertile and good for agricultural use. The rocks can be used for building. Geothermal energy is a very valuable resource in Iceland and is used for hot water and to heat swimming pools.

Nesjavellir Geothermal Power plant

Immediate responses: Evacuation.

Long term responses: Further research into the effects on ash on aircraft.  Reconstruction of roads, local flood defences needed reconstructing.

SAMPLE EXAM QUESTIONS: (higher and foundation) Using a case study describe the primary and secondary effects of a volcanic eruption. 6m.

ANSWER: The volcanic eruption we studied is Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland which erupted from March to May 2010. The primary effects included rescuers wore face masks to prevent them choking on the clouds of ash. Homes and roads damaged, services disrupted and crops damaged by ash. Secondary effects were flooding,  caused as the glacier melted and torrents of water flowed out from beneath the ice. Sporting events were cancelled or affected due to cancelled flights. Fresh food imports stopped and industries were affected by a lack of imported raw materials. Local water supplies were contaminated with fluoride.

 

Eyjafjallajokull Case Study

The aim of this 15-minute video is to reflect on the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 and to look forward to possible future volcanic eruptions in Iceland. The film shows that, through detailed scientific knowledge and monitoring, the people in Iceland not only understand the threats posed by volcanic eruptions but also see the rich benefits of living in the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’.

In visiting some of the locations affected by the eruption, the video interweaves narrative with incisive interviews of local experts (including geology writer and broadcaster Ari Trausti), stunning archive footage of the eruption itself and supportive maps and diagrams.

In this video, we cover:

  • the causes and impacts of the eruption, with visits to some of the localities directly affected
  • volcano monitoring and preparedness
  • the impacts associated with the future eruption of Katla
  • positive impacts of the volcanic eruption on tourism in Iceland

This video is suitable for all ages. It will act as an excellent support in the study of tectonic hazards.

Our new teacher resource video ‘Eyjafjallajokull: a Geography Case Study’ received the Highly Recommended Award at the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers Conference 2016.

Watch the preview below, and view the full video here

Download additional resources
To make the most of this video we have also created some additional teaching resources to use in the classroom - click on the resources below to view and download. 

Eyjafjallajokull Worksheet                               
Eyjafjallajokull Worksheet Answers

Eyjafjallajokull Extension Activities Questions   
Eyjafjallajokull Extension Activities Answers


Katla                                                             
Katla Answers

To request your free classroom posters click here

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