Iceland’s Earth Rising Up As Glaciers Shrink, Will Volcanic Activity Increase As Well?

As the ice melts on the island’s glaciers, the crust under Iceland is literally rising up, scientists say. Iceland is experiencing uplift so quickly that even geologists are surprised. Some areas of south-central Iceland are rising as much as 1.4 inches each year, and that rate is accelerating. According to geologists, when glaciers melt, the earth’s crust in that area actually rebounds from the decrease in weight and exhibits an “uplift.” Is this uplift related to other geological events like volcanic activity and earthquakes?

Researchers, led by a team from the University of Arizona, say they are the first to demonstrate that Iceland’s crust has risen as a result of glacier melting. The team’s findings will be published in the AGU journal, Geophysical Research Letters. In that report, they show that Iceland’s uprising coincides with glacier melting that began 30 years ago due to climate change, according to Science Daily.

“Our research makes the connection between recent accelerated uplift and the accelerated melting of the Icelandic ice caps,” Kathleen Compton, lead author on the paper, explained in a university news report.

Richard Bennett, an associate professor of geosciences involved in the Iceland research, claims scientists are now certain that the rebound of the earth’s crust beneath Iceland is a result of modern glacier melting and not from previous melting.

The team used 62 GPS devices to monitor the upward movement of Iceland’s earth through a technique called geodesy. The team confirmed that in order for Iceland to experience accelerated uplift, the region had to have also experienced accelerated glacier melting.

“I was surprised how well everything lined up,” Compton said of her data. “There’s no way to explain that accelerated uplift unless the glacier is disappearing at an accelerated rate.”

“What we’re observing is a climatically induced change in Earth’s surface,” Bennett explain of Iceland’s upward movement.

The article featured in the UA News, the university’s newspaper, indicated that some researchers speculate that as glaciers melt, volcanic activity often increases. Should we worry about increased severity of volcanic eruptions from Iceland? In 2010, Eyjafjallajökull (AYA-feeyapla-Mukul), an Icelandic volcano that had been dormant for two centuries, suddenly erupted repeatedly. Flights were cancelled across many parts of Europe for days due to the smoky ash in the sky.

In 2014, the Inquisitr reported about several hundred to even thousands of earthquakes in and around Iceland, and geologists kept watch over the Icelandic volcano Bardarbunga waiting for it to erupt. The following Inquisitr report on geological activity in Iceland indicated an entirely new fissure in Iceland spewing lava near Bardarbunga.

Just weeks ago, the Inquisitr reported on Iceland geological activity that scientists are closely watching.

“The Holuhran lava flow in Iceland has been more active over the last four months than it has in over 200 years. The lava flow is occurring in the interior highlands, where the area is mostly inhabitable. Despite a lack of immediate human danger, the constant eruption has caused hundreds of earthquakes, and is spewing large amounts of sulfur dioxide along with the constant flow of lava.

“The last eruption of a similar magnitude was in the 1780s, where the long term and widespread activity killed off nearly a quarter of Iceland’s population.”

Bennett said evidence exists that 12,000 years ago, when glaciers experienced accelerated melting, volcanic activity increased 30-fold. The article in the UA News hinted that the world should be prepared for Iceland to experience geological changes and events at an accelerating rate thanks to climate change.

[Photo via Richard A. Bennett/UA Department of Geosciences]