Global warming is causing the nation of Iceland to rise due to receding glaciers. The crust of the Earth beneath Iceland is rising faster than what scientists previously thought. The rising could potentially cause more volcanic eruptions.
The glaciers around Iceland are rising at a rate of 1.4 inches per year. This is freeing land up where the glaciers once were. However, there is a very large downside. Scientists believe that the extra fluctuation in rise of the land could drastically increase volcanic activity on the island and threaten the nation’s entire population. Evidence of this has been seen in the past five years when three Icelandic volcanic eruptions caused the closing of many European airports. It also caused the grounding of hundreds of flights after clouds of ash spewed miles into the air.
A new research paper was published in Geophysical Research Letters from scientists at the University of Arizona and the University of Iceland. Both teams observed that the earth’s crust is rising at a much faster pace due to the greater warming of the Earth of the last 30 years. They came to the conclusion of the 1.4 inch rise in land after measuring five different regions in the south and central parts of Iceland. Scientists have known for years that receding glaciers have caused the island nation to rise; however, they did not anticipate such a sharp increase in the amount of rise. Global warming is causing the ice sheets to become giant masses of liquid water.
University of Arizona geologist Richard Bennett stated that the melting of the ice sheets due to global warming is similar to placing weight on a trampoline. If you remove the weight from the trampoline the tension is relieved and it goes back to its original shape. He explained that the bigger bounce in rise of land is due to global warming and the increase in levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The researchers at both universities utilized 62 GPS systems which were located in different areas of rock throughout Iceland to measure minute changes in land rise. Many of the GPS devices have been in their position since 1995.
The teams state that the increased melting of the ice will cause an increase in volcanic activity. Though the chain reaction involving rising land, melting ice masses, and volcanic activity is not fully understood, Bennett stated that they will soon find out and be able to predict what will happen next.
To explain the pressure increase, Bennett explained that the transfer and transportation of heat below the Earth’s surface acts like a hot potato. Heat moves from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure which creates conditions for increased ice loss and creates conditions prime for intense volcanic eruptions.
As the surface of Iceland rise due to global warming and the melting ice caps around the region, the pressure below the Earth’s crust has the potential to redefine the topography and general way of life of Iceland. If global warming can cause Iceland to rise and potentially change its geography, Bennett stated it may happen elsewhere.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: Johnathan – Flickr License