The tiny, island nation of Iceland is in the middle of a growth spurt. For the past month, the country’s Bardarbunga volcano has been churning out lava at a prodigious rate. And the eruption shows no signs of abating.
It all began with a swarm of earthquakes in late August, according to Rikke Pedersen, with the Nordic Volcanological Center at the University of Iceland. Volcanologists watched as the tremors moved north about 25 miles. A fissure opened and lava began pouring forth.
So far, the lava field has covered more than 14 square miles.
“That corresponds about to the size of Manhattan,” Pedersen says.
Pedersen says the eruption is being caused by the spreading of the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate, which are moving apart from each other. As the plates spread, magma from Bardarbunga has started flowing into the gap — literally making Iceland expand.
Pedersen says the eruption has produced more lava than any eruption since 1947, and it could soon surpass even that one. “So far, it’s only been 20 days,” she says.