Iceland rising as much as 1.4 inches a year, could increase volcanic activity

A University of Arizona-led research team discovered the Earth’s crust under Iceland is rebounding as global warming melts the island’s great ice caps.

Scientists have researched the relatively fast rising of the Icelandic crust for years.

But the team’s paper, which can be found in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letter, is the first to show “the current fast uplift of the Icelandic crust is a result of accelerated melting of the island’s glaciers.”

According to the research, the rising coincides with the onset of warming that began about 30 years ago.

First author Kathleen Compton, a geosciences doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona, helped conduct the research.

She says the team first began using GPS technology similar to what you’d find in a car to measure uplift in 2006.

“We used 62 GPS stations located all across the island of Iceland, and looked at how fast those GPS stations were moving upward through time,” Compton told

What really surprised researchers was the speed at which some sites in Iceland were rising.

“They’re not only moving upward very rapidly in the central and southern part of the island, but they’re speeding up over time- moving faster and faster each year.”

Some sites are rising as much as 1.4 inches a year.

So what effect could the crust’s rapid rising have on the people of Iceland? Researchers say a big - and potentially dangerous - one.

“This is important because previous researchers have shown a direct correspondence in Iceland of motion upward and volcanic activity,” said co-author Richard Bennett, an associate professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona.

Researchers say the crust’s rebound could “increase the frequency of volcanic eruptions such as the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull.”

Eyjafjallajökull is an Icelandic volcano covered by an ice cap, and its 2010 eruptions shut down travel for millions around Europe.

In late August 2014, Icelandic volcano Bardarbunga began erupting- and it hasn’t stopped since. Researchers from the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland estimate the lava field to be at least 46 feet thick at the western portion.

“I anticipate, given the 2014 Bardarbunga eruption, that there will be continued close monitoring of activity in Iceland- at least for the next five years,” Bennett told

The team’s study was financed by the National Science Foundation and the Icelandic Center for Research.


Aalia Shaheed is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here and follow them on Twitter: @FNCJrReporters

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