Thursday, April 9, 2015

Iceland: Jökulhlaup at Skaftafell

We'll start with a couple photos from the road.

Much of Iceland is covered in lush lush moss, most of it impossibly green and impossibly soft. It's draped thickly over cheese grater volcanic rock, and it's fascinating because it's unique, and, well, because it's awesome.

Yes, you can sleep on this stuff. Just don't damage it.

Random waterfall #447

Sweet relief

OK, so this is what we're really here for. Let's take a volcano, a real volcano, and just plop a glacier on top of it. Like, a real glacier, super thick and stuff. And cold. So what happens if that volcano erupts with that glacier sitting on top of it? Well, not much, at first, and nothing spectacular, at first.

Eventually, though, the magma melts enough of the bottom of the glacier that a river is created underneath the glacier, and that water has to go somewhere, and that "where" is down and out.

And there's stuff in the way of that water. And that stuff gets wrecked. This flooding is called a jökulhlaup and the wikipedia page is worth a read.

Near Skaftafell, a big jökulhlaup happened thanks to an eruption of Vatnajökull in 1996, and it included flow rates of 50,000 m^3/s. Fifty thousand cubic meters per second is a LOT OF WATER. And, as promised, stuff got wrecked.

Conquer that nature

So there's a well-traveled pulloff on the one highway in Iceland that features some pieces of steel that used to be part of a very substantial bridge. And these steel beams are a ready reminder of how much smaller we are than the forces that shape our world. And this is awesome.

Yes, conquer it

I generally feel as though anything that makes us seriously consider our place in the order of things is valuable. So there ya go. And Svein makes for one hell of a model :)


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