Photographer's Note

THE LAKAGIGAR volcanic system

Laki or Lakagígar (Craters of Laki) is a volcanic fissure situated in the south of Iceland, not far from the canyon of Eldgjá and the small town Kirkjubćjarklaustur, in Skaftafell National Park.

Laki is part of a volcanic system, centering on the Grímsvötn volcano and including the Eldgjá canyon and Katla volcano, and lies between the glaciers of Mirdalsjökull and Vatnajökull, in an area of fissures which run in a south-west to north-east direction.
In AD 934, the Laki system produced a very large volcanic eruption, as a flood basalt in the Eldgjá eruption, which released 19.6 km3 of lava.

In 1783-1784, the system erupted again, from the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano, spewing 15 km3 of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous fluorine/sulfur-dioxide compounds that killed over 50% of livestock, leading to famine which killed 21% of the population. A fissure with 130 craters opened explosively at first because of the groundwater interacting with the rising basalt magma.

The consequences for Iceland were catastrophic. Around 21% of the population died in the famine of 1783 to 1784 after the fissure eruptions ceased. Around 80% of sheep, 50% of cattle and 50% of horses died because of dental and skeletal fluorosis from the 8 million tons of fluorine that were released.

An estimated 122 Tg (120 Million tons) of sulphur dioxide were emitted into the atmosphere: approximately equivalent to three times the total annual European industrial output in 2006, and also equivalent to a Mount Pinatubo-1991 eruption every three days. This outpouring of sulphur dioxide during unusual weather conditions caused a thick sulphurous haze to spread across western Europe, resulting in many thousands of deaths throughout 1783 and the winter of 1784.
The summer of 1783 was the hottest on record and a rare high pressure zone over Iceland caused the winds to blow to the south-east. The poisonous cloud drifted to Bergen in Denmark–Norway, then spread to Prague in the Province of Bohemia by 17 June, Berlin by 18 June, Paris by 20 June, Le Havre by 22 June, and to the Kingdom of Great Britain by 23 June. The fog was so thick that boats stayed in port, unable to navigate, and the sun was described as "blood coloured".

This picture has been published in: Detay M., Detay A.-M. — Islande - splendeurs et colčres d’une île. Belin Ed. 208 p. (2010). ISBN 978-2-7011-5762-7

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Additional Photos by Michel Detay (mdetay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 485 W: 1 N: 1031] (4881)
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