Glaciers cover 11 percent of Iceland’s landscape, and the Vatnajökull (Vatna Glacier in English) is 8,000 square kilometers and the largest in Europe. The Landsat-8 satellite captured this false-color image over Iceland’s southeastern coast and the Vatnajökull glacier.
Up to a kilometer thick, the Vatna ice cap has about 30 outlet glaciers, many of which are retreating due to warmer temperatures. Several volcanoes lie underneath this ice cap, including the infamous Grímsvötn, which disrupted northern European air traffic in recent years following eruptions and the spread of ash plumes. This volcano is visible as a black arc on the central-left side of the image.
In 1996, an eruption of Grímsvötn caused some of the overlying glacial ice to melt. The water then broke out of the ice cap and flooded the nearby outwash plain, causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage.
In the upper-central part of this Landsat-8 false-color image, a bright orange strip of lava can be seen through a crack in the surface in an area known as the Holuhraun lava field. This is known as a fissure vent and typically occurs without any explosive activity. (Credit: USGS/ESA)