NASA MODIS Image of the day
The Land of Ice and Fire
The Land of Ice and Fire
August 1, 2021

On July 30, 2021, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image of Iceland on a warm summer’s day. Although low cloud shrouds the southern shores and fills the low-lying northern fjords and valleys, the deep greens of summer vegetation, tans of rugged rock, and pristine white of snow-capped highlands, glaciers, and ice caps are easily viewed in this image.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) explains that ice caps are miniature ice sheets. Like icefields, ice caps cover less than 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles). Unlike icefields, ice caps completely blanket the underlying land features and are domes that spread in all directions. Iceland’s four permanent ice caps are Langjokull and Hofsjokull in the interior west, Myrdalsjokull on the southern coast, and Vatnajokull on the eastern coast. Vatnajokull is the largest of the four and it covers three active volcanoes—just one reason that Iceland has been called the “land of ice and fire”.

Iceland sits on a mid-ocean ridge at the intersection of two tectonic plates. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates cross the island from south to north, and are slowly pulling apart. As the plates retreat, magma from deep in the Earth wells up to the surface, creating lava fields and volcanic activity. There are about 30 active volcanoes on Iceland today.

The most recent eruption occurred on the Reykjanes peninsula in mid-March 2021 when the Fagradalsfjall volcano erupted after lying dormant for 800 years. The on-going eruption can be seen in the image as a bright red hot spot covered with thin cloud located on the southwestern side of the island. The Fagradalsfjall eruption is primarily effusive, with lava flowing from fissures rather than being violently ejected. On July 26, the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences published a report on the ongoing eruption that gave an estimate of the total lava erupted from all vents so far measures about 96.1 cubic meters.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 7/30/2021
Resolutions: 1km (807.8 KB), 500m (2.4 MB), 250m (6.8 MB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
 Courtesy of NASA MODIS Website

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