Carolina Pagli of the University of Leeds wrote a 2008 paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that says climate change may trigger more volcanic eruptions as the resulting glacial melt removes enormous weight from the surface, freeing up magma from the deep.
She and vulcanologist Freysteinn Sigmundsson from the University of Iceland documented how the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago coincided with a tenfold increase in eruptions on the North Atlantic island.
They believe it occurred because the land rose as the ice melted away.
Iceland’s icecaps have been melting without much interruption since 1890, which the researchers believe could mean the island is in for another period of amplified volcanic activity.
Ice-covered volcanos in the Andes, Antarctica and the Aleutian Islands could face similar fates, Pagli and Sigmundsson caution.
But they stress that the latest eruption at Eyjafjallajokull is unlikely to be due to glacial melt because it rests beneath a relatively small ice cap.
Photo: Örvar Atli Þorgeirsson