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Iceland expands 2cm each year due to the north american and european plates growing further apart

By Elizabeth Marshall
Published in World
February 02, 2024
2 min read
Iceland expands 2cm each year due to the north american and european plates growing further apart

Iceland Expands 2cm Each Year: A Remarkable Result of Tectonic Plates Drifting Apart


Iceland, a land of extraordinary geological wonders and breathtaking landscapes, is not only renowned for its untouched beauty but also for its fascinating connection to tectonic plates. Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent boundary where the North American and Eurasian plates meet, Iceland experiences a unique phenomenon that continues to shape its landscape.

Known for its volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and awe-inspiring landscapes, Iceland’s geological activity can be traced back to the relentless movement of tectonic plates. The North American and Eurasian plates, which make up the earth’s solid outer shell, are continuously shifting and drifting apart. This process, known as plate tectonics, results in the gradual expansion of Iceland at a rate of approximately 2 centimeters per year.


As these two immense plates move away from each other, the underlying mantle beneath the Earth’s surface responds by upwelling molten rock, creating new oceanic crust. This continuous creation process is responsible for the formation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a prominent underwater mountain range that stretches across the Atlantic Ocean.

The diverging movement of the North American and Eurasian plates at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge directly influences the landscape of Iceland. The island, positioned right atop the ridge, essentially straddles the gap between the two plates. The relentless separation of the plates exerts immense pressure on the crust, resulting in Iceland’s unique geological features and captivating geological activity.

Iceland’s expansive and diverse landscapes are the direct result of this ongoing tectonic activity. Vast lava fields, soaring mountain ranges, dramatic cliffs, and stunning fjords demonstrate the geological wonder of a country that is continually stretching and growing. Volcanoes, such as Eyjafjallajökull and Hekla, are powerful reminders of Iceland’s fiery past and its connection to the Earth’s impressive tectonic forces.

Geologists and scientists have long been fascinated by Iceland’s incredible geological activity. Continual monitoring and research help to deepen our understanding of this dynamic process, enabling us to appreciate the incredible forces shaping this extraordinary island. Iceland serves as a remarkable living laboratory, allowing scientists to study the processes that contribute to the formation and growth of our planet.

In conclusion, Iceland’s expansion of 2 centimeters each year is a captivating consequence of the North American and Eurasian plates gradually drifting apart. This ongoing tectonic activity fuels the awe-inspiring geological wonders that make Iceland a unique destination. Whether exploring the iconic Golden Circle, witnessing the roaring power of a geyser, or strolling through fields of hardened lava, each step taken in Iceland is a testament to the astonishing forces of nature shaping our world.


  • Iceland Magazine




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Iceland has an elf whisperer who inspects construction sites before anything gets built to make sure no elves are hanging around
Elizabeth Marshall

Elizabeth Marshall

Facts explorer

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