Iceland: Hot and cold science in nature’s geological laboratory, Part 2

Þingvellir Park in Iceland (© b k)

The summer of 1783 seemed like the end of the world for European farmers. A dry, foul-smelling fog settled on the land one day—desolating crops, burning plants, and killing people. In one French village a third of the parishioners died, and in England the death rate doubled. We now know that this catastrophe was caused by nature: a volcanic eruption on remote, virtually unexplored Iceland. This island is unique in the way it brings together in close proximity both freeze and fire, the dramatic forces of volcanos and of layers of frigid glaciers. In this two-part Research File Special, we examine both extremes.


  • Dr. John Gratton: Lecturer in geography, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Freystein Sigmundsen: Director, Nordic Vulcanological Institute, Reykjavakic, Iceland
  • Dr. Reidar Trønnes: Research scientist, on leave from the University of Oslo in Sweden, at Nordic Vulcanological Institute, Rejkjavik, Iceland
  • Dr. Peter Baxter: Consultant Physician in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University Teaching Hospital, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Professor Alan Robock: Department of Environmental Studies, Rutgers University, New Jersey, United States
  • Anette Mortensen: Research Fellow, Nordic Vulcanological Institute, Reykjavik, Iceland. 

Producer: Laura Durnford

Broadcast: September 10, 2004