In Iceland Moss is a common plant, widely grown in the mountainous region. The moss has a special characteristic of Iceland’s Lava Fields. However, the southern coast of Iceland over Eldraun Lava field is one of the most remarkable moss blankets in Iceland. The recorded history exposed a devastating eruption that created the lava fields in Eldraun.
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In 1783 the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an expected 14 cubic kilometers of basalt lava. There are clouds of poisonous gases that contaminated the soil, killing half of Iceland’s cattle and horses, and more than three-quarters of sheep. Moss can be easily damaged and potentially irreparably. Moss areas are particularly sensitive and damage caused by footprints and tire marks can take a very long time to heal.
However, in that year, nothing grew in the Lava Fields, and no fish was found in the sea. This was resulting in famine killing approximately a quarter of the island’s human population. Therefore, Laki’s eruption had even more widespread effects. In the years following the eruption, the climate across the Northern Hemisphere deteriorated. In the winter of 1784, North America became the longest and one of the coldest on record. Thus, a massive snowstorm hit the South, the Mississippi River froze in New Orleans, and they were reports of ice floes in the Gulf of Mexico.
Moreover, a huge Haze from the eruption floated east as far away as India. This has weakened monsoon circulations and led to drought and crop failures. In 1784 the famine that hit Egypt, as a result of the eruption, killed approximately 1/6 of its population. Hence, the worst consequences were felt in Europe. The summer of 1783 was the hottest on record and a rare high-pressure zone over Iceland caused the winds to blow to the southeast. The poisonous cloud drifted across Europe, and its inhalation killed tens of thousands. In Great Britain alone, it caused some 23,000 deaths.
As the weather became hot, thunderstorms became more severe. The large hailstones rained down from the sky causing injury and death to cattle. The following winter was freezing and resulted in 8,000 extra deaths in the UK. Even though, during the spring thaw, Germany and Central Europe reported facing catastrophic flood damage.
A series of crop failures in France and the causing poverty and famine eventually triggered the French Revolution of 1789-1799. Nowadays, the Eldraun Lava Field looks very serene and tranquil. The thick green moss has helped soften the rugged landscape, almost disguising Eldhraun’s violent past.