The Resource

Iceland is a young country geologically. It lies astride one of the earth's major fault lines, the Mid-Atlantic ridge. This is the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The two plates are moving apart at a rate of about 2 cm per year. Iceland is an anomalous part of the ridge where deep mantle material wells up and creates a hot spot of unusually great volcanic productivity. This makes Iceland one of the few places on earth where one can see an active spreading ridge above sea level.

As a result of its location, Iceland is one of the most tectonically active places on earth, resulting in a large number of volcanoes and hot springs. Earthquakes are frequent, but rarely cause serious damage. More than 200 volcanoes are located within the active volcanic zone stretching through the country from the southwest to the northeast, and at least 30 of them have erupted since the country was settled.

In this volcanic zone there are at least 20 high-temperature areas containing steam fields with underground temperatures reaching 250°C within 1,000 m depth. These areas are directly linked to the active volcanic systems.

About 250 separate low-temperature areas with temperatures not exceeding 150°C in the uppermost 1,000 m are found mostly in the areas flanking the active zone. To date, over 600 hot springs (temperature over 20°C) have been located (Fig. 2).