3D Modeling Research safety Surveying Technology

Mapping Lava Flows in Iceland

aerial photo of mapping lava flows

For a country that is a hotbed of volcanic and seismic activity, geoscientists in Iceland need to be constantly aware of volcanic unrest and react quickly to new developments by mapping lava flows and new environmental changes. This is one of the roles of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History (IINH) which runs a photogrammetry lab in collaboration with leading institutes in geohazards in Iceland.

Speed and safety are critical, which results in the photogrammetry team to prefer a small airplane over drones to minimize people on the ground.

Facing extreme conditions from volcanic plumes and adverse weather, their flight plans need to be flexible enough to work with what is possible in the air at each moment.

Once safely back on the ground, the data then needs to be processed quickly and sent onwards for use by other agencies and actors, including for the Civil Protection.

The photogrammetry lab of the IINH:

Creates 3D models for photo-geology
Conducts surveys of active environments such as volcanoes, landslides and glaciers.
Monitors geoheritage sites
Monitors Surtsey island
Data is open access

The eruptions nearby Grindavík town

December 2023 saw a change in volcanic activity, when a dramatic new fissure eruption began just north of the town of Grindavík, situated on the Reykjanes peninsula southwest of Reykjavík. This latest activity on the peninsula was preceded by three other eruptions in Fagradalsfjall, another volcano nearby, that started in 2021. Since then, the inhabitants of Grindavík, have had to battle the forces of nature in ways no one wants to experience, with numerous earthquakes and eventually lava flows that reached the town. Mapping these lava flows is a task done by the photogrammetry lab of the IINH, directed by Birgir V. Óskarsson.

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