A Geologist's Dream
Where the warm southern Gulf Stream confronts the icy Arctic currents from the north, Iceland straddles the mid-Atlantic ridge at the merger of the North American and European tectonic plates. Volcanic activity continues to form the island by slowly forcing the plates to separate. During the past few centuries, a volcanic eruption has occurred on average every five years. Mt. Hekla erupted in February 2000, and the cauldron that awoke under the Vatnajökull glacier in the fall of 1996 quickly melted through hundreds of feet of ice not far from Grímsvatn.
Yet no one need wait for an eruption to be reminded of the fiery forces' presence, because they also heat the hot springs and geysers that gurgle, bubble, and spout in many parts of the country. The springs, in turn, provide hot water for public swimming pools and heating for most homes and buildings, helping to keep the air smog-free. Hydropower generated by harnessing some of the country's many turbulent rivers is another main energy source that helps to keep pollution and the expense of fossil fuels at a minimum.
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