oil on canvas, 60cm x 60cm, Iain White 2008, £275
The Markarfljót rises in the Rauðafossafjöll massif, east of Hekla. The main sources are Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull. It flows through narrow gorges in the mountainous area between Tindfjallajökull and Torfajökull, then spreads in wide sandur plains towards Iceland's south coast and finally empties into the Atlantic west of Eyjafjallajökull.
One of the main hazards of eruptions by glacially capped volcanoes in southern island, such as Eyjafjallajökull, Katla or Grimsvotn, is sudden floods as meltwater resulting from eruptions under the glacial caps is released, often in surges. Such major flooding is referred to as a J?kulhlaup, The highest discharge ever measured in the Markarfljót was 2,100 m3/s (74,000 cu ft/s) in 1967, during the Steinholt jökulhlaup.
Meltwater surges of this kind were observed several times in the first days of the eruption under Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, particularly around midday on 14 April, some 12 hours after onset of summit activity and on the following evening. In order to avoid the crucial bridge along the main highway from being destroyed by the floodwaters, the road embankment was cut to provide an alternative path for the surge.