The Nordic Volcanological Center (NordVulk) is a nordic research center specializing in volcanology and related fields. The center is co-financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Icelandic government. It is located in downtown Reykjavík, at the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, an institute of more than 60 staff members. The Institute of Earth Sciences is leading within the Nordic countries in disciplines such as volcanology and plate tectonics, and furthermore holds special expertise in climatology, glaciology, sustainable environments and geothermal processes.
NordVulk was established to enhance Nordic research and educational collaboration in dynamic geology, focusing on volcanology and plate tectonics. Nordic geologists and geophysisists often study methamorphosed and deformed rocks. The processes involved in forming such rocks are often of volcanic or tectonic origin. The NordVulk fellowships for young researchers provide Nordic geoscientists with an opportunity to participate in studies of such active processes.
Opportunities offered by the exceptional geological conditions in Iceland have been the basis for a Nordic collaborative program in volcanology for the last three decades. Part of the bedrock in the other Nordic countries is formed by similar processes as active today in Iceland. By working in Iceland geoscientists from other countries can gain experience and understanding of ongoing volcanological processes. When returning home, they can use this experience to better understand rock formations in their home country. This has been one of the ideas behind NordVulk (Nordisk Vulkanologisk Institut - Nordic Volcanological Institute) since its establishment in 1974. It has served as a Nordic centre for research and training in volcanology. Organisational changes of the Nordic cooperation in volcanology were carried out in 2004, when NordVulk merged with other geoscience activity at University of Iceland. A new Institute of Earth Sciences at University of Iceland was established, including all academic researcher and teachers in geoscience, as well as graduate students.
The institute, with a staff of over 60 persons, is located in Askja, the new Natural Science building on the university campus (Askja is also the name of a major volcano in Iceland volcanoe - the Askja caldera in North Iceland). NordVulk is now operated within the Institute of Earth Sciences as the Nordic Volcanological Center, continuing the same Nordic activities as earlier. The NordVulk research group consists today of about 20 persons.
NordVulk’s activities include both a basic research program, as well as a training program for young scientists. Current themes in research at NordVulk include focus on generation of magma in the mantle and its transport towards the surface of the Earth, as well as environmental effects of volcanic processes and eruptions. Geochemistry is being used to understand the processes of magma generation that begins at about 100 km depth in the mantle. Magma movements in the crust of the Earth above 15 km depth can then be inferred by studying crustal deformation and earthquakes.
The most important aspect of NordVulk activities is a Nordic program for young researchers. Each year NordVulk advertises five positions for young researchers in volcanology, granted for one year at a time. These positions provide opportunities for students and post-docs from the other Nordic countries to come and stay in Iceland and participate in research projects in volcanology and related fields. The applicants are expected to have completed at least a Masters degree in geoscience, and can use their stay at NordVulk as a part of a Ph.D. study at University of Iceland or elsewhere. In 2004, three Ph.D. students linked to NordVulk completed their study, at University of Iceland, University of Helsinki, and from Stockholm University, respectively. Since the establishment of NordVulk in 1974 over 100 young researchers have stayed at NordVulk, about evenly distributed between the Nordic countries. Young researchers from other countries have also stayed at NordVulk, but external funding is then needed through projects or other sources. As a part of the training program, NordVulk has also organised summer schools to provide a forum for larger number of younger researchers to meet and learn about volcanology. Each summer school has been focused on a special topic in geoscience. In 2003, a summer school on interaction of magmatic movements and tectonic crustal deformation was held in cooperation with NorFa, the Nordic Research Academy, and the National Science Foundation, USA. The summer school lasted 10 days, often with about 50 researchers, with half of them from the Nordic countries.
NordVulk has been mostly funded by the Nordic council of ministers and now also by Iceland sources. Its activities will be similar for the next few years, but an evaluation in 2007 will influence activities after that.
Nordic Volcanological Institute 1974 - 2004
The Nordic Volcanological Institute was established in 1974. The initiative, which eventually led to the inter-nordic political decision came from a group of Nordic geoscientists including Prof. Gunnar Hoppe and Prof Franz Eric Wickman in Sweden, Prof Tom Barth in Norway, Prof. Arne Noe Nygaard in Denmark and Prof. Sigurður Þórarinsson in Iceland. The basic idea behind the proposal was to strengthen the already well established earth science community in the Nordic countries by jointly exploiting the research opportunities evident in the active volcanism and tectonics of Iceland.