Volcanic Eruption in Iceland Causes Floods, Shuts Down European Air Travel

By Andrew Moseman | April 15, 2010 9:56 am

EyjafjallajökullDon’t be fooled by the name—Iceland is one of the hottest hotspots in the world, geologically speaking. The island’s volcanic legacy reared its head again yesterday as a massive eruption by a volcano beneath a glacier caused the evacuation of hundreds of residents and created ash clouds that delayed flights all around Northern Europe.

The volcano, called Eyjafjallajokull, rumbled last month, but that was nothing like this. “This is a very much more violent eruption, because it’s interacting with ice and water,” said Andy Russell, an expert in glacial flooding at the University of Newcastle in northern England. “It becomes much more explosive, instead of a nice lava flow oozing out of the ground” [AP]. The flood caused by melted glacial ice caused the evacuation about 800 people. Waters threatened to spill over onto Highway 1, Iceland’s main highway that makes a circuit around the island. But some quick digging by construction crews altered the course of the water.

The huge cloud of ash meandered to the south and east toward the United Kingdom, and probably will move over mainland Europe before it finally dissipates. As a precaution, yesterday British aviation authorities totally closed the nation’s airspace. The move effectively grounded all flights in Britain from 11 a.m. local time and affected an estimated 6,000 flights that use British airspace every day, aviation experts said. Oddly, for travelers, the closing was announced under clear blue skies [The New York Times]. The altitude of the ash cloud made it difficult to see from the ground.

The main aviation risk posed by the ash cloud wasn’t that it would interfere with visibility, experts say, but rather that the fine silicate particles can seriously damage airplane engines. The particles can clog ventilation holes, causing the jet engines to overheat. Says vulcanologist David Rothery: “Air traffic restrictions have very properly been applied…. If volcanic ash particles are ingested into a jet engine, they accumulate and clog the engines with molten glass” [BBC News].

Iceland_RidgeDespite the flight cancellations, scientists tried to assure people in Britain that the ash wasn’t heavy enough to be a public health concern. In fact, it’s nothing compared to the worst eruptions to happen in Iceland, according to vulcanologist Dougal Jerram. “One of the most influential ever eruptions was the 1783-1784 event at Laki in Iceland when an estimated 120 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide were emitted, approximately equivalent to three times the total annual European industrial output in 2006. This outpouring of sulphur dioxide during unusual weather conditions caused a thick haze to spread across Western Europe, resulting in many thousands of deaths throughout 1783 and the winter of 1784″ [BBC News].

The danger this time around is that Eyjafjallajokull will trigger an eruption of its more powerful neighbor, Katla. That happened back in 1821.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Disaster! The Most Destructive Volcanic Eruptions in History (photo gallery)
DISCOVER: World Versus the Volcano, how massive eruptions leave the world cold and hungry
80beats: Three Miles Down in the Carribean, the Deepest Volcanic Vents Ever Seen
80beats: Volcanoes on Venus Could Be Alive and Ready To Erupt
80beats: Congo Volcanic Eruption Threatens To Surround Native Chimps with Lava

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Chris 73; USGS

  • Brian Too



    How many syllables does this volcano need? And how to pronounce them?? I dub thee mini-Katla. Or Katla-lite!

  • Avril

    Jesus told Sr. Faustina: Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy. (Diary, 300).
    The world needs to turn to the Lord and ask for forgiveness which will be granted if and when we learn to forgive our fellow human beings and nations forgive nations and attempt to live in harmony.
    It’s time to repent, put our trust in the Lord and work together for a better world.

  • Susan

    I agree. The Divine Mercy devotion has tremendous power.
    If only mankind would submit to God’s will and embrace His mercy!
    The Lord intended us to have life in all its fullness….
    These natural calamities testify to the power of God and how He can throw plans the world over out of control…..the world needs to turn to God in humility and prayer and allow Him to take control.

  • JJ

    Yes, God doesn’t want anyone to fly today. God disapproves of airplanes.
    But, the big question is: could you post a phonetic spelling of this volcano?

  • Maire

    Okay , Please stop with all the God bull s**t

    [Moderator’s note: Edited the cuss word.]

  • Ken

    :) i am stranded and i am broke in malaysia for 5 days because of this F volcano

  • Eric

    I think that it might be possible to act at the source of the problem. In particular, could one direct high pressure water jets at the vent?

    By directing water or water spray at the vent, one could either spray down the ash itself, or alternatively, cool the hot gas so that it does not rise up into the atmosphere. Perhaps this would only be needed intermittently.

    As this problem has been so expensive for the international community, I expect that there would be a willingness to pay for this type of intervention.

  • http://www.gmail.com Srijita

    Good information …. thanks buddy …. actually I needed the information for my school project …. I think that my school subject teacher will be quite pleased after checking my project …. THANKS ONCE AGAIN ….

  • garima

    thnx a lot yar really needed the info.
    had a school project!!!!!!!!!!!
    :-) :-)

  • garima


  • http://www.adacan.com Pastor William

    I know the power of prayer, especially group prayer.
    Mankind needs to learn to love one another.
    There are many intelligent life forms, some are nature spirits of the air, mineral, fire, water, plant, animal kingdoms, etc.
    When enough people reach to the GOD of all gods, mankind will find it possible to control the weather, and volcanoes.
    There exists intelligent life in other parts of the universe, far more advanced than mankind, that have achieved all sorts of miracles including learning to love one another.
    What say you?

  • Blah

    thank you so much. we had a project:)

  • imma alien

    thanks for this because im doing an assignment on this which is due next week but does anyone know how this was caused?It would be great help,thanks!and if anyone is from girra,then hi!

  • eric

    ohhh hope evry one is fine jambo hakunamatta

  • eric

    great how can we serve people and their property in ban

  • http://whir.li/40oq Elliot

    It is remarkable how beautiful, but harmful, an erupting volcano can be. The photos from the Iceland volcano are beautiful.

  • Jennifer Angela

    It is NOT a miracle that volcanoes erupt. That´s something they do every now and then. Also, sometimes water pours out of clouds. And guess what? We call that rain. Rain and vulcano eruptions are not miracles, but merely the most natural events in the world. Just like thunder.


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