Iceland’s Volcano Continues to Erupt and Disrupt

Iceland VolcanoThe volcano under the vast Eyjafjallajökull glacier erupts for the second time in less than a month causing delayed and canceled flights, widespread flooding, and one helluva fireworks show.

First it was the collapse of their banking system, and now dormant volcanoes are going off on in Iceland. What did the small, pristine island nation do to deserve such a one-two punch?  With typical Scandinavian stoic verve and organization, they seem to be coping well enough, but the volcanic eruption under the vast glacier in the south of the country continues to disrupt European air traffic, inundate roads and agricultural areas with glacial run-off, and fascinate scientists and travelers, at least those not stuck at Keflavik International Airport.  Erupting for the second time in less than a month,  the spewing volcano has also forced the closure of British and German airspace and heavily impacted all European air travel. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has cancelled all operations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden until April 17, and sources in Iceland now say all flights between Iceland and Europe remain affected, with Iceland Air ceasing service to the UK altogether and delaying or canceling many flights due to the density of volcanic ash that presents an ongoing safety hazard. The country’s Keflavik International Airport remains open however, and flights between Iceland and North America are flying on schedule

On the Continent, civil aviation safety authorities have shut off major sections of European airspace, including all airports in Germany. It’s not certain when normally scheduled flights will resume. As an example, Air Berlin has canceled all flights – except for some domestic Spanish flights – until 2 p.m. on 17th April. The airline is requesting that passengers affected by the cancellations not to travel to the airport.

As reported by NPR, no one is quite sure how long the volcano will keep erupting and sending its vast plumes into the air or if it might trigger other geological events:

“Siguhrun Hainsdottir and her colleagues at the University of Iceland have been following the activity of the volcano for three months. At first it started with a gentle tourist-style eruption. “Sometimes magma is just beautiful, [a] quite bubbly thing that comes out of the ground, and sometimes it’s more violent,” Hainsdottir says.  In this case, the eruption turned violent when the red-hot magma underground changed course and started coming up directly below a glacier. The mix of magma and ice is explosive, and how long that could last is anyone’s guess.

“We wouldn’t be surprised if it went on for months, but on and off, like we’ve seen in the last few weeks, where it comes up in one location and then it comes up on another location,” Hainsdottir says. “That didn’t surprise us.”

Hainsdottir also says she wouldn’t be surprised if the magma from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano crept underground just a bit to the east and flowed into the chambers of its much bigger volcanic neighbor, Katla, which has been unexpectedly quiet in recent decades. She she says an eruption there could trigger much more disruption than what’s happening now.  “We were just looking at each other this morning when we realized Katla is probably able to do way much more than that,” she says. “I would be worried when Katla goes up.” And she’ll also be among the first to know. “  click here to read the full story and see slideshow on the Icelandic Volcano eruption.

More important links regarding Icelandic volcano situation:

Excellent Iceland volcano slideshow from Boston.com

VisitIceland’s (Icelandic tourism board) advisory page

Iceland Air Advisory page

Link for Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport which has continually updated information on status of international flights ans an RSS feed

Cool graphic showing height of volcano’s ash plume

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