Iceland volcano eruption: will it spark a flight disaster and the way lengthy will it final?

Iceland volcano eruption: will it spark a flight disaster and the way lengthy will it final?

At 10.17pm native time (22.17 GMT) on Monday, a volcanic eruption started north of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland. It got here after weeks of intense earthquake exercise and has been described as “amongst probably the most spectacular ever seen”.

So what has precipitated it, and what occurs subsequent?

What has occurred and why?

A 2.5-mile (4km) crack within the Earth’s floor has opened up, spewing glowing orange jets of lava surrounded by billowing clouds of pink smoke.

In an in a single day replace, the Icelandic Met Workplace mentioned the eruptive fissure was about 4km lengthy and the gap from the southern finish to the sting of Grindavík was virtually 3km.

At one level, between 100 and 200 cubic metres (3,530 and seven,060 cubic ft) of lava was rising per second.

The eruption had been anticipated for a while. The Reykjanes peninsula was hit by a so-called seismic swarm in late October and November, with a whole bunch of earthquakes taking place each day for a interval. Bulges within the land appeared as magma moved up into the Earth’s crust.

Located within the North Atlantic, Iceland straddles the mid-Atlantic ridge that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. These big slabs of rock are transferring aside at a price of a few centimetres a yr, leading to seismic and volcanic exercise.

Are individuals at risk?

For weeks, the inhabitants of Grindavík, a fishing city with a inhabitants of 4,000 individuals positioned about 25 miles (40km) south-west of Iceland’s capital, had feared their houses can be hit by any eruption when it got here. Their worries appeared to have been allayed on Tuesday when it appeared that the city, which was evacuated in November, was not going to be hit by the lava stream.

Iceland’s authorities mentioned in a press release on Tuesday that the eruption didn’t current a menace to life. The nation’s infrastructure minister, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, instructed the broadcaster RÚV that “we appear to have been fairly fortunate with the placement and improvement [of the eruption], and we hope that can proceed”.


Residents of Grindavík seem to have had an extremely slender escape. Police advised on Monday that there could possibly be a chance of their being permitted to return dwelling with out restrictions for Christmas.

For guests to Iceland, security have to be paramount, mentioned Matthew Watson, professor of volcanoes and local weather on the College of Bristol. He added that though there can be a “robust pull” to witness the eruption, individuals should take care.

“This model of eruption is amongst probably the most spectacular ever seen and there can be a powerful pull for vacationers, though the Blue Lagoon [geothermal spa] advanced has once more shut. Vacationers ought to strictly comply with official recommendation as there are important hazards, resembling new breakouts, which may shortly put individuals in harms method,” he mentioned.

The lava flows had been nonetheless just a few kilometres away from vacationer spots such because the Blue Lagoon “and there may be nonetheless concern of lavas reaching these key areas”, added Sam Mitchell, a analysis affiliate in volcanology, additionally on the College of Bristol.

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Is that this going to spark one other world flight disaster?

In 2010, an ash cloud created by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano precipitated flight cancellations and journey chaos world wide.

Specialists don’t imagine the most recent volcanic eruption could have the identical affect as a result of it’s unlikely to supply as a lot ash. “There may be presently no menace to the airspace from this eruption, particularly to flights additional than Iceland,” mentioned Mitchell.

“Any modifications to air site visitors could also be restrained to Keflavík [the nation’s largest airport] if there are modifications in wind course or outputs of gasoline and effective ash.

“This can be a very totally different eruption to that of Eyjafjallajökull … the place a big explosive eruption below a glacier produced a really massive cloud and really effective ash within the environment when the wind course was pointing in the direction of mainland Europe.”

The Icelandic authorities mentioned: “There are not any disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and worldwide flight corridors stay open.”

How lengthy might this final?

We simply don’t know. “It is extremely tough to say how lengthy these eruptions will final; it could possibly be days, it could possibly be months,” mentioned Mitchell.

“Bigger extra intense eruptions are likely to final a shorter time, but when the stream price turns into small it might go on for a while,” he added.

Officers are taking a wait-and-see strategy. Iceland’s president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, mentioned: “We now wait to see what the forces of nature have in retailer.”

“We’re ready,” he mentioned, “and stay vigilant.”

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