Land of Ice and Fire; and Dust

By Paulette Cully 

Iceland is at present living up to its epithet of a land of ice and fire since the most recent volcanic eruption took place on 20th March 2010. Quiet for the last 120 years, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano awoke, disgorging lava fountains and flows and later plumes of volcanic dust. However, as far as natural disasters go, according to Degg and Chesters (2006) writing in The Geographical Journal, earthquakes, droughts, floods and windstorms are the four major players in terms of losses, which claimed almost two million lives between 1900 and the time of writing. In contrast volcanic eruptions over the same time period caused less than 100,000 deaths. Commonly, volcanic hazards are spatially more restricted than other natural hazards, but Eyjafjallajökull has proved to be an exception, causing widespread disruption to air travel over Europe. 

NASA who have been monitoring the event using satellite artificial intelligence  are concerned that this eruption might be a precursor to another larger eruption at the Katla volcano nearby and if this is the case they will be ready to provide imaging data of any eruption as it progresses. On the ground, earthquake and volcanic activity is monitored by the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) which observes earth movements via GPS monitors, water conditions and weather and issues warnings based on these observations. In addition, the IMO has weather radar situated at the southwest tip of Iceland which aids in calculating the height of the ash plume which is essential for determining the distribution of the ash.  Allaying the fears of NASA, as of the 20th April the IMO have measured no earthquakes at Katla and GPS measurements do not indicate a forthcoming eruption. 

As for how long Eyjafjallajökull will continue to erupt; the answer is blowing in the wind. Volcanologists can only speculate, although the last time that the volcano erupted in 1821 it continued to erupt from time to time over a period of a year.

Read the full NASA article 



Keep informed of seismic activity in Iceland



Read the Degg and Chester article in The Geographical Journal

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