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Volcano erupts near Eyjafjallajoekull, Iceland

Posted by feww on March 21, 2010

Eruption near Eyjafjallajoekull glacier first in 190 years

There were no reports of injuries or damage as a result of the  eruption, as of posting; however, a state of emergency has been declared in the townships near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier.

The towns of Fljotshlio and Markarfljot have been evacuated. NO fly zone has been imposed, covering much of Icelandic airspace.

Local experts are concerned that the eruption could trigger a larger and more dangerous eruption at Katla volcano which is located about 25 km to the east of the eruptive fissure.

Aerial photo shows molten lava venting  from a fissure near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier south of Iceland. The eruption ejected  molten lava and ash into the air early Sunday March 21, 2010. It was the first major eruption in the area in almost two centuries. (AP Photo/Ragnar Axelsson). Image may be subject to copyright. See Fire-Earth Fair Use Notice. Click image to enlarge.

“This was a rather small and peaceful eruption but we are concerned that it could trigger an eruption at the nearby Katla volcano, a vicious volcano that could cause both local and global damage,” said Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Science, AP reported.

“We estimate that no one is in danger in the area but we have started an evacuation plan and between 500 and 600 people are being evacuated,” Sigurgeir Gudmundsson of the Icelandic civil protections department told the AFP.

The eruption occurred about 23:30UTC Saturday (7:30 pm ET) near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, Iceland.

The eruption was first believed to have occurred beneath the glacier, prompting fears of flooding that could potentially come from glacier melt, but aerial survey early Sunday showed that the eruption had actually occurred close to but not beneath the glacier.

Eyjafjallajoekullis is one of Iceland’s smaller glaciers

Map of Iceland with the location of Eyjafjallajoekull glacier marked. Click image to enlarge.

“The eruption is a small one,” said Agust Gunnar Gylfason at the Civil Protection Department, AP reported.

“An eruption in and close to this glacier can be dangerous due to possible flooding if the fissure forms under the glacier,” he said. “That is why we initiated our disaster response plan.”

“Ash has already begun to fall in Fljotshlid and people in the surrounding area have reported seeing bright lights emanating from the glacier,” RUV public radio said on its website.

Iceland’s Civil Aviation authorities imposed a 120 nautical miles (220km) no-fly zone away from the volcano, which covers most of Icelandic airspace.

At least 3 Icelandair flights, bound for Reykjavik from the US, were  ordered to return to Boston, RUV radio reported.

The last volcanic eruption near Eyjafjallajoekull glacier occurred 189 years ago in 1821 and again in 1823.

Freeze frame from Iceland TV footage.


Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary along the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is geologically and volcanically active island with numerous volcanoes. Iceland has a population of about a third of a million with a total area of 103,000 sq km (39,769 sq mi).

Iceland is essentially an arctic desert dotted with with volcanoes, mountains and glaciers. A rim of agricultural areas in the lowlands sit close to the coastline. Iceland is made habitable by the Gulf Stream.

Eyjafjallajokull Glacier

Eyjafjallajokull Glacier – The glacier is located about 120km (75 miles) east of Reykjavik and covers a 1,666-m high volcano of the same name. GNU License.

Seismic Activity and Swelling observed since January

“This event has had a long prelude in earthquake activity,” Einarsson told The Associated Press. “The volcano has been inflating since the beginning of the year, both rising and swelling.

“One of the possible scenarios we’re looking at is that this small eruption could bring about something bigger.”

“This is the best possible place for an eruption,” said Tumi Gudumundsson, a geologist at the University of Iceland, relived that the Eyjafjoll volcano which is buried beneath  the Eyjafjallajoekull glacier had not erupted.

Automatic Earthquake Location Map of Iceland.  Most of the recent seismic activity has occurred near the  Eyjafjallajokull Glacier, with a few shock occurring close to the position of Katla, which is buried under the Myrdalsjökull icecap.  ©The Icelandic Meteorological Office

Explosion at Laki (Lakagigar) Volcanic fissure

A destructive eruption at Laki volcano, which occurred over an 8-month period in 1783–1784, ejected about 14 cubic km (3.4 cu mi) of basalt lava and plumes of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulfur-dioxide gas that lead to a famine in Iceland. About a quarter of the population and half of all livestock perished. Dust clouds covered most of Europe and parts of Eurasia and Africa for a year.

Few Facts about Icelandic Volcanoes

  • Iceland is home to about 130 volcanoes, 18 of which have erupted since about 1,000 years ago.
  • Eruption from Iceland’s volcanoes have produced more than 30 percent of the total lava output globally, since the 1500s.
  • The Laki eruption in 1783-1784 produced he largest volume of lava in the last 500 years.
  • An eruption of Eldgjá in 934 CE produced twice as much lava as did Laki.

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