ICELAND’S GRIMSVOTN ERUPTS SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2011 Walter Hays, Global Alliance for Disaster Reduction, University of North Carolina, USA
Iceland lies on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the highly volatile divergent boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates that is marked by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
GRIMSVOTN • Iceland's most active volcano, Grimsvotn, located at the heart of its biggest glacier Vatnajoekull, started to spew smoke and lava late on Saturday.
AIR TRAVEL AFFECTED • The ash plume, which was more than twice the height of last year’ eruption of EYJAFJOELL, led to the establishment of “no fly zone” of 220 km (120 mi) in all directions around the summit, leaving planes grounded and closing airspace across Iceland.
BUT, EYJAFJOELL’S IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON AIR TRAVEL WAS WORSE • In 2010, EYJAFJOELL’s vertical ash plume, which, unlike Grimsvotn’s, was comprised of very fine silica ash, shut down large portions of European airspace for almost a month, and forced 600 people to evacuate from their homes.
A dark and spectacular volcanic cloud spread over Britain and toward continental Europe on Thursday, April 15, forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights as it drifted at high altitude south and east from the continuing eruption in Iceland.
The ash cloud, made up of minute particles of silicate that can severely damage jet engines, left airplanes stranded on the tarmac at some of the world’s busiest airports.