One year on, Iceland volcano sleeps, but world still quakes

When Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano began acting up a year ago, no one could foresee the small eruption would soon lead to the planet's largest air space shutdown since World War II.

Today, ash still covers a wide area around the blast site, which still bears the label of volcanic hazard area and European officials continue to scratch their heads over how they will avoid similar chaos if such an eruption happens again.

After lying dormant since 1823, the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier awoke with a bang in March last year as its Finnvurdahals crater offered a magnificent spectacle of burning red lava falls, attracting throngs of tourists and volcano watchers and even chefs eager to cook over the magma.

So when just days after that eruption subsided another one of the volcano's craters rumbled to life on April 14, 2010, many expected another windfall to Iceland's tourism industry.

Instead the world witnessed a daunting, air space-paralysing plume of ash that rose to heights of up to 9,000 metres (nearly 30,000 feet).

Wind pushed the ash southeast and by evening it had reached the skies over Norway, which promptly closed its airspace for fear the fine ash would clog up aircraft engines and reduce visibility.

The next day alone, more than 10 European countries followed suit in grounding all flights, and Eyjafjoell ended up wreaking havoc in European skies for almost a month, cancelling more than 100,000 flights and affecting more than 10 million travellers.

"That was a bit unexpected," Pall Einarsson, a geophysics professor at the University of Iceland and volcano specialist, said of the eruption-prompted chaos, noting the eruption itself was widely anticipated.

The surprising thing, he said, was "how much disturbance a small eruption like this could cause. That was because the ash was extraordinarily fine and the weather conditions were very unfavorable."

An especially viscous, very gassy and extremely explosive magma also took "the lava that would otherwise flow as just peaceful lava flow and shattered it into fine ash," Einarsson told AFP.

The volcano's violent ash column quickly died down, rising to less than half its original height some five days after the blast.

But the ash remained in the sky above Europe for a month and eventually reached as far as the east coast of Canada.

The international airline industry's umbrella body IATA put the revenue loss to carriers from the eruption at 1.8 billion US dollars (1.2 billion euros), according to a "conservative estimate" it released last June.

In Brussels, the question of Eyjafjoell has yet to be filed away, with the European Commission admitting this week work was still in progress to find a way to avoid similar chaos in the future.

"The intensive efforts over the last 12 months have paid off in terms of improving crisis planning and systems. But the work goes on," EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas said.

"Volcanoes and other aviation crises are by their nature unpredictable and each one will be different. We can never get to zero risk but we can make maximum efforts to prepare strong systems to cope with disasters," he said, citing "major improvements in international volcanic ash guidelines."

On Wednesday and Thursday, the International Civil Aviation Organisation was running a gigantic exercise simulating an eruption at Iceland's Grimsvoetn volcano involving more than 70 airlines along with Eurocontrol.

Back in Iceland, Eyjafjoell is keeping quiet for the one-year anniversary of its rise to global fame, with no activity seen at the closely-monitored volcano.

It has been cooling down since it stopped erupting at the end of May, Einarsson said.

Its outburst initially crippled Iceland's important tourism sector: first by preventing tourists reaching the island nation, and then by blocking access to the rural area around the volcano.

But a year on, "the tourism industry has recovered more quickly than people feared" with more international flights than ever before set to fly to Iceland for the summer season, said Halldor Arinbjarnarson of the Icelandic Tourist Board.

Tourists are also curious, he told AFP, to travel to the glacier where the havoc started, and "there are tour operators trying to use the volcano as an attraction."

rdm/nl/bm

 

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Voices
A Siberian Tiger
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried