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."



The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam