An eruption in Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano has caused authorities to issue a red alert for air traffic and to stop all flights over the relevant area in case of a massive volcanic explosion. Code Red indications that eruptions are either ongoing or imminent.
There have been thousands of mini earthquakes deep beneath the Vatnajokull glacier and fear of eruption has caused the Icelandic government to evacuate hundreds of people from areas surrounding the glacier.
An official from the Icelandic equivalent of the Met Office said: “There is an ongoing eruption beneath the glacial surface, probably a small eruption which has not been able to melt the ice cap.”
When the Eyjafjallajokul volcano erupted in Iceland in 2010, more than 100,000 international flights were disrupted or cancelled at an estimated cost of $1.7 billion. With regards to today’s eruption of Bardarbunga, Bjorn Malmquist, of the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, said: “A small eruption started 40 minutes ago but we have yet to see how powerful it is. It will take a couple of hours for the eruption to work its way through 500m of glacial ice above. Until then there’s not much we can say about the air traffic.
“As long as there is water and magma interaction there will be a lot of ash, and explosions in the eruption itself, but its probably not going to be of the same kind in 2010. This will probably be more a fissure eruption, a sub-glacial eruption.”
A spokesman for the UK’s air traffic control organisation, NATS, said: “We are monitoring the situation and working in close collaboration with the Met Office, Department for Transport and our safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.”
A spokeswoman for the Met Office in the UK confirmed they are also keeping an eye on things in Iceland: “We are in close contact with the Icelandic Met Office, but currently they tell us that the eruptions are sub-glacial, so no ash has made it to the surface. If ash does make it to the surface, we will run our model which will indicate where any ash would go, and we will inform the CAA and NATS. They will then make the decision on how that will affect any air flights.”