An erupting volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, in Iceland is causing havoc to air travel in Europe. The volcano, which began erupting last month, has just shifted its point of exit slightly and is spewing out huge quantities of ash high into the atmosphere. The ash is headed straight for the north of the UK, and northern Europe, as can be seen in the picture, and this has forced a number of airports to close.
It was thought that the eruption was slowing down last week, but what ahd actually happened was the eruption had found a new place to spring forth, from under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier. As well as the giant ash cloud, the volcano’s new outlet is melting huge amounts of glacier water, and triggering floods.
Experts are saying that the eruption was not unexpected, nor is it unusual. But that ash is causing havoc nonetheless. “Volcanic ash is silica-based material and highly abrasive. It is capable of causing major damage to aircraft through clogging engines and causing them to flame out, and by scouring windscreens so as to make them opaque,” explains Bill McGuire from University College London’s Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre.
The last time this volcano erupted, it went on for two years, beginning in 1821. Iceland is coping, though. “Iceland is extremely well prepared for all kinds of scenarios around this particular volcano,” says Dave McGarvie, a volcanologist, from the Open University, UK.
Image: From a video of the ash cloud captured by EUMETSAT