Grímsvötn Volcanic Eruption
Monday 23, May 2011
A volcanic eruption started around 7:30 PM on 21 May 2011 in Grímsvötn underneath the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland. Grímsvötn is a very active volcanic area and has erupted five times since 1983.
The last eruption was in 2004. These eruptions have in the past not resulted in wide-ranging flight disturbances.
The plume reached 20 km in height and Keflavík airport has been closed, with no flights arriving or departing Iceland for the day.
However, there are no indicators yet that there will be more disruption to flights beyond local disturbances.
According to geophysicists from the University of Iceland, the ash particles from the eruption are coarse, and not likely to stay airborne for long. Furthermore, the eruption is already showing signs of decreased intensity. British Meteorological Office (Met Office) also predicts the ashcloud will not reach Europe.
Civil Protection agencies are closely monitoring the situation, but as of now, have decided against evacuation from the volcanic area. For safety reasons, roads have been closed to the area and people are advised to remain inside as much as possible, and wear masks if they need to go outside.
A flood will often follow an eruption in this area, usually some 10-12 hours after the start of the eruption, as the area of activity is beneath a glacial icecap. Ice melts and makes it way towards shore. Scientists predict that there will be limited flooding this time, as water levels were low in the area to begin with.
The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management follows the situation closely.
There are regular updates on the volcanic eruption at Inspired by Iceland on facebook.com/inspiredbyiceland, twitter.com/icelandinspired and general news coverage on Icenews.is
The volcanic eruption in Grimsvötn Vatnajökull glacier is localized to a small part of the country. By and large, it is safe to travel in Iceland, and daily life continues unaffected.
Roads have been closed in the vicinity of the active volcano area, including parts of Route 1 South, between the East coast and the West coast of Iceland. Ash is falling in an area south of the eruption, and people located there are advised to stay inside. There is no immediate threat to the general population. Civil Protection authorities are closely monitoring the situation.
Infrastructure in Iceland is well prepared for natural disasters. The main telecommunications network is extremely robust and based on two main systems. It is designed with redundancy for both equipment and power and also incorporates backup routes for critical traffic. The design for the backhaul connections for the submarine cables connecting Iceland to the mainland takes into consideration necessary backup routes in case of Fiber Cable damage.
How long will the eruption last?
It is difficult to predict how long an eruption can last. The last eruption in this area was in 2004 and lasted for a week. There have been several eruptions in Grímsvötn in the last decades, and they have all been relatively short lived. An eruption in 1873 lasted seven months, but intensity was relatively low during that time. After a forceful start to this eruption, it started to show reduced activity on day two.
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