The early morning calm in Iceland was shattered by an eruption of a volcano in the southern part of the nation. The volcano which sits under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, shot ash and lava into the air and has forced hundreds to evacuate.
The eruption occurred just before midnight local time Saturday night and opened a fissure in the earth one half mile long. Authorities evacuated approximately 500 people in the area as a precaution. No injuries or damage have been reported.
Low visibility from the ash plume has prompted the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration to order aircraft to stay 120 nautical miles away from the volcano. Three Icelandair originating in the United States bound for Keflavik airport in Reykjavik were turned back to Boston. The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service is reporting that all domestic flights have been cancelled.
“This was a rather small and peaceful eruption but we are concerned that it could trigger an eruption at the nearby Katla volcano, a vicious volcano that could cause both local and global damage,” said Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Science.
Einarsson told The Associated Press. “The volcano has been inflating since the beginning of the year, both rising and swelling. One of the possible scenarios we’re looking at is that this small eruption could bring about something bigger.”
Heightened earthquake activity in the region had been noted in recent weeks. Geophysicist Freymódur Sigmundsson told Iceland Review Online, “We think this eruption is connected to the earthquake activity that we have seen in recent weeks.”
Authorities initially feared flooding due to the volcano’s proximity to the 100 square mile Eyjafjallajokull glacier. Aerial inspections indicate now that eruption occurred in an area that does not present an immediate danger to the glacier.
Iceland sits on the mid-Atlantic ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. That boundary splits the island in two and causes a great deal of volcanic activity.
The Eyjafjöll volcano (Eyjafjallajökull) is only known to have erupted one time. That event lasted from December 1821 to January 1823. The 5,466 foot (1,666 meter) stratovolcano is considered one of the less active in the nation.
- More information: Global Volcanism Program – Eyjafjöll
Get the latest from the Natural Disasters Examiner
Or be notified by email when a new article from the Natural Disasters Examiner is posted.
Click the Subscribe link at the top or bottom of the article and enter your email address.