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Sunday, May 20, 2018

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Geologist weighs in on volcanic eruption


The double eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull has caused a minor disaster in the air travel business, as thousands of passengers were left stranded in Europe when ash plumes rose to flying altitude. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted twice in less than a month, leading to the cancellation of trans-Atlantic flights and leaving thousands of passengers stranded in Europe.

Dr. Jonathan Snow, associate professor of isotope geochemistry, said that two events may have caused the eruptions.

“Iceland is sitting on top of a major plates boundary where two tectonic plates are spreading apart,” Snow said. “The second thing that causes volcanism there is the deep metal hot spot. The combination of those two things makes the volcanoes in Iceland the largest volcanoes I’ve found on any mid-ocean ridge plate boundary.”

Snow said the Eyjafjallajökull volcano is at the tail end of the main eruption phase and there is still lava pouring out.

He said that even though this part of the eruption is over, the erupting cycle could start up again. There are a few eruptive events that could last weeks or months.

Snow said the volcano is small, but its eruption has garnered so much attention because its ash cloud has blown over four of the top 10 airports in the world. Though the ash cloud was high enough to affect air traffic, it is unlikely there will be any climate disruption.

Professor Snow said he doesn’t believe this incident has anything to do with global warming.

Snow said some of the farmers living in the area had to deal with volcanic ash, which may make it difficult to farm there for a few years.

Also, a nearby volcano, Katla, has historically erupted after the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Many people are speculating if that will happen this time.

“There has not been any attributable measurements or seismic evidence that Katla will erupt,” Snow said.

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