Iceland heightens volcano alert

By Doug Newhouse |

The Eurocontrol air traffic network manager has warned that Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano could erupt, potentially disrupting European air space.


The aeronautical body which represents European countries and those in the EU says Iceland’s Meteorological Office has now upgraded from yellow to orange alert after it recorded increased activity. An orange alert – the fourth most serious in a grading rating of five designed specifically for ICAO – signals heightened or escalating eruption risk. The next grade up signals a full-on eruption.


However, Eurocontrol says there is no reason for airlines or the industry to panic, since ‘Europe is more prepared to deal with volcanic ash these days’. It says there are ‘much better mechanisms’ in place than there were in 2010, with many of these derived from the ‘volcanic ash exercises’ it conducts on a regular basis – the last one was held in April of this year.


[One of these ‘mechanisms’ relies on airlines to make their own decisions whether they fly or not when volcanic dust is present in the atmosphere. The last time this happened there was a blanket ban on airlines flying anywhere near the ash clouds that were formed by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano-Ed].



The air traffic body said it continues to monitor the situation closely: “However, volcanic ash is still a hazard for aviation and does have the potential to cause disruption. Safety is, as ever, our primary concern.”


This latest warning is the most serious for nearly five years after Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, sending ash clouds high into the atmosphere, causing the closure of most of Europe’s mainstream air space for some six days.


By comparison with Eyjafjallajökull – which is located a different area – Bárðarbunga is Iceland’s largest volcanic system, located under the ice cap of the Vatnajökull glacier in southwest Iceland. Concerns have risen since the strongest earthquake was registered under Bárðarbunga since 1996 last Monday – although once again experts say that this does not necessarily mean there will be an eruption.


[TOP IMAGE: Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano which erupted over four years ago. Bárðarbunga is part of another volcanic group. Photo credit: Iceland Met Office].


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