Iceland Volcano Eruption: Potential Impact on International Flights

volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula

It is in close proximity to Reykjavik-Keflavík International Airport and less than 40 km from the country's capital. Image: Icelandic Met Office

ICELAND is currently experiencing a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, which has raised concerns about its potential impact on international flights. The eruption, while officially considered minor, is occurring in close proximity to Reykjavik-Keflavík International Airport and less than 40 km from the country’s capital.

The volcanic activity was detected on Monday, July 10 near Litli Hrútur, in the Fagradalsfjall and Keilir mountains, following several days of seismic movements in the area. The Icelandic Met Office (IMO), responsible for monitoring geological phenomena, has reported approximately 1,200 earthquakes in the region in recent weeks, indicating that an eruption was expected. However, experts have noted that the eruption does not appear to be very powerful and is primarily generating steam.

According to the initial assessments by the IMO, the eruption is currently small and there is no emission of ash into the atmosphere. Lava is flowing southward from a 200-meter-long fissure on the slopes of Litli Hrútur, while gas and steam emissions are moving north-westward. The eruption is occurring in an uninhabited region, so there are no immediate risks to communities or infrastructure.

Nevertheless, the Icelandic authorities have delimited the area to prevent potential dangers and have advised residents, onlookers, and tourists to stay away from the area due to the toxic gases emitted. The development of the eruption is currently unclear, and the public is strongly advised not to visit the eruption area due to the accumulation of dangerously high levels of volcanic gases.

The eruption’s impact on air traffic is a concern due to Iceland’s history of volcanic disruptions. In 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull eruption brought Europe to a standstill, causing widespread disruptions to air travel. The eruption produced large ash plumes that posed a significant risk to aircraft engines. As a result, numerous countries closed their airspace, leading to the cancellation of over 100,000 commercial flights and affecting millions of people. The event highlighted the vulnerability of modern aviation to volcanic ash and underscored the need for careful monitoring and coordination between meteorological agencies, aviation authorities, and airlines to ensure the safety of air travel during volcanic eruptions.

The Eyjafjallajokull eruption brought Europe to a standstill in 2010. Image: Shutterstock/ J. Helgason

As of now, Reykjavík-Keflavík airport is not experiencing any disruptions to arrivals or departures. While the situation will continue to be closely monitored, it is hoped that the volcanic activity will not significantly impact international flights or the tourism season in Iceland.

This latest eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula adds to the country’s unique geological landscape and showcases the power and beauty of nature. It serves as a reminder of Iceland’s ongoing volcanic activity and its ability to capture the world’s attention.

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!