Just around this time last year, Iceland slammed its fists down and said “I will not be ignored!” And ignored it was not. From mid-April 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano sent up such a large ash cloud into the atmosphere that it disrupted air travel around the globe. Iceland is an incredible island, and only a little more than a five hour flight from New York City. In the summer, there is practically 24 hours of sunlight – that is if the atmosphere is not rife with volcanic ash.
According to Reuters, last year’s eruption resulted in the following:
Most all of the European airspace was closed for a week.
There were close to 100,000 canceled flights [90% in the U.K.], and as many as 19,000 flights per day cancelled.
As a result it is estimated that over ten million people were stranded or unable to board flights.
It is estimated that the airline industry lost $1.7 billion and European airports lost €250 million,
Fully 30% of total worldwide airline capacity was cut, with European capacity cut by 75%, Africa by 30%, and the Middle East by 20%.
Fast forward one year. Now 2011, the Grimsvotn volcano has replaced the Eyjafjallajökull volcano on the main stage [although the name is not nearly as good]. The Grimsvotn volcano, located under the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland [apparently the largest glacier in Europe], erupted this past weekend and spewed smoke into the atmosphere as high as 12 miles (20km). This eruption is Grimsvotn’s most powerful since 1873 and stronger than the Eyjafjallajökull eruption last April.
Fortunately, volcanologists say the type of ash being belched into the atmosphere is less easily dispersed so as to interrupt flights. In addition, the winds have so far been much more favorable than they were last year, pushing much of the ash toward Greenland and away from Europe [much to the chagrin of the 15,000 citizens of Greenland’s largest city, Nuuk]. Having said that, many airlines began cancelling flights to the U.K. yesterday because of an ash cloud beginning to reach its airspace, and the U.K.’s National Weather Service predicts that the plume of ash from the Grimsvotn volcano would cover the Ireland, Scotland and parts of northern England by Tuesday.
Let’s hope that Freyr, the Norse god of weather and fertility, is in a better mood this year. Until then, I have memorized the word Eyjafjallajökull for my next game of scrabble.