Iceland volcano eruption not likely to disrupt air travel

Smoke rises from the Grimsvotn volcano, Saturday, May 21, 2011 in Reykjavik, Iceland. Iceland's most active volcano has started erupting, scientists said Saturday - just over a year after another eruption on the North Atlantic island shut down European air traffic for days. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
STOCKHOLM, May 21 (Xinhua) — An eruption has started in Iceland’s most active volcano Grimsvotn, according to reports reaching here from Reykjavik on Saturday.

The smoke from the eruption can be seen from many places in south Iceland, Iceland’s television channel RUV said in a report.

Iceland’s Meteorological Office also confirmed that an eruption had begun in Grimsvotn.

“All indications are that an eruption will start in this area,” Icelandic geologist Hjorleifur Sveinbjornsson was quoted as saying earlier on Saturday by the local media.

But scientists in Iceland believed that the new eruption in Grimsvotn could be small and would not lead to a repeat of the air travel chaos in Europe one year ago, which was caused by ashes from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano’s eruption.

Located in the middle of the Vatnajokull glacier, Grimsvotn is the most active volcano in Iceland, with major eruptions recorded in 1922, 1933, 1934, 1938, 1945, 1954, 1983, 1998 and 2004. Most of the eruptions lasted one to three weeks.


From Iceland’s Meteorological Office
Eruption cloud from Grímsvötn volcano at 22:00 UTC May 21st 2011.

Eruption has started in Grímsvötn

An eruption began at Grímsvötn volcano at approximately 17:30 UTC, May 21st 2011.

Eruptions in Grímsvötn start as subglacial eruptions, which quickly break the ice cover. At 21:00 UTC, the eruption plume had risen to an altitude of over 65,000 ft (~20 km). Initially, the plume is expected to drift to the east and subsequently to the north. Thus, the ash is not expected to impact aviation in Europe, at least not during the first 24 hours.

The figure on the right (above) shows an image of the eruption cloud at 22:00 UTC. The image is from the Icelandic Met Office weather radar located at Keflavik International Airport, at 220 km distance from the volcano. The cloud extends above a large part of Vatnajökull ice cap. The line marks the approximate location of Grímsvötn volcano.

The last eruption in Grímsvötn occurred in November 2004. Grímsvötn is Iceland’s most frequently erupting volcano.

The figure below shows tremor activity in Grímsvötn associated with the eruption. Note that seismic activity increases after 17:30 UTC.


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May 21, 2011 10:05 pm

Anecdotal evidence is that this eruption is larger than the 2004 eruption. Current estimates are for the ash cloud to be 18km to 20km in altitude. At the latitude of Iceland, that is a stratospheric injection of material.
Harmonic tremor graph closest to the eruption is here:

May 21, 2011 10:21 pm

Hey! No Fair! I’m supposed to fly from Frankfurt to Calgary today….usually right over Reykjavick! Poo!

May 21, 2011 10:31 pm

Follow progress at
The webcams are overloaded, so it will be a lucky person who gets a connection. The Icelandic Met Office offer maps showing the earthquakes associated with the eruption, which are NOT shown by the Seismic map nor the USGS.

May 21, 2011 10:37 pm
May 21, 2011 11:09 pm

It’s the Rapture!! God’s just starting small. Believe me, this is the end!

Mike McMillan
May 21, 2011 11:38 pm

At least this is a volcano we can pronounce.

May 21, 2011 11:56 pm

If this thing doesn’t settle fairly quickly and keeps honking at those altitudes then the high end September NSIDC Arctic minimum ice extent predictions are looking more on target.

May 22, 2011 12:01 am

“not likely”? wait until the met office guys come back from the weekend

Allan Short
May 22, 2011 12:51 am

Not fair, I just back from two weeks of taking photos got some good ones, but those shots would have looked a lot better.
Maybe next year when I return.

May 22, 2011 1:11 am

If this thing doesn’t settle fairly quickly and keeps honking at those altitudes then the high end September NSIDC Arctic minimum ice extent predictions are looking more on target.

Scottish Sceptic
May 22, 2011 1:20 am

Adam says: May 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm
It’s the Rapture!! God’s just starting small. Believe me, this is the end!
Mike McMillan says: May 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm
At least this is a volcano we can pronounce.
where else would I get such wonderful comment first thing in the morning.

Patrick Davis
May 22, 2011 1:44 am

At least this time authorities are actually going to the site to assess actual dust/ash levels etc rather than relying on a computer model/prediction.

May 22, 2011 1:45 am

“Air traffic has been banned in a radius of ~200 km / 120 miles around the volcano (Icelandic) and any air traffic over Iceland will be routed south tonight. The eruption seems to be larger (Icelandic) than in 2004 as well”

John Marshall
May 22, 2011 2:36 am

Well I woke this morning and everything looks as normal. So another wrong prophesy.
Volcanoes do their own thing so this eruption may be completely different to previous ones from this volcano. Different magma composition, different ice cover, wind changes, are but three variables that will change the air traffic problems.
Let us hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Mr. Alex
May 22, 2011 2:41 am

Scottish Sceptic says:
May 22, 2011 at 1:20 am
where else would I get such wonderful comment first thing in the morning.
Try Yahoo news…
A really beautiful photo. The Icelandic people are lucky that they get to see a small eruption like this happening in their backyard.

May 22, 2011 2:45 am
May 22, 2011 2:54 am

Flights to and from Iceland have been cancelled:
Keflavik International Airport:

Geoff Sherrington
May 22, 2011 3:04 am

I’ll respect you in the morning if you can explain, in unequivocal terms, the mechanism of the cloud formation that is annular to the volcanic plume.

R. de Haan
May 22, 2011 3:28 am

“Iceland volcano eruption not likely to disrupt air travel”
With an ash plume risen to an altitude of 20 km and the latest assessment that this is the biggest eruption of the past 100 years I think it is “very likely” that air travel is going to be disrupted.
Hopefully this eruption dies down soon.

May 22, 2011 3:34 am

From Erik Klemetti’s Blog on bigthink Subglacial eruption starting at Iceland’s Grímsvötn
See the plume develop over Iceland on this eumetsat satellite compilation from the Norwegian Met Institute. Plume starts at 21:00 Saturday (Lørdag)
H/T Thor Norway

May 22, 2011 4:03 am

At least in S. England we had about a month or excellent weather, comparable to summer months. From now tanks to Grim-whatever it may be all downhill. Only yesterday some newspapers were predicting hottest summer ever, wouldn’t mind that, but hopefully not a ‘year without summer’.

May 22, 2011 4:39 am

“Iceland volcano eruption not likely to disrupt air travel”

Exept Iceland’s air travel.

The Icelandic authorities have imposed a local flight ban after the country’s most active volcano, Grimsvotn, began erupting………………Hjordis Gudmundsdottir, a spokeswoman for the Isavia civil aviation authority – which has imposed a flight ban of 120 nautical miles (222 km) around Grimsvotn – said: “We have closed the area until we know better what effect the ash will have.”

May 22, 2011 5:05 am

Estimates are that the eruption is 10x larger than the 2004 event, and the biggest at this volcano in 100 year. Icelandic airspace is closed. Ash cloud went to 20km or over 60000 feet. I guess the real impact will depend on how long it goes on for and the wind direction though.

May 22, 2011 5:10 am

this site has a lot of information about Icelandic volcanoes and is worth a view

Hector Pascal
May 22, 2011 5:14 am

Normally, in Western Europe, the weather travels from SW to NE. Last spring (I know I was there) there was a blocking high in the Atlantic bringing the dust cloud NW to SE. That pattern was what stuffed air travel. I spent April 2010 outside, building a shed in my brother’s garden. I’m 59 years old, and that’s the first time I’ve picked up sunburn in April. I doubt those conditions will hold this year.

May 22, 2011 5:20 am

Does mean that the end may still be near?

May 22, 2011 6:08 am

The beginning of the Grimsvotn eruption seen from one of the GOES satellites:
The eruption was described in the local news at noon that it looked like “10 times more powerful than Eyjafjallajökull” last year.
Frequently updated news in English:

JPA Knowles
May 22, 2011 6:11 am

Could that annular cloud relate to a slightly warmer moister layer of air?
At what height does the stratosphere commence in May? Maybe this eruption will put some fine particulates and sulphuric acid into the polar cell. If so, the UK Met Office might want to revise their “hot summer” forecaste before they shoot themselves in the foot (again).

May 22, 2011 6:21 am

I Love These Photos.. 😀

Bill Illis
May 22, 2011 6:26 am

The two largest Pinatubo eruptions and the largest El Chichon eruption only got to 24 kms high so this eruptive column is close to equivalent in height.
It is only the stratospheric eruptions where the sulphate aerosols reach into the Ozone layer that seem to affect the climate. Hopefully, there is only one blast (with the small amount of eruptive material that seems to have occured so far) reaching 20 kms and higher or we are looking at up to 0.5C of cooling in the 18 months ahead.

May 22, 2011 7:39 am

I will bet some yo yo comes up with a peer reviewed study which blames this volcano on Global waring which essentially stopped in 1998.
Don’t laugh there was just such a story after the last one. There was one after the earthquake in Japan blaming that on Global Warming too.
Do they think the public is so gullible they will believe anything ?
I read USA Today which is a member of the “climate crusade” I think they are the Knights Templar of Global Warming. Al Gore is the Pope and Dr Hansen is one of the cardinals.

Tom T
May 22, 2011 7:47 am

Adam says this is the Rapture. I ‘m sure he know more about this than I do, but I’ll wait to hear what Eve has to say.

R. de Haan
May 22, 2011 7:55 am

The track record of this volcano is that eruptions during the past century have lasted between a few day’s up to three weeks but if we go further back into time we have this information from Wikipedia:
“Grímsvötn has a southwest-northeast-trending fissure system, and the massive climate-impacting Laki fissure eruption of 1783-1784 was a part of the same fissure system. Grímsvötn was erupting at the same time as Laki during 1783, but continued to erupt until 1785. Because most of the volcano lies underneath Vatnajökull, most of its eruptions have been subglacial”.ötn
If this information is correct this eruption could last several years.

May 22, 2011 7:58 am

Nice satellite image from MODIS (AQUA, 13:15 UTC) …
[reply] Bandwidth alert: Big image!

May 22, 2011 8:40 am

Could someone explain the possible effect on the arctic ice melt this year. I have not built up sufficient knowledge yet to know what the consequences could be.

Anthony Scalzi
May 22, 2011 8:55 am

Plot of plume height versus the tropopause. It’s a bit old but gets the idea across-this is definitely a stratospheric eruption.

May 22, 2011 9:18 am

OT, just published:
climate pollution
The number of references to global warming, climate change, or greenhouse gases made on the internet or in other media.
During the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the increase in climate pollution was at an all time high.
climate noise noise pollution disinformation signal-to-noise ratio propaganda
by mollyflogged Apr 29, 2011

May 22, 2011 9:22 am

Sky news now claims the eruption may disrupt air traffic

May 22, 2011 9:24 am

“…smoke from the eruption…”
No. There is no “smoke” there. Your scientific accuracy is, as ever, wayward.

R. de Haan
May 22, 2011 9:28 am
Rhoda Ramirez
May 22, 2011 9:30 am

If a volcano is eruptin under an ice sheet, where does the melted ice go? Are we going to see some increase in sea level for the warmists to panic over?

May 22, 2011 10:20 am

If the eruption is still going come Monday night Scotland will get a big dose, see:

May 22, 2011 10:32 am

Gosh, I hope they don’t lose their bridge again. I’m not sure they could afford to replace it again right now!

May 22, 2011 11:11 am

netdr says:
May 22, 2011 at 7:39 am
“I will bet some yo yo comes up with a peer reviewed study which blames this volcano on Global waring which essentially stopped in 1998.”
Nah… global waring is still going on. Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged gun fire just this year, and there is the whole middle eastern thing.

May 22, 2011 11:25 am

Not sure if this is legal, but excerpt from:
“*And all you news media folks out there: IT IS NOT SMOKE. I don’t know how many articles I’ve read where images of Grímsvötn are labeled as “spewing smoke”. There is no smoke in the plume. None. Zero. Zilch. The plume is made of three things: (1) steam – a lot of it; (2) ash – fine, fragmental pieces of silicate glass, not stuff from your backyard BBQ (which is burned carbon); (3) volcanic gases like CO2, SO2, H2S and others. It is NOT SMOKE.”

North of 43 and south of 44
May 22, 2011 11:32 am

stevo says:
May 22, 2011 at 9:24 am
“…smoke from the eruption…”
No. There is no “smoke” there. Your scientific accuracy is, as ever, wayward.
Stevo, when one is basically quoting a news agency it is common practice to use their words.
The fact that a news agency screws things up shouldn’t surprise anyone especially one who depends upon such fact distortions to get their message out.

May 22, 2011 11:46 am

u.k.(us) says:
May 22, 2011 at 11:25 am
Thanks for the link. I extracted this from it too.
There seems to be a discrepancy between the image on the original link and the above link, with ash heading south on the former, but looking like it’s heading northeast on the latter (if I’m reading this correctly).
I’m keeping a close eye on this, as I’m flying into Europe this week. Any experts here have a data-based opinion on the aviation situation ??

Dennis Wingo
May 22, 2011 1:16 pm

We were flying today from Vancouver BC to London and the plane veered several hundred miles to the south from our original vector.

May 22, 2011 1:43 pm

Headlines say UK airspace might be invaded by Tuesday…
[reply]Not according to the BBC – please provide a link. RT-mod

May 22, 2011 3:10 pm

Thanks guys. I’m flying Chicago – Brussels on Wednesday. Should be OK, I think.

May 22, 2011 4:04 pm

From the MailOnline Sunday, May 22 2011

A Met Office spokeswoman said if the eruption continues at its current rate, “the U.K could be at risk of seeing some volcanic ash later this week.”
She spoke on condition of anonymity because she wasn’t authorized to be quoted by name.

Brace yourselves: Iceland’s volcanic ash could reach Scotland in 48 HOURS and rest of UK by Thursday if eruption continues
Superb photos of the eruption.

May 22, 2011 5:15 pm
May 22, 2011 10:36 pm

Tantalize, we sure seem to think alike???
Geoff Sherrington, my take is that means there is a lot of steam is in the plume and that steam has made contact with cold air aloft. Ejafyallajökull made massive cloud cover and humidity, some is still aloft. In part from the mostly below stratosphere plumes, but mostly from melting 100 million cubic meters of ice into steam. All eruptions have a large steam component, but some have a massive steam composition like Ejafyallajökull. The recent eruptions in Chile, Alaska, Kamchatka, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and Ecuador (to name a few) all put a lot of steam into the atmosphere. As well as ash and gas aerosols to boost cloud formation. So more more flooding is on the way for some parts of the NH. It’s aerosols and altitude in my humble opinion.
Jón Fríman called it right, I posted 8 months ago that he and others were saying that this volcano would likely erupt this spring.

May 22, 2011 11:07 pm

Oh, pardon my sentence structure, andriodx only gives you a little giggy box. Dragging out the PC hassle. Pardon also to all the galactic cosmic ray heads, but no volcanic eruptions = ‘sunny days that I thought would never end’. Eruptions. = ‘raindrops keep falling on my head’. Simple, though GCR’s may enhance this to some degrees. Since Pinatubo and Cerro Hudson, and particularly since 1995 the eruption numbers and VEI volume has increased and slowly temperatures have flattened and even trended downward a bit. Not that we don’t still have a few hot years when the aerosols are at low altitudes.

May 23, 2011 5:07 am

Anthony, I think you need a new thread on this with a less unfortunate title now we have seen some flight cancellations..and threat of more over Western europe thanks to winds arriving from Iceland from tomorrow!

Alan the Brit
May 23, 2011 7:39 am

Mike McMillan says:
May 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm
At least this is a volcano we can pronounce.
The volcanoes are the easy bit, it’s the glaciers they’re under that are the hard thing!

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