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Case study: Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull
Eyjafjallajokull is the name of a glacier whose icecap covers the caldera of an active volcano in the
south of Iceland. The mountain is a stratovolcano standing 1651m tall and is fed by a magma chamber
caused by the divergence of the Mid Atlantic ridge.
What happened? Causes
Eyjafjallajokull is located on a spreading ridge, where convection currents are driving apart the North
American Plate and the Eurasian plate along a constructive plate boundary.
Eyjafjallajokull erupted a number of times in 2010, having previously not erupted since 1823. Seismic
activity started towards the end of 2009 building up to the first eruption on 20th March 2010. The
eruption was characterised by the opening of a fissure and basaltic lava flows from numerous vents.
A second explosive eruption occurred on 14th April, and the volcano continued to erupt around a
month. The eruption threw volcanic ash several kilometres high, which was carried across to Europe
by the gulf stream. The eruption occurred beneath the glacier causing large amounts of melt water,
this increased the explosive power, and cooled the lava very quickly creating abrasive, glass rich ash.
In total, around 100 million cubic metres of airborne tephra was ejected.
The 150m thick ice cap melted which caused major flooding to Iceland and 700 people to be
It destroyed parts of the main Route 1 road. Other roads were bulldozed to allow the flash
flood water to reach the sea
Fine ash silted the rivers causing blockages a year on
20 farms were destroyed by the flooding or ash
The people living downwind of the volcano had to wear goggles and facemasks as the ash
was so thick.
500 farmers and their families had to be evacuated from the area around the volcano and
many of the roads surrounding the volcano were shut down.
The ash contaminated local water supplies and farmers near the volcano were warned not to
let their livestock drink from contaminated streams and water sources, as high
concentrations of fluoride from the ash mixed with river water can have deadly effects,
particulary in sheep.
The major impact was Internationally, as winds redistributed the ash that was pumped high
into the atmosphere over Northern and western Europe and stopped flights from taking off.
This is though to have cost airlines and associated businesses were losing about £130 million
a day, whilst hundreds of thousands of people were stranded in other countries. During the
main eight day travel ban around 107,000 flights were cancelled accounting for 48 per cent
of total airtraffic and 10 million passengers.
LEDC's were also badly affected . 20 per cent of the Kenyan economy is based on the export
of green vegetables and cut flowers to Europe.These are perishable goods nad they are
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Over 50,000 farmers were temporarily unemployed.
Management and response
The close scientific observations in the area before the eruption made it possible to predict that a
eruption would occur, and necessary precautions were made, such as warning people living nearby.
Iceland had a good warning system with texts being sent to residents with a 30 minute warning.
The location of the volcano directly below the Gulf stream made it impossible to prevent travel
disruputions, however cancelling flights may have prevented deaths from aircraft failure.…read more