Could a volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupt travel?
20.11.2023 - 15:38
AccuWeather meteorologists warned Nov. 13 that flight disruptions could be a possibility in the coming weeks if a volcano in Iceland showing increased signs of seismic activity erupts.
Volcanic ash sent into the atmosphere could cause air travel disruptions and potentially damage jet engines, according to the AccuWeather Global Weather Center, citing the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano eruption in 2010, which disrupted air travel for weeks.
But the volcanic characteristics and location of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano from 2010 and the current volcano near Grindavik are different, the center said, meaning the broader impact to air travel is not necessarily expected to be as severe.
"The Eyjafjallajoekull volcano is located at high elevation, more than 5,500 feet, and is essentially covered by an ice glacier," said chief meteorologist Jonathan Porter. "The volcano near Grindavik is not encapsulated in an ice cap, but if it erupts, it can still introduce plumes of volcanic ash into the atmosphere, which can travel on the upper-level winds."
Icelandic authorities raised their aviation alert to orange, according to the Associated Press, indicating an increased risk of a volcanic eruption.
The town of Grindavik, which was evacuated after activity was detected, is on the Reykjanes Peninsula about 31 miles southwest of Reykjavik and 16 miles from Keflavik airport. The region was shaken by hundreds of small earthquakes every day for about two weeks, the AP said. A magnitude 4.8 quake on Thursday forced the temporary closure of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.
The Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland's biggest tourist attractions, is closed at least through Nov. 30 because of the risk of eruption.
A notice posted on the Visit Iceland website Nov. 13 said that at the moment "it is not possible to conclude what effects a possible volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula might have on flight traffic to and from Iceland." It added that all airlines were currently operating on schedule.
AccuWeather advised travelers to closely monitor travel to Europe within the next few weeks, and it added that atmospheric ash could still result in the closure of portions of air space.
This report was updated to extend the closure of the Blue Lagoon through the end of November.