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Iceland volcano eruption forces air space closure

Aug. 29, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland - Iceland reduced its aviation warning level to orange on Friday after concluding that a small eruption in the Bardarbunga volcano system that triggered a hours-long red alert actually posed no threat to aircraft.


September 2, 2014
By The Associated Press

No sign of ash like that from the Eyjafjallajokull eruption that shut
much of Europe's air space in 2010 has been detected, but the Icelandic
Metrological Office said a no-fly zone in a radius of three nautical
miles around the Bardarbunga volcano in central Iceland would remain in
effect.

"The small eruption is not a threat to aviation and the published
aviation warning area has been cancelled," the Met Office said in a
statement.

 

Iceland's largest volcanic system, which cuts a 190-km-long and up to
25-km-wide swathe across the North Atlantic island, has been hit by
thousands of earthquakes over the last two weeks and scientists have
been on high alert in case of an eruption.

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Reykjavik's Met Office said that just after midnight an estimated
one-kilometre-long fissure eruption began in a lava field north of the
Vatnajokull glacier, which covers part of the Bardarbunga system.

 

While the risk of an ash cloud is highest in case of a sub-glacial
eruption, Icelandic authorities for a few hours raised the aviation
warning level to red, the highest on a five-colour scale and indicating
that an eruption is imminent or under way, with a risk of spewing ash.

 

The latest eruption was at the tip of a magma dyke 40 km from the
main Bardarbunga crater and activity subsided to relatively low levels
after peaking between 0020 and 0200 GMT, Met Office seismologist Martin
Hensch said earlier.

 

He said that it was impossible to say how the eruption would develop.

 

"One of the concerns is that the fissure opens into the glacier, but
presently there is no sign of that happening," he said, adding that the
eruption was six to eight kilometres from the glacier.

 

Nick Petford, a vulcanology expert at the University of Northampton
in Britain, said fissure eruptions were often spectacular, but
relatively low key and often died out in a couple of days. But there
could be a sting in the tail, he said.

 

"Exactly the same thing happened in 2010 with the Eyjafjallajokull
volcano," Petford said. "The main eruption was in April, but in March
there was a fissure eruption which was a precursor to the much larger
eruption."

 

The Eyjafjallajokull event was particularly disruptive because it
pushed ash up to precisely the elevation used by transatlantic aircraft,
while prevailing winds propelled the cloud into European air space. The
ash was also particularly sticky due to its chemical composition.

 

Petford said that if the current eruption subsided, scientists would
be looking for signs of more quakes deeper under the volcano, which
would suggest more magma was welling up, and for swelling of the volcano
that could be measured using GPS.

 

"Those are pretty clear evidence that large amounts of magma are
being stored within the volcano and that's a good indication it will
explode."