Iceland ups volcano alert; what’s changed since 2010?

Iceland Met Office raises alert level for possible new eruption

Iceland’s Met Office has raised its risk level for the aviation industry for an eruption at its Bárðarbunga volcano to orange – the fourth level on a five-grade scale. In a news report today, CNN looks into whether things have changed since the last ash crisis in 2010.

There has been intense seismic activity at Bárðarbunga this week, though there are not yet any clear signs of an eruption. It is Iceland’s biggest volcanic system, located under the ice cap of the Vatnajökull glacier in southwest Iceland – a different mountain range to Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted four years ago.

Ash from Eyjafjallajökull closed much of Europe’s airspace over six days, hitting more than 10 million people and costing $1.7 billion. Airlines were as furious as passengers, accusing regulators of overreacting. Roads and trains were swamped and rental cars were abandoned as people tried to use them one-way to get closer to home.

CNN reports that Airbus, Boeing and some airlines have carried out various tests since 2010, but no one has come up with a definite solution on how to fly through ash.

Eurocontrol, Europe’s air monitoring body, says there have been significant changes: better monitoring of potential situations; more coordination between countries; and, crucially, that the decision should rest with airlines on whether to fly. It says this should significantly reduce the number of flight cancellations next time there is a crisis. That promise could be tested very soon.

Reuters / CNN

[pictured: Bárðarbunga subglacial eruption, October 1996; see aircraft in photo for scale; photo by Oddur Sigurdsson, Iceland Geological Survey]

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