Geology And Geophysics

Icelands Volcano what Happened last Time Eyjafjallajokull Erupted



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Not so long ago if you were to mention Eyjafjallajökull, people within earshot would probably have assumed you were speaking in tongues. But now, this small Icelandic volcano is making headlines all over the world. After erupting on the 14th of April the plume of ash this volcano created caused travel chaos on a global scale. However this is not the first time this volcano has erupted. Looking back at previous eruptions can give us clues as to what to expect this time round. So let’s take a look at exactly what happened last time the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted.

The last major eruption was way back in the December of 1821. As you can imagine, records from that time are not quite as detailed as today’s would be. However there are plenty of interesting and important facts we can glean from this eruption. When the first eruption began there were some serious problems with flooding in the localised areas. The volcano is surrounded by snow and ice, and the glaciers on the slopes of the mountain quickly melted. This caused land slides and put the lives of locals in danger.

Reports mention a large ash fall early on in the eruption. One serious concern was the high level of fluoride the ash contained. Fluoride is dangerous to humans and animals a like as it weakens and damages bones and in high concentration can be deadly. This meant a large percentage of Iceland’s cattle was killed, a real blow for the people of the country. Details of the ash cloud resulting from the eruption are rather limited, however the length of the last eruption of Eyjafjallajökull is a real worry. It lasted for a over a year, continuing into the January of 1823. However this is not as big a worry as what happened next back in 1823.

Soon after Eyjafjallajökull started to quieten down another nearby volcano known as Katla started erupting. Katla sits below the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, when the volcano erupts, the lava explodes up through the glacier sending huge chunks of ice and rock into the sky. These fall to the earth and pose a real danger to people, animals and buildings. Again when this volcano begins erupting there is a large danger of flooding. The significant thing about this volcano though is the size of it. Katla translates as ‘Dragon’ and this is an apt description due to the size and fury of previous eruptions. It makes Eyjafjallajökull seem small and insignificant in comparison. It is thought the two volcano’s are connected by a series of under ground magma chambers, so there is evidence that there is a link between the two and it’s thought there is a high chance of Katla erupting in response to it’s smaller neighbour.

On the last three occasions that Eyjafjallajökull has erupted, Katla has soon followed suit. Government official have warned Icelandic residents to be prepared for the likely event of a much larger and more dangerous eruption from this sleeping giant. If Katla does erupt it signals a real dangerous time period for travellers all around the globe. The ash cloud that will result could easily be much larger than the one we have recently been dealing with. The destruction and chaos of the 1821 eruption was massive on a global scale and there is reason to believe that this subsequent eruption may go the same way. It’s important we heed the warnings from 1821 and prepare for the worst. Doing this will mean we can minimise the effects that these giants of nature have on our everyday lives.

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