Could last for weeks or even months. – On Thursday, April 14 thousands flights out of many European airports were shut down due to a huge cloud of volcanic ash from an eruption in Iceland. Eyjafjallajokull is astratovolcano like Mt. Vesuvius. They are characterized byexplosive eruptions that tend to end as abruptly as theystart, but their eruptions can sometimes continue for years.Experts are also concerned that the Eyjafjallajokulleruption could mean that nearby Katla, which is much larger,will also erupt. If this happens, the disruptions to suchthings as air travel could spread to the whole northernhemisphere.

Vulcanologist Simon A. Carn says that says it’s important to track the Iceland dust cloud not only to monitor its impact on aviation but also because of the gases within it, especially sulfur dioxide, which can become sulfuric acid, reflecting sunlight and causing cooling. So far that’s not happening with this event, but if the ash falls on the ground, it can also be an environmental and health hazard.

In New Scientist, Nic Fleming quotes researcher Dave McGarvie as saying, “The eruption is long overdue at Katla and there is quite a bit of anxiety in Iceland about the potential size of eruption.” The larger volcano lies beneath a huge glacier, and when it erupted last time, it set off a sudden melt of nearby glaciers and ice sheets, which discharged so much water that it actually moved Iceland’s coastline.

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