In 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in Iceland, producing a huge plume of volcanic ash that drifted through the air toward the European continent. The eruption disrupted air travel for weeks, as ash can cause jet engine failure. Civil aviation authorities across Europe shut down air travel as a precautionary measure, meaning many travelers from Europe were left stranded or unable to reach their destinations. Now, another Icelandic volcano is threatening to upend air travel once again.
A volcano on the country’s southwestern peninsula, near the small coastal town of Grindavík, is showing signs of worrying seismic activity. Since this volcano bears similar features to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, local officials have declared a state of emergency and ordered the evacuation of Grindavík.
The Eyjafjallajokull volcano is located at high elevation…and is essentially covered by an ice glacier,” according to AccuWeather’s 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.”
The volcano’s seismic activity, including earthquakes, has also caused Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon thermal spa to close for one week, from November 9 to November 16. Earthquakes indicate an increased danger of volcanic activity and possible eruption.
“The signs that can be seen now at Sundhnjúkagígar are similar to those seen on the eve of the first eruption at Fagradalsfjall in 2021 and are very similar to the seismic activity that was measured about a month before that eruption,” the Icelandic Met Office says. “The most likely scenario now, taking into account the activity that culminated in the onset of the March 19, 2021, is that it will take several days (rather than hours) for magma to reach the surface.”
Evacuation orders have not yet been issued for Reykjavik, as it’s believed to be far enough away for any potential eruption, though officials are still monitoring the seismic activity.