May 11, 2010

Iceland Volcano Continues To Erupt

Although the Eyjafjoell volcano in Iceland has continued to erupt since April 14, it is spewing far less ash than last week when it caused new interruptions to flights throughout Europe, according to a geologist on Monday.

The volcano was responsible for the massive shutdown in flights across Europe last month, the likes of which have not been seen since World War II. The shutdown affected more than 100,000 flights and eight million passengers over a week.

Last Thursday, a secondary ash plume spewed out of the volcano that reached as high as 32,800 feet into the sky, which disrupted more air traffic in Europe. The ash plume has since decreased, Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson of the University of Iceland told AFP.

The eruption, however, is continuing with no end in sight, Gudmundsson said. Eyjafjoell was emitting about 55 tons of ash every second on Monday, down from the estimated 330 to 440 tons per second on Thursday, he added.

"We expect it will be declining over the next few days, so gradually things should go back to a slightly better stage," he said.

The volcano slowed in emitting ash for a number of weeks as red-hot lava oozed out instead, but last week it converted back to releasing the heavy ash clouds, causing further delays in flights throughout several European countries.

While the volcano might return to a more docile state, gushing lava instead of ash, there is no way to determine when the eruption itself will end, Gudmundsson said.

"There is still slight earthquake activity under the volcano and we see no indication the eruption will stop in the next few days," he expressed, but adding that "nothing is impossible."

Eyjafjoell has previously erupted on four known occasions, with each followed by eruptions at the nearby Katla volcano. Katla, which last erupted in 1918, is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Iceland.

"In the past, each eruption here has led to an eruption in the Katla volcano, which is much more active and which erupts much more frequently and has larger eruptions," Gudmundsson said.

The ongoing eruption was the largest ever registered at Eyjafjoell. But so far, "there is no sign of any activity at Katla," he said.


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