Disruption to Air Traffic Could be Significant

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Disruption to Air Traffic Could be Significant

By Zoë Robert
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010

The 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

A volcanic eruption in Bárðarbunga could have a great an impact on air travel as the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption did, according to Friðþór Eydal, a spokesperson for ISAVIA, the company which operates airports in Iceland.

Friðþór says that a lot was learnt from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption and extensive research was conducted but changes have not yet been made to safety procedures. “There isn’t much we can do but direct air traffic away from the danger zone if a large eruption occurs like the one we saw in Eyjafjallajökull,” he said.

Civil Aviation Authorities are monitoring the situation and a Code Orange was issued on Monday in light of increased likelihood of an eruption. Color codes, which are in accordance with recommended International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) procedures, are intended to inform the aviation sector about a volcano’s status.

Kristín Vogfjörð at the Icelandic Met Office told visir.is that the seismic activity in Bárðarbunga is the most intense in the region on record. “This is a very powerful event,” she said. 

There are indications of magma movement but it is a possibility that the magma will not reach the surface, visir.is reports. 

Given that the eruption may occur below a 150 to 600-meter thick area of the glacier, there will be significant meltwater causing a flood in Jökulsá á Fjöllum.

As reported, Iceland’s Civil Protection Department decided to evacuate the area north of Dyngjujökull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, due to a glacial outburst flood fed by the melt water.

This means that the area stretching north of Vatnajökull to Ring Road 1 is now off limits to the public. Highland roads in the area have been closed, and local search and rescue teams have been called out to help with the evacuation, including of frequented tourist destinations such as Askja, Herðubreiðarlindir, Hvannalindir and Kverkfjöll.

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