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Gas Pollution May Increase after Eruption’s End

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Gas Pollution May Increase after Eruption’s End

Sulfur dioxide pollution visible over Reykjavík

Sulfur dioxide pollution from the eruption in Reykjavík in October. Photo: Zoë Robert.

Volcanic gas pollution from the Holuhraun eruption site may increase in the coming days and weeks, even though there is no more volcanic activity at the site, according to meteorologist Elín Björk Jónasdóttir.

“There are examples of large areas of lava which continue to de-gas for weeks and months after the eruption is over. Now that we don’t have the great power which the crater gave the gas plume, the gas which rises from the lava now will likely not travel as high and we might be looking at more pollution at the surface than what we’ve seen so far,” Elín told ruv.is.

“The gas can still accumulate above the lava and drift with the wind,” Elín added. “[Pollution] is most likely to the south of Vatnajökull, in the East Fjords and north of the eruption site.”

There is also increased risk of carbon monoxide pollution, Elín stated, in which case, “[gas] masks won’t suffice; one would need to carry oxygen.”

So far, sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution has posed the biggest problem in inhabited areas. At levels above 2,500 µg/m3, people have been advised to stay inside. Scientists and journalists visiting the eruption site have been required to wear gas masks and carry gas meters.

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