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Earth Transportation

Iceland's Seismic Activity: A Repeat Show for Atmospheric Ash? 69

In 2010, ash spewed into the atmosphere by the volcano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull glacier grounded European air traffic for days (and, partially, for weeks). As reported by The Guardian, a series of similarly situated earthquakes may herald a similar ash-ejecting erruption, and the country has raised its volcano risk to its second-most-severe rating (orange). From the article: Iceland met office seismologist Martin Hensch said the risk of any disruptive ash cloud similar to the one in 2010 would depend on how high any ash would be thrown, how much there would be and how fine-grained it would be. Bardarbunga is Iceland's largest volcanic system, located under the ice cap of the Vatnajokull glacier in the southeast of Iceland. It is in a different range to Eyjafjallajokull. The met office said in a statement it measured the strongest earthquake in the region since 1996 early on Monday and it now had strong indications of ongoing magma movement. "As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bardarbunga aviation colour code has been changed to orange," it said. "Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood and ash emission." ... Hensch said the biggest risk in Iceland itself was from flood waves from any eruption under the glacier. He said the area of Iceland mainly at risk of flooding was mostly uninhabited but that roads in the area had been closed.
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Iceland's Seismic Activity: A Repeat Show for Atmospheric Ash?

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  • ...the headline and article summary at the top says that air travel is threatened, but the quote from the article indicates that Iceland is concerned with ground effects of an eruption, without much concerns for the air.

    Which is it, is one party just playing alarmist to sell more subscriptions?
    • by Quince alPillan ( 677281 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @11:08AM (#47703449)
      No, its both. Iceland is worried about flooding because that's going to cause major damage to infrastructure, but the ash cloud in 2010 stopped air travel in the UK. []
    • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @11:09AM (#47703463)
      the major threat to Iceland is the flooding. Sure its airspace will be affected but if you're house is being washed away that's a significantly more pressing and dangerous issue.

      Europe on the other hand is at no risk from the flooding. So the threat to air travel in Europe, based on the 2010 experience, is significant.

      Add to that the factor that European air travel is probably orders of magnitude greater than Iceland's...
    • ...the headline and article summary at the top says that air travel is threatened

      Read again. The headline and the beginning just state that ash can be expelled again, and we remember this from last time when it caused air travel to stop. It does not say air travel is threatened.
      In fact, by the end of the last event, I believe it has been established that those ash clouds do not harm the air planes, and you can just fly through them without worry (Airplane companies' CEOs got together to do a fly-through to inspire confidence). Anyone got more detail on that?

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@w o r f . n et> on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @11:39AM (#47703751)

        In fact, by the end of the last event, I believe it has been established that those ash clouds do not harm the air planes, and you can just fly through them without worry (Airplane companies' CEOs got together to do a fly-through to inspire confidence). Anyone got more detail on that?

        Actually, more to the point, that the ash cloud has dissipated so there's less of a threat. Because this was at the end of it and air traffic had been shut down for over a week and a half, so people were skeptical that things have changed so much that you couldn't fly yesterday, but you can today. (Plus, airline finances are such that if you're not flying them, you're losing money, so the CEOs were really desperate to get moving again and stem the losses).

        Volcanic ash is still nasty stuff - it erodes surfaces and glasses up in engines, which causes them to fail. In fact we didn't know about ash clouds until the late 1970s when a 747 was barely able to land in Indonesia after all of its engines failed and won't restart (until the engines cooled to the point the glassed ash broke off AND they were below the ash cloud and could restore limited power). And on landing, they realized they couldn't see out the front windshield because the ash was like sandpaper to it.

        The CEO show was basically to say that there wasn't enough ash to down your plane anymore and that it was safe to travel again. (Though I'm sure they probably called for extra inspections because of buildup could cause a failure later on down the line).

        There is worldwide monitoring of ash clouds and all that because of that accident because it's still harmful. It doesn't happen TOO often that air travel has be diverted because of volcanic activity, but it's still something pilots avoid.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No, that's not what happened. What they determined is better constraints on what ash concentrations are significant. There is still a hazard of engine shutdown and windshield frosting (decreasing visibility) if ash density is high enough, and besides those hazards, there were also questions about maintenance (i.e. not hazardous to the flight, but having a lot more wear-and-tear on the engines, meaning higher costs/maintenance). Starting out, regulators and airlines weren't sure where that threshhold was,

  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @11:09AM (#47703459)

    The only way to save the planet from the volcano is to pronounce its name backwards. Correctly.

    • nuke it from orbit. it's the only way to be sure :)
    • I mean really, Iceland. If you're going to have a earth-shattering-kaboom volcano erupting every couple of years, the least you could do is name it something remotely pronounceable.

      • by RivenAleem ( 1590553 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @11:22AM (#47703595)

        I don't understand the problem, you pronounce it exactly as it's written.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          No you don't. The closest transcription into English I can think of would be "Aya-fjatla-jÃfkÃf¼tl". The "j" is not as the "geo" in "George", more like the "u" in "fury". As for the "Ãf" and "Ãf¼" sounds, you'll have to help yourself. For the precious few who know how to read IPA: [ÃeÃÃjaÃOEfjatlÃOEÂ¥aÃOEjÃ..."ÃkÃStlÃOEÂ¥].

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            (Fuck Slashdot's UTF-8 handling by the way!)

          • by Aryden ( 1872756 )
          • Do you know the first signs of a stroke? Seek medical assistance for yourself immediately.

          • by tapi0 ( 2805569 )
            How can Bardarbunga be pronounced "Aya-fjatla-jÃfkÃf¼tl" ?
            I believe I think you're thinking of the volcano that erupted in 2010. This is a different one.
        • It's pronounced 'Thought warbler mangrove'.

  • by grimJester ( 890090 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @11:11AM (#47703491)
    I'm quite certain they named it after the sound it made when it first erupted.
  • by joe545 ( 871599 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @11:15AM (#47703529)

    South of Vatnajokull is an area of gravel desert with little to no inhabitants. As there are frequent floods and ever changing "river" estuaries, all of the many small bridges in the region are specifically designed to be washed away easily. It's simply cheaper to build them new ones after every serious flood. The Icelanders know what they are doing!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Splab ( 574204 )

      How do these bridges safeguard the airline traffic in Europe again?

      • How do these bridges safeguard the airline traffic in Europe again?

        The summary mentioned disruptions to air travel AND flooding and as card carrying nerds some of us are interested in the subject of flood proofing infrastructures. This event has the potential to cause a monstrous flood and it would make a unique case study, so go troll somebody else.

    • by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @12:27PM (#47704193)
      Actually, no, that's not the way the bridges work.

      You see, that area of Iceland is actually rather swampy and it is sort of daft to build a bridge on a swamp, but they build them all the same, just to show it can be done. Then it sinks into the swamp, so they build a second one. That sinks into the swamp. So they build a third. That usually burns down, falls over, and sinks into the swamp. But the fourth bridge -that stays up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest bridges in all of Europe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by skastrik ( 971221 )

      ... all of the many small bridges in the region are specifically designed to be washed away easily. It's simply cheaper to build them new ones after every serious flood.

      The Icelandic director of transport states in this mornings paper that "bridges are expensive". Just rebuilding two particular bridges that are candidates for being washed away would cost roughly 25 million USD. In addition there's the disruption and inconvenience until some rudimentary bridges have been put in place.

      The plan is therefore to try to save the bridges. If necessary, heavy machinery will be used to dig the roads apart the allow the flood to go that way. Rebuilding roads is a comparatively qui

  • I hear they would have given it the highest danger rating, but that would have involved changing the lightbulb. Since all those involved already knew, they didn't see the point.

  • thank you /. for my word of the day.
  • They are about to get an ash-kicking

  • So, the majority of the articles I've read about this eruption, have potential dangers all along the scale. From "some ash" to effects similar to the eruption of Tabora (which caused crazy weather fluctuations as far west as north america, where it seeded clouds, was able to drop temps from 85 degrees to below freezing in hours, etc). It's getting hard to find real facts from FUD. If it's as big as Tabora, I would understand governments trying to mute the possibility because it would cause widespread panic.
    • That is why this story is so relevant to Slashdot. If there is the threat of another Tambora, the UN is prepared to start drafting and sacrificing virgins.

    • Its largest eruption (8500 years ago) is estimated to have had a VEI of 6 and produced the largest holocene lava flow in the world. At least that's what wikipedia says. Could be big, could be less big in this case.
      • Further: its eruption in 1477 had a VEI of 6.
        • VEI of 6 eruptions are not very frequent in the world and tend to cause prolonged extreme weather events. The last was Mount Pinatubo in 1991 and the ash dropped the global temperature by 0.4 degrees C.
      • At that time the area was recovering from last ice-age, relatively rapidly rising and the crust was quite fragile. This period yielded numerous shield-volcanoes in the vicinity, meaning that their lava ran much hotter -> from more depth.
    • Bardarbunga [] is a very large volcano and potentially capable of a huge eruption. At this point it's impossible to tell how large an eruption may occur or even if it's actually going to erupt enough to break through the ice cap over it. This is a different type of volcano than Tambora. The volcanoes on Iceland are formed because the Earth is splitting apart along the mid-Atlantic Ridge and the magma tends to be runny flowing magma. Tambora is located near a subduction zone where two plates are pushing tog

  • So what if it does? What are they realistically going to do about it? I mean the warning is great and all (if accurate), however without a way to stop it, or anyway to mitigate the consequences, what is the point?

    I guess presumably you might be able to reroute traffic in advance, however I am guessing the ability to even do that would be limited, as I am pretty sure they would have done that after the first time.

  • by Anonymous Coward causing more and more disasters like this impending environmental catastrophe. Soon, Iceland will be completely ice-free in the summer and slowly sink into the Atlantic. They should rename now to Torfland and get ahead of the inevitable.

  • According to this Icelandic news site, [], over 300 earthquakes were recorded last night at Bárðarbunga (don't ask me how to pronounce it!). Two of them were over 3 on the Richter scale. If you're making a trip to Europe, either cancel it or postpone it.
  • Correction: close to 300 earthquakes were recorded, not over 300 FWIW.

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