Iceland’s Volcanic Activity Could Affect Travel for Decades

Iceland’s Volcanic Activity Could Affect Travel for Decades

Reykjanes peninsula

The Reykjanes peninsula has been volcanically active in the past.

Reykholt/Creative Commons

In 2010, the volcano of Eyjafjallajökull erupted on Iceland, creating conditions which halted a large amount of air travel to and from Europe. A 2011 article in Science tallied the effects of it, noting that it “affected 10 million passengers and cost between €1.5 billion and €2.5 billion.” And while there are other concerns in the world of air travel right now, it turns out the geological volatility of Iceland might be about to loom large for travelers once more. And this time, it could be on a scale not seen for centuries.

Kate Ravilious explored this potential issue for The Guardian. Since January, the Reykjanes peninsula has seen a heightened level of volcanic activity. That’s the region of Iceland where Keflavík International Airport and the Blue Lagoon are located — not terribly far from the city of Reykjavik. Experts are concerned that this activity heralds the beginning of something even greater — which could last for hundreds of years. “Geological evidence shows the area is fed by five volcanic systems, which seem to come to life in a coordinated way roughly every 1,000 years,” Ravilious writes.

The last period of volcanic activity on the peninsula began in the 10th century and continued until the 13th. Unlike typical Icelandic volcanoes, which tend to wake for a few years and then die down, when this region gets going it appears to splutter on and off for up to 300 years, producing eruptive episodes (locally known as “fires”) lasting a few decades.

The effects of this could be dramatic, putting the town of Grindavík at risk from lava. They could also ground flights at Keflavík International Airport, and affect the road between Keflavík and Reykjavik. It’s possible they could be be relatively minor; as Ravilious notes, a lot depends on where smoke blows or lava flows. It’s one more variable that could have significant effects ranging far from this one region.

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