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Airlines on alert as eruption begins in Iceland



By JENNA GOTTLIEB and JILL LAWLESS

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) - Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano burst forth with a small eruption Saturday under the ice of Europe's largest glacier, scientists said, prompting the country to close airspace over the area.

Thousands of small earthquakes have rattled the volcano, located deep beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, in the last week. Icelandic Meteorological Office vulcanologist Melissa Pfeffer said Saturday that seismic data indicated that an eruption had begun, with magma from the volcano melting ice within the glacier's Dyngjujokull icecap,

The remote area, 200 miles (320 kilometers) east of the capital of Reykjavik, is uninhabited.

The Civil Protection Department said scientists flew over the ice cap Saturday afternoon but saw no visible signs of the eruption on the surface. Late Saturday the Met Office said there were "no signs of ongoing volcanic activity."

Still, authorities raised the country's aviation alert to red - the highest level on a five-point scale - indicating the threat of "significant emission of ash into the atmosphere." Icelandic Volcano Alert Level Raised, Starts Erupting


Icelandic authorities declared a no-fly zone of 100 nautical miles by 140 nautical miles around the eruption as a precaution, but did not shut down air space over most of the island nation in the North Atlantic.

"All airports are open and flights are on schedule," said spokeswoman Olof Baldursdottir.

A 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano produced an ash cloud that caused a week of international aviation chaos, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled.

Pfeffer said it was not clear when, or if, the eruption would melt through the ice - which is between 100 to 400 meters (330 to 1,300 feet) thick - and fling steam and ash into the air. She said it could take up to a day for the ice to melt - or the eruption might remain contained beneath Europe's largest glacier.

Scientists were monitoring a hydrological station downstream from the volcano for flooding, a common result of volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

Pfeffer said the amount of ash produced by the new eruption would depend on the thickness of the ice.

"The thicker the ice, the more water there is, the more explosive it will be and the more ash-rich the eruption will be," she said.

Iceland sits on a volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic's mid-oceanic ridge and eruptions occur frequently, triggered when the Earth's plates move and when magma from deep underground pushes its way to the surface.

Well-practiced emergency procedures mean eruptions in Iceland usually do not cause deaths. Authorities evacuated several hundred people, mostly hikers, earlier this week from the highlands north of the Vatnajokull glacier as a precaution.

But the impact of the tiny island's volcanoes has been felt around the world.

Millions of people were stranded in April 2010, when aviation officials closed Europe's air space for five days out of fear that ash from Eyjafjallajokul could harm jet engines.

European aviation authorities later changed their policy, giving airlines detailed information about the location and density of ash clouds but leaving decisions to airlines and national regulators.

A 2011 eruption of Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano was far more powerful than Eyjafjallajokul but cause much less disruption to aviation.

The budget airline EasyJet, which flies between Britain and Iceland, said it was operating as usual. It said it would use ash-detection technology, satellite data and other information "to determine what, if any, changes it should make to its flying program" in the event of an ash cloud.

The chunk of closed airspace over the volcano extends over the North Atlantic, and Virgin Atlantic said a London-do-San Francisco flight took a detour to avoid it.

Nicholas Wyke, a spokesman for continental air traffic controller Eurocontrol, told The Associated Press in an e-mail that it was difficult to estimate how many flights typically crossed that airspace, noting that trans-Atlantic flights vary their routes based on wind conditions.

"It is unlikely that this danger area will have any significant effect on north Atlantic traffic," he said.

___

Lawless reported from London. Associated Press Writer Scott Mayerowitz in New York and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

Online:

Icelandic Meteorological Office: http://en.vedur.is/

Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter @JillLawless

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
David August 23 2014 at 3:53 PM

Volcano's spew millions of tons of ash and gases into the atmosphere 24 hours a day since time began and they want to blame us for global warming. The earth cleans itself continuously whether it's a fart in the wind or and oil spill.

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7 replies
Viper1ex19 August 23 2014 at 3:07 PM

Climate Change - Global Warming is causing it,,, hurry and raise everyone's taxes so it will stop.. (sarc)

Flag Reply +12 rate up
3 replies
bigshadyobama August 23 2014 at 3:18 PM

IF LOOTING BREAKS OUT, CAN SOMEBODY MAP QUEST ME DIRECTIONS? I NEED NEW RIMS FOR MY RIDE.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
2 replies
sharer bigshadyobama August 23 2014 at 8:21 PM

Yeah. Walk east until your hat floats. Then keep walking for the next two weeks. You'll get there. I promise.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
tomjp46 bigshadyobama August 23 2014 at 9:46 PM

Your caps lock is stuck on "scream".

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Ma Fosz August 23 2014 at 5:14 PM

Most Republicans never will acknowledge climate change. Most Southern Republicans have less than a ninth grade education and drop out of school because of a alcohol or meth problem.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
12 replies
langkcmv August 23 2014 at 3:19 PM

I suppose this volcano erupting will be "Bush's fault".....or those "mean Republicans"....right?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
juanelan langkcmv August 23 2014 at 3:56 PM

Yes! Please see this as a Republican Ragnarok or their GOPdaammerung. The Justice of the Norse Gods is swift and complete. Isn't Karl Rove a lot like Loki?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ga7smi langkcmv August 24 2014 at 3:19 AM

it is Bush's fault

Flag Reply 0 rate up
kualakid August 23 2014 at 3:50 PM

when scientists were asked how much the super hot magma, and massive amounts of ash and gasses would be a more common sense cause of warming on earth, the scientists replied that it was fracking, and bush, that caused these eruptions in the first place.
especially because al snore said the earths core/magma, was millions of degrees....just sayin

Flag Reply +4 rate up
4 replies
wfischl August 23 2014 at 8:25 PM

Attn: all you global warming nuts... Get your butts up to that volcano and protest... Possibly.stop it......when you solve that go to the hundreds of others that are spewing co2 and other crap you guys blame for US causing...look in the mirror and see the fools....

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2 replies
Mike Keefer wfischl August 23 2014 at 10:28 PM

The combined CO2 discharge of all the world's volcanoes is less than 1 percent of what humnaity dumps into atmosphere every year.
Want to learn what really matters from volanic eruptions check the link below.

http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/climate.php

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
olvden Mike Keefer August 23 2014 at 11:47 PM

The gubmint says so....it has to be true.

Flag +1 rate up
mark and sheri Mike Keefer August 24 2014 at 1:20 AM

Really? Then why did the explosion of Krakatoa cause unusual cooling in Europe that year? Let me guess. It is ALWAYS humanity's fault, specially America's fault. Waiting for everyone to go to India and China to protest. Don't hold your breathe.

Flag +1 rate up
skippylouju wfischl August 24 2014 at 2:48 AM

Since you don't feel responsible, you must not be.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Rob August 23 2014 at 4:38 PM

Hmm, I wonder what the equivalent is of that eruption along with the other volcanoes that are constantly erupting are to the amount of Co2 we emit daily? I say the volcanoes win.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
3 replies
amatsik August 23 2014 at 5:27 PM

The plague,famine and the locust are on the way...
Time to ride people
its been fun

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
ga7smi amatsik August 24 2014 at 3:20 AM

i hope so - I am so bored

Flag Reply 0 rate up
DollyDagger August 24 2014 at 1:57 AM

People are so concerned about Etna and Son of Krakatoa, that they forget that Iceland is a ticking time bomb with a fuse shorter than anything in the Ring of Fire.

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1 reply
balaland DollyDagger August 24 2014 at 4:11 AM

Yellowstone..

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