Icelandic volcano no longer slacking off


Remember Eyjafjallajökull? Iceland's "lazy" volcano that was the site of wacky wiener roasts and beautiful photos featuring the Northern Lights? In that last post, reader Nash Rambler predicted that Eyjafjallajökull was simply "unmotivated" and would someday "graduate from college, throw out the bong and Snoop Dogg posters, and wipe out an Italian city".

Well, not quite. But it has managed to ground all air traffic in the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Yesterday, Eyjafjallajökull erupted, sending up a huge ash plume that's forced flight cancellations all across northern Europe, for fear that large particles in the plume could clog jet engines. The UK's air traffic control service told the BBC that this is the worst airspace restriction in living memory. The eruption itself apparently melted large chunks of a glacier, forcing 800 Icelanders to flee flooding. So far, it doesn't look like there've been any deaths.

Whatever it's up to, Eyjafjallajökull is certainly photogenic. More great pictures on Flickr.

Thanks to our own Arkizzle for the tip-off!

Image courtesy Flickr user Ulrich Latzenhofer, via CC


  1. See? He just needed some tough love and focus. We knew he could do it. :wipes tear: Our little volcano is growing up!

  2. That’s bad. But the worst airspace restriction was certainly 9/11, when all US and Canadian airspace was totally closed for three days. He forgot that little thing already?

    1. That’s bad. But the worst airspace restriction was certainly 9/11, when all US and Canadian airspace was totally closed for three days. He forgot that little thing already?

      From the context it quite clearly refers to UK airspace.

      1. Safety group Eurocontrol said the problem could persist for 48 hours.

        The airspace restriction was the worst in living memory, a Nats spokesman said.

        Not that it’s all that important, or worth arguing about, but I’d thought of the 911 thing as well, as I was reading, and the above quote from the BBC really doesn’t contextualize the Britain thing.

    2. No, sidb, look at the spread of this thing on the linked BBC site. It’s over Scandinavia, Germany Poland and quite a bit of Russia now, and still pumping.

      Coming soon: Year Without a Summer 2: Carbon Credit Boogaloo.

      1. Year Without a Summer 2: Carbon Credit Boogaloo.

        I expect each and every one of you Europeans to be outside, using the coming brilliant sunsets as backdrops for a new generation of great art.

    3. Well, this is different. Firstly, of course, this affects European air space, so we have nothing to compare with as such. Secondly, ALL airspace traffic is halted, not just commercial traffic. I work as a paramedic, and will be working this weekend. The thought of not having ambulance helicopters to help out is discomforting, to say the least.

    4. From the BBC:

      1259 From BBC correspondent Jane Peel:
      Nats [National Air Traffic Services] has confirmed that today’s closure of UK airspace is unprecedented. After the 9-11 terrorist attacks in America, transatlantic flights were suspended and the airspace over London alone was closed. But this is the first time all flights into and out of the UK have been grounded.

  3. It’s just unbelievable that the forums on all the major news sites have been full of climate change deniers going on about how this proves they were right, by means of all sorts of specious justifications (“volcanos are a bigger source of CO2”, “this proves that nature deals with things better than man”, etc.)

  4. Seen all the pics. I don’t see why the airports are closed… The plume seems quite isolated, and an airplane could be all ‘wtf is that im no flying over thar’ and fly around it.

    1. Volcanic plumes, once at altitude, are almost impossible to tell from clouds of water vapor. And they have the unfortunate tendency to turn into glass in the combustion chamber then cool in the turbine, ending up stuck to the rotors, causing them to fail.


        1. Hello, Speedbird 9…
          Thanks for posting that quote; you beat me to it. Masterful understatement from Capt. Moody (and so typical of old British Airways).

      1. I wouldn’t bet on it.
        It may stop erupting tomorrow, next week, or in two years.
        Last time it erupted (1821) it went on for two years, 1821 to 1823.

        Exciting times..

        1. Oh, I meant in geologic time.

          This can only help the immortal jellyfish to evolve into the masters of all creation.

  5. Am I the only one who saw the name of the volcano “Eyjafjallajökull” and thought “Well, there goes R’Lyeh.”

    1. Hmm, depends where you’re standing at the time.
      Actually, it depends when you’re standing at the place. ;)

  6. Thanks to our own Arkizzle for the tip-off!

    Thanks to my own MaryBerry for the tip-off, who is sick in bed and playing internetz :D

  7. As a ex-commercial pilot and an Icelander I must say that closing airports and flight routes is absolutely necessary as the ash kills jet engines almost instantly. The damage to airliners is quite severe.

    Now, my Icelandic side says:
    Hey Gordon Brown, I’ll see your use of antiterrorism laws against Iceland and raise you a GIANT FCKIN’ VOLCANIC ASH CLOUD
    (although that is a quote from a cousin of mine)

  8. Well, the very very large downside to all of this, is that a _massive_ chunk of Coachella’s best acts may not show now =[ I was going to see Orbital, and only Orbital (everyone else was gravy). I have a feeling I may be very disappointed.

  9. Volcanic ash also has high concentrations of sulfuric acid. An encounter with an ash cloud can cause cockpit windows to get clouded to the point of looking like milk and will also eat the metal off the leading edges. I saw this as an air traffic controller in Alaska. A 747 that encountered an ash plume embedded in clouds lost all four engiines and had to restart them in the air. When it got back on the ground the leading edges had been so eaten by the acid that you could push your fingers through them.

    1. That’s not even the worst of it. The suspended ash will melt in the engine, coating everything with a thin layer of molten rock that solidifies on the surfaces of the turbines. That’s what kills the engines. To my knowledge, it hasn’t actually brought down a passenger jet, but there have been some close calls.

  10. Yup, I work in the North Sea on an Oil & Gas Rig and ALL flights to the UKCS have been suspended – 2000 people aren’t going home from work tonight…

  11. I am so happy to have walked up there when it was small and then a week later read Ursula k. Leguin’s Left Hand of Darkness where they hike across a glacier with volcanoes in it.

    And there have been two deaths so far in relation to the volcano. Some people got lost on the highlands and died from exposure (froze to death).

    The only other death caused by a volcano here that I know of for the past 100 years is a drunk guy suffocating in poisonos fumes in a valley in Vestmanneyjar (Westman island)

  12. …”the worst airspace restriction in living memory…”

    What’s up with the “in living memory” hyperbole? Or are they trying to exclude, maybe, all those 18th Century airspace restrictions?

  13. Meanwhile, vulcanologists are casting a nervous toward nearby Asdgsfdg, Cynollo and Qwertyuiop.

    The runway lights are going out all over Europe.

  14. Seems that this eruption could go on and on.
    As pointed out in the above comments, this particular volcano kept going for two years back in the 1820s.
    I’ve always wanted to see a return to popularity of those big trans-Atlantic passenger ships: but I had thought jet air travel’s speed would carry the day.
    I did not foresee this wild card – Iceland’s volcanoes.

  15. Icelandic banks go bust in GFC taking both their own and much foreign money with them.

    Britain invokes anti-terror laws to freeze the banks UK assets. Icelanders understandably outraged at being lumped in with Osama and friends.

    Britain attempts to force bankrupt Iceland to repay UK depositors money lost in collapse and to fork out for crippling interest payments on rescue loans.

    Finally the Icelandic gods say “Enough!” Close all UK and many European airports for an indefinite period, costing their creditors large sums of money and huge inconvenience.

    Some pretty nice sunsets though.

    1. The Icelandic gods must be as short-sighted as some bankers then: if you owe me money, and then I suddenly find myself poorer because of volcanoes tripping up, what’s the likelihood that I will come knocking at your door even *more* often?

      (and yes, I’m bitter: I’m supposed to flight from Chicago to the UK tomorrow. I hope going back home to my wife and my daughter won’t take weeks).

  16. I’m pleased that I have finally snarked my way into a Boing Boing article, and it only cost me some keystrokes and the inconvenience of thousands of airline passengers. A winner is me!

  17. Imagine if 20 of these popped up along the tectonic plate. That would mean no flights, and the collapse of the modern world. The smoke could block out the sun damaging crops and there you have a crisis. What ever happens people are not safe and have got to snap out of their little perfect bubble with a magical view on life. This is real, not your little hobby that you do in your spare time.

    1. Hypa – you’re right, this is a global disaster, and if 20 of these popped up along the tectonic plate, it would have a gigantic impact on our modern infrastructure. I have to disagree with you on the collapse of the modern world; lots of people would die, food would get tougher to come by, and transatlantic cruises would suddenly leap in popularity, but I doubt the entire world would go all “Mad Max.” That being said, how will worrying about it in any prevent it? If those volcanoes decide to show up, not much we can do to stop them. Might as well crack a few jokes, stock up on marshmallows, and make sure the canned food in the fallout shelter hasn’t expired.

      1. Or we could go to the moon and wait for it to go back to normal? I think you’re right that the modern world wouldn’t collapse but in fact it will have to develop and adapt to the changing environment. Evolution has got us this far, so we are not gonna f*** it up. As a whole we are the biggest intellectual force on Earth, In our Solar System, In our Galaxy or even Universe. (going deep now) We are the imprint of the most supreme force that exists, some call it God, some struggle to understand what it actually is, some call it random chance and others make up all sorts of explanations, the fact is that we are not going to find out any time soon but the important thing is that millions of years of evolution will not go down without a fight. Who knows, we might not be so perfect in the evolution process, time will show and maybe, something better will become of us and come from our existence. Just think about what we are made out of, the very matter that has come from all parts of the Universe assembled in such manner that we are able to…..LIVE

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