Iceland volcano erupts but event unlikely to cause ash cloud chaos of 2010 

Iceland volcano erupt
Iceland Civil Defense

An Icelandic volcano has erupted on the country’s Reykjanes peninsula but so far flights in and out of the country remain largely unaffected.  

Experts believe that the latest event in Iceland is unlikely to cause the level of travel chaos caused when Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010.  

In 2010 the eruption, and subsequent ash cloud, caused European airspace to shut down for several days, leaving passengers stranded worldwide.  

It is understood that the latest eruption which began at 22:17 local time, on December 18, 2023, northeast of the town of Grindavík, will not produce ash clouds in the same capacity as over a decade ago.  

“This eruption follows intense seismic activity over the past few weeks and is classified as a fissure eruption (often referred to as Icelandic-type). Fissure eruptions do not usually result in large explosions or significant production of ash dispersed into the stratosphere,” the Icelandic government said in a statement.  

Bjarni Benediktsson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, tried to calm fears of flight disruptions in a post on social media. 

“The eruption is about 3,5 km long close to Sundhnúka, north of Grindavik where evacuation orders have been in place. There are no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and international flight corridors remain open,” Benediktsson said. 

Some flights operated by PLAY from the United States (US) to Keflavík Airport (KEF) appear to be delayed by a few hours. A flight from Baltimore and Washington were both cancelled.   

Some PLAY flights departing from KEF also seem to be behind schedule, although recent air traffic control strikes in Iceland could also be a contributing factor. 

When the latest volcano erupted just a handful of aircraft appeared to be on hold before eventually landing at KEF.  

An easyJet flight departed KEF more than five hours late for Manchester following the volcano eruption. 

Icelandair has said that the situation has a minimal effect on operations but so far, no flights have been disrupted or canceled. 

In its latest update four hours after the eruption the Icelandic Met Office said that volcano’s intensity was decreasing.  

“The fact that the activity is decreasing already is not an indication of how long the eruption will last, but rather that the eruption is reaching a state of equilibrium,” the Met Office said. 

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