May 22, 2011 in Nation/World

Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano starts erupting

Gudjon Helgason Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Smoke rises from the Grimsvotn volcano – Iceland’s most active volcano – Saturday in Reykjavik. The eruption was accompanied by a series of small earthquakes.
(Full-size photo)

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Iceland’s most active volcano has started erupting, scientists said Saturday – just over a year after another eruption on the North Atlantic island shut down European air traffic for days.

Iceland’s Meteorological Office confirmed that an eruption had begun at the Grimsvotn volcano, accompanied by a series of small earthquakes. Smoke could be seen rising from the volcano, which lies under the uninhabited Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland.

A no-fly zone has been designated for 120 nautical miles in all directions from the eruption. Isavia, the company that operates and develops all airport facilities and air navigation services in Iceland, described this as standard procedure around eruptions.

Grimsvotn last erupted in 2004. Scientists have been expecting a new eruption and have said previously that this volcano’s eruption will likely be small and should not lead to the air travel chaos caused in April 2010 by ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

History shows that previous eruptions in Grimsvotn have not had much influence on flight traffic – unlike the massive disruption caused last year.

Pall Einarsson, geophysicist at the University of Iceland, said last year’s eruption was a rare event.

“The ash in Eyjafjallajokull was persistent or unremitting and fine-grained,” Einarsson said. “The ash in Grimsvotn is more coarse and not as likely to cause danger, as it falls to the ground faster and doesn’t stay as long in the air as in the Eyjafjallajokull eruption.”

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