Fact File

  • The drifting ash cloud was travelling at 20,000ft to 35,000ft (6-10km) high
  • Most eruptions are around 6km high
  • 140 million m^3 of ash released in the first 72 hours
  • The eruption which caused the most disturbance started on the 14th of April 2010
  • The first eruption was on the 20th of March 2010.
  • The April eruption began in a 2.5km wide caldera
  • About 750 tonnes of rock were ejected every second
  • Ash stopped emerging in June 2010
  • A large magma chamber just below the surface resulted in quick deformation of the mountain
  • The volcano had been dormant for about 2 centuries beforehand



  • The volcano was based under a glacier, so the ice melted and came into contact with magma, which resulted in very fine ash being released into the atmosphere
  • Airlines were distrubed more by frequent stretches of winds from the North and North-West
  • The first eruption started on an iceless section of the slope, which caused lava but not much ash
  • There was about 1 km^3 of ice in the caldera, 25% of which melted in the initial eruption
  • There were at least 2 magma chambers, leading to the 3 separate eruptions


  • Icelandic people are generally very prepared for volcanoes, living in an extremely geologically active area
  • There were recently drills for what to do in the case that the nearby volcano, Katla, erupted before the eruption so that they knew what to do in the event of an eruption in the area.


Short Term

  • Melting ice caused flooding in Southern Iceland
  • Depostis of ash across Iceland and other parts of Europe in varying thicknesses

Middle Term

  • Major Disruption to European airlines (fine ash can cause damage to the plane engines)- the UK airspace was closed for the 15th to 20th of April
  • Another eruption on 9th May caused disturbance to Spanish flights
  • Disruptions to flights caused 1,000s to have to travel overland instead of by plane back to their homes

Long Term

  • The volcano drew visibility to Iceland, particularly the South, which helped increase tourism to the area, which helped to allow airlines to grow back their losses from earlier once the ash had settled down


Short Term

  • Roads in Southern Iceland are mostly built on embankments with small gaps in-between (on bridges)  for rivers to flow between. Before the flood reached the sea, short holes and channels were cut into the plains in the south of the country, to reroute water from the bridges. Repairing holes in the embankment is a lot cheaper than repairing the bridges.

Middle Term

  • A series of guidlines about ash densities which aeroplanes can tolerate allowed airlines to resume business fairly quickly

Long Term

  • The Icelandic government gives volcano drills so citizens know exactly what they’re meant to do in response.
  • A conference of scientists went to the volcano during 15-16 September 2010 to investigate the eruption and research it
  • The volcano had been studied for almost 2 decades to look at how volcanoes in cold environments erupt- data from this and the subsequent conference should help to predict volcanic eruptions and minimise disruption later.

Evaluation of Responses

Impacts were ultimately low, and only lasted a few months. Icelandic awareness of volcanoes and how to respond to them helped to minimise any impacts on property and the causation of casualties.

Most of the Icelandic response is preemptive, and more to help with volcanoes in general, than any specific volcano. This mindset helps individual people to avoid any negative impacts on themselves as quickly as possible. It also helps to minimise costs on the emergency services, as they don’t need to interfere so much with trained individuals’ rescues.







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