Volcanic Eruptions in Iceland Posing Potential Threats To European Flights

Iceland, housing both enormous glaciers and several volcanoes, had a volcanic eruption from one of its craters on Friday 29th of August. Another small eruption followed today, 1st of September, at a spot very much near to the eruption of Friday. Iceland is a land of paradoxes: fire and ice coexist at surprisingly extreme levels. The volcanic system of Bardarbunga, which is the largest one in Iceland, erupted, potentially affecting airspace travel all over Europe. Volcanoes may cause disasters on land, and might even reach out to the sky.

Iceland on fireWhere fire meets ice

Friday eruption causing 600-meter-long fissure

The volcano Bardarbunga found to the north of the Dyngjujoekull glacier in Iceland has raised concerns about the air traffic that might be affected by any emission of ash. The recent eruption was not explosive, hence the kind of ash to disrupt the smooth flying of airplanes was not released – it has not been deemed harmful to air traffic. The volcanic eruptions lasted for a brief while only. Lava poured out from a fissure of around 600 meters in length. Seisms were also triggered in the region.

European airspace closed in 2010 because of volcanic eruption in Iceland

Volcanic eruptions constitute a natural calamity that might easily go out of hand; sometimes, inhabitants living nearby have to evacuate the area, depending on the intensity of the eruption. In case the situation takes a critical turn, it is not only those on land who have to face the consequences. Airplanes flying along routes located in the areas affected by the eruption might also have to bear the brunt of the volcano. One such instance when flights had had to be delayed occurred back in 2010. The Eyjafjallajökull volcano situated in Iceland erupted, causing great amounts of ash plumes to be emitted. As a result, 100 000 flights from all over Europe had to stick to the ground, marking the first time after World War II when the European airspace was specially quiet and still, not buzzing with activity.

How can volcanoes be hazardous to airplanes?

Volcanoes might indirectly lead to engine failure of aircrafts. The ash emitted from the earth during eruptions might be melted by extreme heat coming from engines – when they thaw, they become glass, which blocks fuel nozzles, the combustor and turbine which prevent the engine from functioning. Furthermore, the ash in itself might scratch the surface of cockpit windows, making it tediously difficult for pilots to view runways.

Red warning code

Fortunately, for now, threats to airspace traffic have not been deemed to be serious enough to stop aircrafts from flying to and from their destinations.  The authorities have issued the aviation red warning code, limiting flying within a certain distance from regions in the vicinity of the eruptions. However, this does not affect commercial flights.

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