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Flights international questions: should we be worried about the Icelandic volcano?

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People look at the illuminated sky from Iceland's capital, Reykjavik.

    < li class="mt-2 flex first:mt-0">Philippe Granger (View profile)Philippe Granger

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In 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano had disrupted local and international flights for many weeks. The event left its mark – and twisted some tongues – and cost the global economy five billion dollars.

Yesterday, a volcano erupted just a few kilometers from Keflavik Airport, the country's main airport.

Flights to and from of Iceland are not disrupted and international flight corridors remain open, assures the Icelandic government in a press release.

The Seismic activities could, however, continue for several months, according to some experts.

But then, as the holiday season approaches, should we once again fear a disruption in international flights?

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According to volcanology experts, the answer is no.

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Volcanologist and professor-researcher Pierre-Simon Ross

Pierre-Simon Ross, volcanologist and professor-researcher at the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS), first points out that the information we had 13 years ago is not the same as today. hui.

The volcanologist explains that the fear that ash present in the atmosphere would cause aircraft engines to stop has long persisted.

Recent research now indicates that a certain concentration of ashes can be tolerated. General stress has gone down a bit, he admits.

Since [2010] , there have been several studies on the maximum ash concentration that was acceptable for aircraft. At the time, we didn’t know, so we said it was zero.

A quote from Pierre-Simon Ross, volcanologist and professor-researcher at the National Institute of Scientific Research

The researcher at INRS also explains that the volcano we are dealing with these days is much more harmless, since it is a fissure eruption. This type of phenomenon causes lava to flow, but emits little ash.

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A volcano spews lava and smoke as it erupts in Grindavik, Iceland, December 18, 2023.

If there is ash, we can imagine that it rises a kilometer and falls on Iceland, but the quantity of ash is not high and the eruptive plume is low, indicates Pierre-Simon Ross.

Remarks which are corroborated by Fiona D'Arcy, doctoral student in volcanology at McGill University.

There are no explosions that will produce ash that will reach the atmosphere.

The eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010 took place under a glacier, which constitutes a major difference in the eyes of volcanologists.

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The Eyjafjallajökull volcano spews lava, smoke and steam on April 19, 2010.

The water that was generated by the melting of the ice interacted with the magma in an explosive way, explains Pierre-Simon Ross.

The water mixes with the magma, which increases the intensity fragmentation, which creates lots of small particles, called ash.

This explosive reaction is called phreatic eruption, says Fiona D'Arcy. A phenomenon that the Icelandic volcano in recent days is not confronted with.

If [the lava from the current volcano] flows towards the ocean, there will be a reaction, but it will be calmer. There will be [toxic] gases and basalt that will form. It's less serious [than the Eyjafjallajökull eruption].

A quote from Fiona D'Arcy, doctoral student in volcanology at McGill University

If the doctoral candidate recognizes the dangerousness of these gases, she nevertheless wishes to emphasize that its effects are and will only be felt locally.

Eyjafjallajökull started with cracks before reaching the summit. But, in this case, the summit does not exist. It's just flat. We won't have a problem, even if it happens just before Christmas.

If seismic activity is extremely common in Iceland, then why do we talk so much about the activities of the last few weeks?

The answer would lie in the location of these seismic activities.

Until March 2021, the Reykjanes peninsula, south of the capital Reykjavik, had been spared from eruptions for eight centuries.< /p>

This inhabited region is now vulnerable to eruptions, putting its population at risk.

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The eruption takes place 40 km from Reykjavik.< /p>

Monday's eruption took place three kilometers from Grindavik, a small fishing town about 40 km southwest of the capital Reykjavik.

If local authorities take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of citizens, Pierre-Simon Ross believes that the threats linked to this eruption are limited.

At first, we didn't know exactly where the magma was going to come out. But the lava flow doesn't move more than a few kilometers per hour. We won't be surprised by that.

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