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What is a volcano?
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Case Studies
The 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens
The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo

The 2000 eruption of Popocatepetl
The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallojokull
The 2010 eruption of Mt Merapi

Related Topics
Plate tectonics

Image of eruption
Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland (2010)

2010 Eruption of Eyjafjallajokull - a volcano in an MEDC
What is Eyjafjallajokull?
What type of volcano is Eyjafjallajokull?
When did Eyjafjallajokull erupt?
Why did Eyjafjallajokull erupt?

How big was the eruption?
What was the impact of the eruption?

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What is Eyjafjallajokull?
Eyjafjallajokull is a volcano located in Iceland. The name is a description of the volcano with Eyja meaning island; fjalla meaning mountain; and jokull meaning glacier. You can find out how to pronounce Eyjafjallajokull on the BBC website.

Eyjafjallajökull consists of a volcano completely covered by an ice cap. The ice cap covers an area of about 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi), feeding many outlet glaciers.

What type of volcano is Eyjafjallajokull?
The mountain itself, a stratovolcano, stands 1,651 metres (5,417 ft) at its highest point, and has a crater 3–4 kilometres (1.9–2.5 mi) in diameter, open to the north.

When did Eyjafjallajokull erupt?
Eyjafjallajokull erupted between from March to May 2010.

Why did Eyjafjallajokull erupt?
Iceland lies on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, a constructive plate margin seperating the North American plate and the Eurasian plate. As the plates move apart magma fills the magma chamber below Eyjafjallajokull. Eyjafjallajokull is located below a glacier.

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 920, 1612 and again from 1821 to 1823 when it caused a glacial lake outburst flood (or jökulhlaup). It erupted three times in 2010—on 20 March, April–May, and June. The March event forced a brief evacuation of around 500 local people,but the 14 April eruption was ten to twenty times more powerful and caused substantial disruption to air traffic across Europe. It caused the cancellation of thousands of flights across Europe and to Iceland.

How big was the eruption?
The eruption was only 3 on the volcanic explosivity index (VEI). Around 15 eruptions on this scale usually happen each year in Iceland. However, in this case a combination of a settled weather pattern with winds blowing towards Europe, very fine ash and a persistent eruption lasting 39 days magnified the impact of a relatively ordinary event. The eruptions in March were mainly lava eruptions. On April 14th a new phase began which was much more explosive. Violent eruptions belched huge quantities of ash into the atmosphere.

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What was the impact of the eruption? (social / economic / environmental - primary and secondary effects)

Primary effects: As the result of the eruption day turned to night with the ash blocking out the sun, rescuers wore face masks to prevent them choking on the clouds of ash.

Aerial photograph of the eruption
Ash cloud on 18th May, 2010 - source

Homes and roads were damaged and services disrupted, crops were destroyed by ash and roads washed away. The ash cloud brought European airspace to a standstill during the latter half of April 2010, and cost billions of euros in delays. During the eruption a no fly zone was imposed across much of Europe which meant airlines were losing around £130m per day. The price of shares in major airlines dropped between 2.5-3.3% during the eruption. However, it should be noted that on the trade front, both imports and exports are being impacted across countries in Europe so the net trade position were not affected markedly overall.

Airport cancellation screen
Disruption ar Leeds Bradford Airport - source

Secondary effects: Sporting events were cancelled or affected due to cancelled flights. Fresh food imports stopped and industries were affected by a lack of imported raw materials. Local water supplies were contaminated with fluoride. Flooding was caused as the glacier melted.

International Effects: The impact was felt as far afield as Kenya, where farmers have laid off 5000 workers after flowers and vegetables were left rotting at airports. Kenya's flower council says the country was losing $1.3m a day in lost shipments to Europe. Kenya normally exports up to 500 tonnes of flowers daily – 97% of which is delivered to Europe. Horticulture earned Kenya 71 billion shillings (£594m) in 2009 and is the country's top foreign exchange earner. You can read more about this on the Guardian website.

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