Iceland takes its revenge
April 15, 2010 2:40 AM   Subscribe

Air traffic in much of northern Europe halted – due to ash from a volcanic eruption under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland. The volcano under the glacier erupted for the first time in 200 years last month and whilst Iceland is renowned for its volcanic and geologic activity the sheer ferocity of the latest eruption (thought to be 20 times more powerful than the initial eruption on the 20th March) and prevailing wind conditions have culminated in the current traffic chaos. Flightradar24.com shows the current impact on the skies. Whilst the particles will disperse at high altitude and pose no threat to those on the ground, the volcanic ash is very dangerous to aircraft . Not only is there the problem of it clouding pilot vision but the ash can cause engine malfunction and damage the delicate airframe skin. One silver lining in all this is the anticipated glorious red sunset that should follow.
posted by numberstation (149 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reaction from Edinburgh
posted by alopez at 2:57 AM on April 15, 2010 [19 favorites]


I was supposed to fly to LAX in 4 hours for a friend's wedding. Freakin volcanoes.
posted by like_neon at 2:59 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd already seen this story, but that air traffic map at flightradar24 is amazing. Thanks!
posted by metaBugs at 3:03 AM on April 15, 2010


There's some cool photos of the volcano doing its thing on Flickr. The Guardian's live-blogging it here. UK airspace will be totally closed (except for emergency flights) from midday today until at least 6pm.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 3:04 AM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's just Thor's way of telling the UK to let go of that pesky deposit insurance money.
posted by qvantamon at 3:05 AM on April 15, 2010 [21 favorites]


I had the option of booking a flight for tomorrow or catching Eurostar. I'm catching Eurostar. Phew.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:19 AM on April 15, 2010


Incredible. The in-laws were supposed to fly to visit us today. Last time they visited, a freak wind and ice storm cased a 12 hour delay. They'll never visit us again, I suspect...
posted by brambory at 3:27 AM on April 15, 2010


I was at the volcano almost exactly a week ago. Sounds like if I'd been there a little later I'd have been stuck there till a lot later.
posted by edd at 3:28 AM on April 15, 2010


First they steal all that money and now this!

Brown should declare war on Iceland. It could be his Falklands.
posted by the cuban at 3:34 AM on April 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Awhile back, someone was mentioning that the loss of the weight on the ground from melting ice causes isostatic rebound. In prior warm periods, the Earth has tended to go nuts with volcanic action, bringing on new Ice Ages, and at least one researcher thinks that's why it happens.

With all the earthquakes lately, and now this, I'm starting to wonder if this could already be happening. I was expecting it would take at least several decades, but man, we've sure been getting a lot of geologic events of late. It'll be interesting to see if things calm down or if they keep getting worse.

I saw someone (not here) say, "Mother Earth is angry", and I just blanched. It's not a person, it's a mechanical process, one that's visible in the geologic record. Angry god figures have nothing to do with it. The Earth is a super-complex system, but falling into magical thinking won't help.
posted by Malor at 3:35 AM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you want to see what it looks like when Iceland really kicks it off, look back to 1783.
posted by edd at 3:42 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


someone was mentioning that the loss of the weight on the ground from melting ice causes isostatic rebound.

Iceland is, despite the name, not actually covered by ice.
posted by three blind mice at 3:43 AM on April 15, 2010


falling into magical thinking won't help



Lets blame Kattullus instead - the bastard !
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:44 AM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


In an effort to show that they can be just as evil as their American counterparts, Norwegian insurance companies have declared that the volcanic eruption and its resulting ash is not a natural disaster, and anyone with delayed/canceled flights will not be reimbursed even though they have travel insurance. (More here, in Norwegian)
posted by ymgve at 3:44 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a pretty big deal. Not only is Northern UK and Norwegian Airspace closed, this has pretty much nuked the North Atlantic tracks -- anyone flying US-UK has to fly much further south, which means much farther, and won't have the diversion airports in Iceland or the UK. That might shut down anyone flying a twinjet, if they suddenly find themselves violating ETOPS regulations without Keflavik or Glasgow available for a divert.
posted by eriko at 3:45 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


three blind mice: Iceland is, despite the name, not actually covered by ice.

I point you to the OP, emphasis added:

a volcanic eruption under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier

So it's pretty clearly got a fair bit of the stuff.
posted by Malor at 3:54 AM on April 15, 2010


Wow. I have a major desire to add lots of little speech balloons to that flightradar24 link.
posted by i_cola at 3:57 AM on April 15, 2010


With all the earthquakes lately, and now this, I'm starting to wonder if this could already be happening. I was expecting it would take at least several decades, but man, we've sure been getting a lot of geologic events of late. It'll be interesting to see if things calm down or if they keep getting worse.

I don't have a source to point to, but a BBC science programme I listened to recently had a seismologist on saying that the rate and magnitude of earthquakes has actually stayed pretty constant. We've just had a run of bad luck that the last few big ones have been in densely populated areas with poor infrastructure, rather than out in the middle of nowhere.

The programme was probably This Science In Action episode, which does include stuff about earthquake prediciton, but I can't listen to it now to check. It could equally have been something from Material World.
posted by metaBugs at 4:01 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am in Tokyo.

I am due to fly home to Edinburgh, via Paris CDG, on Monday.

Fingers firmly crossed ...
posted by cstross at 4:08 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Grrr. am supposed to have friends flying in late this evening from Gatwick to Berlin. If everyone on the continent would please turn to the west and BLOW, we might get this sorted....

(and re the insurance money, well, if Thor would like to step outside a minute...)
posted by runincircles at 4:09 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malor: So it's pretty clearly got a fair bit of the stuff.

Yes, but there is no icecap covering mis-named Iceland (as compared to mis-named Greenland.) Iceland also has about 25 active volcanoes - this is one of them. The idea that melting ice is causing volcanoes to erupt in Iceland seems like a pretty desperate (and unnecessary) attempt to link volcanic activity to climate change.
posted by three blind mice at 4:10 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm going to take the opportunity to plug a friend's book (again), a history of natural disasters and the kind of 'magical thinking' that tends to accompany them, as well as the tremendous advances that have been made in their prediction and mitigation during and since the Enlightenment.

The book is Richard Hamblyn's Terra; Guardian review.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 4:15 AM on April 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Note to self: watch sun set.
posted by WPW at 4:16 AM on April 15, 2010


Your word for the day: jökulhaup. When a volcano erupts beneath a glacier, it starts melting the glacier from underneath. The water has nowhere to go, so it builds up inside the glacier. When it finally breaks free, it creates huge floods downstream, called a jökulhaup. The jökulhaup from this eruption has driven evacuations in the area and closed a section of the main highway around the island. Authorities have broken a section of the road in an attempt to save the bridge over the river Markarfljót.

Video of the jökulhaup. Here's view of the flooding downstream, including a look at the highway. And for the trifecta, a BBC report on the jökulhaup.

If you want to follow the eruption with a focus on the volcanology, the best place I've found to do so is the aptly-titled Eruptions blog of Dr. Erik Klemetti. The comment threads are darn good, with lots of tasty linkage.
posted by cisko at 4:43 AM on April 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


WPW: Note to self: watch sun set.

Always good advice!
posted by foonly at 4:48 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heading from Flightradar24:

"We said cash, not ash!"
posted by Skeptic at 4:54 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


the cuban: Brown should declare war on Iceland. It could be his Falklands.

Don't make us come burn down Lindisfarne again!

What are you gonna do, send the navy? We kicked their ass last time! :)

sgt.serenity: Lets blame Kattullus instead - the bastard !

I was born out of wedlock, how'd'ya know? :)
posted by Kattullus at 5:06 AM on April 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I called QANTAS about an hour ago to see if it was likely my flight to London tomorrow would be delayed or cancelled. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Oh hi this is [my name], I'm flying with you tomorrow from Sydney to London via Singapore. I was just calling to see if my flight was likely to be affected by the volcano in Iceland?

QANTAS call centre: The.... volcano?

Me: yup, the volcano, in Iceland. The one that's closed Heathrow airport.

QANTAS: A... volcano? I'm sorry I haven't heard anything about that

Me: It's a volcanic eruption, in Iceland, and the ash plume has closed British airspace. It's all on the internet.

QANTAS: O...K. Where on the internet?

Me: www.m-e-t-a-f-i-l-t-e-r.com, first item at the top. Or bbc.co.uk

QANTAS: hold please

[hold music]

QANTAS: are you there? Sorry, but we can't confirm the, um, volcano, and no-one here knows anything about it. Is there anything else we can help you with?

Me: So my flight is OK?

QANTAS: We have no information about a volcano or changes to flights to Heathrow.

Me: So you're flying planes into London, and you have no information about this?

QANTAS: No-one here knows anything about Heathrow being closed or our flights being affected by the, um, volcano.

Me: .... OK. Thanks.
Me: [thinks] please powers that be, don't let me be in QANTAS's first ever plane crash
posted by girlgenius at 5:16 AM on April 15, 2010 [47 favorites]


Good news girlgenius! It would only be their first plane crash in the jet era!
posted by biffa at 5:20 AM on April 15, 2010


A farmer living near the glacier got this rather cool shot of the eruption.
posted by aldurtregi at 5:24 AM on April 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Me: [thinks] please powers that be, don't let me be in QANTAS's first ever plane crash

I might be more worried about their new slogan -- QUANTAS: We Know What Is Happening to Many, If Not Most, of Our Flights.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:26 AM on April 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


This is the third rift opened in this particular eruption. I hiked up to go see the second of these rifts on Easter Sunday. This new phase seems to be the most powerful phase. I'm no vulcanologist, but it's my impression that its been somewhat unpredictable. The second rift opened up 40 meters from where a group of people who were observing the first rift and there had been no seismic indications that it was going to happen. Geologist were predicting that the eruption would be long but stable. Then the second rift closed up suddenly and then the next day the current rift opened up. There are worries that this eruption is just a prelude to an even more devastating eruption in the nearby volcano of Katla.
posted by Kattullus at 5:27 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Katullus - the Wiki article you linked to contains the following lovely piece of vandalism:
The British Government did not recognise this claim,so sent Mike Cowley in on the grounds that setting such a precedent would lead to similar claims by nations which surrounded the North Sea, which would be damaging to the British fishing industry, but all he succeeded in doing was sinking his trawler by pulling the plug from the sink and spending the next four years swimming back to his castle on a remote Scottish island. Upon his return he was hailed a hero but he still insists he was trying to get home before his underpants.
posted by kcds at 5:27 AM on April 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Schiphol airport (amsterdam) changed their home page to a special version for all this. It currently claims things will deteriorate starting right now (14:30 local), and flights to and from the Netherlands will likely cease completely around 19:00 local.
posted by DreamerFi at 5:34 AM on April 15, 2010


On Tuesday a US passenger plane made an emergency landing in an Iceland airport because passengers had reported nausea and dizziness.

I wonder if that flight has been able to leave. I'm under the impression that flights from Iceland itself are not yet disrupted but I suppose they might be in the future.
posted by Anything at 5:37 AM on April 15, 2010


FlightRadar24! I love that game! Yeah, look at all those planes. I just put my finger on each plane and drag it to the airport, right? Yeah! Brrruummmmm. Heathrow! Brrrrrruuuummm. Gatwick! See? No problem! Oh there's three of them. Heathrow! Heathrow! Heathrow! YAY! Isn't technology amazing? Hey, girlgenius -- what's your flight number? I'll make sure everything's cool for you.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:53 AM on April 15, 2010 [15 favorites]


It is now more likely Katla will follow.
posted by gallagho at 5:54 AM on April 15, 2010


Me: www.m-e-t-a-f-i-l-t-e-r.com, first item at the top. Or bbc.co.uk

I love that you pointed the QANTAS person to Metafilter first.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 6:02 AM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just yesterday I got the most solid proof yet of isostatic rebound and glacial melt leading inevitably to more geologic activity: my earthquake insurance deductibles for Memphis, TN just increased from 15% to 20% out of nowhere.
posted by absalom at 6:17 AM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


We're leaving for England in a week. It's the first time either of us has been back in years and years and years, and I would really like it if this volcano didn't fuck up our trip. I don't know who the Icelandic equivalent of the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele is, but I'm going to start making sacrifices to him/her. In Hawaii, you chuck a bottle of gin into the caldera to appease Pele; is there something similar that her Icelandic counterpart would like? Not that I can get there, of course, but I'd be happy to do something symbolic (and sincere!) here in San Francisco.
posted by rtha at 6:19 AM on April 15, 2010


Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal disagrees with this volcano and insists you get your "flying machines" back in the air, pronto.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:20 AM on April 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


This is the third rift opened in this particular eruption.

Have the Old Ones escaped yet?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:21 AM on April 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


> In Hawaii, you chuck a bottle of gin into the caldera to appease Pele; is there something
> similar that her Icelandic counterpart would like?

Billions of dollars.
posted by vbfg at 6:34 AM on April 15, 2010 [29 favorites]


Thanks for this post -- I just saw the BBC article on Google news and wanted to know a little bit more. Some of the pictures coming out of this event are really fantastic and fascinating. Here's hoping everything will work out for everyone.

Side note:

Eyjafjallajokull glacier

I really want to see US newscasters try to pronounce this, not that they'll probably do a whole lot of reporting on it.
posted by malthas at 6:38 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because of the closed airspace, the prime minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, is stuck in New York. Norwegian daily Dagbladet writes (and has a photo too): "Jens runs the country from New York with iPad". The iPad (not yet for sale in Norway) is a bit more portable than this 8-screen set up, used in a campaign commercial for his party last year.

Also, the closed airspace has led to postponed hockey finals in Norway.
posted by iviken at 6:41 AM on April 15, 2010


We washed our mouths at the riverbed
When we noticed something glowing
It was growing
Things are going to change
Hot rainfalls made of magma
melts Alaska Iceland
And in icy Argentine Edinburgh they say now I've seen it all

Who knew? Volcanoes!

- The Islands
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:44 AM on April 15, 2010


So is this going to be a long term thing?
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:52 AM on April 15, 2010


When BA Flight 9 encountered this on June 24, 1982, it led to the Captain saying: "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them under control. I trust you are not in too much distress."

And upon having to make an almost instrument-only landing due to the volcanic ash scuffing the entire windshield, he remarked that landing in that state was "a bit like negotiating one's way up a badger's arse."

You can watch the excellent re-enactment of the incident on Air Crash Investigation here.
posted by meerkatty at 7:01 AM on April 15, 2010 [24 favorites]


Lord_Pall: I think this will depend very much on whether this is a pre-cursor to the Eruption of nearby Katla which seems to be the question on everyones lips at the moment.

As for the worse case scenario checkout the resultant mess from the last big eruption in 1783 of Laki from this Times article.

'The island's worst eruption in modern times was in 1783, when the Laki volcano blew its top. The lava shot to heights of 1.4 kilometres and more than 120 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide was released into the atmosphere.

A quarter of the island's population died in the resulting famine and it transformed the world, creating Britain's notorious "sand summer", casting a toxic cloud over Prague, playing havoc with harvests in France — sometimes seen as a contributory factor in the French Revolution — and changing the climate so dramatically that New Jersey recorded its largest snowfall and Egypt one of its most enduring droughts.'
posted by numberstation at 7:10 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


meerkatty: Not sure from your profile if you are in the UK but Capt. Eric Moody (Ret.) who you quote from has been on the grass at Heathrow giving his opinions to Sky News throughout the day.
posted by numberstation at 7:12 AM on April 15, 2010


malthas: "Eyjafjallajokull glacier. I really want to see US newscasters try to pronounce this, not that they'll probably do a whole lot of reporting on it."

BBC reporters have been studiously saying "A volcano in Iceland" all morning. I suspect that name frightens them.
posted by pharm at 7:14 AM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pharm: Not on Radio4 I should hope - anyhow the BBC have the wonderful BBC Proununciation Unit to assist in just such scenarios.
posted by numberstation at 7:18 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


pharm, perhaps it's just ash in the stringer's keyboard and the volcano's real name is just Eyak.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:21 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know that the ash is at too high an altitude for me to see it here in the UK, but this hasn't stopped me having a look every few minutes. If there isn't a good sunset this evening I'm going to be mightily disappointed.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:25 AM on April 15, 2010


Mount Pinatubo famously affected the climate system by injecting aerosols and dust into the stratosphere. I wonder to what extent the ongoing eruption of Eyjafjallajökull will have the same effect...
posted by sindark at 7:29 AM on April 15, 2010


numberstation: Even on Radio 4 I'm afraid.
posted by pharm at 7:32 AM on April 15, 2010


waits for sunset
posted by infini at 7:41 AM on April 15, 2010


Damn it, I'm supposed to fly in to Heathrow Sunday... on standby. I think I'm hosed.
posted by cmoj at 8:01 AM on April 15, 2010


Does anyone have more info on the sunset thing? Will we see it in NW continental Europe? How does it work? [citation needed]?

Need one apply? Do I need a licence? How do you rate the morning evening sun? Will the Mail blame hoodies?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:05 AM on April 15, 2010


I just got back to the US from Amsterdam last night. I was originally going to fly back today, but I had a prior commitment in NYC this evening and I figured that any delay to the flight would make me too late, so I bit the bullet and flew back yesterday. I was cursing what a long day yesterday was right up until I read the news this morning. Phew.
posted by ob at 8:07 AM on April 15, 2010


Here is Qantas' information on canceled-by-volcano flights. It doesn't really say anything about the likelihood of canceled flights, though.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:10 AM on April 15, 2010


Hope you are not going to start demanding your money back if the aforementioned glorious red sunset does not appear. Citation here as requested and more info here.
posted by numberstation at 8:12 AM on April 15, 2010


cstross: "I am in Tokyo. I am due to fly home to Edinburgh, via Paris CDG, on Monday."

Well, they just closed Paris CDG according to the Guardian newsfeed, so you'll just have to hope that the cloud has dispersed by Monday Charlie!
posted by pharm at 8:24 AM on April 15, 2010


Big Picture posted some photos, too.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:30 AM on April 15, 2010


Ok, Icelanders, so when my friend Harpa says her town is cut off because of broken roads, that's because the roads have been deliberately broken to prevent the jökulhaup from screwing up even more stuff, not because seismic shocks or the like broke the road?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:31 AM on April 15, 2010


ahhh, thank you.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:33 AM on April 15, 2010


To Brits stuck in Europe - take the train!
posted by muthecow at 8:43 AM on April 15, 2010


That's right bitter-girl; apparently some guys on excavators dug through the road in several places to allow the floodwaters to pass more quickly.
posted by aldurtregi at 8:46 AM on April 15, 2010


Thanks, aldurtregi! That was worrisome to read when she posted it! Glad to know there's a reason behind it.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:49 AM on April 15, 2010


To Brits stuck in Europe - take the train!

While generally I'd agree 100% with this advice - everyone else is already doing it, and Eurostar is booked solid (at least for tomorrow).

Latest update from NATS: "No flights (other than emergencies) are permitted in UK airspace. Following a review of the latest information … these restrictions will remain in place until 0700 tomorrow at the earliest. We will review further at 2000 today … and advise the arrangements that will be in place through to 1300 tomorrow'"

Good luck to those travelling.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:03 AM on April 15, 2010


I am in London on business until tomorrow... Looks like I am stranded; Eurostar is booked solid as well --although with CDG closed, what's the point anyway?
posted by costas at 9:05 AM on April 15, 2010


sindark, according to Weather Underground meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters, it's not likely to significantly affect the climate or weather, because (unlike Pinatubo) it's nowhere near the equator:
Above the tropics, the stratosphere's circulation features rising air, which pulls the sulfur-containing volcanic aerosols high into the stratosphere. Upper-level winds in the stratosphere tend to flow from the Equator to the poles, so sulfur aerosols from equatorial eruptions get spread out over both hemispheres. These aerosol particles take a year or two to settle back down to earth, since there is no rain in the stratosphere to help remove them. However, if a major volcanic eruption occurs in the mid-latitudes or polar regions, the circulation of the stratosphere in those regions generally features pole-ward-flowing, sinking air, and the volcanic aerosol particles are not able to penetrate high in the stratosphere or get spread out around the entire globe.
posted by nicepersonality at 9:06 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


*Excited about the sunset*

The skies over the 'burgh are currently blue and sunny, hard to believe they're full of ash. Let's see what dusk brings...
posted by penguin pie at 9:13 AM on April 15, 2010


I think they created the (wonderful) name of that volcano just to completely mess with the minds of everyone who's non-Icelandic.
posted by blucevalo at 9:40 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I am in Tokyo. I am due to fly home to Edinburgh, via Paris CDG, on Monday."


maybe see about gettin a bus mate, i think the 26 goes there : )
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:55 AM on April 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


One of my twitter-friends was wondering about the earthquake frequency question, and to be honest it was making even me (usually very blase about quakes) a little nervous. So I did some research, and was greatly relieved:

"we expect about 17 major earthquakes (7.0 - 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year." Are Earthquakes Really on the Increase? (USGS) They also have some nifty historical stats. Seems to be a pretty normal year so far, actually.
posted by epersonae at 9:59 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


pharm: BBC reporters have been studiously saying "A volcano in Iceland" all morning. I suspect that name frightens them.

I've listened to Wikipedia's pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull (warning: sound) ten times and I still can't pronounce the damned thing. Ey-fa-yo-glu? If my job required me to say that to millions of people, I would quit.
posted by learn to read at 10:02 AM on April 15, 2010


I was in London today for work, scheduled to fly back at 18:45 - luckily we called our super-efficient PA who magicked us some train tickets. There was a huge queue for seats at Kings Cross and there are plenty of people standing, but at least we are getting back up to Edinburgh!


maybe see about gettin a bus mate, i think the 26 goes there : )

it's okay, the tram works would cripple your ability to enter the city anyway!
posted by ukdanae at 10:23 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I think they created the (wonderful) name of that volcano just to completely mess with the
> minds of everyone who's non-Icelandic.

Volcanos love doing that. See Popocatepetl.
posted by jfuller at 10:28 AM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


At the end of the recording, is there a little pop of static or does the word end with a "k" sound?
posted by stoneweaver at 10:35 AM on April 15, 2010


Can't believe no one has linked the Iceland Weather Report blog. There have been some good explanations and pics there.
posted by QIbHom at 10:39 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was scheduled to fly to Heathrow from LAX today. Virgin Atlantic told me that nothing can go out until the 23rd. I was actually hiking on that very glacier a year ago on a trip to Southern Iceland. Guess I shouldn't have taken that volcanic rock home with me as a memento after all...
posted by Defender90293 at 10:40 AM on April 15, 2010


USGS shows no seismic activity in Iceland at all.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:45 AM on April 15, 2010


This pretty much ruins my planned weekend in Oslo. Gardermoen's website claims that they're closed until further notice, NRK claims that Norwegian airspace is closed for today and tomorrow at least... I flew into Denmark last night, as well, from London. Hopefully, everything should be sorted by the time I need to get home again, in a week's time.
posted by Dysk at 10:50 AM on April 15, 2010


stoneweaver: The double-l makes a "tl" sound, so that's what you're hearing at the end.
posted by weebil at 10:51 AM on April 15, 2010


It's all fun and games until Yellowstone goes up.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, the name Eyjafjallajökull means: Islands Mountains Glacier. Here's an approximate way of saying the name: AY-ya-FYA-dla-YU-kudl.

The YU is the same sound (roughly) as in yuck.
posted by Kattullus at 11:00 AM on April 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


AY-ya-FYA-dla-YU-kudl

Gesundheit.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:05 AM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Clearly the work of TEH TERRERISTS!!
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:12 AM on April 15, 2010


Learn to read: Ay-va-glerd-tlook?
posted by Duug at 11:14 AM on April 15, 2010


I just wanted to vent (no pun intended, but I'm not apologetic): I'm stuck in Stockholm due to the volcano, along with a number of other computer science folks who were attending a conference here (it ended today). It was interesting to watch the information propagate through the attendees: a few people managed to bolt before airports started closing in the region, but I had to stick around to deliver a talk. Now things get interesting, because I'm stuck here without much in the way of a plan or information. American Airlines' site doesn't seem to acknowledge the existence of volcanos, and their phone lines are saturated.
posted by agent at 11:44 AM on April 15, 2010


Here in Brussels the airport is closed, but despite the clear skies (in and by itself a rare occurrence), the sunset has been merely pretty, not spectacular. I'm a bit disappointed.
posted by Skeptic at 11:52 AM on April 15, 2010


Sunset here (Scottish borders) beautiful and red, but not incredibly out of the ordinary
posted by ukdanae at 12:07 PM on April 15, 2010


Latest news: An even bigger jökulhlaup has just been sighted.
posted by Kattullus at 12:10 PM on April 15, 2010


Update: It seems that all humans on farms in the possible path of the jökulhlaup have been evacuated safely. It is not known if any farm animals are in danger.
posted by Kattullus at 1:06 PM on April 15, 2010


We can't let some damn provincial Icelanders outdo the USA! Lets get the Yellowstone Caldera on the job! Who's with me?
posted by Justinian at 1:07 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just in case someone else is lurking around in a similar situation to my own, AA has some information about re-booking flights here. Due to whatever commercial arrangements AA has with international carriers, if you have a leg that goes through a particular international carrier, the re-booked flight has to be with that same carrier. Thus, the British Airways leg of the trip is still with BA, so I'm here until Monday unless I shell out for a new one-way trip.
posted by agent at 1:07 PM on April 15, 2010


Kattullus, I'm kind of disappointed that the Wikipedia article you linked to doesn't mention the Missoula floods.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:12 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


My god, even the pronunciation file on Wiki sounds like a cruel joke.
posted by disillusioned at 1:14 PM on April 15, 2010


I'm stuck in London. They rebooked me from Friday afternoon this morning and then Saturday afternoon this evening. I suppose this is a bit askme, but since it is topical. What are the alternative, and perhaps creative routes for return to the east coast of the USA assuming a long term suspension of Northern Europe to US plane service (rail to southern Europe?, trans-siberian rail to Kamchatka, steamer, there must be some way?
posted by humanfont at 2:22 PM on April 15, 2010


Swim.
posted by Dysk at 2:48 PM on April 15, 2010


You're in London - find the Thames, get to open water, follow the coast round, then just go East.
posted by Dysk at 2:49 PM on April 15, 2010


This AskMe is going badly.
posted by Artw at 2:52 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, East? That's the long way. At least aim for Newfoundland.
posted by stevis23 at 3:06 PM on April 15, 2010


If you could get to Madrid by train, you might be able to find a flight to Miami.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:14 PM on April 15, 2010


The long way round's much more scenic. Open sea gets old really fast.
posted by Dysk at 3:17 PM on April 15, 2010


So some Danish science guys have put together this fun (and by "fun" I mean "terrifying") animated gif of how they predict the volcanic spew is going to waft across Europe in the coming days. Keep in mind that a) this is just a projection, and b) that we're not necessarily talking about a giant black cloud of ash and sulfur billowing over Europe and blotting out the sun. This map is just tracking how far they expect ash particles to travel.

I'm in the southwest, and the flooding and ash plume is about, say, an hour's drive from me. You wouldn't know there was any such eruption from where we are, as the wind is mercifully moving from west to east. Should it change direction, we might expect the type of ashfall that you can see in these photos (click the images for larger size).

If you want a more science-y explanation for what's going down, this ironically-named volcanologist currently on the scene in Iceland has the low-down.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:20 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Once you got far enough south of the cloud of doom, there shouldn't be too much of a problem. According to skyscanner.net you could go direct from Madrid to Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami or Dallas tomorrow, for example. Any northerly ones might take longer as they'd probably have to stay south of the great circle route, though.
posted by kersplunk at 3:21 PM on April 15, 2010


Alternatively, do it the old-fashioned way - build a currach or longboat and recruit some able-bodied friends. Alternatively alternatively, petition the King of Spain for sponsorship, raise a fleet, and pretend to be the first.
posted by kersplunk at 3:38 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you want to get really lo-tech, you could wait for the continental plates to drift back together again. Of course, that also means sitting through quite a few more volcanoes.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:40 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"This is the best geography field trip ever."

The link goes to a Daily Mail article with the unfortunate headline "British schoolgirls evacuated in their pyjamas". Mind you, if I were in the path of a flood caused by a nearby volcano, I'd probably be evacuating in my pyjamas too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:49 PM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


We can't let some damn provincial Icelanders outdo the USA! Lets get the Yellowstone Caldera on the job! Who's with me?

Nah. St. Helens FTW!
posted by qvantamon at 3:54 PM on April 15, 2010


You can also get international flights from Nice (France), we've got an international airport here that's still up and running. Get there by TGV from wherever through Paris-Lyon-Marseille, then on to Nice, although the TGV doesn't run full speed on the Marseille-Nice part.

I'd hoped to see ash-enhanced sunsets over the Mediterranean. Sigh. Too far south.
posted by fraula at 4:14 PM on April 15, 2010


Turn left at Greenland.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:16 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


cisco - I thought that your description of jökulhaup sounded familiar - and it is, here in the Northwest (and Indonesia) they are called "lahars" (scroll about 2/3 down the linked page). Mt Rainier is past due for such an event, which can happen without an eruption (the magma just has to get hot enough to melt the glacier(s). whee
posted by dbmcd at 4:19 PM on April 15, 2010


I'd hoped to see ash-enhanced sunsets over the Mediterranean. Sigh. Too far south.

Just wait a few days, it'll come.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:20 PM on April 15, 2010


Delighted to report that the Radio 4 midnight newsreader made a hugely courageous (and seemingly endless) stab at pronouncing the volcano's name, only to have the reporter on the recorded segment pronounce it completely differently. Lovely.

Also - sgt. serenity - I think you're right, the 26 stops at Tokyo after Portobello, but I don't think your Ridacard is valid.
posted by penguin pie at 4:29 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


a bit more portable than this 8-screen set up, used in a campaign commercial for his party last year.

Super Dimensional Fortress Norway!
posted by armage at 5:29 PM on April 15, 2010


dbmcd: I'm only an amateur at this stuff, but I think the right way to look at it is that lahars and jökulhaups are distinct, but they can go together like peas and carrots. A lahar is basically a mudflow. They're extra dangerous because they have even more momentum than water, and the mud can quickly set to the consistency of concrete.

A jökulhaup (melted glacier outflow) can cause a lahar, but other things can cause lahars too, including rainfall on tephra (basically volcanic ash and other deposits), landslides of water-saturated volcanic soil, and crater lakes that get breached by their volcanos. Or, like we're seeing in Iceland, you can have a jökulhaup without a lahar, because there's not enough debris to become a mudflow I suppose.

I am learning a lot of this stuff from reading Volcanos Second Edition, by Francis and Oppenheimer. It's a textbook but very readable, and is quite entertaining in its own right. If you're interested, and not afraid of a little math, I'd recommend it heartily.
posted by cisko at 7:03 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am in Tokyo.

I am due to fly home to Edinburgh, via Paris CDG, on Monday.

Fingers firmly crossed ...


"Trans-Siberian Railway: first impressions — or, what I did on my holidays"
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:18 PM on April 15, 2010


Or you could fly to southern Europe, then train to Paris -> London -> Edinburgh, funds and taste for adventure permitting. I'd recommend Barcelona.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:20 PM on April 15, 2010


I've been through an ashfall (from Mt. St. Helens) and it is a pain in the butt!

The most important thing you have to remember is that you can't drive your car until there's been enough rain to stabilize the ash so it doesn't stir up into the air any longer. Volcanic ash contains a lot of powdered silica, and it'll go right through the car's air filter and ruin the rings. It's nasty stuff.

Also, if it gets on your car, gently wash it off with a hose without a sprayer. If you use too much force, it can fog the paint, and it can even fog the windshield. (Glass can scratch glass!)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:11 PM on April 15, 2010


NASA'S Terra Satellite Captures Ash Plume of Icelandic Volcano
posted by homunculus at 9:29 PM on April 15, 2010


On Flightradar24, are those blue Xs supposed to be closed airports? I can't find an explanation (the site is being hammered, of course). Swiss Air reports only disruptions to northern Europe, otherwise operational, but Zurich has the X, where Frankfort does not. And FlightRadar also shows no planes over Spain at all, while clearly there are planes going there (Iberia out of Malta, heading west). My SO is in Madrid, supposed to fly home tonight.
posted by Goofyy at 11:06 PM on April 15, 2010


Goofyy: I think the Xs are just airports - not necessarily closed ones.
I am stranded in Helsinki. A fun thing is to look out for groups of people who have been given the baggy one-size-fits-all white t-shirts issued by airlines to passengers whose trajectory has badly diverged from that of their plans and their luggage.
posted by rongorongo at 11:42 PM on April 15, 2010


My flight was to leave Gatwick in a few hours today. My orignal plan (before the ash) was to just spend the night sleeping there anyway, but with the delay I had a friend pick me up from the airport. It was fun to wander around both terminals of a major airport and have it be completely deserted except for a few staff.

I came from the clear blue skies of Wales to this gloom of a huge cloud. The sunset last night was probably one of the worst I have seen, the damn cloud blocked everything.

I was amazed how quickly signs were up all over the tube announcing the closure of the airspace. Although staff at the airport merely gave me a densely written piece of paper (without any bold heading explaining what it was about) rather than taking two seconds to explain the flights were cancelled. If I did not understand english well (not unconcievable in a major European airport) I would have been completely mistified and helpless.

Instead of going home to my two year old's birthday today it looks like I am going to Brighton instead.

(forgive my typos - this is a rather odd computer I am borrowing)
posted by saucysault at 11:44 PM on April 15, 2010


2bucksplus -- try this version of Volcanoes by The Islands, as performed while walking around the streets of Paris on a hot summer night (Take Away Shows, previously on Metafilter)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:44 PM on April 15, 2010


I've discovered that a Cannard cruise leaves Southhampton on the 22 and gets to NY on the 29th. Since I have a meeting in NY on the same day this will work.
posted by humanfont at 3:21 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you want a more science-y explanation for what's going down, this ironically-named volcanologist currently on the scene in Iceland has the low-down.

Fascinating article, but the Reykjavik Grapevine seems to totally disavow its existence. How do we find updates?
posted by b1tr0t at 6:45 AM on April 16, 2010


Human - I hope you mean Cunard. Cannard would be a completely diffferent cruiseline.
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:51 AM on April 16, 2010


John Cleese takes a taxi from Oslo to Brussels
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:43 AM on April 16, 2010


I was supposed to fly to Copenhagen yesterday for a music festival. I managed to book a Eurostar to Brussels and a Thalys train to Cologne, the latter of which had no seats left so I was stuck in the buffet car next to a hyperactive, tantrum-throwing toddler. I'm typing this at Cologne station; I'm going to take my chances on there being a spare bunk or seat on the 22:28 overnight train to Copenhagen (there weren't any tickets according to the ticket office, but the guy told me that there may be some spare bunks on the train).

The ironic thing is that, exactly a year earlier, I flew back from a holiday in Iceland.
posted by acb at 10:42 AM on April 16, 2010


after seeing all the stranded travelers in downtown Helsinki while getting home this evening, here's my offer to any stranded Mefites

memail me if you'd like a cup of coffee or a drink
posted by infini at 10:57 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This trip to the UK next week is starting to look more and more complicated. I'd really appreciate it if Iceland could keep its ash to itself for another couple of weeks, thanks.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:09 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If only we were still using dirigibles. Then we could just thumb our noses at Iceland, or some appropriately cross-cultural dismissive gesture.
posted by XMLicious at 12:30 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


gingerbeer, Ive just sadly had to reschedule a trip to north yorkshire next week myself - much to the sadness of my bff whom i've not met since her wedding last year. ashes to ashes...
posted by infini at 1:28 PM on April 16, 2010


The weather has finally cleared so you can actually see the plume in this webcam (still light out for a little while)
posted by Kattullus at 1:41 PM on April 16, 2010


Some extremely awesome photos in this Flickr gallery.
posted by pkingdesign at 3:22 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's emitting the most CO2 per day? Planes or volcano?
posted by gingerbeer at 9:35 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


How an Icelandic volcano helped spark the French Revolution
posted by homunculus at 10:14 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


My partner managed to make it home from Madrid to Zurich last night. His flight left late, and in the last half-hour (around 21:30) they announced to the passengers that Zurich airport was closed, and they landed in Basel, instead. Odd, since Basel was in the direction of the ash cloud, far as I'd heard.

Swiss Air, to my shock, dumped the passengers there without so much as explaining what bus/train to catch to get someplace closer to their original destination. Luggage was delayed, making it impossible to catch the bus. Since this was getting to be 22:30 that's rubbing against the last connections for the night. A group of them grabbed the only taxi in sight, and just made it to the station to catch the train for Zurich, which was the last one with a reasonable connection to Zug.

I had some how gotten it in my head that fewer planes would mean better service on the ones that did fly. While I'm really glad he didn't get stuck in Madrid, or on a train, I'm completely miffed that Swiss Air offered no help at all. I'd have thought a special bus to the train station was a minimal, with buses to Zurich kind of expected.

Some of his colleagues took a 4-hour bus to the coast, and caught a 24-hour ferry to the UK. Others rented a car for the 18+ hour drive to Belgium and beyond. Some held hope and chose to wait for a plane.
posted by Goofyy at 10:16 PM on April 16, 2010


Language Log has collected some recordings of English speakers trying to say Eyjafjallajökull.
posted by nangar at 10:39 AM on April 17, 2010


Video: Iceland Volcano Spews More Ash
posted by homunculus at 1:55 PM on April 17, 2010


Some aerial photos of the volcano taken by a friend.
posted by plant at 6:08 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Several European airlines have sent up test flights, after which they inspected the planes. Apparently, they've found no damage from the ash.
posted by klausness at 10:53 AM on April 18, 2010


Language Log has collected some recordings of English speakers trying to say Eyjafjallajökull.

Also at the New York Times. Apparently, the correct pronounciation is sort of like "Heya, fucking yougurt!"
posted by klausness at 10:59 AM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


"It was the last wish of the Icelandic economy that its ashes be spread over Europe."
(via)
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:11 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The I Hate Iceland man from the first comment has now been interviewed on Real Radio. Making Scots everywhere even more proud, I'm sure.
posted by penguin pie at 5:26 AM on April 20, 2010


I was due to fly home from Milan on Sunday morning. Instead I hitched with some swiss folk to Biel, stayed at a backpacker hotel, then got on the late train heading toward Copenhagen the next evening. All the trains are fully booked, it was hard to get seats. I changed trains countless times (two hour stop in Frankfurt between 3 and 5 in the morning), and didn't sleep much at all, but managed to get home and hug my daughter by 15:16 today.
posted by dabitch at 10:15 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


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