In 2011, the Grímsvötn volcano had a major eruption, causing Icelandic airspace to close – just a year after the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which caused travel chaos across all of Europe. Now researchers are warning Grímsvötn is heading towards another eruption, and it could happen at any moment.
According to scientists, Grímsvötn erupts every five to 10 years on average, and with nine years having past, an eruption could occur “within the next month or year”.
A team of international researchers believe the volcano is showing the same pressure changes prior to the 2011 eruption, and similarly to an eruption in 2004.
Benedikt Ofeigsson, a geoscientist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), said: “Currently we have a state of the volcano which is very similar to the pre-eruptive conditions before 2011 and 2004 eruptions.”
However, scientists concede it is difficult to actively predict when or if an eruption is going to take place as “each volcano is different and they behave differently, and you can have different behavior from one eruption to the other,” said Sigrun Hreinsdottir, a geodetic scientist at GNS Science in New Zealand.
As Grímsvötn is covered in a thick layer of ice, the melting of the ice may give scientists a brief warning.
Ronni Grapenthin, a geophysicist at the University of Alaska, said: “The lava melts the ice, it flashes into steam. There is a tremendous amount of energy being released in split seconds.”
However, the melting of the ice may also trigger an eruption, according to Mr Ofeigsson.
He said: “When the volcano is ready to erupt, the eruption can be triggered by the flood.”
Many global travellers will still have memories of the last time an Icelandic volcano massively erupted.
The 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption left 10 million air passengers stranded after grounding flights all around the world and cost the European economy around £4billion.
Flights were grounded for days, leaving millions of people stranded.
Such was the strength of the ash cloud, it caused the most air travel disruption since World War 2.
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