Grimsvotn could be the new volcanic ash threat

Grimsvotn volcano

Eyjafjallajokull may be officially dormant, but scientists say Grimsvotn shows signs of erupting

BY Tim Edwards LAST UPDATED AT 16:31 ON Wed 3 Nov 2010

Seven months after the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull spewed a cloud of volcanic ash into the atmosphere, forcing the closure of vast swathes of European airspace, Icelandic scientists have raised the possibility of a new, more easily spelled, threat: Grimsvotn.

But while the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull caused misery to thousands of air passengers in April, scientists say we have less to fear from Grimsvotn. If all goes well, Christmas holiday flights should be unaffected.

The threat from Eyjafjallajokull has officially passed. On August 24 an announcement that the volcano was now dormant was virtually ignored by the media that four months earlier had leapt on its every rumble. But Grimsvotn, the island's most active volcano, is showing signs of life.

Scientists with the Icelandic Meteorological Institute told reporters on Monday that floodwater overflowing from the crater of Grimsvotn into the river Gigja may herald an eruption - assuming enough magma has collected in the magma chamber of the volcano.

Thorunn Skaftadottir, a geophysicist at the Institute, told AFP: "When a river-run occurs, the pressure... decreases, and with less pressure, there is a chance of an eruption from the volcano."

Skaftadottir confirmed that a Grimsvotn eruption would release volcanic ash. But she added that "the scale of the eruption will be much smaller than the [Eyjafjallajokull] eruption and I do not think it would have the same effect on air travel as [Eyjafjallajokull] did."

When Grimsvotn last erupted in November 2004, the activity lasted for a week, and volcanic ash fell as far away as mainland Europe. There was some disruption to air traffic in Iceland. · 

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