August 29, 2014 11:01 am

Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano fissure eruption spurs brief flight warning

A sign blocking furthur access Aug. 23, 2014 after Iceland lowered its alert over the nation's largest volcanic system to orange on Sunday. It had been at the maximum level for one day amid fears of an imminent eruption.


REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Icelandic authorities briefly raised the aviation warning code to red Friday after a small fissure eruption near Bardarbunga volcano, but no volcanic ash has been detected by the radar system.

The eruption took place the Holuhraun lava field, 5 kilometres north of Dyngjujoekull glacier, Iceland’s Meteorological Office said. The event was described as being not highly explosive – and thus not producing much of the fine ash that can affect aircraft engines.

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The airspace is closed three nautical miles around the eruption area up to 1,524 metres – meaning it does not affect commercial flights flying over Iceland. The aviation code for Bardarbunga was originally raised to red but was lowered to orange since there is no significant ash production, the Civil Protection Department said.

“If this eruption persists it could become a tourist attraction, as it will be relatively safe to approach, although the area is remote,” said David Rothery, a professor of Planetary Geosciences at The Open University in Britain.

“This event should not be seen as ‘relieving the pressure’ on Bardarbunga itself, nor is it a clear precursor sign of an impending Bardarbunga eruption.”

The so-called fissure eruption, meaning it is a crack that opens up above a magma intrusion, is about 1 kilometre long and currently is not producing any significant ash.

READ MORE: Scientists watch for signs of eruption as earthquakes surge around Iceland volcano

So far the eruption shows no sign of being as disruptive as the one in 2010, when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano erupted and sparked a week of international aviation chaos. Thousands of flights were cancelled when aviation officials closed Europe’s air space for five days, fearing that volcanic ash could harm jet engines.

Since Thursday night, the National Crisis Coordination Center and local co-ordinationcentres have been activated and are operating on an emergency basis. All access to the area where the eruption is occurring is closed.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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