City of Reykjavík Considers Rush Hour and Pollution Tolls

Hafnarfjörður traffic

The City of Reykjavík is looking to implement so-called rush hour and pollution tolls in order to reduce car traffic, Vísir reports. Such tolls have proven successful in big cities abroad, not only in reducing traffic but in providing a significant stream of income for municipalities. Icelandic municipalities have been considering ways to reduce air pollution, which is believed to be the cause of 80 premature deaths per year across the country.

Sigurborg Ósk Haraldsdóttir, chairperson of the Planning and Transport Council of the City of Reykjavík, says rush hour tolls would be implemented in locations around the city with high traffic congestion during peak times. The tolls would be collected electronically and would only be charged during peak times.

“It has been shown that this has a direct impact on drivers’ behaviour,” Sigurborg says, “that is they are much more likely to change their mode of transportation. That’s what we want. We need to change travel behaviour and modes of transportation, not just because of the effects of air pollution on air quality, but also simply because of climate change. We know we have to reduce car traffic.”

Municipalities in the Reykjavík capital area have expressed interest in implementing such tolls, suggesting that the earnings could be used toward improving transportation infrastructure. The same goes for pollution tolls, which would be charged based on the type of vehicle. “Those who drive vehicles that pollute more would be charged more,” Sigurborg explains, adding that such tolls have a direct impact on drivers’ choice of vehicle.

New Study Gives Insight Into Effects of 1783 Laki Eruption

A new study on the effects of the Laki eruption, which took place in Iceland in 1783, has found that a heat wave in Western Europe in the same year was likely not caused by the eruption. The study, authored by Brian Zambri, Alan Robock, Michael J. Mills, and Anja Schmidt, investigated the “Laki haze” and its effect on Northern Hemisphere climate in the 12 months following the eruption onset. Vísir reported first.

“Laki haze” cooled Europe

The Laki eruption, which began in June 1783, lasted until February of the following year. The outpouring of gases from the eruption, including an estimated 8 million tonnes of hydrogen fluoride and an estimated 120 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide, caused what is known as the “Laki haze” over Europe, leading to widespread human and animal deaths, drought, and famine.

The Laki eruption in Iceland, which began in June 1783, was followed by many of the typical climate responses to volcanic eruptions: suppressed precipitation and drought, crop failure, and surface cooling. In contrast to the observed cooling in 1784-1786, the summer of 1783 was anomalously warm in Western Europe, with July temperatures reaching more than 3 K above the mean,” the report abstract reads. Scientists have long been puzzled about the heat wave which followed the Laki eruption, and this study suggests that it was caused by anomalous circulation and not the eruption. “We find that the warm summer of 1783 was a result of atmospheric blocking over Northern Europe, that in our model cannot be attributed to the eruption.”

Africa and Asia were affected

The study also points out that Africa and Asia faced large reductions in precipitation due to the Laki eruption, causing widespread drought and famine. According to the study’s authors, the eruption also increased the likelihood of an El Niño in the subsequent boreal winter. “Understanding the causes of these anomalies is important not only for historical purposes, but also for understanding and predicting possible climate responses to future high‐latitude volcanic eruptions,” the report’s abstract concludes.

Based on Icelandic research

Hera Guðlaugsdóttir, an Iceland geologist and climate specialist, has researched the climate impact of eruptions. She says the cooling effect of the Laki eruption minimised the intensity of the 1783 heat wave. “If the eruption had not occurred, the heat wave could have actually been much worse. The eruption caused cooling throughout Europe. It did not, however, prevent the heatwave, but caused it to be less severe.”

The hypothesis that natural variability was the cause of the 1783 heat wave was actually put forth by Icelandic Professor in Volcanology and Petrology Þorvaldur Þórðarson in a 2013 study. The new study is partially based on research conducted by Þorvaldur and other Icelandic scientists on the eruption, including the amount of sulfur molecules that emerged and historical sources about its development.