The ash emitted by Icelandic glacier/volcano Eyjafjallajökull when it erupted one year ago was dangerous to airplanes and therefore the extensive closure of airports was justifiable, according to a study conducted by Sigurdur R. Gíslason, an earth scientist at the University of Iceland, and Susan Stipp from the University of Copenhagen.
The eruption at its height. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“We demonstrated that the ash has very fine particles so it was carried long distances by air currents,” Gíslason told Fréttabladid. “The ash was dangerous to inhale and some of its chemicals were dangerous to the environment.”
He added it was lucky for Icelanders that the first ash layer emitted from the crater when there was still water in it did not contain these dangerous chemicals as it protected the soil when the more dangerous chemicals were carried into the atmosphere at a later stage.
As for proving a potential hazard to air traffic, Gíslason explained that “If it had hit airplanes it would have sandblasted them so that windows could have become non-see-through.”
Also, “The chemical composition and the crystal the ash was made of was of the nature that it would have melted in the engines of the airplanes and then solidified in the engines’ colder parts so it could have shut down the engines.”
The study’s conclusions were published today in the journal of the American National Academy of Sciences, PNAS.
A memorial house was opened at Thorvaldseyri, a farm located at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull, on the eruption’s one-year anniversary this Easter.