Eyafalla photo.jpg

Case studies:

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull Eruption 2010

Here is more detailed information on the Volcano.


  • Located in Iceland.
  • On the mid-Atlantic Ridge.
  • Stratovolcano with a caldera.
  • Relatively small.
  • Is a fissure and explosive eruption.
  • Mixing of lava types (rhyolitic and basaltic).
  • Ash cloud was transported by jet streams.
  • Flooding caused by melting glacier and silting up of rivers.


  • Located on a constructive plate margin where convection currents are driving apart the North American plate and the Eurasian plate, creates the mid-Atlantic ridge. The plates are moving apart at a rate of 1-5cm a year.
  • Stratovolcano with a caldera
  • Fairly small eruption, the impact however was much greater than expected due to the ash cloud and jet stream.

Eyafalla Structure.jpg

Task 1:

  • Explain using a labelled diagram why volcanoes occur on Iceland.

  • What type of Volcano is Eyjafjallajokull.

  • Describe the Eruption of Eyjafjallajokull


  • Lava flows – 1000 degrees Calcius lava spewed 150m into the air. More than 100 million cubic meters of lava erupted, more than 1000 million cubic meters of tephra erupted.
  • Ash plume reached 11,000m in the air – reached the stratosphere. Distributed by high velocity jet streams between troposphere and stratosphere. Fine grained ash hazard for airplanes (affects systems as turns to glassy substance due to heat of jet engines).
  • Glacier – causes flooding. In 2010 2000-3000 metres cubed per second of flood water.
  • Britain has fine anticyclone weather, normal winds would have dispersed the ash cloud better but as there is little wind in the area the ash cloud is much denser than normal.


  • 10 million airline passengers affected and stranded abroad. 107,000 flights were cancelled over the 8 day travel ban this accounts for 48% of total air traffic.
  • Residents in the volcano shadow were covered in ash and may have evacuated.
  • 500 farmers and their families had to be evacuated from the area around the volcano and many of the roads surrounding the volcano were shut down.
  • Ash contaminated local water supplies and farmers near the volcano were warned not to let their livestock drink from the contaminated streams an water sources. High concentrations of fluoride from the ash mixed with river water can have deadly effects particularly in sheep.

Iceland Volcano Chaos.JPG

Task 2:

  • Describe the impact that the Eruption had on the local population of Iceland.


  • Airlines lots up to $200 million each day due to postponed flights.

  • Kenya lost up to $3.5 million as a result of lost exports. 20% of the Kenyan economy is based on the export of green vegetables (beans, sugar-snap peas and okra) and cut flowers to Europe, these are perishable goods and they are transported by plane to keep them fresh but due to the flight ban the products were unsold and destroyed. One million flower stalks were unsold in the first two days. 50,000 farmers were temporarily unemployed.
  • Eurostar and other travel companies flourished – 50,000 extra passengers a day added £7 million to the rail line.
  • Stock market shares in air travel and tourism fell by 4%.
  • Hire car companies increased their prices during the 8 day fly ban.
  • Huge impact on businesses particularly those that rely on air freight to those with workers stranded overseas.
  • Europe in total lost $2.6 billion GDP.


  • Eruption added 0.15m tones of carbon dioxide each day to the atmosphere but the lack of air travel prevented between 1.3-2.8m tones from reaching the atmosphere.
  • Phytoplankton in the Atlantic Ocean bloomed as they fed on the iron from the ash falling and therefore this boosted the marine ecosystem.
  • Flooding was caused by the silting up of rivers and the melting of the 150m thick ice cap. 700 people had to be evacuated. Flooding destroyed parts of the main route 1 road.

Task 3:

  • Describe the short-term and long-term effects that the eruption had on both Iceland and other parts of the world.


Responses were entirely domestic. Countries affected by the hazard responded by themselves or collectively and had the capacity to do so.
Legal, technical and infrastructure can cope with hazards such as this eruption even if there were economic impacts.
Their actions also limited the impact in terms of casualties and tests have taken place since to see if planes can fly through ash clouds and in what type of ash. It has also been discovered that all flights do not need to be grounded as planes are just required to fly at a lower height.

Iceland Volcano map.JPG

  • The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) monitors earth movements, water conditions and weather and issue warnings
  • Iceland has a good warning system which texts residents with a 30 minute warning.
  • The IMO work close with the National Emergency Agency, University of Iceland and the British Meteorological Office.
  • The event was tracked and prepared for, and the ash cloud was tracked by satellite by many nations.
  • The European Union has the collective financial capacity to cope with emergencies such as this.
  • The EU has other transport mechanisms such as extensive road and motorway networks, rail networks and boat networks.
  • The EU is largely self-sufficient in food production and could cope if imports from outside the EU could not arrive.
  • Travelers stuck by the ash cloud were entitled to legal compensation form their airlines and their airlines were also legally responsible for the well-being of stranded passengers.
  • The EU’s insurance system means that many people would have been able to claim back any losses, as could many companies.
  • Many companies had contingency plans in place for an emergency such as this, so could cope better, Tesco circumvented the ash cloud by flying Kenyan produce into Spain and then using Road Haulage as an example.

Task 4:

Describe what Iceland does in order to reduce the danger to its people and property from Volcanic Eruptions

Exam Question

Exam Questions.docx