All eyes are seemingly on Iceland as seismic activity continues to ramp up with a volcanic eruption certainly likely. On November 11, Icelandic Civil Protection declared a state of emergency and the town of Grindavík, located nearby to the epicenter of the earthquakes and the popular Blue Lagoon, was evacuated over the weekend.
When an eruption could happen—and to what magnitude—are hard to predict. That said, the Icelandic Met Office says there is “a significant likelihood” of one in the coming days. Icelandic scientists have said that it is unlikely that air traffic would be disrupted in the event of an eruption, but AccuWeather meteorologists warn that there is the potential for impacts to air travel over the coming weeks.
AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter says that while “many people may remember the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in Iceland, which caused travel chaos for weeks on end as the volcano produced a large plume of volcanic ash lofted high into the atmosphere,” the location and characteristics of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano from 2010 and the current volcano in question near Grindavík means that the broader impact to air travel this time around is not expected to be as severe. “But if it erupts, it can still introduce plumes of volcanic ash into the atmosphere, which can travel on the upper-level winds,” he adds.
AccuWeather expert meteorologists say the upper-level winds across Iceland through Friday will largely be east to southeasterly towards Greenland. Into the weekend, a storm is expected to remain south of Iceland as it moves towards western Europe. This will change the upper-level winds to be out of the west-northwest towards Scandinavia, Ireland and the United Kingdom—a pattern likely to continue into the first half of next week.
“Based on our preliminary information, people who are traveling to and from Europe during the next few weeks, especially during the United States Thanksgiving holiday, should closely monitor developments in Iceland,” says Porter. “Although it does not appear that this volcano will have as major an impact to air travel across Europe as we saw back in 2010, any volcanic ash sent into the atmosphere can result in portions of air space being closed.”
Currently, all flights by Icelandair are operating as scheduled. “Seismic activity is ongoing in the Southwest region of Iceland and have not affected air transport to or from Iceland,” the airline said in a statement. “We are in close contact with Icelandic authorities and are monitoring the situation closely.”