The eruption of the Iceland volcano Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 may be an omen of things to come, with volcanoes in Iceland found to be more dangerous than previously believed.
According to British researchers, Iceland volcanoes have the capability to erupt with explosions as great as those from volcanoes in the Pacific Rim, complete with dangerous ash clouds.
It was previously thought that volcanic magma in Iceland was less "fizzy" than that found in volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean, which were thought to contain more volcanic gases such as carbon dioxide. However, researchers from Lancaster University and The Open University in Britain say they have discovered Icelandic magma that is two times as "fizzy" as once thought. This means that eruptions like that seen from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 might not be a rare event, but part of a growing trend. The Eyjafjallajokull eruption formed ash clouds that jammed air traffic across much of Europe.
The researchers came to their conclusion by analyzing lava and pumice from an eruption of the Torfajokull volcano in Iceland about 70,000 years ago.
"I was amazed by what I found," Lancaster University doctoral student Jacqui Owen said. "I measured up to five percent of water in the inclusions, more than double what was expected for Iceland, and similar in fact to the values for explosive eruptions in the Pacific 'Ring of Fire.' "
"We knew the Torfajokull volcanic eruption was huge — almost 100 times bigger than recent eruptions in Iceland — but now we also know it was surprisingly gas-rich."
The researchers concluded that volcanoes in Iceland can emit the type of fine ash capable of causing mass disruption throughout Europe. In tandem with increased volcanic activity in the region, the new study may suggest a potentially dangerous future for Iceland and its surrounding areas.