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Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano

20 Apr 2010

The Eyjafjallajoekull ash plume

A cloud of ash spread across the upper atmosphere creating havoc for those below is something you might expect in regions of volcanic activity, but flights grounded due to volcanic ash is not an announcement usually heard at airports across the UK.

Whilst the UK does have a number of ancient, extinct volcanoes for example Edinburgh is built on an extinct volcano called Arthur's seat and the Lake District was once a landscape of ‘supervolcanoes’, the country is no longer volcanically active and we are far from tectonic plate boundaries or ‘hotspots’.

However the UK is currently in the midst of a travel ‘crisis’. Thousands are stranded across the globe, economies suffering and certain perishable food stocks are running out, all because of a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

For most people in the UK natural hazards of this type are not the norm, but a unique combination of climatic conditions coupled with the volcano Eyjafjallajoekull erupting in Iceland, has brought the consequences of this volcanic eruption to the UK.

The UK and many northern European countries are now experiencing a sixth day of flight cancellations with millions of travellers being affected. Such travel chaos is the focus of much media attention; however there are many other geographical issues emerging, providing geography students with an array of useful material connected to why a relatively small volcanic eruption in one country can have such devastating consequences in others.

The disruption to global air travel has implications beyond the airline and tourist industry, with international trade and business significantly affected, for example the Kenyan flower industry has destroyed over a million roses due to cancelled flights. The export industry of flowers and vegetables represents over 20% of the entire Kenyan economy, so losses on this scale are causing job losses.

Below are some of the consequences of the eruption that can be looked at on a range of scales

  • Icelandic impacts - Flooding from glacial meltwater; damage to agricultural land and livestock; health effects
  • Travel disruptions – tourism; business; trade
  • Economic implications at local, global, national scales – trade / business / workforce

Categorised links to websites which will be useful for gathering teaching material.

The Eyjafjallajoekull volcanic eruption

Why planes can’t fly:





Economic impacts:

Travel chaos

Envirnomental links


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