The volcanic eruption in Iceland was not a powerful one, experts said, but they cautioned that its effects — both on air travel and on the regional climate — might linger.
Bill Burton, associate director of the United States Geological Survey’s volcano hazards program, said the current eruption under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier bore similarities to the last eruption there, in 1821. That eruption continued, on and off, until 1823. Dr. Burton said, in volcanology, “The past is the key to the present. So if the other eruption lasted for two years, this one might as well.”
While an on-again, off-again eruption might not have much effect on air travel over the long term, it could affect the weather in northern Europe, said Richard Wunderman, a volcanologist with the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program. The volcanic plume contains a lot of sulfur, he said, “that can become an aerosol up there that hangs around a long time reflecting sunlight.”
“It’s not enough that it’s probably going to be cooling the whole climate. On a regional basis, it could also create what is called volcano weather, with smoglike conditions.