The Grimsvoetn volcano under Iceland’s largest glacier began erupting Saturday, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said, reporting a tall plume of smoke rising from the crater.
“An eruption at Grimsvoetn has started and there’s an airplane on its way there now to investigate further,” Haraldur Eirkisson of the office told AFP.
“There was a cloud rising up from Grimsvoetn around 1900 GMT and at just before 2000 GMT it had reached an altitude of 11 kilometres (6.8 miles),” he added.
Grimsvoetn is Iceland’s most active volcano, having erupted nine times between 1922 and 2004. It lies beneath the Vatnajoekull glacier in the southeast of the North Atlantic island nation.
The eruption in April last year of Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano, southwest of Grimsvoetn, shut down large swathes of European airspace for almost a month amid fears the volcanic ash could wreak havoc on aircraft engines.
No two volcanic eruptions are the same, and it remained unclear late Saturday if the new eruption threatened to emit a similar kind of ash — fine, with very sharp particles — like the massive plume that burst from Eyjafjoell.
The problem with last year’s eruption, according to the researchers, was that it happened under a glacier, bursting through 200-300 metres (yards) of ice.
It was the “interaction between the cold water and the hot magma that made the particles really tiny,” and therefore especially dangerous to aircraft, Susan Stipp, a professor at the Nano-Science Centre at the University of Copenhagen, told AFP late last month.
Grimsvoetn is however also located under a glacier, in an enormous, eight-kilometre diameter caldera — a collapsed volcanic crater — near the centre of the Vatnajoekull icefield.
When it last erupted in November 2004, volcanic ash fell as far away as mainland Europe and caused some disruptions in flights to and from Iceland.
Geologists had worried late last year the volcano was about to blow when they noticed a large river run caused by rapidly melting glacier ice.
Eruptions at Grimsvoetn traditionally result in massive flooding, although this has little impact since the surrounding areas are uninhabited.