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This Day in History

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Friday, April 16, 2010. :   A pulsating column of smoke and ash from the erupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland reaches an altitude of 8 km.

     Eyjafjallajökull, also known as E15, is a stratovolcano in Iceland, with an elevation of 1,666 m. Its name literally translates to "island-mountain glacier", and atop the summit is an icecap which covers a simmering caldera. The volcano is one of a chain across Iceland, and volcanic activity within this chain is not uncommon.

Seismic activity began in the region in late 2009. On 20 March 2010, a small eruption occurred, with lava erupting several hundred metres into the air. A second, larger explosion occurred on 14 April 2010, spewing volcanic ash several kilometres into the air, and opening a series of vents along a 2 km long fissure. Meltwater was suddenly released, flooding nearby rivers. By 16 April 2010, a pulsating eruptive column of hot lava, rocks and fine, glass-like silica-based ash was observed from the volcano, extending some 8 km vertically, and generating lightning.

At this stage, the ash cloud had extended to mainland Europe, carried by an unusually stable jet stream. On the VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) scale of 0-8, the explosion rated 2, but the impact of the volcano was far-reaching, particularly for air travel. It posed a major hazard to aircraft, and airports across Europe were shut down for at least a month as the volcano continued to erupt with varying intensity.

Activity in Eyjafjallajökull settled down by late June.

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