A volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2010 sparked the worst air travel disruption since the Second World War.
Chaos descended within the European travel industry when an unfortunate series of phenomenons combined from a number of relatively small volcanic events at Eyjafjallajokull, on the south side of the island.
Seismic activity had started at the end of 2009 and had intensified up until March 20, when the volcano – which is covered by an ice cap – finally erupted.
The eruption was small – just one out of seven on the scale used to measure eruptions. Globally, it appeared a relatively small event at the time.
But around five days later, scientists began to notice unusual activity.
They found evidence at magma was flowing from underneath the crust into Eyjafjallajokull’s magma chamber and that pressure stemming from the process caused a huge crustal displacement.
While the eruption began as an effusive eruption – where lava runs from the volcano along the ground – the volcano then entered an explosive stage on April 14. This time, the explosion was measured as a four on the volcanic scale
Meanwhile, ice surrounding the volcano started melting and began flooding into the volcano.
This rapid cooling caused the magma to shear into fine and jagged ash particles. It also increased the volcano’s explosive power.
While the eruption began as an effusive eruption – where lava runs from the volcano along the ground – the volcano then entered an explosive stage on April 14. This time, the explosion was measured as a four on the volcanic scale.
A huge ash cloud was fired into the air, reaching up to nine kilometres in height. Around 250 million cubic metres of volcanic material was also spewed into the air as a result of the explosion.
To make matters worse, the volcano was directly under a jet stream and the rapid cooling from the ice water gave the volcano enough power to shoot the ash directly into it.
The jet stream was also unusually stable at the time and sent ash particles from the volcano continuously southeast – towards Europe.
From April 14-20, ash from the volcanic eruption covered large areas of Northern Europe.
About 20 countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic and it affected approximately 10 million travellers, with nearly 100,000 flights to and from and within Europe cancelled across the six day period.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) estimated that airports lost £80 million over the six-and-a-half days, while the knock-on disruption lasted for around a month.
In the United Kingdom alone thirteen travel firms collapsed during the summer of 2010. The ash cloud disruption was cited as one of the contributing factors.
A huge ash cloud was fired into the air, reaching up to nine kilometres in height. Around 250 million cubic metres of volcanic material was also spewed into the air as a result of the explosion
Several sports matches were postponed, while Liverpool football club had to travel by coach to Madrid in order to play a match in the Europa League.
While the travel disruption mostly ran throughout April, volcanic activity continued at Eyjafjallajokull until October, when scientists declared the eruption was over.
In 2011, a volcano under the Vatnajökull glacier sent thousands of tonnes of ash into the sky in a few days, raising concerns of a repeat of the travel chaos seen across northern Europe.
Though the explosion was larger than Eyjafjallajokull, the impact was not as wide-spread.
A total of 900 flights (out of 90,000 in Europe) were cancelled as a result of the eruption in the period May 23-25.
In 2014, Bárðarbunga erupted in what was the biggest eruption in Iceland in more than 200 years. However, only local travel was impacted as a result.