Climate Change Could Trigger More Eyjafjallajökulls

Good news for those of you living around Eyjafjallajökull…and bad news for the rest of us.  The good news is that the flash floods, like those created when a 200m-thick block of ice sitting on top of secondary eruptions was instantaneously liquefied, will become less likely as those blocks of ice continue to melt due to climate change.   The bad news is that those thinning blocks of ice could lead to more volcanic activity.

Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a vulcanologist at the University of Iceland, and Carolina Pagli, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds in England, believe that the pressure created by ice caps on land keeps rocks from forming magma, even if they’re hot enough.  That pressure is real. Iceland’s biggest ice cap has lost 10 percent of its volume since 1890 and the surrounding land is rising by almost an inch a year.  Sigmundsson and Pagli estimate those changes have created a 1.4km3 sea of magma under the ground.  

Would-be downsides of more eruptions are evident — endless travel delays, massive economic consequences, health concerns, etc.  Slate‘s Ann Applebaum even writes about how this eruption “could transform the economics and politics of Europe.”