Icelandic geologists have warned that passenger planes should avoid flying over the volcano Hekla as an eruption could result in tragic circumstances.
Up to 30 passenger jets fly directly over the Hekla – Iceland’s most active volcano, which erupts around once every 10 years – on a daily basis.
Last year, University of Iceland professor of geology Pall Einarsson wrote to the Icelandic Transportation Authority stating that these planes should take a different route when flying over the North Atlantic island, but the authority responded by saying there was no danger.
Pall, however, insisted that his advice should be taken seriously, saying that these planes could fly straight into an ash plume. He explained that an eruption at the volcano did not need to melt through a thick glacier, meaning the plume would rise with full force straightaway before rising 10kms into the atmosphere.
The Icelandic Transportation Authority’s Kolbrun Gudny Porsteinsdottir argued that the risk was minimal as Hekla was unlikely to erupt. She also claimed that as the passenger planes were flying at 30,000 feet, they were high enough to avoid any ash should the situation occur.
But Pall responded by arguing that the risk was very real, and simple to eliminate. He added that airplanes’ paths only needed to be moved by five kilometres and the danger would be avoided.