Grimsvötn eruption, Iceland
A new eruption began on Iceland on 21 May, from Grimsvötn volcano. Volcanic ash fell on Iceland and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, London ( www.metoffice.gov.uk/aviation/vaac)/) issued advisories predicting an ash cloud over northern UK, Ireland and parts of Scandinavia from early Tuesday (24 May) morning (see image below). The eruption had ceased by 30 May.
IVHHN Statement: Ash fallout from Icelandic eruptions across the United Kingdom and Europe
As we saw with the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of April-May 2010, and now the Grimsvötn eruption of May 2011, explosive eruptions of Icelandic volcanoes can occasionally inject volcanic ash particles into the atmosphere under conditions where the windfields may then bring that ash across the United Kingdom and Europe. In April-May 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull eruption was unusually violent (probably because of the thick ice cap on the volcano, and the explosive interaction of molten rock with this ice), and produced an unusual quantity of fine to very fine ash, which was then transported across the UK and Europe at relatively low levels in the atmosphere (less than a few kilometres altitude), with well documented consequences for aviation. The current eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano is likely to produce a far smaller proportion of fine ash;initial reports from Iceland suggest that less than ten percent of the ash is ‘fine ash’, which is about half the value during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.
In the early stages of the Grimsvötn eruption, the ash layer was injected at a higher altitude in the atmosphere than in the 2010 eruption, but the ash level will typically descend to lower altitudes as the cloud is blown further away from the volcano. The coarser ash particles will probably fall out of the plume much closer to Iceland, and as a consequence there may be very little ash fallout across the UK and Europe when the ash plume passes over. Our experience from last year’s Eyjafjallajökull eruption is that even in areas of the UK where the fine ash from the eruption fell out of the plume and was deposited on the ground, there were no unusual consequences: most of the ash particles were too coarse (20 – 50 microns) and at too low a concentration to have any detectable impact on air quality. In fact, in most ‘dust’ samples which were collected at the time (whether on sticky tape, or on car windscreens, or at air sampling sites), most of the dust particles were not of volcanic ash at all, but a mixture of natural mineral grains and pollen grains, both of which are usually found in airborne dust.
Written by Prof. David Pyle, Oxford University, for IVHHN on 23 May 2011, updated 24 May 2011.
Posted: 23/05/2011 12.00GMT
Last updated: 7/07/2011 14.00GMT
Merapi eruption (Indonesia)
Activity at Merapi volcano declined through November 2010 and a fieldtrip by our team in early December 2010 found that ash had been rapidly removed from the environment by heavy rainfall. Nevertheless, we have carried out a study of the ashfall and a report will be posted on the IVHHN website soon.
Posted: 2 Mar. 2011 10.30GMT.
PAMFLET BAHASA INDONESIA
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Posted: 6 Nov. 2010 21.30GMT. Updated: 9 Nov. 2010 11.30GMT
Report published on health assessment of Icelandic ash
A new study led by IVHHN Director Claire Horwell has concluded that the ash from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull earlier this year does not have the potential to cause long-term respiratory health problems for Icelanders. Analyses showed few physical attributes relevant to respiratory health, with the exception of only one of 14 samples.
It was discovered that ash from volcano summit eruptions in April and May this year had a low-moderate potential to exacerbate pre-existing respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic bronchitis during the period of ash fall. The potential for the development of long-term lung problems from the exposure to the ash during the eruption or afterwards from resuspension of the ash deposits was low.
Average outdoor air concentrations in the ashfall area could be expected to regularly exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) 24-hour guideline levels for particles in the ambient air until the ash is incorporated into the environment with repeated rainfall. But it was concluded that persistence of deposited ash once integrated into the soil and wider environment would not present a significant silicosis hazard to, for example, outdoor workers, since the crystalline silica content is negligible.
The study was led by Durham University's Institute of Hazard, Risk & Resilience, where Dr Horwell is based. Using 14 different samples from across Iceland, it was found that the ash contained a significant amount of very fine-grained particles which could irritate the airways of susceptible people who already have asthma or chronic bronchitis. But in vitro experiments suggested that the risk of the ash triggering acute pulmonary inflammation at ambient levels of exposure is low.
Dr Horwell says: "The ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano was quite fine-grained, meaning it could get into the lungs and perhaps cause irritation. Then we looked for other physical attributes of the ash that could possibly trigger more serious problems in the lungs. Fortunately, the ash displayed very low amounts of these attributes.
"For example, crystalline silica could potentially be a problem in volcanic ash; it's known to be toxic in other circumstances. The ash from the volcano contained virtually none of this, which is good news.”
"In general, the ash really displayed low toxic properties for all of the different experiments we did, with the exception of only one sample which wasn't exposed to the elements before collection.”
Her colleague Dr Peter Baxter, the leading medical expert on volcanic health hazards, based at the University of Cambridge, said:
"The results on the ash are reassuring, but the risk to exposed people of developing acute respiratory symptoms or having pre-existing lung problems worsened would need to be evaluated in a survey of the communities in the ash fall areas."
Posted: 29 September 2010.
Iceland erutpion information
The UK Health Protection Agency have released a statement on the health hazard which can be viewed on their website. Please also see the health advice from Health Protection Scotland at:www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/news/spdetail.aspx
Help the scientists...
We are trying to collect UK ashfall for analysis. If you have had some ashfall and would be willing to collect it and send it to us we would be very grateful. The ash must have fallen on a clean surface, such as a car rooftop which had recently been washed. Please click on the following link to see Guidelines for ashfall collection and then Contact Us for further information
More information ...
The pamphlets available on this website are designed for distribution during major ashfall events. The health advice should, therefore, be read with caution. The Preparedness for Ashfall pamphlet may be used for information on how to protect and clean equipment which might be affected by ash (e.g. cars and electical devices).
Protocol for bulk ash analysis
Scientists: If you have bulk ash samples that you want to analyse for the assessment of health hazard, please download the Protocol for analysis (also found on our Guidelines and databases page). The references cited are given in full on our Library page (under the Resources tab) where you can also see the full library of volcanic health literature. Please note, method summaries are not currently available but can be found in the cited references.
Image source: Met Office, taken from BBC News website.
Updated 30 April 2010 22:00GMT
Cities on Volcanoes 6, Tenerife, 31 May - 4 June 2010
Cities on Volcanoes 6 will take place at Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) in May-June 2010. There will be a session dedicated to volcanic health hazards and IVHHN will be holding a workshop at the conference too. Please see their website http://www.citiesonvolcanoes6.com/index.html for more information, particulary on travel grants.
Current deadlines are as follows:
Session 2.6 Human health problems caused by volcanic activity
Volcanic health hazards continue to be an issue of immediate concern to local populations both during eruptions and for many years following eruptions. These are primarily from volcanic ash in the environment and its subsequent effects on respiratory health but may also be from the psychological effects of long-term evacuation and living with a ‘rumbling giant’. Quiescent volcanoes also pose health concerns from volcanic degassing which can affect air quality and the potability of local water resources. This session is open to all research on the health issues caused by volcanic activity and we encourage talks and posters not only on the medical investigations but also on characterization of the properties of volcanic emissions which may be linked to adverse health outcomes.
Posted: 11 January 2010
Download our pamphlets on preparing for ashfall and on the health hazards of ash. They are designed for mass distribution at the onset of new eruptions. They are now avaiable in English, Japanese, French Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, Indonesian and Icelandic with Italian versions being available shortly. Please see our Pamphlets page for further infomation.