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Volcanic unrest before the eruption that closed Europe’s air space

The ash cloud that brought chaos to European air traffic in April this year was the result of emissions from an Icelandic volcano that had been intermittently active for about 18 years. A combination of detailed space-based geodetic measurements and seismic monitoring of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in the run-up to the ash-producing explosive summit eruption reveals an unusual deformation pattern that may be attributed to its off-rift setting with relatively cool subsurface structure and limited magma at shallow depth. As to the predictability of such a dramatic reawakening, the immediate precursors to the initial eruption of the volcano in 2010 were subtle and difficult to detect, but the clear signs of volcanic unrest during the weeks, months and years preceding it may provide better clues to the catastrophic explosion.

Nature Volume 468 Issue 7322

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