Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Geology

The 2014-15 Holuhraun eruption produced more sulfuric dioxide than any eruption since 1978

By Staff

  • In the volcanic fog The Holuhraun eruption produced enormous quantities of poisonous gases. Photo/Baldur Bergsson, IMO

The last eruption from the Bárðarbunga system dumped more Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) into the Earth's atmosphere than any other volcanic eruption since 1978, when modern satellite measurements of volcanic activity began. The eruption, which lasted from August 2014 until February 2015, is known as the Holuhraun eruption, named after the lava field it produced. The lava field produced by the eruption is the the largest lava field in Iceland since the Skaftáreldar eruption from the Laki craters in the 18th century.

Read more: New research paper: Although the Holuhraun eruption was big, it dwarfs when compared with Laki

16 times as polluting as all human activity

According to a study recently published in the journal Geoscience the Holuhraun eruption produced 9.6 million metric tons (21 billion pounds), which is sixteen times more than produced in a year by all human activity in Iceland. The eruption also produced 5.1 million metric tons (11.2 billion pounds) of CO2, which is twice as much as human activity in Iceland produces in a year. 

While the eruption produced large quantities of SO2 and CO2 it produced a relatively low level of fluoride or chlorine gas. It is the release of these chemicals by volcanic eruptions which have caused the greatest harm in previous eruptions, including the deadly Skaftáreldar in 1783-84. Skaftáreldar, which is the deadliest eruption in Icelandic history, killed as much as 80% of the livestock in Iceland and 20% of the population.

Read more: Photos: Huge steam plumes at the new Holuhraun lava field

Volcanic eruptions produce large quantities of greenhouse gases and poisonous gases. The gases are released both at the volcanic fissure, or crater, and from the lava as it cools down. The study revealed that the Holuhraun lava field continued to release Sulfur Dioxide and CO2 for three months after the eruption had stopped. 

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