Volcanic Deja Vu? One Year Later, Iceland Faces Another Eruption

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AP Photo / Jon Gustafsson

In this photo taken on Saturday, May 21, 2011, smoke plumes from the Grimsvotn volcano.

Better learn how to pronounce this name: Grimsvotn. It could be the cause of much travel grief if the eruption continues.

If Eyjafjallajokull were any example, Iceland’s volcanoes have the power to disrupt the world travel scene. And yesterday, it appears the tiny nation’s hidden volcanoes are at it again. This time, the culprit was Iceland’s biggest and most active volcano, Grimsvotn.

(PHOTOS: The eerie beauty of Iceland’s volcanoes)

The eruption began Saturday, shooting a plume of ash more than 12 miles into the sky. Scientists noted that it was Grimsvotn’s largest eruption in more than 100 years. And as its name notes (in English, at least), the fallout could be “grim” indeed. “(It was) much bigger and more intensive than Eyjafjallajokull,” University of Iceland geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told the AP.

However, a combination of factors could help mitigate this eruption as compared to the April 2010 blast at Eyjafjallajokull, which impacted travel plans for 10 million people worldwide. Gudmundsson says the ash is coarser than last year’s, meaning it will dissipate and fall to the ground faster, leading to clearer skies quicker. He also noted the winds were not as strong as they were last April, so the ash is less likely to be blown for miles.

Nonetheless, Iceland’s main international airport, Keflavik, was shut down this morning amid fears that the ash might damage jets’ engines. The halt grounded 11 airplanes in Iceland, affecting about 2,000 passengers. Authorities have set up a no-fly for 120 nautical miles in all directions of the eruption. Scientists are optimistic that the worst will be over in two or three days.

(PHOTOS: See the travel chaos caused by last year’s eruption)