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Icelandic volcano sulphur pollution was triple European industry

28 September 2015

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In September last year the Holuhraun volcanic eruption in Iceland emitted three times as much of pollutant gas as all European industry combined, a recent study has revealed. Volcanic sulphur dioxide traveled more than 2700 km from the source.

Discharge of lava from the eruption at Bárðarbunga volcano, starting in August 2014, released up to 120,000 tonnes per day of sulphur dioxide (SO2) gas. These emissions can cause acid rain and respiratory problems.

Dr Anja Schmidt from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, who led the study, said: "The eruption discharged in six months enough lava to cover an area the size of Manhattan. Also, in the beginning, the eruption emitted about eight times more sulphur dioxide per day than is emitted from all man-made sources in Europe per day."

A team of European scientists, including also Dr Iolanda Ialongo from FMI, participated to this work published by the Journal of Geophysical Research. SO2 data from OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) and IASI (Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer) satellite sensors were used to map sulphur dioxide pollution levels from the eruption. These were correctly reproduced using dispersion model simulations. Based on these simulations, it was estimated that Holuhraun eruption released up to 120,000 tons per day into the lowermost atmosphere.

Source: Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI)

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory - Landsat 8 view of Holuhraun lava field

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