Iceland Volcano Dormant, No Ash Coming Out

May 24, 2010

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An Icelandic volcano that caused air traffic chaos after erupting last month has gone dormant but it is too early to declare the eruption over, an official said on Monday.

Airlines across Europe stopped flying for days after the volcano under the Eyjafjallajakull glacier erupted in mid-April, spewing high levels of ash. Ash particles can cause serious damage if absorbed into plane engines.

Icelandic meteorological office geographer Sigthrudur Armannsdottir said the volcano, about 120 km southeast of the capital Reykjavik, was now showing only minimal signs of life.

"There is no ash coming up and no lava," she said. "The volcano is dormant at the moment, but we are not ready to declare the eruption over."

The volcano caused most problems when it first erupted as hot magma surged up to the surface and melted the ice off the glacier, causing huge ash clouds to shoot up into the sky.

Experience from the last eruption in 1821-1823 showed that the volcano can start up again, she said.

"But we are no longer providing ash projections as there is no ash coming up any more, at least for the moment," she said.

Armannsdottir said it the Civil Protection Agency might lower the alert stage from "dangerous" to "monitoring" later in the week if the volcano stayed quiet.

"So far today we have only measured one small earthquake in the volcano compared to 27 yesterday, and hundreds every day in the lead-up to the eruption," she said.

"The quakes over the last few days have been shallow, which indicates that there is no magma breaking out of the chamber below," she added.

A stationary video camera aimed at the volcano from a mountain north of the glacier showed only small plumes of steam coming from the crater.