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Volcanic sulfur dioxide emissions from Iceland reach continental Europe

Volcanic SO2 emissions from Iceland reach continental Europe

The volcanic eruption that started in Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland on March 16, 2024, continues at a fairly constant rate, marking the most substantial activity in the region with four registered eruptions since December 2023. This event has caught the attention of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) due to the large volumes of sulfur dioxide (SO2) released into the atmosphere.

The forecasts made for Iceland after the eruption show plumes with increased total column burdens (up to 10 Dobson Units), moving east from the North Atlantic across Ireland and the UK, reaching Scandinavia on Wednesday, March 20, traveling across the Baltic and reaching the Baltic States, Poland, and northwestern Russia on Friday, March 22.

“The previous eruptions didn’t produce much in terms of SO2 emissions which could be observed and assimilated in our system,” said CAMS Senior Scientist, Mark Parrington.

“The amount of SO2 emitted this time has been very clear in the observations and we are closely monitoring the plume as it is transported over northern Europe although we don’t expect there to be any impact on surface air quality or climate,” Parrington said. 

CAMS SO2 forecasts, initialized from the assimilated satellite observations and assuming an initial injection height of approximately 5 km (3.1 miles), predict the plume transport over the next 5 days based on the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Integrated Forecasting System (IFS). Forecasts are initialized every 12 hours based on new observations. ECMWF implements CAMS on behalf of the European Union. The CAMS forecasts show gaseous SO2 in the atmosphere, but do not provide information on volcanic ash, which is under the responsibility of the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAACs). 

“Volcanic eruptions and releases of large amounts of sulfur compounds can affect not only the air quality in the region directly affected, but also global processes, such as the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere,” said CAMS Director, Laurence Rouil.

“The impacts of the volcanic eruptions in Iceland in the atmosphere have not yet been so severe, but it is relevant to keep monitoring the evolution of the situation.”   

Read our latest update on the eruption:


1 Copernicus: Volcanic SO2 emissions from Iceland will reach continental Europe – Copernicus EU/Atmosphere – March 21, 2024


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