Fires from beneath, and meteors from above,
portentous, unexampled, unexplained,
have kindled beacons in the skies; and the old
and crazy earth has had her shaking fits
more frequent, and foregone her usual rest.
Is it a time to wrangle, when the props
and pillars of our planet seem to fail,
and nature, with a dim and sickly eye,
to wait the close of all? – Poet William Cowper
It was 20 March 2010, when the small island nation of Iceland was shaken back into reality by a series of seismic events along Krossá glacial river as it began to awaken from a long sleep. The fissure was approximately 150 meters (490 ft) in length running in a north-east to south-west direction, as 10 to 12 erupting lava craters began to eject lava at a temperatures over 1,000 °C (1,800 °F), 150 meters (490 ft) into the air; thus beginning a new phase of volcanic activity in Europe that would impact the world.
As it began to calm slightly, everyone, believing it posed no threat, went back about their business. Then on the 14th of April, 2010, all hell began to break loose as clouds of ash and gas were plummeted 8 kilometers (5 miles) in the air. The fissure was now over a kilometer long as melt-waters began to cause flooding in the nearby rivers as it traveled in two flows down either side of the caldera, forcing the evacuation of approximately 800 people.
The rift had lengthened to nearly 2 kilometers, erupting lava that cooled rapidly, as cow bombs-because they look like cow dung- were hurled 800 meters (2600 feet) before falling back to Earth.
On 14 April 2010, however, the eruption entered an explosive phase and ejected fine, glass-rich ash over 8 kilometers (5 miles) into the upper atmosphere and directly into the Jet Stream. Hundreds of flights were cancelled throughout Europe, grounding travelers for days that affected flight schedules all over the world. Smoke and ash reduced visibility for navigation and sandblasted windscreens with microscopic debris. Ash sucked into the turbine engines melted from the intense heat and effectively turned into particles of glass, causing them to shut down in midflight. It has not been since WWII that the skies over Europe were so void of aircraft.
And yet, a similar eruption that was far more devastating occurred 227 years ago that not only wiped out a fifth of Iceland’s population, but tens of thousands of people, livestock, and wildlife all over Mainland Europe as well.