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Ash Friday

What a strange day it’s been today. [Or, well, technically yesterday, since it is now past midnight.] No sooner had I responded to this post in the forums about the extreme rarity of ash fall in Reykjavík than the sun vanished behind a thick cloud of — you guessed it — ash.

And then it just kept getting worse. It was completely bizarre, like nothing I’ve ever seen in this city before. I mean, we occasionally have fog, but that’s kind of cold and wet. This was dry and warm and the moment you went outside you felt ash inside your mouth and nostrils. A little bit like I experienced when EPI and I travelled into the ash cloud a few weeks ago, but of course not quite as extreme. Everything was obliterated by this thick kind of smog, only without the acerbic pollution feel. Visibility was probably only around one or two kilometres [which is rare so far north, where the air is usually so clear]. You couldn’t see Mt. Esja across the bay. And as I said, you couldn’t see the sun. Only occasionally did it manage to pierce through the mist, with a sort of diffused sunlight.

Here’s a picture I snapped on my mobile this evening:

I went to the gym this afternoon and ran inside on the treadmill. Through the window I could see a running group gathering [they meet there every day at around 5 pm] and when they set off a few of them had kerchiefs tied over their faces to shield their mouth and nose. I don’t know what the others were thinking — I would not have wanted to be doing heavy duty aerobic exercise outdoors today. NOT a good idea.

The level of ash was something like 400 milligrams per square metre, which is way over the health safety level, which is 50 mg per m2. In Hvolsvöllur, apparently, near the crater, it was around 3,000 mg per m2. I figure that’s likely what it was when EPI and I were there.

Bizarrely, though, there was no disruption to flights today, even without this thick cloud of ash. Which I find completely strange, since flights were cancelled repeatedly in the past few weeks even though not a speck of ash could be discerned by us plebeians at the time. Gives one pause, no?

Apparently the volcano has been showing some signs of unrest this evening, although scientists say it’s impossible to predict what it means. Could just be magma pushing its way to the surface, or steam explosions. Here’s hoping.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jeff Garland June 5, 2010, 4:12 am
  • alda June 5, 2010, 10:35 am

    Tourists. We have one or two left.

  • Easy June 5, 2010, 10:41 am

    I don’t get it, Promoting an ash free Iceland to the world, and here in Reykjavik you can barely see because of ash, I can feel the ash even in my teeth.

  • Mike June 5, 2010, 12:47 pm

    Hi folks,

    There was a small explosion in the crater last night following a number of relatively shallow earthquakes. As yet no one is entirely sure if this means a new phase in the eruption, or just if it was caused by water getting down into the hot rock left from the previous eruption.

    IMO released a statement later – but so far only in Icelandic. Perhaps our host can skim it for us???



  • sylvia hikins June 6, 2010, 11:44 pm

    Listening recently to Radio 5 Live in the UK a listener phoned in and said that watching the webcam at Eyjafjallajokull was better than having sex. Maybe this could be a new tack for your tourist industry to take!!!!!
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • alda June 6, 2010, 11:55 pm

    OMG, that poor listener can’t have a very exciting sex life. 🙂

  • JimJones June 7, 2010, 12:40 am

    @sylvia hikins

    …wow. Just..wow.

  • PeterRRRRR June 7, 2010, 11:07 am

    He obviously has never had sex in an Icelandic hot pool.

  • Hanne June 7, 2010, 1:44 pm

    Hi Alda
    The unit for the pollution values is microgram/m3 air, not miligrams. As far as I know, Friday had the highest 24-hr mean ever measured in Reykjavík, close to 500 microgram PM10 /m3 air. A bad new-years eve is maybe half of that, just to put things in perspective.

    But that was thick brew. Saw several people with masks, considered wearing one myself. Glad it blew away. Praying for rain.

  • vikingisson June 7, 2010, 2:01 pm

    Maybe something was lost in translation but perhaps what he meant was similar to what I say about skydiving: “it is the most fun you can have with your clothes on”

    I’ve heard angry people on the mainland complaining that why should flights be cancelled when there isn’t a speck of ash to be seen. We’re not flying around the neighbourhood, we’re going far and high and that is where the bad stuff is. complicated stuff.

  • JimJones June 7, 2010, 2:15 pm


    The Icelandic hot pool sex, like the cake, is a lie. The evidence has been faked. It was obviously done on a sound stage in London. Perky Icelanders(like they must be taking some serious medication perky), I’ll believe it. Strange almost cultish love of Iceland, I don’t only believe it, but I’m living it(I have a name for it, Icelandaphilia or Iceland Addiction. I’m writing an article on it now, but that’s a story for another time).

    But Icelandic hot pool sex? That’s just silly.

  • alda June 7, 2010, 3:22 pm

    Hanne — I stand corrected. Thank you!

    JimJones — pretty sure that was not taken on a sound stage in London. My daughter knows the girl and I doubt they’d fly her to London to film the scene, when they could do it here. As for hot pool sex — why not? Don’t people go skinny dipping in other countries? And maybe have sex?

  • JimJones June 7, 2010, 4:13 pm


    First, your daughter knows that girl? The smallness of the country never ceases to suprise me. I bet I’d be able to find the people I met at Prikið if I put my mind to it, but it seems a little creepy to try(although in the case of one person I’d want to give her some info on going to law schools in the US).

    Second, I think my humor didn’t come through there(my apologies). It was the product of one too many people I met thinking of Iceland as “where one goes for lots of sex”(When I went to Amsterdam the second thing I was asked was, “So, did you get laid?” after, of course, “How did you not get eaten by the volcano?”). And the London sound stage thing was a reference to the “faked moon landing” conspiracy. As we say in American Geek, “Critical Fail” or “Try harder, be more funny.” 🙁

  • alda June 7, 2010, 4:43 pm

    Jim – I’m tempted to say “it’s not you, it’s me” since this is the second time this has happened to me in the last few days, i.e. me not getting the joke. I must be losing my touch. 🙁

  • Mike Richards June 7, 2010, 4:51 pm

    Alda wrote:

    ‘Apparently the volcano has been showing some signs of unrest this evening, although scientists say it’s impossible to predict what it means. Could just be magma pushing its way to the surface, or steam explosions. Here’s hoping.’

    The IMO has confirmed fresh magma is reaching the surface. It’s very limited and there’s no indication of stuff coming from deeper down, so there appears to be no immediate threat of a big eruption.


    Meanwhile, to forestall any panic from tomorrow’s showing of ‘Volcanic Ash: The Ticking Timebomb’ on Channel 5 (UK). Katla is still asleep. Sunday saw several small earthquakes under the eastern rim of Katla’s caldera but they were not of the type that presages an eruption. In fact they might simply be down to the creaking and groaning of the ice. Katla’s been quiet for the whole of Monday so in the words of Corporal Jones, ‘don’t panic’.

    In the meantime – what’s happened to the lovely weather in Iceland? Eyjafjallajokull has barely been visible on the webcams for a couple of weeks now.


  • JimJones June 7, 2010, 4:59 pm


    It might be both of us. I’m told I have a very dry sense of humor that comes across as desert-like on the Internet. This, btw, is why I have a super secret humor blog about my Iceland addiction(“Don’t end up in a back alley smelling of brennivin and putrified shark! Get treatment today!”), to spare people my very dry sense of humor.

  • Joerg June 7, 2010, 7:43 pm

    If the pool scene wasn’t a fake thing, then at least the make-believe of an ash-free Iceland in the promotional video was. I have heard about quite a lot of ash in the South of Iceland as well as in Þórsmörk. So, I’ll take a dusk mask along on my next visit.

  • alda June 7, 2010, 8:10 pm

    Joerg – quite right. Those naked people are actually gray in reality. 😉

  • Joerg June 7, 2010, 8:41 pm

    At least, they were almost the only people in the video, who did not jump around in total excitement – very suspicious. 😉

    Any idea, where this pool is?