Iceland’s harsh winter may have saved the country from the more serious side effects of the six month Holuhraun eruption, reports RÚV.
“What we were most worried about as far as toxic pollution from Holuhraun was concerned was that it would gather in the top layer of snow across the country,” said geochemist Sigurður Reynir Gíslason, who is currently on a research expedition on Vatnajökull glacier. “What’s dangerous about that is, that during the spring thaw the bulk of those toxic materials would be released [into the ecosystem]. We have been really lucky with all this terrible weather this winter because it’s been washing and blowing away the [the toxic snow] slowly but surely.”
Had the volcanic pollution not been disturbed by the weather, high concentrations of the toxic materials would have been released into lakes and rivers all at once when the snow melted, potentially devastating Icelandic ecosystems.
Sigurður and his team are now investigating what the consequences might realistically be though Sigurður believes the winter storms have helped the country avoid major damages.