- Dr Andrew Hooper is an Assistant Professor at Delft University of Technology and is an expert on monitoring deformation of Icelandic volcanoes. The opinions expressed are his own. -
The unprecedented no-fly zone currently in force across much of Europe has already caused the greatest chaos to air travel since the Second World War. Thousands of flights have been cancelled or postponed with millions of travel plans affected.
The economic consequence to our ‘just-in-time’ society is incalculable at this stage given the disruption to holidays, business plans and indeed the wider business supply chain. However, the global cost of the disruption will surely ultimately result in a cost of billions, with the share price of several airlines in particular already taking a hit.
It is exceptionally hard to gauge how long the current grounding of flights will remain in force, although Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano which has erupted, could potentially sputter on for months or even more than a year. Much could depend upon weather patterns, especially wind direction, over the next few days.
The worst-case scenario in terms of precedent here is the 1783-1784 eruption at Laki (a very large eruption of 14km3 compared to the one in Mount St. Helens in 1980 of 1 km3) that had a huge impact on the northern hemisphere, reducing temperatures by up to 3 degrees. This led to catastrophe far beyond the shores of Iceland (where 25 percent of population died), with thousands of recorded deaths in Britain due to poisoning and extreme cold, and record low rainfall in North Africa.