An Antarctic eruption at Deception Island could ‘significantly disrupt’ international air traffic as far away as South America, Australia, and Africa


Under the black sand of Deception Island, off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, lurks the flooded caldera of an active volcano – home to more than 50 volcanic craters. And now, a new research is showing that an ash eruption at Deception Island would potentially disrupt air traffic as far away as South America, Australia, and Africa. Yes, amazingly, even these remote Antarctica’s volcanoes can have an effect across the world!

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An explorer at the summit of Mounr Erebus in Antarctica. Galen Rowell/Getty Images

Deception Island – a popular touristic destination dur to the world’s largest colony of chinstrap penguins – has a great history of eruptions: 30 explosions or so occurred in the past 10,000 years, and one as recently as 1970.

Map of Deception Island in Antarctica, deception island eruption
Map of Deception Island in Antarctica. via Wikipedia

The new study – actually a computer simulation – models an eruption on Deception Island releasing columns of ash 5, 10, and 15 kilometers in the air. Results show that for large eruptions on Deception Island, ash would be prevalent on global scales over thousands of kilometers from Deception Island, rendering routes toward major airports such as Buenos Aires unsafe for flying. And even ash that wasn’t lofted as high still tended to disperse widely.

Here geothermal (volcanic) heat released by the water:

Airborne ash is a serious problem for aircraft because it melts inside of engines and gums up fuel lines. And it doesn’t show up on radar. KLM flight 867 lost power in all four engines and fell more than 13,000 feet after flying through an ash cloud from Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano in 1989. Luckily, the plane landed safely in Anchorage. During Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, the European airspace was closed for months, resulting in economic losses estimated to be billions of dollars.

It is unknown what kind of eruptions on Deception Island we can expect in the future. But I bet, you won’t be happy to be around when it starts exploding!

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