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Volcano Experts in the headlines

04/30/2010 16:50:30

Photograph of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption taken by Laura Hobbs from the last plane able to fly out of the area
Photograph of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption taken by Laura Hobbs from the last plane able to fly out of Iceland

A Lancaster University PhD student has been giving an eye witness account of the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Laura Hobbs witnessed the Eyjafjallajökull eruption while on a research trip with the British Geological Survey

She was studying volcanic deposits on the ice and staying about 150 km/90 miles away in Svinafell on day the volcano erupted.

Lancaster University has one of the world's largest research groups studying volcano-ice interactions - as well as one of the largest numbers of PhD students working on Icelandic volcanism. Lancaster researchers have carried out a lot of the recent work on volcanoes similar to Eyjafjallajökull .

Laura, who took the last available aeroplane out of Iceland, has been talking to the media about her experiences.

She said: “It was pretty amazing - a once in a life time event. The guy that owned the flat we were staying came in on Wednesday morning and said it was happening and we went to look.

“We could see it on and off all day from where we were working. About midday on Wednesday the cloud cover lifted and we noticed the plume had changed direction and we watched it being blown south.

“Initially we didn’t realise how badly transport was going to be affected. We were the other side of the eruption to Reykjavik, so we had to drive right round the north of Iceland in a day - it took us about 17 hours as our direct route back had been cut off by the eruption at Eyjafjallajökull.

“UK airspace was already closed by the time we flew out but we were extremely lucky and it reopened for a brief window and we got on the last flight out of Iceland to Glasgow before they closed it again. We could see the plume from the plane above the cloud level. When we landed at Glasgow the airport was completely dead – it was all very eerie.”

Laura was just one of the many Environmental Scientists from Lancaster University have been helping to explain the disruption caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption to the world’s media.

Lancaster Environment Centre researchers including Dr Jennie Gilbert, Dr Hugh Tuffen and Professor of Physical Geography Barbara Maher have been giving expert opinion to media from the New York Times and Sydney Morning Herald to BBC Radio 4 and Talk Sport.

Dr Gilbert is an expert on volcanic ash and eruptions under ice and Dr Tuffen has recently published a paper exploring whether eruptions at ice-covered volcanoes such as Eyjafjallajökull will become more common in the future as climate change causes thinning of ice.