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Volcano: Icelandic Volcano Eruption in 2014 3X More Polluting Than Industry

Sep 24, 2015 08:04 PM EDT

The eruption of Iceland's volcano Bárðarbunga in 2014 and early 2015 emitted three times as much gas in a day as that produced by all European industry in the same length of time. In the beginning of the eruption, though, the difference was more like eight to one.

That's according to European scientists from the University of Leeds, University of Edinburgh and the Icelandic Met Office (which handles all things meteorological) who recently published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research on that subject. In part, they were looking for information on how eruptions affect U.K. air quality.

In their research, they noted that the eruption released up to 120,000 tons a day of sulphur dioxide gas, which is one cause of respiratory difficulties and acid rain. It can also be caused by smelting and burning fossil fuels. In terms of human-caused sulphur dioxide, it has been decreasing since 1990 and was noted to be 12,000 tons a day in 2010, according to a release.

Bárðarbunga was a six-month-long volcanic eruption, spewing lava across northern Iceland, and was the largest one in that country for more than 200 years, the release said.

In the study, the team tapped into satellite-sensor data, mapping sulphur dioxide pollution's reach. They used computer simulations to show the extent of the gas spread, noted the release.

Team-member Dr. John Stevenson of the University of Edinburgh said in the release: "This eruption produced lava instead of ash, and so it didn't impact on flights -- but it did affect air quality. These results help scientists predict where pollution from future eruptions will spread."

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