At the end of this unit you will be able to; 

  • Describe the causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and their effects on people and the environment
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the hazards that volcanoes present to people. 
  • Describe in detail the causes and consequences of a volcanic eruption at both a local and global level. 
  • Explain what can be done to reduce the impacts of volcanic eruptions. 


  • Located in Iceland.
  • On the mid-Atlantic Ridge.
  • Stratovolcano
  • Relatively small.
  • Is a fissure and explosive eruption.
  • Mixing of lava types (rhyolitic and basaltic).
  • Ash cloud was transported by jet streams.
  • Flooding caused by melting glacier and silting up of rivers.

Task 1: Where is Eyjafjallajökull?

  • Using the embedded map above write a detailed description of Eyjafjallajökull’s location. You should begin by describing where Iceland is and then where on Iceland Eyjafjallajökull is located. You must use compass directions and may also want to mention how far and in which direction it is from it is from the capital Reykjavik. 

Task 2: Why did the eruption happen?


  • Located on a constructive plate margin.
  • Convection currents are driving apart the North American plate and the Eurasian plate.
  • Creates the mid-Atlantic ridge.
  • The plates are moving apart at a rate of 1-5cm a year.
  • Stratovolcano 
  • Is a fissure and explosive eruption.
  • Mixing of lava types (rhyolitic and basaltic).
  • Fairly small eruption, the impact however was much greater than expected due to the ash cloud and jet stream.

Eyafalla Structure.jpg


 Using the diagram above, explain why volcanoes occur on Iceland. (5 marks) 

Task 3: The Eruption

from BBC News


  • Lava flows – 1000 degrees Calcius lava spewed 150m into the air. More than 100 million cubic meters of lava erupted, more than 1000 million cubic meters of tephra erupted.
  • Ash plume reached 11,000m in the air – reached the stratosphere. Distributed by high velocity jet streams between troposphere and stratosphere. Fine grained ash hazard for airplanes (affects systems as turns to glassy substance due to heat of jet engines).
  • Glacier – causes flooding. In 2010 2000-3000 metres cubed per second of flood water.


a) When did the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull begin and how long did the eruption last?

b) What type of Volcano is Eyjafjallajökull?

c) Describe the Lava flow produced by the eruption.

d) Which area of the island was worst affected by the Lava flow?

e) What is Tephra and how does it form?

f) Describe the ash plume created by the eruption.

g) How did the eruption result in flooding?

h) How big was the flood?

Task 4: Local Impacts


  • Residents in the volcano shadow were covered in ash and many had to be evacuated.
  • 500 farmers and their families had to be evacuated from the area around the volcano and many of the roads surrounding the volcano were shut down.
  • Ash contaminated local water supplies and farmers near the volcano were warned not to let their livestock drink from the contaminated streams an water sources. High concentrations of fluoride from the ash mixed with river water can have deadly effects particularly in sheep.
Photo from nationalgeographic


a) What damage was caused by the flood?

b) Give two problems that this damage may have caused for the local economy.

c) How many farmers were evacuated?

d) How many farms were destroyed as a result of the eruption?

e) How did the ash impact that years harvest on the farms that survived the eruption? (You will need to watch the, “Case Study Video,” to answer this question.

f) What impact did the ash have on the local water supply?

Task 5: The Global Impact

from BBC News



  • 10 million airline passengers affected and stranded abroad. 107,000 flights were cancelled over the 8 day travel ban this accounts for 48% of total air traffic.
  • Airlines lots up to $200 million each day due to postponed flights.
  • Kenya lost up to $3.5 million as a result of lost exports. 20% of the Kenyan economy is based on the export of green vegetables (beans, sugar-snap peas and okra) and cut flowers to Europe, these are perishable goods and they are transported by plane to keep them fresh but due to the flight ban the products were unsold and destroyed. One million flower stalks were unsold in the first two days. 50,000 farmers were temporarily unemployed.
  • Eurostar and other travel companies flourished – 50,000 extra passengers a day added £7 million to the rail line.
  • Stock market shares in air travel and tourism fell by 4%.
  • Hire car companies increased their prices during the 8 day fly ban.
  • Huge impact on businesses particularly those that rely on air freight to those with workers stranded overseas.
  • Europe in total lost $2.6 billion GDP.


  • Eruption added 0.15m tones of carbon dioxide each day to the atmosphere but the lack of air travel prevented between 1.3-2.8m tones from reaching the atmosphere.
  • Phytoplankton in the Atlantic Ocean bloomed as they fed on the iron from the ash falling and therefore this boosted the marine ecosystem.


Describe the economic and environmental impact of the eruption on 


Read through the slideshow below and add any further information to your workbook. 

Task 6: Can we reduce the risk?


  • Countries affected by the hazard responded by themselves or collectively and had the capacity to do so.
  • European countries can cope with hazards such as this eruption even if there were economic impacts.
  • No casualties as a result of the actions taken by Icelandic and European governments.
  • Tests have taken place and it has been discovered that all flights do not need to be grounded as planes are just required to fly at a lower height.


Iceland Volcano map.JPG

  • The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) monitors earth movements, water conditions and weather and issue warnings
  • Iceland has a good warning system which texts residents with a 30 minute warning.
  • The IMO work close with the National Emergency Agency, University of Iceland and the British Meteorological Office.
  • The event was tracked and prepared for, and the ash cloud was tracked by satellite by many nations.
  • The European Union has the collective financial capacity to cope with emergencies such as this.
  • The EU has other transport mechanisms such as extensive road and motorway networks, rail networks and boat networks.
  • The EU is largely self-sufficient in food production and could cope if imports from outside the EU could not arrive.
  • Travellers stuck by the ash cloud were entitled to legal compensation form their airlines and their airlines were also legally responsible for the well-being of stranded passengers.
  • The EU’s insurance system means that many people would have been able to claim back any losses, as could many companies.
  • Many companies had contingency plans in place for an emergency such as this, so could cope better, Tesco circumvented the ash cloud by flying Kenyan produce into Spain and then using Road Haulage as an example.


Describe what Iceland does in order to reduce the danger to its people and property from Volcanic Eruptions


Exam Questions: 

  1. Describe the hazards faced by people who live close to a named volcano. (7 marks)  
  2. For a named area, describe the short-term and long-term effects of a volcanic eruption on people living in the area. (7 marks) 
  3. Describe what can be done to limit the risk posed by volcanic eruptions to people and property in a named location. (7 marks)