A volcano has begun erupting in Iceland, and it has Penn State football fans concerned.
The Nittany Lions open their season in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland, next Saturday against Central Florida, and memories of snarled trans-Atlantic air travel from an Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010 has fans waiting on details from the site.
Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano began erupting Saturday under the ice of Europe’s largest glacier, prompting the country to close the airspace over the volcano.
While the threat remains minor, Penn State athletics issued a statement Saturday afternoon about the situation.
“Over the past several days we have been talking with officials from UCF, the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and United Airlines, our charter provider. We continue to monitor the situation and maintain regular communication with all appropriate parties.
The safety and welfare of our student-athletes, staff and fans will be at the forefront throughout our discussions. At this time, we are continuing our preparations for the game and for the team to depart Tuesday evening for Dublin.”
Thousands of small earthquakes have rattled the volcano, located deep beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, in the last week. Seismic data indicated that magma from the volcano was melting ice beneath the glacier’s Dyngjujokull icecap, Meteorological Office vulcanologist Melissa Pfeffer said.
The remote area, 200 miles (320 kilometers) east of the capital of Reykjavik, is uninhabited.
The Civil Protection Department said scientists flew over the ice cap Saturday afternoon but saw no visible signs of the eruption on the surface.
Still, authorities raised the country’s aviation alert to red — the highest level on a five-point scale — indicating the threat of “significant emission of ash into the atmosphere.”
Icelandic authorities declared a no-fly zone of 100 nautical miles by 140 nautical miles around the eruption as a precaution, but did not shut down air space over most of the island nation in the North Atlantic.
“All airports are open and flights are on schedule,” said spokeswoman Olof Baldursdottir.
A 2010 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano produced an ash cloud that caused a week of international aviation chaos, with more than 100,000 flights canceled.
Pfeffer said it was not clear when, or if, the eruption would melt through the ice — which is between 100 to 400 meters (330 to 1,300 feet) thick — and fling steam and ash into the air. She said it could take up to a day for the ice to melt — or the eruption might remain contained beneath Europe's largest glacier.
Scientists were monitoring a hydrological station downstream from the volcano for flooding, a common result of volcanic eruptions in Iceland.
Pfeffer said the amount of ash produced by the new eruption would depend on the thickness of the ice.
"The thicker the ice, the more water there is, the more explosive it will be and the more ash-rich the eruption will be," she said.