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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019

What's that smell? Fumes from Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano reach Ireland

Higher-than-normal levels of sulphur dioxide reached Ireland over the weekend.

Fountains of lava, up to 60 meters high, spurt from a fissure in the ground on the north side of the Bardarbunga volcano.
Fountains of lava, up to 60 meters high, spurt from a fissure in the ground on the north side of the Bardarbunga volcano.
Image: AP Photo/Stefano Di Nicolo

CHANGING WEATHER PATTERNS mean that low quantities of dangerous gases from Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano are no longer blowing into Irish airspace – right now, at least.

Higher levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) than normal were detected late on Saturday evening by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The foul-smelling gas was again detected on Sunday, but at a lower level.

Neither incident posed any risk to the public.

Sulphur dioxide is produced naturally by volcanic eruptions, and is also released when burning coal.

High levels of the gas can cause temporary breathing issues for people with asthma, and can also lead to the development of acid rain.

A spokesperson for the EPA said the levels have now returned to normal “most likely due to changing weather patterns, which are blowing over Norway at present”.

They added that said the situation is being monitored “very carefully”, noting that the volcano is quite unstable.

This monitoring is coordinated with the Department of the Environment, Department of Transport, the HSE and Met Éireann.

The EPA spokesperson noted that any changes to air quality will be announced on the EPA Air Quality Twitter account.

“General advice during any air quality incident would be to stay indoors until it passes,” they added.

The European Space Agency, who is also monitoring the situation, has detected the emissions since early September, and captured this view of the gas heading towards Europe on Thursday night.

Bardarbunga esa sulphur dioxide plume Source: ESA

Read: Iceland issues red alert after new eruption near volcano >

More: How Irish scientists are keeping the government up to date on that Icelandic volcano >

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Nicky Ryan

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