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Icelandic tourism boom due to volcanic activity

From Naked Science - National Geographic

From Naked Science - National Geographic

Elana Wood, Summit Chaser

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If you happen to find yourself in Iceland among the thousands of tourists that are flocking toward the small town of Vik, try not to sneeze, you may in fact cause the volcano Kalta to erupt. Icelandic tourism has boomed over the last few years, and the picturesque country is only becoming more and more popular due to the increasing possibility of volcanic eruptions. Last year, a record 2.6 million people visited Iceland compared to only 400,000 in 2004. The town of Vik, on the south coast of Iceland is a specific tourist target, it is very close to the volcano Kalta, which has not erupted since 1918, and the possibility of it erupting in the next few months is growing increasingly.

All 543 residents of Vik know what to do if an eruption occurs. The main concern of the Icelandic tourism board is that there will be thousands of tourists in serious trouble if the volcano erupts. It is difficult for all tourists to be monitored on island, it has been suggested that the use of drones be implemented and for all tourists to enable text messages from the government in their respective languages that would warn them to stay clear of the volcano.

The eruption may also cause problems for the rest of Iceland, near-by aviation, and even Europe. Kalta is situated on a glacier, so major flooding is expected to affect Vik and other towns in the area, such as the town beside Eyjafjallajokull: Kalta’s neighboring volcano. The ash expected to explode from the volcano may be powerful enough to distrupt nearby aviation even outside of Iceland. Iceland’s most recent eruption (Eyjafjallajokul) was so powerful that the ash stranded 100, 000 flights over seven days. Because of Kalta’s magma chamber, its ash would certainly be able to reach Europe; it would simply depend on wind direction.

Iceland’s tourist rates are currently at an all time high. Before the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in 2010 the town of Vik only had 400 hotel rooms, now as the town has become a major tourist attraction there are over 1600. Although being able to witness the Icelandic eruption would be a once and a life time experience, the amount of uneducated tourists flying to the country is concerning. It is imperative that people stay aware of what is going on around them to hopefully avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations.

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Icelandic tourism boom due to volcanic activity