SCIENCE
08/30/2014 07:48 am ET | Updated Dec 19, 2014

Iceland's Latest Volcanic Eruption Has Airlines Nervous. Here's Why. (INFOGRAPHIC)

Iceland, home to one of the largest glaciers in Europe and a multitude of volcanoes, made headlines this week following news of a small eruption in the Bárðarbunga (or Bardarbunga) volcanic system.

At 118 miles long and 15 miles wide, Bardarbunga is Iceland's largest volcanic system, so an eruption could have profound implications for air travel in the region, particularly if the volcano emits a large ash cloud.

The land of fire and ice, it seems, is no place for jet engines.

For instance, when Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010, the resulting ash plume grounded more than 100,000 flights in what the BBC reports was the largest closure of European airspace since World War II.

In an email to The Huffington Post on Friday, an FAA spokesperson said there haven't been any flight diversions as a result of the current eruption. And given the $1.7 billion in revenue carriers lost when the volcano grounded airplanes in 2010, Bloomberg reported, airlines are likely eager to keep it that way.

So why don't volcanoes and air travel mix? In two words: engine failure.

According to the United States Geological Survey, extreme heat -- like that emitted from a jet engine -- melts ash into a glass. That glass stops up fuel nozzles, the combustor and the turbine, which can quickly lead to a stalled engine.

In addition, volcanic ash abrades any forward-facing surfaces on an airplane, including the cockpit windows and leading edges of the wings. "Cockpit windows may become so abraded and scratched," the USGS reported, "that pilots have extreme difficulty seeing the runway on which to land the plane."

See the below infographic for more on how volcanic activity affects airplanes and air travel:

Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.

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